This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998)




In the Matter of the Welfare of: J. S. K.

Filed June 15, 1999


Lansing, Judge

Hennepin County District Court

File No. J798056981

Jordan S. Kushner, 636 Sexton Building, 529 South Seventh Street, Minneapolis, MN 55415 (for appellant)

Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 1400 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent)

Amy Klobuchar, Hennepin County Attorney, Paul R. Scoggin, Assistant County Attorney, C-2000 Government Center, Minneapolis, MN 55487 (for respondent)

Considered and decided by Lansing, Presiding Judge, Kalitowski, Judge, and Harten, Judge.



The district court adjudicated J.S.K. delinquent for third- and fourth-degree assault on a police officer executing a search warrant. The evidence supports the findings on the elements of each offense and the negation of self-defense, and we find no reversible error or abuse of discretion in the district court's evidentiary and procedural rulings. We affirm.


Sergeant Ronald Stenerson and other police officers executed a search warrant at a Minneapolis residence. The officers shouted their presence and identified themselves as police. When Stenerson approached J.S.K. in a darkened bedroom in the basement of the residence, J.S.K. grabbed Stenerson around the waist and refused to let go. Fearful that J.S.K. could take control of his waist-holstered gun, Stenerson hit J.S.K. with a closed fist approximately three times in the face and head, until J.S.K. released his hold.

The state petitioned the court to adjudicate J.S.K. delinquent and charged him with third- and fourth-degree assault. J.S.K. was released on electronic home monitoring. The district court set a trial date of May 20, 1998, which was continued until June 4, 1998. The state amended the petition to include a charge of obstruction of legal process or arrest. Following a three-day trial, the district court found that both assault charges had been proved beyond a reasonable doubt, but dismissed the charge for obstruction of legal process or arrest. J.S.K. appeals, challenging (1) the sufficiency of the evidence; (2) the district court's rejection of his theory of self-defense; (3) an evidentiary ruling on medical records; (4) the timing of the trial and adjudicatory findings; and (5) the prosecutor's conduct in direct and cross-examination and closing argument.



In reviewing a claim of sufficiency of the evidence, we determine whether a judge or jury could reasonably find that the state proved each element of the charged offense, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the court's findings. In re Welfare of S.A.M., 570 N.W.2d 162, 167 (Minn. App. 1997) (citing Dale v. State, 535 N.W.2d 619, 623 (Minn. 1995)). Appellate review following a conviction presumes that the fact-finder believed the witnesses supporting conviction and rejected contrary evidence. Id.

The elements of third-degree assault are (1) assault; and (2) infliction of substantial bodily harm. Minn. Stat. 609.223, subd. 1 (1998). J.S.K. does not contest that Stenerson suffered "substantial bodily harm" when he broke a bone in his hand. J.S.K. argues, however, that no proof substantiates Stenerson's claim that his hand was broken in the course of his attempts to subdue J.S.K.

Stenerson testified that he had no problem with his hand before he entered the residence, he noticed pain in his hand immediately after subduing J.S.K., and he did not come into forceful physical contact with anyone else during the execution of the warrant. We reject J.S.K.'s argument that the causal chain was broken because Stenerson's response of striking J.S.K. on the head was disproportionate to being grabbed around the waist. The district court reasonably found that Stenerson's injuries were a natural and probable consequence of J.S.K.'s conduct. A victim's response to an assault breaks the chain of legal causation only if it is unreasonable or abnormal. See Wayne R. LaFave & Austin W. Scott, Jr., 1 Substantive Criminal Law § 3.12(f)(4) (1986). The record supports the finding that Stenerson broke his hand when he hit J.S.K. and that, on these facts, the action was neither unreasonable nor abnormal.

J.S.K. also argues that the state failed to demonstrate the necessary intent to establish either charge of assault. Assault is defined as (1) an act committed "with intent to cause fear in another of immediate bodily harm or death," or (2) intentional infliction or attempt to inflict bodily harm upon another. Minn. Stat. 609.224, subd. (1) (1998). Because intent is a subjective state of mind, it is usually established not only through testimony of observed conduct and circumstances, but also through inferences drawn from that evidence.

