Justia Minnesota Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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Tyson Joe Hinckley was convicted of first-degree arson, second-degree burglary, and theft of a motor vehicle. Hinckley had stolen a vehicle from a garage and started a fire that damaged the garage and an adjacent home. He sought to assert a mental-illness defense at trial, submitting multiple psychological reports attesting to his mental illness at the time of his offenses. However, the district court rejected the mental-illness defense, concluding that Hinckley had not provided sufficient evidence that he was acting under a defect in reasoning caused by mental illness at the time of the offenses. Hinckley was found guilty at trial, and the court of appeals affirmed the convictions.The Minnesota Supreme Court reversed the lower courts' decisions, holding that the district court had abused its discretion by denying Hinckley the right to assert a mental-illness defense. The Supreme Court found that the psychological reports submitted by Hinckley provided sufficient evidence to establish a prima facie case of a mental-illness defense. The court concluded that the district court's error was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt, as it could not be certain that the jury's verdict was surely unattributable to the error. The case was remanded for further proceedings consistent with the Supreme Court's opinion. View "State of Minnesota vs. Hinckley" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Edbert Neal Williams was convicted of first-degree murder and first-degree attempted murder in the death of Genelda Campeau and the attack on her adult granddaughter, S.C. Williams was sentenced to life in prison for murder and received a 180-month consecutive sentence for attempted murder. He appealed, and his convictions were affirmed. In this postconviction proceeding, Williams seeks a new trial or an evidentiary hearing based on new DNA evidence not available at the time of trial. Williams asserts the DNA evidence exonerates him and implicates an alternative perpetrator.Williams had previously filed multiple postconviction relief petitions, all of which were denied. In 2019, Williams filed a motion seeking forensic testing of evidence from the 1996 crime scene. The district court granted the motion, and the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (“BCA”) analyzed evidence that it had retained from the crime scene. The BCA released three reports in August 2020, September 2020, and November 2022, and a private lab Williams hired released one report in October 2022. Williams asserts that these reports corroborate his claims that he was not at the scene of the crime when it occurred and that an alternative perpetrator killed Genelda.The district court summarily denied his petition. The court concluded that Williams’s petition was barred by the 2-year time limit for postconviction relief petitions set out in Minnesota Statutes section 590.01, subdivision 4(a) (2022), and that neither the newly-discovered-evidence exception nor the interests-of-justice exception to the time bar applied.The Supreme Court of Minnesota affirmed the district court's decision. The court found that the new DNA evidence did not meet the clear and convincing standard for newly discovered evidence and, in fact, some of the additional testing points towards Williams as the perpetrator rather than excludes him. The court also rejected Williams's claim that he is entitled to relief based on the interests-of-justice exception because his mental illness prevented him from timely filing his petition. The court noted that Williams had been sufficiently competent to file his direct appeal from his conviction, postconviction petitions, and appeals from postconviction petitions. View "Williams vs. State of Minnesota" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The case revolves around a social worker, Janine Tea, who claimed to have developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to her exposure to the details of a murder committed by one of her clients. The county initially provided workers’ compensation benefits to Tea but discontinued those benefits after a licensed psychiatrist concluded she did not have PTSD. Tea objected to the discontinuance of her benefits and underwent an independent psychological evaluation in which she was diagnosed with PTSD. The compensation judge determined that Tea has compensable PTSD.The Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals (WCCA) affirmed the compensation judge's decision. The county appealed, arguing that Tea did not meet the diagnostic criteria for PTSD listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).The Supreme Court of Minnesota affirmed the WCCA's decision. The court held that the WCCA’s affirmance of the compensation judge’s finding that Tea has compensable PTSD is not manifestly contrary to the evidence. The court also held that the WCCA did not err in refusing to use the DSM to re-evaluate the compensation judge’s factual finding that Tea has PTSD. The court clarified that compensation judges may review the DSM criteria when considering the persuasiveness of expert reports, but judges may not use those criteria to make their own diagnosis of a claimant’s condition. View "Tea vs. Ramsey County" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around the interpretation of Minnesota Statutes section 171.177, subdivision 1, which requires law enforcement officers to inform individuals suspected of driving under the influence that refusal to submit to a blood or urine test is a crime. The respondent, Brian Matthew Nash, was pulled over for suspected impaired driving. After failing field sobriety tests, he was arrested and a state trooper obtained a search warrant for a blood or urine test. The trooper informed Nash that refusal to take a test is a crime, and Nash complied. His blood test revealed the presence of a controlled substance, leading to the revocation of his driving privileges.Nash sought judicial