may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In the Matter of the Welfare of:
Filed August 10, 1999
St. Louis County District Court
John M. Stuart, Minnesota Public Defender, Charlann Winking, Assistant State Public Defender, 2829 University Avenue Southeast, Suite 600, Minneapolis MN 55414 (for appellant)
Mike Hatch, State Attorney General, 1400 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101; and
Alan Mitchell, County Attorney, Courthouse, 100 North Fifth Avenue West, Suite, 501, Duluth, MN 55802 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Amundson, Presiding Judge, Schumacher, Judge, and Halbrooks, Judge.
Appellant L.R.N. was adjudicated delinquent for the commission of a third-degree burglary offense. L.R.N. claims the state's evidence was insufficient to corroborate the testimony of his accomplice.
L.R.N. was found guilty of one count of third-degree burglary for entering a garage without the owner's permission, and for his participation in the theft of a snowblower from that garage. L.R.N. was staying with a friend, Andrew Salus, on and off through December 1997. On December 17, 1997, a homeowner living near Salus reported a burglary and theft of a snowblower.
Salus stated that his mother, Mary Huttunen, told him in front of Brian Boder and L.R.N., that she wanted a snowblower and would pay $50 for one. Salus also wrote in a sworn statement that the two boys, Boder and L.R.N., stole the snowblower from a house approximately two blocks away. While conducting a home visit, Salus's probation officer saw the new snowblower, with the serial numbers scratched off, in Salus's basement.
Both Salus and Boder testified that L.R.N. either took the snowblower or was involved in taking the snowblower. Boder claims that he was with L.R.N. when they took the snowblower and Salus states that Boder and L.R.N. went out together and came back with the snowblower. The district court described Boder's testimony as credible and found that Boder had no reason to lie even though he was an accomplice. The district court also noted that the testimony of Salus and Huttunen corroborated Boder's testimony.
L.R.N. challenges the evidence presented at trial as insufficient, claiming a lack of evidence corroborating the accomplice's testimony.
Minn. Stat. § 634.04 (1998) provides:
A conviction cannot be had upon the testimony of an accomplice, unless it is corroborated by such other evidence as tends to convict the defendant of the commission of the offense, and the corroboration is not sufficient if it merely shows the commission of the offense or the circumstances thereof.
Minn. Stat. § 634.04 applies to juvenile cases. In re Welfare of K.A.Z., 266 N.W.2d 167, 169 (Minn. 1978). The testimony of one accomplice cannot corroborate that of another. Id. The corroboration that is required must restore confidence in the inherently suspect accomplice testimony, confirming its truth and substantially pointing to the defendant's guilt. Id. When evidence is as consistent with the defendant's innocence as with his guilt, the evidence is insufficient to corroborate the testimony of the accomplice. State v. Wallert, 402 N.W.2d 570, 572 (Minn. App. 1987), review denied (Minn. May 18, 1987).
In the present case, the trial court found that Boder was an accomplice. L.R.N. argues that Salus's and Huttunen's testimony are insufficient to corroborate Boder's accomplice testimony as a matter of law.
"[C]orroboration is not sufficient if it merely shows the commission of the offense." Minn. Stat. § 634.04; see also Wallert, 402 N.W.2d at 573 (holding circumstantial evidence corroborating accomplice testimony must clearly implicate the defendant in the crime). The district court explicitly found that it based L.R.N.'s adjudication on the testimony of his accomplice Boder, as corroborated by Salus and Huttunen.
An accomplice's testimony is considered inherently untrustworthy because an accomplice is "naturally inclined to shift or diffuse criminal responsibility." Id. at 572 (quoting State v. Mathieson, 267 Minn. 393, 399, 127 N.W.2d 534, 539 (1964)). Because of this, corroboration of the details of the crime, which do not connect the defendant to the crime, should not be considered significant for purposes of Minn. Stat. § 634.04. While an accomplice can recite accurate details of the crime, it is his implication of the defendant that must be corroborated. State v. Sandefur, 249 Minn. 416, 421, 82 N.W.2d 624, 626 (1957).
Therefore, in order to determine whether the accomplice testimony was sufficiently corroborated, the proper focus is on the testimony of Salus and Huttunen. Salus testified that Boder and L.R.N. heard the conversation he had with Huttunen, when she mentioned she wanted a snowblower. He stated that later someone brought up the subject of the snowblower and "I told them not to steal anything around or close to my house." Salus further stated that later Boder and L.R.N. left together and returned with a snowblower, and put it in the basement. Huttunen's testimony corroborates Salus's and Boder's testimony. She stated that she discussed wanting a snowblower with her son and that the other boys were in the room and may have overheard her. While she claimed that she was asleep when the snowblower was brought into the house, she did admit that the boys often stayed over night and that the snowblower was there the next morning.
In In re Welfare of D.M.K., corroborating testimony came from a person who was involved with the offenders both before and after the commission of the crime. In re Welfare of D.M.K., 343 N.W.2d 863, 867 (Minn. App. 1984). The witness was sufficiently involved in the activities surrounding the crime such that the primary issue on appeal was whether he was also an accomplice. Id. While it appears that Salus was not charged in exchange for his testimony, his testimony sufficiently corroborates the testimony of Boder as Salus was involved with the offenders both before and after the crime. He admitted that he told them not to steal anything in his neighborhood and that he felt bad about them bringing the snowblower home.
The testimony of both Huttunen and Salus corroborate Boder's accomplice testimony and in evaluating the record we determine that there is more than adequate support for the district court's decision.