Child Protection; Termination of Parental Rights
Appellant-mother challenged the termination of her parental rights, arguing that the record did not support the District Court’s determinations that respondent-county’s reasonable efforts to correct the conditions leading to her children’s out-of-home placement had failed and that termination was in the children’s best interests. Noting that appellant provided no legal support for the view that parental rights cannot be terminated unless a parent has had unsupervised visitation, the Court of Appeals found clear and convincing evidence supporting the District Court’s determinations. Affirmed.
Child Protection; Termination of Parental Rights
Appellant-father challenged a District Court order terminating his parental rights to his three minor children. Noting that the District Court’s finding that father did not show long-term sobriety necessary to parent was well-supported by the record, the Court of Appeals concluded that the record supported the District Court’s determination that a statutory ground for termination existed, the county made reasonable efforts to reunify the family, and termination was in the children’s best interests. Affirmed.
Child Support; Modification
In this child-support dispute, appellant-father challenged a District Court order granting in part father’s motion to modify child support based on changes due to father’s unemployment. Father argued that the District Court abused its discretion by (1) declining to modify father’s child-support obligation while he was unemployed but receiving severance pay and (2) including a “revert back” provision. The Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court abused its discretion in setting father’s child-support obligation during the severance period and by ordering father’s future support obligation to “revert back” to the prior amount once father reattained his prior income level. Reversed and remanded.
Appellant-ward challenged the denial of his motion to terminate the guardianship. Appellant argued that his letters to the District Court established a prima facie case because they showed that he recognized those involved in his guardianship as well as his medical and mental-health treatment providers, that he understood his medication dosages, and that he had options for independent living and goals for his future. Noting the supported findings that appellant’s letters were long and rambling and did not demonstrate a capacity for self-care, the Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court did not abuse its discretion in its implicit determination that appellant did not present a prima facie case for termination. Affirmed.
In this appeal, following the District Court’s denial of appellant-land owner’s special-assessment appeal under Minn. Stat. § 429.081, appellant argued that the District Court erred in applying the Marketable Title Act (MTA) to the circumstances presented in this case. Appellant challenged the assessment under a 1974 easement given to the city by appellant’s predecessor in interest stating that the city was liable for improvements to the road. Noting that, although the city was conveyed an easement interest in the road, there was nothing in the record indicating that fee simple title to the road was transferred to the city, and that an easement interest is not a sufficient source of title to invoke the MTA, the Court of Appeals concluded that the MTA did not apply here. Reversed and remanded.
In this certiorari appeal from the termination of his Section 8 public housing assistance, relator argued that the hearing officer’s decision (1) was not supported by substantial evidence, (2) was arbitrary and capricious, and (3) misapplied the law because an unintentional fire because of unattended cooking was not a “serious or repeated lease violation.” Noting that the hearing officer properly concluded that the fire investigation report was credible and reliable to support the agency’s decision, the Court of Appeals concluded that the hearing officer correctly applied the applicable law and policy when it determined that relator committed serious violations of his lease and his obligations under the Section 8 program. Affirmed.
Real Estate Sales
Contracts for Deed
This appeal concerned a termination of a contract for deed. The purchaser commenced the action to suspend the termination, to obtain title to the property, and to obtain other relief. The District Court dismissed the action by granting a motion to dismiss, without ruling on the purchaser’s motion to suspend the termination or motion for summary judgment. The Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court did not err by not ruling on the purchaser’s motion to suspend the termination because the purchaser did not comply with the procedural requirements for obtaining a hearing on the motion, but that the District Court erred by granting the motion to dismiss the action. Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.
Finding of Guilt
Defendant challenged the District Court’s finding, after a court trial, that she was guilty of a petty-misdemeanor offense for using a controlled-access highway as a pedestrian. She argued that the evidence was insufficient to sustain the finding of guilt. The Court of Appeals held that the circumstantial-evidence standard of review is applied by the court on appellate review; a fact-finder is not required to apply that standard when determining whether the state has proved a defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial. Affirmed.
Controlled Substance Crimes
Sufficiency of the Evidence
Defendant appealed his conviction, following a jury trial, for fifth-degree possession of a controlled substance. Defendant argued that the trial evidence was insufficient to establish that he knowingly possessed the methamphetamine found in a car and in his wallet. He also contended for the first time on appeal that the District Court erred when it did not give a specific-unanimity instruction because the jury was asked to consider two distinct acts of drug possession. The Court of Appeals concluded that (1) the State proved beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant possessed the methamphetamine in his wallet and on the passenger’s side of the car, and (2) the District Court did not err in giving only a general unanimity instruction because both acts of possession were part of a single behavioral incident. Affirmed.
