EN BANC CALENDAR
SUMMARY OF ISSUES
Summaries prepared by the Supreme Court Commissioner’s Office
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
Supreme Court Courtroom, State Capitol
In the Matter of the Commitment of: Jeremiah Jerome Johnson and In the Matter of the Civil Commitment of: Lloyd Robert Desjarlais – Case Nos. A09-2225 and A09-2226 : Appellant Jeremiah Johnson is an enrolled member of the Bois Forte Band of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, and appellant Lloyd Dejarlais is an enrolled member of the Leech Lake Band of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe. Respondent Cass County filed petitions to civilly commit each appellant as a sexually dangerous person and a sexual psychopathic personality. Appellants each agreed to be indeterminately committed as a sexually dangerous person under Minn. Stat. § 253B.02, subd. 18c (2008), and challenged the district court’s subject-matter jurisdiction over the County’s civil commitment petitions. The district court in both cases concluded that it had subject-matter jurisdiction over the County’s civil commitment petitions. The court of appeals consolidated the appeals, and it affirmed the district court. On appeal to the supreme court, the issue raised is whether the State has jurisdiction to civilly commit a sex offender who is an enrolled member of an Indian tribe as a sexually dangerous person. (Cass County)
State of Minnesota, Respondent v. Raymond Clyde Robideau, Appellant – Case No. A09-530: A jury found appellant Raymond Robideau guilty of second-degree intentional murder for the death of his girlfriend. The evidence at trial demonstrated that the victim’s son was in his basement bedroom when the murder was committed, and he discovered his mother’s body the morning after the murder. Respondent State of Minnesota sought an upward durational sentencing departure, and appellant waived his right to a sentencing jury. The district court imposed a 460-month sentence, which reflected an upward durational sentencing departure from the presumptive sentencing range of 261 to 367 months. The district court based the upward durational departure on the existence of two aggravating factors, one of which was that appellant knew the victim’s son was present in the home during the murder. The court of appeals affirmed appellant’s sentence. On appeal to the supreme court, the issue presented is whether appellant committed the offense “in the presence of a child,” when appellant knew it was highly likely that the victim’s son would discover the victim’s body soon after the murder. (Anoka County)
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Supreme Court Courtroom, State Capitol
State of Minnesota, Appellant v. Daniel Brian Dalbec, Respondent – Case No. A09-568: Respondent Daniel Dalbec was charged with third-degree criminal sexual conduct. Respondent waived his right to a jury trial, and a court trial was held. At the close of the evidence, the district court ordered the parties to make their closing arguments in the form of simultaneous written submissions. Respondent’s trial counsel did not file a written submission. The district court found respondent guilty of third-degree criminal sexual conduct. The court of appeals reversed respondent’s conviction, concluding that respondent was denied effective assistance of counsel by his trial attorney’s failure to file a written trial memorandum.
On appeal to the supreme court, the issues presented are: (1) whether trial counsel’s failure to submit a final written argument was structural error because respondent was denied counsel at a critical stage of the criminal proceedings; and (2) whether respondent proved that he was denied effective assistance of counsel by his trial attorney’s failure to submit a final written argument. (Wright County)
State of Minnesota, Respondent v. Samantha Anne Heiges, Appellant – Case No. A09-300: A jury found appellant Samantha Heiges guilty of second-degree intentional murder for killing her newborn baby daughter. The child’s body was never found. During the trial, appellant’s statements to a police officer, in which she said that she had killed her newborn daughter in a bathtub immediately after her birth, were admitted into evidence. Appellant’s statements to two friends admitting that she had drowned the baby in a bathtub were also admitted. The court of appeals affirmed appellant’s conviction.
On appeal to the supreme court, three issues are presented: (1) whether appellant’s conviction violates Minn. Stat. § 634.03 (2008) because uncorroborated confessions were used to corroborate one another; (2) whether a statement to a friend is a confession under Minn. Stat. § 634.03, and (3) whether there was sufficient evidence to sustain petitioner’s conviction. (Dakota County)
Thursday, January 6, 2011
Supreme Court Courtroom, State Capitol
Dario George Bonga, petitioner, Appellant v. State of Minnesota, Respondent – Case No. A10-1376: In 1999, appellant Dario Bonga was charged with two counts of first-degree murder. Bonga discharged his court-appointed counsel and confessed to the crime. After confessing, Bonga attempted suicide. The next morning, Bonga pleaded guilty to a single count of first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison. Two years later, Bonga filed a pro se motion to vacate his sentence, which the district court treated as a petition for postconviction relief and denied without a hearing and without appointing counsel for Bonga. In 2007, with the assistance of counsel, Bonga filed a petition for postconviction relief, seeking to withdraw his guilty plea. The district court dismissed the petition without an evidentiary hearing, characterizing it as a successive petition for postconviction relief. The supreme court reversed the district court, concluding that the district court could not rely on a prior proceeding in finding a postconviction petition successive when the defendant was denied the right to counsel in that prior proceeding. Bonga v. State, 765 N.W.2d 639 (Minn. 2009). On remand, the district court considered the merits of Bonga’s postconviction petition after Bonga indicated he did not want to present any additional evidence through a hearing. The district court denied Bonga’s request to withdraw his guilty plea. On appeal to the supreme court, the issue presented is whether the district court erred by refusing to allow Bonga to withdraw his guilty plea because the district court should not have accepted Bonga’s uncounseled guilty plea to first-degree murder the day after Bonga tried to kill himself without first appointing counsel and ordering a competency evaluation. Bonga raises additional issues in a pro se supplemental brief. (Carlton County)
In re Petition for Disciplinary Action against John Allen Hatling, a Minnesota Attorney, Registration No. 167630 – Case No. A09-1846: An attorney discipline case that presents the question of what discipline, if any, is appropriate based upon the facts of the matter.
