Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In the Matter of the
Welfare of: R.L.B.
Filed August 25, 1998
Carlton County District Court
File No. Jo-96-50565
Marvin Ketola, Carlton County Attorney, 202 Courthouse, Box 300, Carlton, MN 55718 (for respondent)
John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Susan J. Andrews, Assistant State Public Defender, 2829 University Ave. S.E., Ste. 600, Minneapolis, MN 55414-3230 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Crippen, Presiding Judge, Toussaint, Chief Judge, and Klaphake, Judge.
R.L.B. appeals from an adjudication of delinquency for assault in the fifth degree, a misdemeanor, based on insufficiency of the evidence. Because there is sufficient evidence to support the adjudication, we affirm.
Where there is a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence, this court must review the record in a light most favorable to the fact-finder's verdict. Dale v. State, 535 N.W.2d 619, 623 (Minn. 1995). The evidence must be sufficient, given the presumption of innocence, to permit the fact-finder to reach a guilty verdict, and it may be assumed that the fact-finder disbelieved the defense witnesses and believed those of the state. Id.; see also In re Welfare of L.B., 404 N.W.2d 341, 345 (Minn. App. 1987) (applying same standard in juvenile matters).
Fifth-degree assault is the intentional infliction of bodily harm upon another. Minn. Stat. § 609.224, subd. 1(2) (1996). The state's witnesses testified that an altercation took place between R.L.B. and the victim, that R.L.B. intentionally struck the victim, and that this resulted in injury to the victim. While R.L.B. denies intent, she admits fighting. The emergency room physician who treated the victim testified that the victim's injuries were more consistent with an assault than with a fall. These facts, taken in a light most favorable to the verdict, could sustain a charge of fifth-degree assault.
R.L.B. raised the issue of self-defense. The burden of proof is upon the state to rebut a defense of justification. State v. Harvey, 277 N.W.2d 344, 345 (Minn. 1979). However, a party asserting self-defense must show an absence of provocation, an actual and honest belief of imminent danger of great bodily harm, necessity for the action, reasonable grounds for this belief, and the impossibility of retreat or avoidance of danger. State v. Baker, 280 Minn. 518, 522, 160 N.W.2d 240, 242 (1968). There was no testimony supporting R.L.B.'s self-defense claim, other than her own assertion, and the victim's injuries appear to be more extensive than what would be consistent with R.L.B.'s description of defensive behavior. While the state bears the burden of proof to rebut a claim of self-defense, some evidence beyond a mere assertion of justification must be presented to support the claim. State v. Graham, 371 N.W.2d 204, 209 (Minn. 1985).
In this matter involving confused circumstances, conflicting testimony, and impaired witnesses, we must give deference to the trial court's opportunity to observe the witnesses and weigh their relative credibility. See State v. Pieschke, 295 N.W.2d 580, 584 (Minn. 1980) (credibility determinations exclusive function of fact-finder; inconsistencies in state's case do not require reversal). We therefore affirm the adjudication of delinquency.