Criminal Sexual Conduct
Sufficiency of the Evidence
On direct appeal from his conviction of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and following a stay of the appeal and remand to the District Court for postconviction proceedings, defendant argued that (1) the evidence was insufficient to sustain his conviction; (2) his waiver of his right not to testify on his own behalf was not knowing and voluntary; (3) he was denied the effective assistance of counsel; and (4) the District Court abused its discretion by summarily denying his petition for postconviction relief. The Court of Appeals concluded that (1) the evidence was sufficient, noting that the jury found the state’s evidence relating to sexual penetration to be credible; (2) defendant clearly waived his right to testify and there was no indication that defendant was confused about the presumption of innocence; (3) defendant was not denied the effective assistance of counsel; and (4) defendant was unable to show that the postconviction court abused its discretion by summarily denying his postconviction petition. Affirmed.
Defendant challenged his first-degree assault conviction, arguing that the jury pool was not representative of a fair cross-section of the community. The Court of Appeals concluded that, although defendant made a prima facie showing that Black jurors were unfairly represented in this jury pool from which the jury venire was selected, there was not enough data to show any systemic exclusion currently, and thus defendant’s claim that the jury pool was not representative of a fair cross-section of the community failed. Affirmed.
Defendant challenged his conviction of third-degree murder under Minn. Stat. § 609.195(a), arguing that his act was directed at a single person, and the state failed to prove the mental-state element of depraved mind with sufficient evidence. Defendant reasoned that because he endangered only the victim when trying to escape the five-men group, his act fits into the particular-person exclusion for third-degree murder. Noting that, when defendant abruptly drove a vehicle in reverse, turned left, and accelerated in a dark parking lot at night, he knew there were pedestrians standing next to his vehicle, and that, after fist hitting the victim with his vehicle, defendant continued to run over the victim with the front tires and dragged the victim under the vehicle for about 50 feet before the rear tires also drove over the victim, the Court of Appeals concluded that the evidence supported a strong inference that defendant acted with a depraved mind without regard for human life. Affirmed.
In this appeal from an order denying postconviction relief, petitioner argued that he must be permitted to withdraw his guilty plea to threats of violence because the plea was inaccurate. Petitioner also claimed` that he was entitled to jail credit for time served at a residential treatment facility. Noting that petitioner’s plea colloquy failed to establish that his words, in the context he provided by his testimony, created a reasonable apprehension that he would follow through with or act on his threat, the Court of Appeals concluded that a manifest injustice existed because petitioner’s guilty plea was inaccurate. However, the treatment facility petitioner spent time at was not the functional equivalent of a correctional facility, and he was not entitled to jail credit. Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.
Defendant argued that the District Court abused its discretion by revoking his probation because the state failed to prove that his most recent probation violation was intentional or inexcusable and that the need for confinement outweighed the policies favoring probation. Noting that defendant admitted to violating the terms of his probation by using methamphetamine, the Court of Appeals concluded that the record supported the determination that it would unduly depreciate the seriousness of the violation if defendant’s probation were not revoked. Affirmed.
A judge found defendant guilty of unlawful possession of a firearm based on evidence that he kept a nine-millimeter handgun in his bedroom despite being ineligible to possess a firearm. Defendant challenged the District Court’s denial of his pre-trial motion to suppress the evidence of the handgun. Noting that the informant’s veracity was established by the informant’s previous collaboration with law enforcement, the informant’s basis of knowledge is demonstrated by the informant’s first-hand knowledge of defendant’s conduct, and the reliability of the informant’s tip was enhanced by an officer’s corroboration of the details provided by the informant, the Court of Appeals concluded that the search warrant that authorized the search of defendant’s home stated facts that established probable cause. Affirmed.
In this appeal from the final judgment of conviction for second-degree assault, defendant challenged his sentence, arguing that the District Court abused its discretion by denying his motion for a downward durational departure. Noting that, even recognizing that a box cutter might be less dangerous than a gun or knife, it did not follow that the District Court abused its discretion by finding that the offense was not significantly less serious than the typical second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon, the Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court did not abuse its discretion in finding that defendant’s conduct was not significantly less severe than a typical second-degree assault. Affirmed.