This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

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




State of Minnesota



Jerry Lewis Johnson,


Filed March 10, 1998


Lansing, Judge

Wadena County District Court

File No. K496334

Hubert H. Humphrey III, Attorney General, Robert A. Stanich, Assistant Attorney General, 1400 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent)

B. Joseph Majors II, Wadena County Attorney, P.O. Box 29, Wadena, MN 56482

(for respondent)

John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Mark F. Anderson, Assistant Public Defender, 2829 University Avenue Southeast, Suite 600, Minneapolis, MN 55414 (for appellant)

Considered and decided by Willis, Presiding Judge, Lansing, Judge, and Davies, Judge.



On appeal from conviction for second degree murder, Jerry Johnson challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to support his conviction. The evidence was sufficient for the jury to find him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and we affirm.


A jury convicted Jerry Johnson (Johnson) of second degree murder for the strangulation death of his estranged wife, Shauntai Johnson. Shauntai Johnson was reported missing from her Wadena home on July 19, 1996. The next day police found her body in a partially excavated section of her basement. Johnson had moved from the family home in March to comply with a protection order stemming from domestic assault charges. Police formally questioned Johnson the same day that Shauntai Johnson was reported missing.

Johnson initially told police that he had not been at his wife's house on the night she disappeared. He later admitted that he had lied and said that he had been at the house and quarreled with Shauntai Johnson before leaving. Although police found blood on Shauntai Johnson's bedsheets and wall, Johnson denied any physical altercation.

The autopsy determined that Shauntai Johnson died from ligature strangulation sometime between 2:00 and 5:00 on the morning of July 19. Johnson initially stated he was at home at that time but later admitted going out for a walk around 2:30 or 3 a.m. Two witnesses testified to seeing Johnson around town between 4 and 5 a.m.

In a consensual search of Johnson's residence, police found blood on sweatpants he was wearing the night his wife disappeared. Through DNA testing the blood on the sweatpants was identified as Shauntai Johnson's blood.


When a conviction is challenged for insufficiency of evidence, this court may review only whether, when viewed in a light most favorable to the conviction, the evidence was sufficient to permit the jury to reach the guilty verdict. State v. Webb, 440 N.W.2d 426, 430 (Minn. 1989). Circumstantial evidence is entitled to the same weight as other kinds of evidence. Id. However, to sustain a conviction based entirely on circumstantial evidence, the evidence as a whole must exclude beyond a reasonable doubt any rational hypothesis other than guilt. State v. Anderson, 379 N.W.2d 70, 75 (Minn. 1985), cert. denied, 476 U.S. 1141 (1986).

Johnson was convicted of second degree murder for causing the death of a person protected by an order restraining Johnson from contact. See Minn. Stat. § 609.19, subd. 2(2) (1996). The elements of second degree murder defined by Minn. Stat. § 609.19, subd. 2(2), are that defendant (1) caused the unintentional death of a person (2) while intentionally inflicting or attempting to inflict bodily harm (3) when defendant was restrained under an order for protection of the victim. The protection order prohibiting Johnson from having any contact with Shauntai Johnson was entered into evidence at trial, and Johnson does not dispute the element pertaining to the protection order. Johnson challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to prove the remaining two elements.

The evidence supporting the contested elements showed that (1) Johnson lied to the police about his whereabouts on the night Shauntai Johnson was killed; (2) Johnson had previously assaulted Shauntai Johnson, resulting in the order for protection against him; (3) Johnson had an apparent motive to kill Shauntai Johnson because he had quarreled with her the night she was killed and likely knew that she had begun a new romantic relationship; (4) Johnson was one of the few people familiar with the partially excavated area in which Shauntai Johnson's body was found; (5) Johnson admitted that he was around town at unusual hours that coincided with the time of Shauntai Johnson's death, and Johnson was observed by others during these hours; and (6) Shauntai Johnson's blood was found on the clothing Johnson was wearing on the night of Shauntai Johnson's death.

These facts taken together are sufficient to support the guilty verdict. The evidence of Shauntai Johnson's blood on Johnson's sweatpants is strong evidence, even if circumstantial, of Johnson's part in Shauntai Johnson's death. See State v. Spaeth, 552 N.W.2d 187, 193 (Minn. 1996) (considering consistent DNA sample as part of circumstantial evidence supporting conviction). Evidence of a defendant's inconsistent statements is also a key factor in sustaining a guilty verdict. State v. Fenney, 448 N.W.2d 54, 61 (Minn. 1989), cert. denied, 117 S. Ct. 776 (1997). And there is no evidence suggesting a rational theory inconsistent with appellant's guilt. On these facts, the jury could reasonably have found Johnson guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of second degree murder.

Johnson's brief suggests that he is also challenging his conviction for first degree manslaughter. Although the first degree manslaughter was a companion charge, the district court vacated the manslaughter conviction and sentenced Johnson only on the second degree murder conviction. See State v. Ashland, 287 N.W.2d 649, 650 (Minn. 1979) (reviewing court need not address sufficiency of evidence on charge not formally adjudicated).