may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
State of Minnesota,
Lloyd DeShawn Watkins,
Filed July 15, 1997
Hennepin County District Court
File No. 95070544
Hubert H. Humphrey III, Attorney General, 445 Minnesota Street, Suite 1400, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for Respondent)
Michael O. Freeman, Hennepin County Attorney, Linda K. Jenny, Assistant County Attorney, C-2000 Government Center, Minneapolis, MN 55487 (for Respondent)
John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Mark F. Anderson, Assistant State Public Defender, 2829 University Avenue S.E., Suite 600, Minneapolis, MN 55414 (for Appellant)
Considered and decided by Short, Presiding Judge, Klaphake, Judge, Schultz, Judge.
This appeal challenges the district court's double durational sentencing departure. Because we conclude that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it found that appellant's conduct was significantly more serious than typically involved in the commission of the offense, we affirm.
Shanee Jackson left her seven-month-old daughter, Dominique, with Lloyd Watkins, her boyfriend, so that she could go to the store. Watkins testified that when Dominique started to cry, he shook her three to five times while squeezing her abdominal area to try to calm her. Because Dominique continued to cry, he lifted her in the air and shook her. He spun her around by her legs, stopped, and let her hit the bed in the middle of the mattress. He then heard Dominique sigh, and when he picked her up she did not respond to his touch, and he noted that she was turning blue and gray.
Watkins summoned medical assistance. When police officers and rescue personnel arrived, they tried to revive Dominique, who was not breathing, but she was declared dead at Hennepin County Medical Center later that evening. The medical examiner's office found bite marks on her abdomen and back, bruises on her head and abdomen, retinal hemorrhaging, blood in her diaper, an injury to the tissue between the lips and the gums, bleeding under the scalp, and tears in the liver, spleen, and kidneys.
Watkins was arrested, charged, and convicted of second-degree felony murder. The sentencing guidelines called for a presumptive 180-month sentence, but the judge departed durationally upward and sentenced Watkins to 360 months. The district court considered three aggravating factors: the vulnerability of the victim, Watkins's violation of his position of trust and authority, and the particularly cruel and egregious nature of the crime. Watkins now appeals.
D E C I S I O N
The decision to depart from a presumptive sentence under the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines rests within the district court's discretion and will not be reversed absent a clear abuse of discretion. State v. Halvorson, 506 N.W.2d 331, 336 (Minn. App. 1993). The departure will be affirmed even if the reasons the district court gives are inadequate as long as there is sufficient evidence in the record to justify departure. State v. Bates, 507 N.W.2d 847, 853 (Minn. App. 1993), review denied (Minn. Dec. 27, 1993).
Watkins argues on appeal that the district court relied on aggravating factors that are inherent in any act of second-degree felony murder involving a shaken baby and that the district court should have considered mitigating factors that would require the presumptive sentence. We disagree and find that the district court's reasons are supported by the record.
Generally, a court must impose a sentence within the presumptive range provided by the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines. Minn. Sent. Guidelines II.D. The Minnesota Supreme Court has recognized that a court may depart durationally upward from the presumptive sentence "only if aggravating * * * circumstances are present; if aggravating * * * circumstances are not present, the trial court has no discretion to depart." State v. Best, 449 N.W.2d 426, 427 (Minn. 1989). The sentencing guidelines list the following aggravating factors: (1) the vulnerability of the victim because of age or reduced mental capacity that was known to the offender; (2) the "particular cruelty" with which the victim was treated; and (3) whether the offender used a position of trust to facilitate the commission of the offense. Minn. Sent. Guidelines II.D.2.b.(1), (2), (4)(d). These aggravating factors define "conduct [that] somehow may be said to be significantly more serious than typically involved in the commission of the offense." Best, 449 N.W.2d at 427.
The district court appropriately considered legitimate aggravating factors. See State v. Lee, 494 N.W.2d 475, 482 (Minn. 1992) (abuse of position of trust and authority); State v. Udstuen, 345 N.W.2d 766, 768 (Minn. 1984) (victim vulnerability); State v. Stumm, 312 N.W.2d 248, 249 (Minn. 1981) (particular cruelty). The victim was a seven-month-old baby who was defenseless. The record shows that the baby suffered severe multiple internal and external injuries. Medical personnel who testified about the baby's injuries stated that the series of injuries the baby suffered involved a purposeful, violent, and aggressive effort requiring "significant violent shaking." And these injuries would require the kind of "forces delivered in a car accident" or "falls from great heights." Finally, the mother entrusted Watkins with the care of her baby. Even though Watkins was not the baby's father, he had taken care of Jackson's children on more than one occasion and had assumed the role of stepfather to the children. We find that the district court's reliance on these substantial and aggravating circumstances was appropriate. See State v. Morrison, 437 N.W.2d 422, 429 (Minn. App. 1989), review denied (Minn. Apr. 26, 1989).
Watkins argues that the district court should have offset any potential upward departure by considering that the injuries occurred during such a short amount of time and that he sought prompt medical assistance for the victim. In view of the aggravating factors present, the record supports the district court's discretionary durational departure.
We have considered the issues raised by Waktins in his pro se brief and find them to be without merit.
[ ]* Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.