IN COURT OF APPEALS
Ranier John Morneau,
Filed August 4, 1998
*Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. Art. VI, § 10.
File No. K79781
Hubert H. Humphrey III, Attorney General, 1400 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101; and
Susan E. Gaertner, Ramsey County Attorney, Mark Nathan Lystig, Assistant County Attorney, 50 West Kellogg Blvd., Suite 315, St. Paul, MN 55102 (for respondent)
John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Lyonel F. Norris, Assistant State Public Defender, 2829 University Avenue S.E., Suite 600, Minneapolis, MN 55455 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Klaphake, Presiding Judge, Lansing, Judge, and Norton, Judge.
Appellant challenges the sufficiency of evidence to support his assault convictions. We affirm.
On the night of October 4, 1997, appellant Ranier John Morneau attended a homecoming party at the home of 17-year-old Melissa Peterson. A fight broke out in the early hours of October 5, 1997. During the fight, Ray Olein, a 21-year-old college student, was struck in the face with a liquor bottle. Olein suffered several lacerations on his left cheek, nose, and eyeball and underwent eye surgery and plastic surgery the same night. After his surgery, Olein picked Morneau from a police photo line-up as the person who hit him. Peterson also identified Morneau as the one who swung the bottle. Morneau was charged with assault in the first, second, and third degrees, in violation of, respectively, Minn. Stat. § 609.221, subd.1 (1996); Minn. Stat. § 609.222, subd.1; and Minn. Stat. §609.223, subd.1.
At trial, Olein testified that he arrived at the party with three friends and had just entered the basement when the fight erupted. In the midst of the fighting, Olein saw a clear liter bottle break on his friend's head about five feet in front of him. Olein stated that he himself was then hit in the face with a bottle from his right side. Olein testified that Morneau was holding the bottle, which was the same size and clear color as the bottle that hit his friend. At the scene, he described Morneau to police as wearing a dark baseball cap.
Peterson was standing two feet away from Olein when he was hit. She testified that Morneau came from behind Olein with the vodka bottle and smashed it in Olein's face. Peterson also stated that when Morneau arrived at the party, he was wearing a navy blue baseball cap with a team logo on it, was carrying a vodka liter bottle and appeared very intoxicated.
The jury found Morneau guilty on all three assault counts. The trial court sentenced Morneau for the first-degree assault conviction.
Morneau argues that the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to support the guilty verdict. On appeal, a challenge to the sufficiency of evidence requires "a painstaking analysis of the record to determine whether the evidence, viewed in a light most favorable to the conviction, was sufficient to permit the jurors to reach the verdict they did." State v. Webb, 440 N.W.2d 426, 430 (Minn. 1989) (citations omitted). A reviewing court must assume "the jury believed the state's witnesses and disbelieved any evidence to the contrary." State v. Moore, 438 N.W.2d 101, 108 (Minn. 1989). This court will not disturb a conviction where the facts and legitimate inferences drawn from them could reasonably have led the factfinder to conclude that a defendant is guilty. State v. Bias, 419 N.W.2d 480, 484 (Minn. 1988).
The evidence against Morneau is sufficient to affirm the conviction. The record contains direct eyewitness testimony that Morneau assaulted Olein. Even though it needs scrutiny on review, eyewitness testimony can, standing alone, support a guilty verdict. State v. Gluff, 172 N.W.2d 63, 64 (1969). At trial, both Olein (the victim) and Peterson unequivocally identified Morneau as the person who hit Olein with a clear liquor bottle. Peterson observed the attack from only two feet away. In addition, Olein picked Morneau from a photo line-up hours after he was hit.
Morneau argues that the eyewitness testimony is unreliable. The credibility of witness testimony and the weight given to the testimony of any individual witnesses are issues for the trier of fact. Bias, 419 N.W.2d at 484. Moreover, the testimony of Erin Callahan, another party attendee, supports Olein's and Peterson's identifications. Although she did not see the face of the person who hit Olein, Callahan stated that the attacker hit Olein with a glass vodka bottle, had a hat on, and was the same height and build as Morneau. Callahan testified that she was "almost 100 percent positive" it was Morneau who hit Olein.
Viewed in the light most favorable to the conviction, the foregoing evidence was sufficient to permit the jury to find Morneau guilty.