This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1994).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
State of Minnesota,
Sheri Lynn McGowan,
Filed August 20, 1996
Olmsted County District Court
File No. K2-95-334
John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Susan K. Maki, Assistant State Public Defender, 2829 University Avenue Southeast, Suite 600, Minneapolis, MN 55414 (for Appellant)
Hubert H. Humphrey, Attorney General, Robert A. Stanich, Assistant Attorney General, Suite 1400, NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for Respondent)
Raymond F. Schmitz, Olmsted County Attorney, Third Floor, Olmsted County Courthouse, 151 Fourth Street Southeast, Rochester, MN 55904-3712 (for Respondent)
Considered and decided by Amundson, Presiding Judge, Norton, Judge, and Peterson, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Sheri Lynn McGowan was convicted of second-degree assault. McGowan appeals, arguing that the evidence was insufficient to support the verdict and that her constitutional rights were violated when the prosecution elicited testimony that she was on probation at the time of the offense. We affirm.
D E C I S I O N
I. Sufficiency of the evidence
State v. Pierson, 530 N.W.2d 784, 787 (Minn. 1995). The evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the verdict, and the reviewing court must assume the jury believed the state's witnesses and disbelieved any contradictory evidence. Id.
- In reviewing a sufficiency of the evidence claim, this court is limited to ascertaining whether, given the facts in the record and any legitimate inferences that can be drawn from those facts, a jury could reasonably find that the defendant was guilty of the charged offense.
A person is guilty of second-degree assault if she "assaults another with a dangerous weapon." Minn. Stat. §subd. 1 (1994). Assault is defined as
Minn. Stat. §subd. 10 (1994).
- (1) An act done with intent to cause fear in another of immediate bodily harm or death; or
- (2) The intentional infliction of or attempt to inflict bodily harm upon another.
McGowan argues that the evidence is not sufficient to establish that she intended to stab the victim, her former boyfriend. She admits that she caused bodily harm by forcing a knife into his leg, but claims that it was an accident and entirely unintended.
"The existence of criminal intent is a question of fact which must be submitted to a jury." State v. Brechon, 352 N.W.2d 745, 750 (Minn. 1984). Intent is determined from all "objective facts and circumstances, including the defendant's conduct and/or statements at the time of the act." State v. Whisonant, 331 N.W.2d 766, 768 (Minn. 1983). All evidence before and after the offense is relevant in determining the defendant's intent. State v. Bliss, 457 N.W.2d 385, 390 (Minn. 1990).
The victim testified that McGowan jumped out of the car, raised the knife up by her throat, then brought it down into his leg. The testimony of one credible witness is sufficient to support a conviction. Id. Assuming the jury believed the victim's testimony, as we must, the evidence supports the jury's conclusion that McGowan intended to inflict bodily harm.
In addition, intent can be inferred from McGowan's actions after the stabbing occurred. Seeid. (evidence after offense relevant to determination of intent). McGowan did not assist the victim after the stabbing, but fled the scene and immediately disposed of the weapon. See State v. Clayborne, 404 N.W.2d 385, 388 (Minn. App. 1987) (evidence that defendant insisted on calling his attorney before calling for medical assistance for victim implies intent to commit assault), review denied (Minn. May 28, 1987); State v. Siverhus, 355 N.W.2d 398, 401 (Minn. 1984) (intent to commit murder inferred from defendant's fleeing the scene and leaving victim unattended). Moreover, McGowan called and apologized to the victim two days after the assault, stating that she could not control her rage. This statement indicates that McGowan's actions were motivated by anger and were not merely accidental, as she now contends.
Finally, McGowan's own testimony indicates that she acted with the requisite intent. She stated that she brandished the knife because "I just wanted him to go away, I wanted to scare him." Assault includes '[a]n act done with intent to cause fear in another of immediate bodily harm or death." Minn. Stat. § 609.02, subd. 10(1). Brandishing a weapon during a confrontation would cause fear of immediate bodily harm or death, and McGowan testified that she intended to cause such fear. See State v. Patton, 414 N.W.2d 572, 574 (Minn. App. 1987) (bodily harm not required to commit assault). We conclude that a jury could reasonably conclude that McGowan had the requisite intent to commit assault when she stabbed the victim.
II. Constitutional challenge
McGowan argues that her right to a fair trial was violated when the prosecutor elicited testimony that she had a probation officer, which indicated to the jury that she had a prior criminal conviction.
McGowan had been convicted of welfare fraud and was on probation at the time of the stabbing. Following the stabbing, McGowan called her probation officer to explain what had happened. During cross-examination of McGowan, the prosecutor attempted to impeach her with the statements she had made to her probation officer. The following exchange occurred:
At this point, defense counsel objected and requested a bench conference.
- Q: You indicated you didn't call the police?
- A: No, I did not.
- Q: You called Jeanne Martin though about two days
- later didn't you?
- A: Yes.
- Q: Who is Jeanne Martin?
- A: My probation officer.
At the bench, the following conversation occurred:
The court did not rule on the objection, and provided no cautionary instruction. The prosecutor simply continued his examination and elicited the prior inconsistent statement. He did not question McGowan further about being on probation.
- [Defense]: I object to characterizing her as being on
- probation, that's what he's getting at here.
- [Prosecution]: Your Honor, I am trying to explain the
- relationship, to explain what the content of the
- conversation she had with her. This isn't just
- a friend[,] this is somebody in some kind of an
- -- I'm not going to ask if she's on probation.
- The Court: She's already told them that.
- [Defense]: So you're not going to -- there is no need to ask
- further; right?
- [Prosecution]: I am going to ask for content of the conversation.
- [Defense]: Not about who she is.
- [Prosecution]: No.
Appellant argues that the erroneous admission of the statement identifying her probation officer violated her constitutional right to a fair trial by revealing to the jury that she was on probation at the time the stabbing occurred. "[A] constitutional error does not automatically require reversal of a conviction * * *." Arizona v. Fulminante, 499 U.S. 279, 306, 111 S. Ct. 1246, 1263 (1991). When reviewing the erroneous admission of evidence, an appellate court
Id. at 310, 111 S. Ct. at 1265. In conducting a harmless error analysis, the inquiry is "whether the guilty verdict actually rendered in this trial was surely unattributable to the error." Sullivan v. Louisiana, 508 U.S. 275, 279, 113 S. Ct. 2078, 2081 (1993).
- reviews the remainder of the evidence against the defendant to determine whether the admission of the [improper evidence] was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.
Even if we assume, without deciding, that admitting the statement that Jeanne Martin is McGowan's probation officer was a constitutional error, we, nevertheless conclude that, considering the remainder of the evidence against McGowan, the guilty verdict was surely unattributable to this error. The evidence of McGowan's guilt was overwhelming. McGowan admitted that she forced a knife into the victim's leg. She claimed only that she stabbed the victim accidentally. But the evidence showed that McGowan fled the scene, disposed of the weapon, called and apologized to the victim, and admitted that she wanted to scare the victim.
The statement that Martin is McGowan's probation officer was made only once during the trial. Probation was not mentioned during the subsequent questioning by the prosecutor, there was no discussion of what crime McGowan had committed, and McGowan's prior conviction and probation were not mentioned during closing arguments. The guilty verdict is not attributable to the single statement about probation. C.f.State v. Bolte, 530 N.W.2d 191, 198 (Minn. 1995) (improper admission of other-crime evidence harmless error when overwhelming evidence linked defendant to crime and prosecution did not rely on improper evidence in closing argument).