Before the Minnesota Supreme Court

November 2009


Summaries prepared by the Supreme Court Commissioner’s Office

Monday, November 2, 2009, 9:00 a.m.

Supreme Court Courtroom, State Capitol

State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Rashad Arthur Raleigh, Appellant – Case No. A08-2273:  Appellant Rashad Raleigh pleaded guilty to first-degree premeditated murder and agreed to a life sentence without possibility of parole.  In return, the state dismissed a second count of first-degree murder committed during a felony and agreed not to charge Raleigh with a triple homicide then under investigation.  Two weeks later, Raleigh asked to be allowed to withdraw his plea, claiming he was under extreme stress and felt pressured to plead guilty and did not fully understand the consequences of his plea.  The district court denied Raleigh’s motion.  On appeal to the supreme court, the issue is whether, by denying Raleigh’s motion, the district court abused its discretion.  (Hennepin County)

State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Scott Garrett Wertheimer, Appellant – Case No. A08-412:  Under Minn. Stat. § 169A.24, subd. 1 (2008), a person is guilty of first-degree driving while impaired (DWI) if the person commits the violation “within ten years of the first of three or more qualified prior impaired driving incidents.”  Appellant Scott Wertheimer was earlier convicted for driving while impaired on May 12, 1997, December 15, 1998, and March 24, 2004.  On May 12, 2007, Wertheimer was arrested for driving while impaired and charged with first-degree DWI, a felony.  After a trial on stipulated facts, the district court found Wertheimer guilty of felony DWI.  The court of appeals affirmed.  The issue before the supreme court is whether Wertheimer’s arrest for driving while impaired on May 12, 2007, was “within ten years” of his arrest for driving while impaired on May 12, 1997.  (Anoka County)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009, 9:00 a.m.

Supreme Court Courtroom, State Capitol

State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Jose Carlos Lopez, Appellant (A08-100), Gabriel Lopez (A08-133) – Case Nos. A08-100 and A08-133:  Appellants Jose Lopez and Gabriel Lopez were each charged with aiding and abetting controlled substance crime and two counts of aiding and abetting kidnapping.  Their cases are consolidated for argument.  The state dismissed the kidnapping charges in each case and appellants were convicted of controlled substance crime.  In each case, the district court required the appellant to register under Minn. Stat. § 243.166 (2008) as a predatory offender.  Section 243.166, subd. 1b(a)(1), requires registration as a predatory offender if the person was charged with commission of kidnapping, among other things, “and convicted of . . . that offense or another offense arising out of the same set of circumstances.”  Appellants challenged the registration requirement on grounds that the kidnapping charges did not arise out of the same set of circumstances as the controlled substance crime for which they were convicted.  The court of appeals affirmed the registration requirement in each case.  On appeal to the supreme court, the consolidated cases present three issues:  (1) what legal standard the court should apply when deciding whether an offense “arose out of the same set of circumstances” under Minn. Stat. § 243.166; (2) whether a defendant’s charged offense and the offense for which he was convicted arise out of the same set of circumstances for purposes of predatory offender registration if the same evidence could not sustain both the charged offense and the offense of conviction; and (3) whether a person can be required to register as a predatory offender if he is convicted of an offense that arose out of the same set of circumstances but the criminal complaint fails to provide probable cause for a predatory offense.  (Todd County)

State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Danna Rochelle Back, Appellant – Case No. A08-17:  Appellant Danna Back was convicted after a jury trial of second-degree manslaughter; her conviction was affirmed by the court of appeals.  Before the supreme court, Back challenges the sufficiency of the evidence against her.  (Hennepin County)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009, 9:00 a.m.

