This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2006).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Ulysses Adonis Haggenmiller,
Filed July 31, 2007
Affirmed in part and reversed in part
Crow Wing County District Court
File No. KX-05-1311
John Stuart, State Public Defender, Melissa Sheridan, Assistant Public Defender, 1380 Corporate Center Curve, Suite 320, Eagan, MN 55121 (for appellant)
Lori Swanson, Attorney General, Tibor M. Gallo, Assistant Attorney General, 1800 Bremer Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101; and
Donald F. Ryan, Crow Wing County Attorney,
Considered and decided by Halbrooks, Presiding Judge; Toussaint, Chief Judge; and Lansing, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
In this appeal from conviction and sentencing for one count of third-degree assault and two counts of fifth-degree assault, Ulysses Haggenmiller challenges the admission of a surveillance video, the instructions provided to the jury, and his sentence. We conclude that the district court’s evidentiary decisions and jury instructions do not provide a basis for reversal and neither do the issues raised in Haggenmiller’s pro se supplemental brief. We agree, however, that one of Haggenmiller’s fifth-degree assault convictions should have merged with his third-degree assault conviction. Accordingly, we affirm in part and reverse in part.
F A C T S
Ulysses Haggenmiller was involved in a fight with two other inmates in a jail dayroom on April 14, 2005. As a result, Haggenmiller was charged with committing third- and fifth-degree assault against Judd Knippel and fifth-degree assault against Douglas Melby.
During the trial, the district court admitted, over Haggenmiller’s objection, a surveillance video of the assaults. The video showed Haggenmiller’s initial fight with Knippel and his subsequent fight with Melby. The video also showed jail guards using a taser against Haggenmiller during the fight with Melby. Although the district court had ordered that the video should end right after the taser incident, the video continued to play for an additional three seconds. The district court instructed the jury to disregard the entire video, and the jury was shown a video stopping at the appropriate time.
At the end of the trial, Haggenmiller indicated that he had no objection to the district court’s proposed jury instructions. The district court then instructed the jury that it should not draw any adverse inference from Haggenmiller’s failure to testify. The district court did not specifically inform the jury that fifth-degree assault is a lesser charge than third-degree assault. And the district court did not give the jury specific instructions about the burden of proof for lesser-included offenses.
The jury found Haggenmiller guilty of all three charges. Haggenmiller was then convicted of and sentenced concurrently for all three offenses. Haggenmiller now appeals.
D E C I S I O N
review evidentiary rulings to determine whether the district court abused its
discretion. State v. McArthur, 730 N.W.2d 44, 51 (
The district court correctly concluded that the video of a guard using a taser against Haggenmiller was admissible. The guard used the taser while Haggenmiller was assaulting Melby. The video, taken as a whole, was thus directly relevant to the charge that Haggenmiller committed fifth-degree assault against Melby. Although showing the guard using the taser may have been somewhat prejudicial, the district court could reasonably conclude that the probative value of the video was not substantially outweighed by the potential for unfair prejudice. Therefore, the district court did not abuse its discretion when it admitted the video.
Initially, however, the jury was accidentally shown a longer version of the video. The district court had ordered that the video should end after the guard used the taser, but the video apparently continued to play for an additional three seconds. The district court denied Haggenmiller’s motion for a mistrial and instructed the jury to disregard the entire video. The three-second-shorter video was shown to the jury the next day.
conclude that this incident does not provide a basis for reversal. First, the district court instructed the
jurors to disregard the entire video. We
presume that jurors follow the court’s instructions. State
v. Steward, 645 N.W.2d 115, 122 (
trial, Haggenmiller indicated that he had no objection to the proposed jury
instructions. In general, the failure to
object to jury instructions or to propose specific instructions constitutes a
waiver of the issue on appeal. State v. White, 684 N.W.2d 500, 508 (
review jury instructions “in their entirety to determine whether they fairly
and adequately explain the law of the case.”
State v. Peterson, 673 N.W.2d
482, 486 (
In this appeal, Haggenmiller argues that the jury instructions contained plain error. We agree that the jury instructions amounted to plain error in two ways.