Stenerson testified that he feared immediate bodily harm when J.S.K. grabbed him in the area of his holstered gun and this fear caused him to strike J.S.K. in an attempt to break free. Testimony established that police repeatedly announced they were executing a warrant, Stenerson shouted he was a police officer as he entered the room in which he encountered J.S.K., Stenerson's jacket had "POLICE" written in large letters across the front and back, and J.S.K. did not cease his aggressive actions even when the other police officers came to Stenerson's assistance. The district court's finding of the requisite intent is supported by the record, and we are not persuaded that the district court's dismissal of the charges for obstruction of justice is inconsistent with the findings on the assault charges. Each offense has different elements; it does not follow that dismissal of one negates proof of the other. See Minn. Stat. §§ 609.50, subds. 1(2) & 2(1) (1998); 609.223, subd. (1); 609.2231, subd. 1.


The burden of proof is on the state to rebut a claim of self-defense when it has been properly raised. State v. Graham, 371 N.W.2d 204, 209 (Minn. 1985). To assert a claim of self-defense, the defendant must demonstrate an absence of provocation, an actual and honest belief of imminent danger of great bodily harm, necessity for the action, reasonable grounds for this belief, and the impossibility of retreat or avoidance of danger. State v. Baker, 280 Minn. 518, 522, 160 N.W.2d 240, 242 (1968).

The district court found that the state proved beyond a reasonable doubt that J.S.K. had not acted in self-defense. The district court, in careful and detailed findings, discussed each witness's testimony and the credibility or inconsistencies of the testimony. These findings demonstrate that J.S.K. was the aggressor and that he did not retreat or attempt to avoid violence, nor did he demonstrate an actual or honest belief of impending harm or a necessity for his actions. The district court did not err in finding J.S.K.'s conduct was not excused under the doctrine of self-defense.


Before the trial began, the state moved to suppress the introduction of J.S.K.'s records from Children's Medical because J.S.K. did not provide it with the records prior to trial. The district court found that the records were within J.S.K.'s possession or control and sustained the motion. J.S.K. later delivered the records to the state. When the trial was continued, the district court again refused to admit the records, observing that the prejudicial effect on the state could not be ameliorated because the state had already rested its case and the records it had received were incomplete.

We reverse a district court's evidentiary ruling only when it constitutes a clear abuse of discretion. State v. Kelly, 435 N.W.2d 807, 813 (Minn. 1989). The district court's ruling was well within its range of discretion. See State v. Patterson, 587 N.W.2d 45, 50 (Minn. 1998) (district court did not abuse its discretion in excluding witness's testimony because of prejudice). We further note that any prejudice was minimal because J.S.K. presented substantial evidence of his injuries, including testimony from his grandmother that the court found credible.


When a child is in detention, a "trial shall be commenced within thirty (30) days from the date of demand for a speedy trial unless good cause is shown." Minn. R. Juv. P. 13.02, subd. 1. A delay beyond the statutory period raises presumption that violation has occurred and requires inquiry into remaining factors to determine reasonableness of delay. In re Welfare of G.D., 473 N.W.2d 878, 881 (Minn. App. 1991).

J.S.K. was in detention through the home-monitoring requirement. See Minn. R. Juv. P. 5.02, subd. 1(C) (electronic home-monitoring constitutes detention). The district court set trial for May 20, 1998, within 30 days of J.S.K.'s demand for speedy trial. On May 20, however, J.S.K.'s attorney filed a motion to remove the judge who was scheduled to hear the case. No other judge was available until June 4. A court's crowded docket is generally not a sufficient reason to delay trial. In re Welfare of J.D.P., 410 N.W.2d 1, 3 (Minn. App. 1987), review granted (Minn. Sept. 23, 1987), appeal dismissed (Minn. Nov. 18, 1987). J.S.K.'s belated filing, however, constituted good cause to postpone the trial, and a subsequent 14-day delay was not unreasonable or prejudicial.

