IN COURT OF APPEALS
State of Minnesota,
Kristi Kathaleen Wood,
Sherburne County District Court
Hubert H. Humphrey III, Attorney General, 1400 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101, Walter M. Kaminsky, Sherburne County Attorney, Nancy J. Logering, Assistant Sherburne County Attorney, 13880 Highway 10, Elk River, MN 55330 (for respondent)
John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Susan K. Maki, Assistant State Public Defender, 2829 University Avenue Southeast, Suite 600, Minneapolis, MN 55414 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Harten, Presiding Judge, Short, Judge, and Amundson, Judge.
Appellant Kristi Kathaleen Wood challenges the district court's jury instructions, claiming the district court erred by failing to instruct the jury that the legal doctrine of justification included the right to defend another who was being assaulted. We affirm.
On November 11, 1996, an argument began between Seeman and Waddell when Waddell returned home after work and found the puppy in its kennel. After the argument, Waddell took the puppy outside and called Wood at work and asked her tocome home. Approximately an hour-and-a-half later Wood arrived, talked with Waddell, and then Waddell left the house. While Waddell was gone, Wood and Seeman argued about whether the puppy should be allowed in the living room. After Waddell returned home, she was sitting on the couch with Wood when Seeman approached Wood and told her that she would have to move out on the 15th of the month because she had not fully paid her rent. Wood said she did not pay her entire rent because she deducted a portion to compensate herself for having done Seeman's share of the household chores. Seeman was very upset and, when Wood made disparaging remarks to him, he turned over her art table. Waddell reacted by pinning Seeman against a bedroom door. Wood, seeing Seeman struggling to get away from Waddell, ran into the kitchen and got a knife. Wood approached Seeman and severely cut his arm. Waddell called for medical assistance and an ambulance transported Seeman to the hospital for treatment. Dr. Thomas Timmons treated Seeman and used 26 staples to close the wound. Seeman missed nine or ten days of work and at the time of trial he still had a lengthy scar on his arm.
At the trial, Dr. Timmons testified that Seeman's injury was not superficial, but rather was a deep cut down through fat and into the deltoid muscle. According to Dr. Timmons, the injury looked like a sharp vertical cut that was likely inflicted with force in a deliberate effort to harm. In his opinion, it was unlikely that the injury was inflicted accidentally. Wood was convicted of two alternate counts of second-degree assault. She was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 21 months. Execution of that sentence, however, was stayed for ten years and Wood is currently on probation. This appeal followed.
The district court discussed the jury instructions with counsel. Even after the jury was given the instructions, including the elements of the offense, the defense did not state an objection to the instructions or indicate that the court omitted an instruction.
We must determine if the jury instructions constituted plain error. If it did, then we can consider Wood's challenge, despite her lack of objection at trial. Here, the district court specifically instructed the jury on the rules of law that govern the particular issues of this case including the statutory definitions of the charged offenses. Minnesota law allows the use of force that is reasonably necessary to resist or aid another to resist an offense against the person. Minn. Stat. § 609.06(3) (1996). A person who intervenes to defend another acts in the stead of the other, so that force by the intervenor is justified to the same extent force by the party defended would have been justified. State v. Grier, 609 S.W.2d 201, 204 (Mo. Ct. App. 1980); see also Taylor v. United States, 380 A.2d 989, 994 (D.C. 1977). In Minnesota,
[a] person may use force to defend himself against an assault if he believes it to be reasonably necessary and if it would appear to a reasonable person under similar circumstances to be reasonably necessary, with the amount of force used to defend himself being limited to that which a reasonable person in the same circumstances would believe to be necessary.
State v. Bland, 337 N.W.2d 378, 381 (Minn. 1983). The evidence favoring conviction was overwhelming and none of the criteria of self-defense were present.
Wood purposefully went into the kitchen and procured a large knife; she confronted Seeman as he was pinned against a door in another room; and she intentionally inflicted a severe laceration. Furthermore, the treating physician testified this was no accidental cut but rather a deliberate effort inflicted with force. Neither Wood nor Waddell were in imminent danger of harm from Seeman. Waddell had overpowered Seeman and was restraining him. Wood made no attempt to retreat or avoid danger. She walked past a telephone and exit door twice before assaulting Seeman. Wood became an aggressor and the action she took was wholly unwarranated.
Wood's theory of the case, that she intentionally attacked Seeman in defense of Waddell, is not reasonable. There was no evidence that Seeman was attacking Waddell or that he had ever physically attacked her in the past. Waddell testified that Seeman was not trying to hurt her. There was no credible evidence to support the defense of another claim and Wood was not prejudiced by the district court's decision to not instruct the jury on this defense.