This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).




In the Matter of the Welfare of: E.W.B., Juvenile.

Filed October 14, 1997


Short, Judge

Scott County District Court

File No. 9612707

Dean S. Grau, 3933 IDS Center, 80 South Eighth Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for appellant )

Hubert H. Humphrey, III, Attorney General, 102 Capitol Building, St. Paul, MN 55155, and

Thomas J. Harbinson, Scott County Attorney, Susan K. McNellis, Assistant County Attorney, 428 South Holmes Street, Shakopee, MN 55379 (for respondent.

Considered and decided by Crippen, Presiding Judge, Parker, Judge, and Short, Judge.


SHORT, Judge

E.W.B. appeals from an adjudication of delinquency based on his violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.223, subd. 1 (1996) (assault in the third-degree). On appeal, E.W.B. argues the trial court erred in: (1) finding probable cause for him to stand trial; (2) determining the evidence was sufficient to establish the elements of assault; and (3) refusing to allow him to inquire regarding a civil lawsuit. We affirm.


A juvenile court's finding of probable cause will not be disturbed on appeal unless it is clearly erroneous. See In re Welfare of Hartung, 304 N.W.2d 621, 624 (Minn. 1981) (holding findings of juvenile court will not be disturbed on appeal unless clearly erroneous); Minn. R. Crim. P. 11.03 (holding record must establish probable cause to believe defendant committed crime); Minn. R. Juv. P. 19.04, subd.3(B) (holding showing of probable cause shall be made pursuant to Minn. R. Crim. P. 11). When a juvenile challenges a delinquency adjudication on the basis of insufficient evidence, we view the evidence in a light most favorable to the trial court's decision and assume the trial court believed the state's witnesses and disbelieved any evidence to the contrary. See In re Welfare of J. G. B., 473 N.W.2d 342, 345 (Minn. App. 1991) (quoting State v. Merrill, 274 N.W.2d 99, 111 (Minn. 1978), and applying this rule to a delinquency adjudication). Evidentiary rulings rest within the sound discretion of the trial court, and will not be reversed absent a clear abuse of that discretion. State v. Olkon, 299 N.W.2d 89, 101-02 (Minn. 1980), cert. denied, 449 U.S. 1132 (1981). If there is a reasonable possibility that the verdict might have been different if the excluded evidence had been admitted, then the erroneous exclusion of evidence is prejudicial. State v. Post, 512 N.W.2d 99, 102 (Minn. 1994).


E.W.B. argues the trial court's use of the phrase "may have committed" rather than "has committed," together with the alleged weakness in the state's case, compel a finding of doubt, not probable cause. We disagree. The record includes: (1) photographs of the victim's injuries; (2) statements from the victim and other witnesses that E.W.B. was the only person who could have caused the victim's injuries; and (3) statements from defense witnesses that the victim was the aggressor and someone other than E.W.B. caused the victim's injuries. The trial court found nothing to suggest the defense witnesses were more believable than the state's witnesses. Under the circumstances, we cannot say the trial court's finding of probable cause was erroneous. See State v. Dunagan, 521 N.W.2d 355, 356 (Minn. 1994) (holding probable cause properly found where elements of causation were contradicted by defense witnesses but credibility of testimony was not established).


E.W.B. also argues the evidence was not sufficient to show he intended to cause injury to the victim or to overcome his self-defense theory. See Minn. Stat. § 609.06, subd. 1 (1996) (authorizing use of reasonable force in resisting an offense against person); State v. Raymond, 440 N.W.2d 425, 426 (Minn. 1989) (holding "intent" is an inference drawn from totality of circumstances); see also State v. Housley, 322 N.W.2d 746, 750 (Minn. 1982) (holding state must prove beyond reasonable doubt that defendant used unjustifiable force). However, the record demonstrates: (1) E.W.B. was asked to leave, given an opportunity, and refused to leave the party; (2) when asked to leave, E.W.B. approached the victim and pushed him; (3) E.W.B. and the victim wrestled; (4) the victim sustained a deep cut to his chin; (5) medical experts testified the injury was not caused by a kick or a blow to the head, and it was highly unlikely the wound was caused by falling on a sharp object on the ground; (6) the victim's head did not touch the ground during the fight; and (7) E.W.B. received superficial abrasions and complained of chest pain but was not seriously injured. Given these facts, the trial court reasonably could conclude E.W.B. intended to assault the victim and exceeded the boundaries of reasonable force.


Finally, E.W.B. argues the trial court erred in refusing to permit questions concerning a witness's involvement in a civil lawsuit against E.W.B. See State v. Underwood, 281 N.W.2d 337, 341 (Minn. 1979) (holding evidence of witness's pending civil lawsuit admissible to impeach). After a careful review of the record, we conclude E.W.B. has failed to show a reasonable possibility that the verdict might have been different if the excluded evidence had been admitted. See Post, 512 N.W.2d at 102 (holding error prejudicial if there is reasonable probability verdict might have been different if excluded evidence had been admitted). Under these circumstances, the trial court did not commit prejudicial error.