review of his license revocation, arguing that the trooper's advisory did not comply with the statutory requirement. The district court rejected Nash's arguments and sustained the revocation. On appeal, the court of appeals reversed, finding that the advisory given to Nash was misleading and an inaccurate statement of law.The Minnesota Supreme Court disagreed with the court of appeals' interpretation of the statute. The court held that the trooper's statement that "refusal to take a test is a crime" satisfied the advisory required by section 171.177, subdivision 1. The court reasoned that the statute does not require officers to inform drivers of all the elements and permutations of what is required before the state may take adverse action against them. The court reversed the decision of the court of appeals and remanded the case for consideration of the other issues raised by Nash in his appeal. View "Nash v. Commissioner of Public Safety" on Justia Law

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The case involves the defendant, David Darnell Jones, Jr., who was convicted of second-degree assault after threatening to beat a victim, A.M., while holding a wooden board. The board was approximately 2 inches by 3 inches and 3 feet long. To commit second-degree assault, a defendant must assault another person with a dangerous weapon. The State alleged that Jones brandished the board as a dangerous weapon near the semi-conscious victim, while simultaneously threatening to “beat [A.M.] bloody.” Jones pleaded not guilty and demanded a jury trial.The district court instructed the jury on assault-fear and also instructed the jurors that an object which is neither a firearm nor designed as a weapon can still be considered a dangerous weapon if the defendant intended to use it in a manner likely to produce death or great bodily harm. The jury found Jones guilty of both second- and third-degree assault. The district court convicted Jones of both counts and sentenced him to 39 months in prison for second-degree assault. A divided panel of the court of appeals affirmed Jones’s conviction for second-degree assault but reversed his third-degree assault conviction as a lesser-included offense.The Minnesota Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals. The court concluded that Jones’s statements expressing his plan to harm A.M., made while the assault was occurring and as Jones was brandishing the board, are direct evidence of his intent to use the board in a manner likely to produce great bodily harm. The court further concluded that, based on the direct evidence of Jones’s intended use of the board, a jury could reasonably conclude that the board was a dangerous weapon. View "State vs. Jones" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The case revolves around Lisa Stone, a tenant who signed a lease agreement that required her to provide maintenance services for which she alleges she was not compensated, in violation of Minnesota law. She initiated a class-action lawsuit against Invitation Homes, Inc., the parent company of her landlord, and THR Property Management, L.P., the manager of the leased property. Stone later amended her complaint to include various subsidiaries of Invitation Homes as defendants. Some of these subsidiaries argued that Stone lacked standing to sue them as she had not alleged that they had caused any injuries.The district court denied the subsidiaries' motion to dismiss. The subsidiaries appealed this decision to the court of appeals, which reversed the district court's decision and dismissed Stone's claims against the subsidiaries. The court of appeals reasoned that Stone lacked standing to bring her claims under the theory for standing found by the district court, and the juridical-link doctrine was improperly raised by Stone for the first time on appeal and did not apply in this case.Stone appealed to the Supreme Court of Minnesota, arguing that she has standing against the subsidiaries under the juridical-link doctrine. This doctrine posits that in a class action in which a named plaintiff has not alleged an injury caused by all defendants, a class may be certified when all defendants are linked by a conspiracy or concerted scheme that harmed the class. However, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals, stating that Stone had forfeited the ability to have the merits of standing under the juridical-link doctrine determined on appeal as she failed to assert standing based on the juridical-link doctrine in the district court. View "Stone, vs. Invitation Homes, Inc." on Justia Law

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This case involves Alliance Housing Incorporated and North Penn Supportive Housing LLC, collectively known as Alliance, Minnesota nonprofits operating to create, own, and operate affordable housing for low and very low-income people. Alliance owns several properties in Minneapolis, which are used exclusively as private residences for tenants whose incomes are 30–50 percent of the area median income. Alliance provides some supplies and cleaning services to various units but does not occupy the properties. In late 2018, Alliance applied for tax exemption for all its properties in assessment year 2020. The Minneapolis City Assessor denied the applications. Alliance then filed a property tax petition for the assessment year 2020, payable in 2021, claiming that its properties were tax-exempt. The tax court concluded that the properties owned by Alliance were exempt from property taxes.The State of Minnesota in Supreme Court held that for purposes of qualifying for tax exemption under Article X, Section 1, of the Minnesota Constitution, an institution of purely public charity with a purpose of providing housing for low-income individuals uses its real property in furtherance of its charitable purpose when it leases its property to its intended beneficiaries for personal residence. The court found that when the very purpose of an Institution of Purely Public Charity (IPPC) is to own and operate real property in a