may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. sec. 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
n/k/a Dorris Johnson James, petitioner,
State of Minnesota,
File No. K5-94-1781
John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Evan Whitley Jones, Assistant Public Defender, 2829 University Avenue S.E., Ste. 600, Minneapolis, MN 55414 (for appellant)
Hubert H. Humphrey, III, Attorney General, 14th Floor NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent)
Susan E. Gaertner, Ramsey County Attorney, Darrell C. Hill, Assistant County Attorney, 50 W. Kellogg Blvd., Ste. 315, St. Paul, MN 55102 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Klaphake, Presiding Judge, Huspeni, Judge, and Harten, Judge.
In her petition for postconviction relief, appellant Dorris Johnson argues that the evidence at trial was insufficient to support her conviction for sale of cocaine in the third degree. We affirm.
On June 7, 1994, Officer Ardolf was working undercover to apprehend drug dealers in St. Paul. His assignment was to set up drug purchases, and when the sales were arranged, notify cooperating officers who would then converge on the scene and arrest the participants. Ardolf testified that at about 5:00 p.m., he drove past Johnson and a man (later identified as Jerry Thomas) who gestured for him to pull over. Ardolf indicated to the pair that he would drive around the block and return, which allowed him to radio the other officers.
When Ardolf returned, both Johnson and Thomas approached his car. Thomas began negotiations by asking Ardolf what he needed. Ardolf replied that he wanted a "twenty," meaning a $20 piece of crack cocaine. Johnson, apparently in competition with Thomas, also asked Ardolf what he needed. Thomas gave Ardolf a rock of purported crack cocaine in exchange for $20. When Ardolf complained that the rock looked small, Johnson again offered to take care of Ardolf, showing him a larger rock of purported crack cocaine wrapped in knotted plastic. When Johnson maneuvered to enter Ardolf's car, Ardolf drove away and radioed the other officers to arrest Thomas and Johnson.
Thomas and Johnson were apprehended a few minutes later. Officer Bandemer placed Johnson unhandcuffed in his squad car for about 15 minutes while the officers ran a background check on her and dealt with Thomas. After Johnson was transferred to another squad car, Bandemer followed standard police practice and checked beneath the back seat where Johnson had sat. There he found a plastic bag containing small pieces of what proved to be .34 grams of cocaine. Bandemer later testified that nobody else had occupied the back seat since he had checked beneath it earlier that day, and that Johnson would have had enough time to crush the cocaine and drop it under the seat unobserved. After Bandemer found the cocaine, Johnson was arrested for possession and attempted sale of cocaine.
A jury convicted Johnson of third degree sale of cocaine, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 152.023, subd. 1(1) (1994). Johnson was sentenced to 21 months imprisonment, with execution stayed, and placed on probation for 20 years. The postconviction court subsequently denied Johnson's petition for postconviction relief in which she asserted insufficiency of the evidence.
D E C I S I O N
To support a conviction for third degree sale of cocaine, the state was required to prove at a minimum that Johnson offered or agreed to "sell, give away, barter, deliver, exchange, distribute or dispose of to another" cocaine or a mixture containing cocaine. Minn. Stat. § § 152.01, subd. 15(a) (1994), 152.023, subd. 1(1) (1994).
In reviewing a denial of a petition for postconviction relief, this court determines only whether there is sufficient evidence to sustain the postconviction court's decision. We will not disturb the postconviction court's decision absent an abuse of discretion. Black v. State, 560 N.W.2d 83, 85 (Minn. 1997).
We agree with the postconviction court that Johnson's claim that the evidence was insufficient to support her conviction is without merit. Officer Ardolf's eyewitness testimony alone is sufficient to support the conviction. See State v. Williams, 307 Minn. 191, 198, 239 N.W.2d 222, 226 (1976) (identification by a single eyewitness is sufficient to sustain a conviction). Ardolf testified that Johnson offered to sell him crack cocaine and showed him the cocaine in a plastic bag.
In addition, the state offered convincing circumstantial evidence that the cocaine found by Officer Bandemer in his squad car was furtively deposited there by Johnson in an attempt to avoid a drug arrest. Bandemer stated that he was certain that the cocaine had not been in the back seat when he had checked it earlier that day, and thereafter nobody other than Johnson had occupied the back seat.
Although Johnson testified to a different version of the incident and denied possessing or attempting to sell cocaine, the jury chose to believe the officers' testimony. Such credibility determinations are the exclusive province of the jury and will not be disturbed on appeal. See State v. Moore, 438 N.W.2d 101, 108 (Minn. 1989) (weight and credibility of witnesses' testimony is for jury to determine, and reviewing court must assume that "the jury believed the state's witnesses and disbelieved any evidence to the contrary").