This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).




In the Matter of the Welfare of: J.A.W., Child

Filed January 21, 1997


Lansing, Judge

Hennepin County District Court

File No. J69650150

Hubert H. Humphrey III, Attorney General, 445 Minnesota Street, Suite 1400, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for Respondent)

Michael O. Freeman, Hennepin County Attorney, Jean E. Burdorf, Assistant County Attorney, C-2000 Government Center, Minneapolis, MN 55487 (for Respondent)

John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Charlann E. Winking, Assistant State Public Defender, 2829 University Avenue S.E., Suite 600, Minneapolis, MN 55414 (for Appellant)

Considered and decided by Norton, Presiding Judge, Lansing, Judge, and Huspeni, Judge.



A juvenile challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his delinquency adjudication for assault in the third degree. We conclude that the evidence was sufficient, and we affirm.


On December 1, 1995, J.A.W., fifteen years old at the time, was involved in a fight at the Highland Hills Ski Area. Ed Peters, a twenty-year-old who had been snowboarding with friends, was hit in the face during the fight and his nose was broken. The fight was described as "chaotic" and involved a number of people, but Peters and two of his friends each identified J.A.W. as the person who threw the punch that broke Peters's nose.

At trial J.A.W. presented testimony of a friend, Lance Green, who had been present at the fight. Green testified that he had punched "some kid" in the face. J.A.W. construes Green's testimony as a confession to the assault of Peters and now appeals his adjudication based on the sufficiency of the evidence of his identity as the assailant.


In an appeal challenging the sufficiency of evidence, we review the record and the legitimate inferences from the record in a light most favorable to the adjudication to determine whether the fact-finder could reasonably conclude that the juvenile committed the charged offense. Dale v. State, 535 N.W.2d 619, 623 (Minn. 1995). We must assume the fact-finder believed the state's witnesses and rejected contradictory evidence. Id. The credibility of witness testimony and the weight given to the evidence are issues for the trier of fact. State v. Bias, 419 N.W.2d 480, 484 (Minn. 1988).

Assault in the third degree occurs when a person "assaults another and inflicts substantial bodily harm." Minn. Stat. § 609.223, subd. 1 (1994). A conviction of third degree assault requires proof that (1) the defendant assaulted the victim, (2) the defendant inflicted substantial bodily harm, and (3) the assault took place at a particular time and place. 10 Minnesota Practice, CRIMJIG 13.08 (1990). J.A.W. challenges only the first of these three elements, asserting that the evidence was insufficient to show that he was the assailant. We disagree.

Three separate individuals who were present at the scene of the incident, including the victim, identified J.A.W. as the person who punched Peters. Peter Horn, a friend who had been snowboarding with Peters, testified that he saw J.A.W. punch Peters in the face at the start of the fight. He further testified that J.A.W. was wearing a white shirt and possibly a short leather jacket.

Corley Goodwin, another of Peters's friends, testified that she saw the fight begin as she was approaching the group. According to Goodwin, J.A.W. punched Peters in the face while three other youths were holding him. Goodwin testified that J.A.W. was wearing a white shirt. Goodwin also identified J.A.W. when he was in a squad car as the person she saw hit Peters.

Finally, Peters identified J.A.W. as the person who hit him. He also described J.A.W. as wearing a white top, and identified J.A.W. to officials immediately after the fight as the person who hit him.

The court may consider a number of factors in evaluating identification procedures: "the opportunity of the witness to see the defendant, * * * the stress the witness was under, * * * the lapse of time between the crime and the identification, and the effect of the procedures followed by the police." State v. Burch, 284 Minn. 300, 316, 170 N.W.2d 543, 553-54 (1969).

These witnesses had ample opportunity to see the person who hit Peters. Although the fight was "chaotic," the testimony suggests that the punch to Peters was what initiated the brawl-style group fighting that ensued. All of the identifying witnesses agreed that J.A.W. was wearing white. In addition, two of the witnesses identified J.A.W. immediately following the incident. Indeed, Peters was the person who told the rangers which youth to arrest. And Goodwin identified J.A.W. for authorities on the scene. The circumstances of the identification are consistent with the district court's adjudication.

J.A.W.'s challenge relies entirely on the "confession" of his friend Lance Green. At trial Green testified that he hit someone in the face during the fight:

Q: And what was going on specifically in this chaos?

A: None of us--none of my friends got punched at all. But, you know, their faces, like chaos, you couldn't really tell what was going on. We got grabbed and thrown. And then some kid grabbed me and put his hands up, and I put mine up in defense and I hit the kid, you know, just out of reaction.

Q. How did you hit him?

A: How?

Q: Yeah.

A: I punched him with my fist.

Q: What part of the body did you strike him?

A: I don't know. I wasn't aiming. I wasn't paying attention. It was just a reaction. In the head somewhere, in the face.

Construing this testimony in a light most favorable to the state, State v. Merrill, 274 N.W.2d 99, 111 (Minn. 1978), we conclude that it is not inconsistent with the court's finding that J.A.W. was responsible for the blow to Peters's face. Green stated that he punched "some kid" in the face after being grabbed and thrown down. The testimony regarding the assault of Peters suggests that he was punched at the start of what became a group fight with people falling and piling on one another. Green's testimony would not compel the fact-finder to conclude that he, rather than J.A.W., threw the initial punch. Green may well have punched "some kid" during the fight, but that, in itself, is not inconsistent with J.A.W.'s guilt for assaulting Peters.