Monday, January 10, 2011
Judicial Center, Courtroom 300
State of Minnesota, Appellant v. Nathan Obeta, Respondent – Case No. A10‑1349: A jury found respondent Nathan Obeta guilty of first- and third-degree criminal sexual conduct, but the court of appeals reversed his conviction because of the cumulative effect of errors in his trial. On remand, appellant State of Minnesota made a motion to admit testimony from two experts on rape-trauma syndrome, including counterintuitive rape-victim behavior. After a pretrial hearing, the district court denied the State’s motion, concluding that State v. Saldana, 324 N.W.2d 227 (1982), precluded the proffered expert testimony. The State filed a pretrial appeal of the district court’s order, and the supreme court granted the State’s petition for accelerated review. On appeal to the supreme court, the issues presented are: (1) whether the district court’s ruling precluding the State from presenting its expert testimony has a critical impact on the State’s ability to prosecute this case; and (2) whether the supreme court should overrule State v. Saldana and allow expert testimony on counterintuitive rape-victim behavior. (Ramsey County)
State of Minnesota, Respondent v. Gary Vue, Appellant – Case No. A10-453: Following a jury trial, appellant Gary Vue was convicted of first-degree murder committed for the benefit of a gang. On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are raised: (1) whether the district court erred by admitting Vue’s statement to police, which was obtained in violation of his Miranda rights; (2) whether the prosecutor committed misconduct during closing argument; and (3) whether there was sufficient evidence to sustain Vue’s conviction for first-degree murder for the benefit of a gang. (Hennepin County)
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Judicial Center, Courtroom 300
Linda Marie LaDonna Dahlin, Respondent v. Randall Earl Thomas Kroening, Appellant – Case No. A09-1800: Respondent Linda Dahlin and appellant Randall Kroening divorced in 1978. The dissolution judgment required Kroening to pay Dahlin $250 in monthly spousal maintenance. Kroening did not pay the entire amount of spousal maintenance ordered. Because judgments generally expire after ten years, Dahlin sued Kroening in 1988 for failure to pay spousal maintenance. In April 1988, the district court entered a judgment against Kroening for $7,000. Kroening did not pay that judgment, so Dahlin brought another action in March 1998. Kroening failed to answer, resulting in a default judgment in April 1998 in the amount of $7,227. Kroening did not pay any part of the 1998 judgment. Dahlin brought another action on the judgment in March 2008, seeking a new judgment with its own ten-year enforcement period. The district court ruled that Dahlin could not obtain a new judgment because more than ten years had passed since the original judgment. The district court reasoned that a spousal maintenance judgment cannot be renewed more than once. A divided court of appeals reversed the district court. On appeal to the supreme court, the issue presented is whether Minnesota law allows multiple renewals of a judgment. (Ramsey County)
Steven Emerson, Appellant v. School Board of Independent School District 199, Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota, Respondent – Case No. A09-1134: Appellant Steven Emerson is a licensed K-12 school principal. In 2005, respondent Independent School District No. 199 hired Emerson as Director of Activities. The job posting for this position described the duties as supervising and administering co-curricular activities and required that candidates “hold a principal licensure or be in the process of obtaining licensure.” Although the School District required licensure for the position, the Minnesota Department of Education did not. Emerson was employed as Director of Activities for three school years.
After that, the School District hired Emerson as an interim middle school principal for the 2008-09 school year. Near the end of that school year, the School Board voted to terminate Emerson’s contract. The School Board did not conduct a hearing or afford Emerson the rights of a continuing contract employee.
Emerson filed a grievance, claiming that he was entitled to continuing contract rights, including a hearing to challenge the decision to terminate his contract. The School District denied the grievance on the ground that Emerson had not completed three years as a “teacher” under Minn. Stat. § 122A.40 (2008), which addresses the rights of continuing contract employees.
After the School District rejected Emerson’s further grievances, Emerson petitioned the court of appeals for a writ of certiorari. The court of appeals affirmed. On appeal to the supreme court, the issue presented is whether a licensed school principal hired for a position that requires licensure is entitled to statutory rights and benefits of the required licensure. (Independent School District No. 199)