STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
State of Minnesota,
Darryl Lamont Sims,
Filed November 2, 1999
Hennepin County District Court
File No. 98067613
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 525 Park Street, Suite 500, St. Paul, MN 55103; and
Amy Klobuchar, Hennepin County Attorney, Paul R. Scoggin, Assistant County Attorney, C-2000 Government Center, 300 South Sixth Street, Minneapolis, MN 55487 (for respondent)
John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Rochelle R. Winn, Assistant State Public Defender, 2829 University Avenue Southeast, Suite 600, Minneapolis, MN 55414 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Schumacher, Presiding Judge, Randall, Judge, and Kalitowski, Judge.
After a jury trial, appellant Darryl Lamont Sims challenges his conviction of felon in possession of a firearm, arguing the evidence was insufficient to support the conviction. We affirm.
A conviction based on circumstantial evidence will be sustained on appeal when the reasonable inferences from such evidence are consistent only with defendant's guilt and inconsistent with any rational hypothesis except that of guilt. Id. Circumstantial evidence is entitled to the same weight as any other kind of evidence as long as the reasonable inferences from such evidence are consistent only with defendant's guilt and inconsistent with any rational hypothesis except that of guilt. State v. Ostrem, 535 N.W.2d 916, 923 (Minn. 1995). But a jury is normally in the best position to evaluate circumstantial evidence, and its verdict is entitled to due deference. Webb, 440 N.W.2d at 430. The evidence as a whole need not exclude all possibility that the defendant is innocent; it must only make such a theory seem unreasonable. State v. Anderson, 379 N.W.2d 70, 78 (Minn. 1985).
Because appellant was not in actual possession of the firearm when he was arrested, the state must prove he constructively possessed the firearm. See State v. Florine, 303 Minn. 103, 104, 226 N.W.2d 609, 610 (1975). In order to prove constructive possession, the state must show that (a) the police found the item in a place under defendant's exclusive control to which other people did not normally have access, or (b) if police found it in a place to which others had access, there is a strong probability (inferable from other evidence) that defendant was, at the time, consciously exercising dominion and control over it. Id. at 105, 226 N.W.2d at 611. Proximity has been an important factor in constructive possession cases. See, e.g., State v. Cusick, 387 N.W.2d 179, 181 (Minn. 1986) (holding defendant constructively possessed drugs where they were found in close proximity to defendant's wallet on ground after items fell out of vehicle during crash).
Appellant argues the evidence in the record is insufficient to show he constructively possessed the firearm. We disagree. The testimony indicates: (1) appellant matched the description of one of two men observed running from a van at approximately 3:30 a.m. after police heard shotgun blasts and saw muzzle flashes; (2) the police observed that the other suspect running from the van was not carrying a weapon; (3) while pursuing and apprehending the other suspect, the police did not see or hear him discard the weapon on the sidewalk; (4) appellant was found within two blocks of the van hiding in a bush; (5) no other persons were in the vicinity and the shotgun was found approximately 12 feet from where appellant was hiding; and (6) shells found in the shotgun near appellant matched the shells found near the van.
Given all the evidence and the legitimate inferences that can be drawn from the evidence, the jury could reasonably conclude that appellant constructively possessed the shotgun. Appellant's theory that the other suspect hid the firearm on his person and disposed of it without being noticed before being apprehended is unreasonable based on the evidence. Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the conviction, the jury could reasonably conclude from the facts in the record and the legitimate inferences to be drawn from those facts that appellant consciously exercised control over the shotgun.