Supreme Court Courtroom, State Capitol

Virgil Dykes and Connie Dykes, d/b/a Dykes Farms, Respondents vs. Sukup Manufacturing Company, defendant and third-party plaintiff, Appellant vs. Superior, Inc., third-party defendant, Respondent – Case No. A08-583:  Respondents Virgil and Connie Dykes purchased a grain moving system manufactured by appellant Sukup Manufacturing Company through respondent Superior, Inc., a Sukup dealer.  The Dykes claimed the system did not operate properly and damaged the corn being moved through it and refused to pay for it.  Superior sued the Dykes for the purchase price of the system and the cost of installation; the Dykes filed a counterclaim against Superior.  The parties eventually reached a mediated settlement in which Superior agreed to remove the system and the parties agreed to dismiss their respective complaints.  Three years later, the Dykes sued Sukup Manufacturing, claiming damages of more than $50,000.  Sukup moved for summary judgment dismissing the Dykes’ claims, arguing that they were barred by the settlement between the Dykes and dealer Superior, Inc.  The district court agreed and dismissed the Dykes’ complaint, noting that nothing in the settlement agreement between the Dykes and Superior indicated that the Dykes intended to preserve their claims against any other potential joint tortfeasor.  The court of appeals reversed and reinstated the Dykes’ complaint.  Two issues are before the supreme court on Sukup Manufacturing’s appeal:  (1) whether a settlement made with no contemporaneous evidence of intent to preserve claims against joint tortfeasors is subject to the rule of law that a release of one joint tortfeasor releases all other joint tortfeasors; and (2) whether a release intended as a partial release operates as a general release if it does not contain indemnity provisions that protect non-settling parties from being required to pay more than their fair share of the plaintiff’s damages.  (Wabasha County)

State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Daryl Fleck, Appellant – Case No. A08-72:  Police found appellant Daryl Fleck asleep behind the wheel of his car, parked in Fleck’s assigned parking spot in front of his apartment building with the driver’s door open, the car’s engine off and the keys in the center console.  Fleck’s blood-alcohol level exceeded the statutory limit and Fleck was charged with physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, in violation of Minn. Stat. §§ 169A.20, subd. 1(1), (5), and 169A.24, subd. 2 (2008).  Fleck was convicted after a jury trial and his conviction was affirmed by the court of appeals.  On appeal to the supreme court, the issue is whether the evidence was sufficient for the jury to find that Fleck was in physical control of the vehicle while under the influence.  (Polk County)

Thursday, November 5, 2009, 11:00 a.m.

Hamline Law School

State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Randy Leeroyal Swaney, Appellant – Case No. A08-2002:  Appellant Randy Swaney was convicted after a jury trial of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without possibility of release.  On appeal from his conviction to the supreme court, Swaney presents the following issues:  (1) whether his constitutional right to confront the witnesses against him was violated when the court allowed a state investigator to testify to the questions asked of Swaney’s wife during a formal police interview; (2) whether the district court violated Swaney’s constitutional right to present a defense by barring reverse-Spreigl evidence that another person, alleged by Swaney to be the perpetrator, kidnapped and robbed a woman in South Dakota; (3) whether Swaney was deprived of a fair trial by prosecutorial misconduct; and (4) whether the district court erred by allowing the prosecution to call three witnesses in rebuttal because their testimony repeated the testimony provided in the state’s case-in-chief, entitling Swaney to a new trial.  Swaney raises additional issues in a pro se supplemental brief.  (Rock County)

Monday, November 9, 2009, 9:00 a.m.

Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center

State of Minnesota, Appellant vs. Paul Richard Hakala, Respondent – Case No. A08-215:  Respondent Paul Hakala was charged with criminal sexual conduct for allegedly improperly touching three children.  During the investigation, the children were each interviewed by a county child protection worker.  After the state concluded its presentation of evidence, Hakala sought to offer the testimony of an expert witness on procedures for interviewing children who are suspected of having been abused.  The district court excluded Hakala’s proposed expert on grounds that her proffered testimony was more prejudicial than probative.  Hakala was convicted by the jury.  The court of appeals reversed the conviction and remanded for a new trial, concluding that exclusion of Hakala’s proposed expert was error.  On the state’s appeal to the supreme court, the issue is whether, by barring Hakala’s proposed expert witness from testifying, the district court abused its discretion.  (Dakota County)

In re Petition for Disciplinary Action against Alan J. Albrecht, a Minnesota Attorney, Registration No. 191826 – Case No. A08-2082:  A lawyer discipline matter that presents the question of what discipline, if any, is appropriate under the facts of the case. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2009, 9:00 a.m.

Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center

MidCountry Bank, f/k/a First Federal fsb, Respondent vs. Frederick C. and Nancy Krueger, Respondents, Cherolyn A. Hinshaw, et al., Appellants – Case No. A08-534:  In May 2004, respondents Frederick and Nancy Krueger gave a mortgage to respondent MidCountry Bank encumbering three parcels of land in Belle Plaine.  The deed and mortgage were taken to the Scott County Recorder’s Office to be recorded, where they were stamped with the date and time received and were given document numbers.  The Krueger mortgage was indexed by the Kruegers’ names.  However, because of an error by the county, one of the parcels was not entered into the county’s tract index as encumbered by the mortgage in favor of MidCountry Bank. 

Two years later, in May 2006, the Kruegers sold that parcel to appellant Cherolyn Hinshaw.  Hinshaw purchased the property with the proceeds of a loan secured by a mortgage in favor of PHH Home Loans, LLC.  A title search performed for PHH Home Loans failed to discover the Kruegers’ mortgage encumbering the property.  The Kruegers later defaulted and MidCountry commenced a foreclosure by action against the Kruegers’ property and against the parcel owned by Hinshaw.  The district court granted Hinshaw and PHH Home Loans summary judgment on the priority of Hinshaw’s mortgage to PHH over the Krueger’s mortgage to MidCountry.  However, the court of appeals reversed, concluding that the Krueger mortgage was properly recorded because it was assigned a document number and was stamped by the county upon receipt.  The court of appeals further concluded that Hinshaw is charged with constructive notice of the Krueger mortgage because it was reflected in the county’s index by grantor name.  The issues before the supreme court on Hinshaw’s appeal are:  (1) whether the Krueger’s mortgage to MidCountry was “properly recorded” within the meaning of Minn. Stat. § 507.32 (2008) such that Hinshaw and PHH Home Loans should be charged with having constructive notice of it; and (2) whether Hinshaw and PHH Home Loans are bona fide purchasers under Minn. Stat. § 507.34 (2008) because they lacked constructive notice of the MidCountry mortgage.  (Scott County)

State of Minnesota, Appellant vs. Ricky J. Carufel, Respondent – Case No. A07-1711:  After respondent Ricky J. Carufel sold cocaine to police informants at his residence, he was charged under Minn. Stat. § 152.022, subd. 1(6) (2008), with second-degree controlled substance crime for selling drugs in “a park zone.”  Minnesota Statutes § 152.01, subd. 12a (2008), defines “park zone” to include not only the area designated as a public park but “the area within 300 feet or one city block, whichever distance is greater, of the park boundary.”  After being instructed that there is no legal definition of a “city block,” the jury convicted Carufel of second-degree controlled substance crime.  The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the drug sales did not occur within one city block of the park, and ordered that Carufel be sentenced instead to third-degree controlled substance crime.  Three issues are before the supreme court on the prosecution’s appeal:  (1) whether the phrase “one city block” in Minn. Stat. § 152.01 is ambiguous where city streets are laid out on a grid system; (2) whether the determination that a drug crime occurred within “one city block of a park” is a question of sufficiency of the evidence, requiring that an appellate court defer to the jury’s verdict; and (3) whether the evidence at trial was sufficient to support the jury’s verdict.  (Winona County)

EN BANC NONORAL:  State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Nosakhere Holmes, Appellant – Case No. A07-1445:  Appellant Nosakhere Holmes was convicted of aiding and abetting first-degree burglary with assault and of aiding and abetting third-degree assault for an incident in which Holmes and others entered a home and beat another man.  Holmes was sentenced to 78 months in prison for the burglary conviction and 21 months in prison, to run concurrently, for the assault conviction.  The court of appeals affirmed the convictions.  Burglary in the first degree includes entry of a building without consent if “the burglar assaults a person within the building.”  Minn. Stat. § 609.582, subd. 1(c) (2008). Under Minn. Stat. § 609.04, subd. 2, a conviction of a crime is a bar to further prosecution of any included offense or other degree of the same crime.  Minnesota Statutes § 609.585 (2008) provides that, section 609.04 notwithstanding, “conviction of the crime of burglary is not a bar to conviction of or punishment for any other crime committed on entering or while in the building entered.”  The question before the supreme court is whether section 609.04 precludes Holmes’s conviction and sentence for both first-degree burglary and third-degree assault because, although section 609.585 permits conviction and sentence for “any other crime” committed during a burglary, the assault was part of the burglary offense itself.  (Hennepin County)