J.S.K. also argues that the trial was not concluded in a timely fashion. The second day of trial was 11 days after the first. Rule 13.02 requires that a trial commence within 30 days of demand for speedy trial, but does not mandate a time for conclusion. See Minn. R. Juv. P. 13.02. The trial court released J.S.K. from electronic home monitoring after the second day, and the third and final trial day was June 24. The additional 11 days of electronic monitoring were not unreasonable, given the circumstances, nor was the postponement of the trial's conclusion for a final nine days, during which time J.S.K. was not in detention.

Minn. R. Juv. P. 13.09 requires that the district court make written findings within seven days of the conclusion of trial. For good cause, the court may extend the time for filing written findings an additional seven days. Id. The district court issued its findings 16 days after the trial ended and denied J.S.K.'s motion to dismiss for lateness of the written findings. Neither the rule nor caselaw prescribes a remedy for exceeding the time limit. In applying a parallel rule of adult criminal procedure, we remanded rather than dismiss when the defendant asserted a failure to provide timely written findings. State v. Scarver, 458 N.W.2d 167, 168-69 (Minn. App. 1990) (construing Minn. R. Crim. P. 26.01, subd. 2). The district court made extensive and careful findings that were issued within 16 days of the trial, and there is no indication that the delay affected appeal rights or other rights. The failure to comply with the letter of rule 13.09 does not require dismissal.


J.S.K. contends the prosecutor engaged in five instances of misconduct by (1) questioning Stenerson about how his injury affected his personal life; (2) questioning J.S.K. about whether he intended to file a civil suit against Stenerson; (3) mentioning the death of two St. Paul police officers in her closing argument; and (4) discussing the important role of police in society during her closing argument. A prosecutor may not seek a conviction at any price. State v. Salitros, 499 N.W.2d 815, 817 (Minn. 1993). A primary reason for restricting inappropriate argument is to avoid inflaming the jury's passions and prejudices against the defendant. State v. Morgan, 235 Minn. 388, 391, 51 N.W.2d 61, 63 (1952). J.S.K.'s trial was to the court and not to a jury.

The first question addressed the impact of Stenerson's broken bone; the question related to the severity of the injury and was not improper. State v. Montjoy, 366 N.W.2d 103, 109 (Minn. 1985). The second question inquired about the possibility of a civil lawsuit against Stenerson. The question appears to be a proper inquiry into possible bias and is not misconduct. State v. Goar, 311 Minn. 560, 561, 249 N.W.2d 894, 895 (1977).

The remaining objections are to comments about police. The prosecutor began her closing argument with a reference to two St. Paul police officers who were shot and killed in the line of duty in 1994. The district court sustained J.S.K.'s attorney's objection on the ground of relevance. While the state's argument need not be "colorless," it should be based on the evidence produced at trial, or the reasonable inferences from that evidence. State v. Gulbrandsen, 238 Minn. 508, 511, 57 N.W.2d 419, 422 (1953). By sustaining defense counsel's objection, however, the district court signaled that it would not consider the statement in its decision. Similarly, the prosecutor's statement about the unpredictability and danger inherent to police work is more rhetorical than evidentiary. It is extremely unlikely that any of the comments influenced the district court's decision in any way. See State v. Ashby, 567 N.W.2d 21, 28 (Minn. 1997); see also State v. Ferraro, 277 Minn. 204, 209, 152 N.W.2d 183, 187 (1967) (implying that trial to the court instead of a jury may lessen prejudicial effect of proffered but inadmissible evidence); State v. Lane, 671 N.E.2d 272, 276-77 (Ohio App. 1995) ("[I]n a bench trial, the trial court is presumed to rely only on relevant, material and competent evidence in arriving at its judgment.") (citation omitted).