First, when a lesser-included offense
instruction is given, the district court must explain which offense is the
lesser charge and must give the jury specific instructions on the state’s
burden of proof for each charge. State v. Bolte, 530 N.W.2d 191, 199 (
Second, the district court—without
obtaining the defendant’s consent—instructed the jurors that they “should not
draw any inference from the fact that the defendant has not testified in this
case.” We note that because Haggenmiller
had caused a number of disturbances during the trial, the district court may
have been justified in taking more control over the trial. We also note that, by giving the instruction,
the district court did not violate Haggenmiller’s federal constitutional
rights. See Lakeside v.
Although the district court committed plain error, we must still determine whether the error affected Haggenmiller’s substantial rights. Because Haggenmiller did not object to the jury instructions, we will reverse only if there is a “reasonable likelihood that the [error] had a significant effect on the jury’s verdict.” Darris, 648 N.W.2d at 240. For two reasons we conclude that it did not.
although the district court did not explain which offense is the lesser charge
and did not give the jury specific instructions on the state’s burden of proof for
each charge, the instructions gave the jurors enough information to permit them
to correctly evaluate the charges.
Haggenmiller was charged with both third- and fifth-degree assault. While third-degree assault requires
substantial bodily harm, fifth-degree assault requires only proof of bodily
If you find that each of these elements has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt, the defendant is guilty. If you find that any element has not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt, then the defendant is not guilty.
The district court judge then repeated the same instruction after describing count II and again after describing count III. In addition, the district court gave a general instruction about the requirement of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. The district court also gave the jurors extensive instructions about filling out the verdict forms. This included, for example, instructions that would permit the jury to find Haggenmiller guilty of fifth-degree assault and not guilty of third-degree assault. Therefore, although the jury instructions were technically inadequate under Bolte and Thurston, the instructions otherwise fairly and adequately explained the law. Thus, we cannot conclude that Haggenmiller was prejudiced by the failure to give the required instructions.
Second, the state presented strong
evidence against Haggenmiller. Although
the state’s case rested, in part, on the credibility of two convicted felons,
the video of the assault also strongly supported the state’s version of the
events. We agree that the
no-adverse-inference instruction “may have had the deleterious effect of
emphasizing [the defendant’s] failure to take the witness stand and deny the
allegations.” State v.
Therefore, any plain error in the district court’s instructions did not prejudice Haggenmiller’s case. In addition, we note that even if Haggenmiller had been prejudiced, the errors did not seriously affect the fairness, integrity, or public reputation of judicial proceedings. The jury instructions do not provide a basis for reversing Haggenmiller’s convictions.
The jury found Haggenmiller guilty of committing both third- and fifth-degree assault against Knippel. At sentencing, the district court only discussed sentences for the third-degree assault against Knippel and fifth-degree assault against Melby. Somehow—perhaps through a clerical error—Haggenmiller was nonetheless convicted and sentenced for both the third- and fifth-degree assaults against Knippel. Haggenmiller and the state agree that he was incorrectly convicted and sentenced for fifth-degree assault against Knippel. We also agree.
Minn. Stat. § 609.04, subd. 1(1) (2004), a defendant cannot be convicted
of both a crime and a lesser-degree of that same crime. Fifth-degree assault is a lesser-included
offense of third-degree assault. See State v. Griffin, 518 N.W.2d 1, 3 (
his pro se supplemental brief, Haggenmiller makes an argument that is best
interpreted as a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence. A challenge to the sufficiency
of the evidence requires “a very thorough analysis of the record” to determine
whether the evidence was sufficient to permit the verdict. State
v. Spann, 574 N.W.2d 47, 54 (
Haggenmiller’s argument is essentially that the testimony of the victims was not credible. The jury, however, could have concluded that the testimony was credible and therefore could have based its verdict on the testimony of Melby and Knippel. This testimony—along with the surveillance video—provided sufficient evidence to support the verdicts.
In addition, Haggenmiller argues in his pro se supplemental brief that he was denied his right to a speedy trial. On August 1, 2005, Haggenmiller demanded a speedy trial. The trial, however, was not held until four months later.
reviewing a claim that a defendant was denied his right to a speedy trial,
courts consider (1) the length of the delay, (2) the reason for the delay, (3)
the defendant’s assertion of his right, and (4) whether the delay prejudiced
the defendant. State v. Windish, 590 N.W.2d 311, 315 (
Affirmed in part and reversed in part.