This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2006).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In the Matter of the
Welfare of I.R.C.,
Filed December 18, 2007
Hennepin County District Court
File No. 27-JV-07-1129
Lori Swanson, Attorney General, 1800 Bremer
Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, Minnesota 55101; and
Michael O. Freeman, Hennepin County Attorney, Thomas A. Weist, Assistant County Attorney, C-2000 Government Center, 300 South Sixth Street, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55487 (for respondent)
John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Susan Andrews, Assistant Public Defender, 540 Fairview Avenue North, Suite 300, St. Paul, Minnesota 55104 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Randall, Presiding Judge; Kalitowski, Judge; and Hudson, Judge.
In this appeal from an order adjudicating appellant delinquent and imposing an adult sentence and juvenile disposition in an extended-jurisdiction juvenile case, appellant argues that the evidence was not sufficient to support the jury’s verdict. Because the record shows that there was sufficient evidence to support the jury’s verdict, we affirm.
In January 2007, appellant I.R.C., a 17-year-old male, was arrested in downtown Minneapolis by two Minneapolis police officers assigned to patrol the area around Seventh Street and Hennepin Avenue in downtown Minneapolis. Both officers had experience working with street-level narcotics.
The police officers first noticed appellant at around 6:00 p.m. and saw appellant again later that evening standing with a group of other people on the corner in front of Gameworks on Hennepin Avenue. The officers noticed that the group “hadn’t moved off [the] block in an hour-and-a-half. . . . They were just walking up and down Hennepin Avenue.” The police officers approached the group and one of the officers saw appellant turn and walk away from him. When the officer turned to look at appellant, appellant ran away. The officer chased appellant on foot until a pedestrian stuck out his foot and tripped appellant. Appellant stumbled and fell onto the curb. As he fell, the police officer heard “what sounded like . . . metal clanging against the concrete.” The officer ordered appellant to put his hands behind his back, but appellant did not comply at first. The officer noticed that appellant’s right arm was under the car that was parked where he had fallen.
The police officer’s partner, who had also been giving chase, testified that appellant was “reaching in his waistband” where he had a black, “relatively good size object.” The second officer also saw appellant put his right arm under the car as he fell. The officer attempted to subdue appellant using a stun gun but the stun gun initially misfired; the officer eventually subdued appellant by “touch-stunning” him.
After the officers handcuffed appellant and lifted him from the ground, the first officer noticed three “dime bags” of what was later identified as marijuana on the ground where appellant had been lying. Appellant told the officer that the marijuana was his. The officer then placed appellant under arrest, searched him, and found what was later positively identified as nine individually wrapped rocks of crack cocaine in his front jacket pocket.
After the officers placed appellant in a squad car, they returned to the spot where he had fallen and looked under a nearby parked car. The first officer recovered a Glock .45 semi-automatic pistol from beneath the car. There were several rounds in the gun’s magazine and one round loaded in the chamber. The officer wore gloves while he handled the gun. The gun was later fingerprinted, but no fingerprints were found on it.
Hennepin County filed a delinquency petition in district court charging appellant with (1) third-degree sale of a controlled substance in violation of Minn. Stat. § 152.023, subds. 1(1), 3(a) (2006); Minn. Stat. § 609.101, subd. 3 (2006) (fines for controlled-substance crimes); and (2) certain persons not to have pistols (felony) in violation of Minn. Stat. § 624.713, subds. 1(a), 2 (2006). Hennepin County also moved for certification of appellant as an adult. On March 8, 2007, the district court issued a written order denying the motion for adult certification and ordering that appellant be prosecuted under Minn. Stat. § 260B.130 (2006) as an extended-juvenile-jurisdiction (EJJ) offender. Appellant pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The matter was tried to a jury in April 2007. The jury was presented with photographs of the gun found at the scene, the drugs found at the scene and in appellant’s jacket, as well as the testimony of the two arresting police officers, other officers who were at the scene, the police officers who inventoried the evidence, and the individuals who tested and identified the drugs. Appellant exercised his right not to testify and did not present any witnesses.
The jury was instructed on both the third-degree (sale) and the lesser-included fifth-degree (possession) controlled-substance crimes for the crack cocaine, as well as the firearms charge. The jury returned guilty verdicts on the third- and fifth-degree controlled-substance crimes and the firearms violation. In May 2007, the district court issued a written order adjudicating appellant delinquent, sentencing him to 36 months in jail, and staying execution until 2010. The district court placed appellant at the Hennepin County Home School for ten months and imposed supervised EJJ probation on the firearms charge. This appeal follows.