charitable manner for private residence, the exclusive residential occupancy of the property by the clients of the IPPC does not defeat the constitutional requirement that property be used to further a charitable purpose. Therefore, the tax court did not err in finding that Alliance’s properties are used for the tax-exempt purpose of providing affordable housing to low-income tenants. The decision of the tax court granting property tax exemptions to Alliance’s properties was affirmed. View "Alliance Housing Incorporated vs. County of Hennepin" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around a murder conviction. On February 23, 2021, a bar shooting resulted in the death of Raymond Renteria-Hobbs and injury to another victim, M.P. Police identified Andrew Vernard Glover as the suspect based on security footage showing him at the bar on the night of the murder and his interactions with Renteria-Hobbs before the shooting. The police arrested Glover and, upon searching his residence, found the hat he wore on the night of the shooting, a loaded firearm, and ammunition.At trial, Glover challenged his arrest and the subsequent search of his residence. However, the court held that the police had probable cause to arrest Glover, and the search warrant application for his residence did not materially misrepresent information.Glover also sought to introduce evidence of prior crimes committed by an alleged alternative perpetrator, but the court denied his request, finding those crimes were neither relevant nor material to the charged offense. Glover also argued that the court violated his confrontation rights by denying his request to cross-examine the lead investigator about whether police had investigated unnamed suspects from a prior shooting of one of the victims. The court rejected this argument as well.The jury convicted Glover of first-degree murder during a drive-by shooting, drive-by shooting, and ineligible person in possession of a firearm. Glover appealed, but the Supreme Court of Minnesota affirmed the conviction. The court held that the police had probable cause to arrest Glover, the search of his residence was lawful, the court did not abuse its discretion by denying Glover's motion to admit reverse-Spreigl evidence, and Glover's confrontation rights were not violated. View "State of Minnesota vs. Glover" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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In this case, the appellant, Lyndon Akeem Wiggins, was convicted of first-degree premeditated murder, attempted first-degree premeditated murder, first-degree intentional murder while committing a felony (kidnapping), and kidnapping, all based on aiding-and-abetting theories of criminal liability. The crimes were related to the kidnapping and murder of realtor Monique Baugh, which involved Wiggins, his girlfriend Elsa Segura, and two other men, Cedric Berry and Berry Davis.On appeal, Wiggins argued that the district court erred by denying his pretrial motion to suppress the cell-site location information (CSLI) for his cell phone as the facts alleged in the warrant application failed to establish probable cause. He also contended that the district court improperly instructed the jury by stating that it could find Wiggins guilty if Wiggins "or another (or others)" satisfied each element of the offense.The Supreme Court of Minnesota held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Wiggins' motion to suppress the CSLI. It found that the totality of the circumstances alleged in the search warrant application established a "fair probability" that evidence of a crime would be found in the CSLI records of Wiggins’s cell phone carrier.However, the Supreme Court found that the district court erred in its instructions to the jury. The court determined that the instructions materially misstated the law as they allowed the jury to convict Wiggins of the charges based on the actions of others without reaching the issue of his liability under an aiding-and-abetting theory. The court concluded that this error was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. Consequently, the court reversed Wiggins's convictions and remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with its opinion. View "State of Minnesota vs Wiggins" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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In a case before the Supreme Court of Minnesota, the appellant, Thomas Robert Tichich, was found guilty of third-degree criminal sexual conduct and attempted third-degree criminal sexual conduct. Tichich later petitioned for postconviction relief, alleging that two of the State’s expert witnesses falsely testified at his trial and that the jury’s guilty verdicts were legally inconsistent. He submitted a new expert opinion and other evidence to support his claim of false testimony. The district court denied Tichich’s petition, determining that the guilty verdicts were legally consistent and that Tichich’s false-testimony claim failed to satisfy the test set forth in Larrison v. United States.The Supreme Court of Minnesota affirmed the district court's decision, holding that Tichich's claim was one of newly discovered evidence, not one of newly discovered evidence of false testimony, and therefore the standard set forth in Rainer v. State, which governs claims of newly discovered evidence, applied. The court found that Tichich’s claim failed the Rainer test because the new evidence merely served to impeach, rather than disprove, the trial testimony, and would not likely produce a different result given the strength of the State’s evidence.Additionally, the court held that the guilty verdicts for third-degree criminal sexual conduct and attempted third-degree criminal sexual conduct were legally consistent, as no necessary element of one offense negated a necessary element of the other. Therefore, Tichich’s counsel was not ineffective for failing to argue otherwise. View "Tichich vs. State of Minnesota" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law