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December 7, 1984


Appeal from District Court, Hennepin County, Hon. A. Paul Lommen, Judge, Affirmed.

Considered and decided by the court en banc without oral argument.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Yetka

The trial court properly denied the defendant's mid-trial motion to bifurcate his murder trial.

The evidence supports the jury's finding of premeditation.

YETKA, Justice.

Francis Damian Spurgin was charged with first-degree murder. Spurgin had pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity. After an omnibus hearing, the defense elected a unitary trial. During mid-trial, however, the defense moved for a bifurcated trial, which was denied. Upon completion of the unitary trial, the jury found Spurgin guilty and rejected his insanity defense. The defendant appeals. We affirm.

The defendant has two grounds for appeal. First, he claims that the trial court erred in denying his mid-trial motion for bifurcation and, second, that there was insufficient evidence to find defendant guilty of first-degree murder. We find no merit to the defendant's appeal on either issue.

The murder apparently happened during the night of September 27, 1982. On the afternoon of September 28, 1982, Jillene Johnson's body was found in the woods of Lincoln Park Reserve of the City of Bloomington. Her body was clad only in stockings. A pile of clothes was on her abdomen and other clothes and debris were scattered in the area. No underwear or identification was found. Part of a bra strap was tightly wound around her neck. A sharp blood-stained rock was close to the body, and a leather wrist band was found between the body's legs.

Medical examination showed numerous and severe injuries. A large, ragged gash in the body's scalp was caused by at least two blows, probably with the sharp rock, before death. Stab wounds, probably from a knife, were found by the left eye and were inflicted before death. The death itself was caused by strangulation, both manual and with the bra strap. The victim's jaw was broken and her breasts and sexual organs were mutilated.

Witnesses placed both the victim and Spurgin at the murder site earlier in the evening. Spurgin and the victim seemed friendly, but not overly affectionate. A resident who lives on the boundary of the park was awakened by voices in the woods at 11:30 p.m. She heard a low, monotone, and very controlled voice which she believed to be male. A female voice was scolding and not giving the other person much time to talk. The voices died down quickly.

Spurgin was arrested on the morning of September 29. After a Miranda warning, which Spurgin apparently knew by heart, the police questioned Spurgin. He admitted being in the woods with Jillene Johnson. Before being informed that Johnson was dead, Spurgin was asked for the names and ages of all those in the woods. He spoke of everyone he knew in the present tense until stating the victim's age. He stated that Johnson " was 19" and then corrected himself, saying, "She is 19." Spurgin later confessed to the killing.

The police obtained and executed a search warrant for Spurgin's residence. There they found Jillene Johnson's Minnesota identification card, a pair of panties, a ring, and a necklace with a cross. Johnson's mother testified that the ring and panties definitely belonged to her daughter and the cross was similar to one she had worn. A pair of jeans and a jean jacket of Spurgin's, both blood stained, were also seized. Analysis showed that the blood was human, but it could not be typed. A pair of cowboy boots and a leather belt that Spurgin was wearing when arrested were found to have human blood on them.

Spurgin's brief starts with a long recitation of why Spurgin's confession was obtained in violation of his constitutional rights. The discussion is irrelevant. The confession was never admitted at trial. Whether it was illegally obtained has no bearing on Spurgin's main contention that he was forced into unitary trial by the possible introduction of the confession. In fact, possible constitutional challenges to the confession made it more likely it would not be admitted.

Under the present rules of criminal procedure, this problem would never have arisen. Bifurcation is now required in all cases where mental illness and guilt or innocence are both pleaded by a defendant. Minn. R. Crim. P. 20.02, subd. 6 (as found in the Minnesota Statutes vol. 9 (Supp. 1983)). Under the rules in effect at the time of ...

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