D E C I S I O N
Appellant argues that his conviction for the third-degree controlled-substance crime of possession of crack cocaine with intent to sell must be reversed because the evidence does not support the jury’s verdict. Appellant argues that the circumstantial evidence is not inconsistent with the hypothesis that he possessed the crack cocaine for personal use. Appellant does not appeal his conviction for the firearms violation.
In considering a claim challenging the sufficiency of the evidence, this court’s review “is limited to a painstaking analysis of the record to determine whether the evidence, when viewed in a light most favorable to the conviction, was sufficient to permit the jurors to reach the verdict which they did.” State v. Webb, 440 N.W.2d 426, 430 (Minn. 1989). The reviewing court must assume that the jury believed the state’s witnesses and disbelieved any evidence to the contrary. State v. Moore, 438 N.W.2d 101, 108 (Minn. 1989). This is especially true when resolution of the matter depends mainly on conflicting testimony. State v. Pieschke, 295 N.W.2d 580, 584 (Minn. 1980).
This court’s review includes an analysis of both the facts presented and the inferences that the jury could reasonably draw from those facts. State v. Robinson, 604 N.W.2d 355, 366 (Minn. 2000). Because “weighing the credibility of witnesses is the exclusive function of the jury,” Pieschke, 295 N.W.2d at 584, this court assumes that the jury believed the state’s witnesses and disbelieved contrary evidence. Moore, 438 N.W.2d at 108. We will not disturb the verdict if the jury, acting with due regard for the presumption of innocence and the requirement of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, reasonably could conclude that the defendant was guilty of the charged offense. State v. Olhausen, 681 N.W.2d 21, 25–26 (Minn. 2004). “The dispositive consideration . . . is not whether reasonable doubt existed, but whether there was sufficient evidence for a jury to reasonably conclude that no reasonable doubt existed.” State v. Walen, 563 N.W.2d 742, 750 (Minn. 1997).
A conviction “based entirely on circumstantial evidence merits stricter scrutiny than convictions based in part on direct evidence.” State v. Jones, 516 N.W.2d 545, 549 (Minn. 1994). “While it warrants stricter scrutiny, circumstantial evidence is entitled to the same weight as direct evidence.” State v. Bauer, 598 N.W.2d 352, 370 (Minn. 1999). The circumstantial evidence must form a complete chain that, in view of the evidence as a whole, leads so directly to the defendant’s guilt as to exclude beyond a reasonable doubt any reasonable inference other than guilt. Jones, 516 N.W.2d at 549. A jury is in the best position to evaluate circumstantial evidence, and its verdict is entitled to due deference. Webb, 440 N.W.2d at 430.
An individual is guilty of a third-degree controlled-substance crime when he “sells one or more mixtures containing a narcotic drug.” Minn. Stat. § 152.023, subd. 1(1) (2006). “‘Sell’ means: (1) to sell, give away, barter, deliver, exchange, distribute or dispose of to another, or to manufacture; or (2) to offer or agree to perform an act listed in clause (1); or (3) to possess with intent to perform an act listed in clause (1).” Minn. Stat. § 152.01, subd. 15a (2006). “[I]ntent to sell or distribute may be proven circumstantially by evidence as to a large quantity of the substance and evidence as to the manner of packaging.” State v. Lozar, 458 N.W.2d 434, 436 (Minn. App. 1990), review denied (Minn. Sept. 28, 1990).
A careful review of the record shows that there was sufficient evidence to support the jury’s guilty verdict. Both the amount of drugs found on appellant and the way they were packaged support the inference that appellant possessed with the intent to sell. Appellant admitted to possessing three “dime bags” of marijuana, and in his jacket, the police officers found nine individually wrapped bindles of crack cocaine packaged inside one larger bindle. One of the arresting officers, who had years of experience as a narcotics officer, testified that “it appeared that these items were packaged for sale.” Another officer testified that, based on the way the crack cocaine was packaged, he believed that “it was packaged for sale because the average smoker, the person who just uses cocaine, first of all, wouldn’t have the outer bindle to contain the crack cocaine. [The average smoker] would have one or two of the small inner bindles in their pocket . . . .” The officer also stated that
when you see someone who has the outside bindle containing numerous wraps, the reason that they’re all in that outer bindle is to keep them all contained for easy access, so that when someone comes up to them and asks for a rock, they reach into their pocket really quick and hand it to them.
Appellant’s behavior also supports the inference that he intended to sell. The police officers observed appellant loitering for more than an hour in an area known for drug dealing. The jury also heard evidence tending to show that appellant carried a loaded handgun at the time he was arrested.
Although the evidence of appellant’s intent to sell was largely circumstantial, based on the jury’s ability to evaluate the evidence and weigh the testimony of the witnesses, and assuming that the jury believed the evidence that supported the verdict and disbelieved the evidence that did not, we conclude that there was sufficient evidence in the record to support the jury’s verdict.