This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).




State of Minnesota,



Adam Patrick Miller,


Filed March 23, 1999


Klaphake, Judge

Hennepin County District Court

File No. 97-093337

Michael A. Hatch, Attorney General, 1400 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota St., St. Paul, MN 55101; and

Amy Klobuchar, Hennepin County Attorney, Patrick Diamond, Deputy County Attorney, C-2000 Government Ctr., Minneapolis, MN 55487 (for respondent)

Rachael Goldberger, Jerry Strauss, Strauss & Associates, 250 Second Ave. S., Ste. 145, Minneapolis, MN 55401-2169 (for appellant)

Considered and decided by Short, Presiding Judge, Kalitowski, Judge, and Klaphake, Judge.



Adam Miller appeals from convictions for criminal vehicular negligence. Minn. Stat. § 609.21, subd. 2(2)(i), (3) (1996). Because the evidence is sufficient to support the jury's finding of great bodily harm, we affirm. We also conclude that the trial court did not err in admitting the results of a blood test nor deny Miller his right to assistance of counsel.


On August 31, 1997, Miller ran a red light in downtown Minneapolis and struck a car driven by Nathan Nelson. Miller's speed at impact was more than 50 miles per hour, on a city street with a speed limit of 30 miles per hour. Miller consented to a blood test, which showed a blood alcohol content of .148. Miller was charged with two counts of felony criminal vehicular operation. Minn. Stat. § 609.21, subd. 2(2)(i), (3) (1996) (causing great bodily harm while driving under the influence of alcohol and with an alcohol concentration greater than .10).

Nelson, the other driver, briefly lost consciousness. He had a laceration on his head and soft tissue injuries in his shoulder and back. His kneecap was briefly displaced and was sore and swollen. At trial, seven months after the collision, Nelson testified that his legs, ankle, and knee still hurt and that the range of motion in his neck was reduced. Nelson, an avid golfer, found that his handicap had risen and that his continuing pain hampered his playing. The chiropractor who treated him testified that Nelson would probably continue to have problems with his leg and upper back.

At trial, Miller challenged the chain of custody of the blood drawn for the blood alcohol analysis, but the trial court ruled that the state had met the standard for admissibility of physical evidence.

Miller's trial attorney also repeatedly challenged the testimony of the state's expert medical witness, who was Nelson's treating chiropractor. After 21 objections, the court asked the jury to leave the courtroom and then stated from the bench:

This is the most obstreperous display by an attorney in a long time. You're obstreperous and if you keep this up, you will be held in contempt of court. This man will testify, you'll make your formal objections. You can cross-examine him, you can look at your notes. And I want you to stop jumping up and down and disrupting this testimony.

Your objections are noted for the record. If you continue to act this way, I intend to hold you in contempt of court. You're forewarned.

The jury found Miller guilty on both counts. Miller appeals from the judgment of conviction, claiming that the evidence of great bodily harm is insufficient to support the verdict.


When reviewing a claim of insufficiency of the evidence, an appellate court is limited to deciding whether, given the facts and inferences that can be drawn from the facts, a jury could reasonably find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. State v. Johnson, 568 N.W.2d 426, 435 (Minn. 1997). The court must view the evidence in a light most favorable to the verdict and must assume that the jury believed the state's witnesses and disbelieved any contradictory evidence. Id.

Miller's contention is that the state failed to prove that Nelson had suffered great bodily harm, a necessary element of the charge of criminal vehicular operation. Minn. Stat. § 609.21, subd. 2(2)(i), (3). "Great bodily harm" is defined as an injury

which creates a high probability of death, or which causes serious permanent disfigurement, or which causes a permanent or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ or other serious bodily harm.

Minn. Stat. § 609.02, subd. 8 (1996).

Nelson suffered a head laceration and briefly lost consciousness. He testified to continuing pain and discomfort in his back and legs, and loss of range of motion in his neck. A long-time avid golfer, Nelson has been limited in his ability to play golf at the same level as prior to the accident. The extent of his injuries was confirmed by the treating chiropractor, who testified that the prognosis for complete recovery as to Nelson's back and neck was poor. Viewing this testimony in a light most favorable to the verdict, the jury could reasonably have concluded that this was sufficient evidence of "protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member * * * or other serious bodily harm." Minn. Stat. § 609.02, subd. 8; see State v. Barner, 510 N.W.2d 202, 202 (Minn. 1993) (head swollen for three days; multiple stab wounds, leaving scars and permanent hand injury affecting victim's ability to canoe); State v. Stafford, 340 N.W.2d 669, 670 (Minn. 1983) (victim knocked unconscious and suffered broken nose); State v. Bridgeforth, 357 N.W.2d 393, 394 (Minn. App. 1984) (factual basis existed for plea where victim lost tooth), review denied (Minn. Feb. 6, 1985).

We also conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting the results of a blood test. Evidentiary rulings are within the sound discretion of the trial court and will not be overturned absent a clear abuse of discretion. State v. Ashby, 567 N.W.2d 21, 25 (Minn. 1997). The admissibility of physical evidence depends on the authentication of the item of evidence so as to prove that the item offered is what its proponent claims. Minn. R. Evid. 901(a).

In reaching its determination on admissibility, the court must view all the evidence * * * regarding authentication * * * most favorably to the proponent. If * * * the court determines that the evidence is sufficient to support a finding by a reasonable juror that the matter in question is what its proponent claims, the evidence will be admitted. The party against whom the evidence has been received may, during the trial, offer contradictory evidence * * * or challenge the credibility of the supporting proof * * *[.]

State v. Hager, 325 N.W.2d 43, 44-45 (Minn. 1982).

At trial, witnesses testified that the usual procedure was followed, that an officer watched as blood was drawn and marked the sample with an identification number, and that each person down the chain of custody checked the identification number and noted it in a report. While the witnesses relied on notes rather than on independent recollection, this is sufficient to establish a reasonable probability that the blood sample was what it purported to be. See id. at 44 (acknowledging use of police identifying labels to support chain of custody). Moreover, Miller had the opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses to test their credibility and the weight of the evidence, as required by rule 901(a).

Miller finally claims that the trial court deprived him of his right to effective assistance of counsel when the court admonished his trial attorney from the bench during the testimony of the state's expert witness. While this right guarantees that there will be no meaningful restriction on counsel in defending the accused within the framework of the adversarial process, a trial court retains broad discretion in managing the trial and in ensuring courtroom decorum. Herring v. New York, 422 U.S. 853, 862, 95 S. Ct. 2550, 2555 (1975). In this case, the trial court asked the jury to leave the courtroom before it warned defense counsel to stop disrupting the trial. Even after this admonition, defense counsel was able to continue to make objections and conduct a thorough cross-examination of the witness. We therefore reject Miller's claim as meritless.