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State v. Taylor

August 30, 2002

STATE OF MINNESOTA, RESPONDENT,
v.
ROBERT MARLYN TAYLOR, APPELLANT.



Concurring in part, dissenting in part, Page, J. Concurring, Anderson, Paul H., J. Took no part, Meyer, J.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

1. Prosecutor did not knowingly engage in misconduct that reasonably could have influenced grand jury's decision to indict, and district court therefore properly denied criminal defendant's motion to dismiss the indictment based on claims that prosecutor improperly asked for an indictment on a lesser-included offense, made inappropriate arguments, improperly instructed grand jurors that they did not have all of the evidence, and presented evidence of prior bad acts.

2. On their face, depression and an indifferent attitude toward police are not inherently discriminatory reasons for peremptory strike of juror, and therefore the reasons offered by prosecutor for the strike were race-neutral.

3. District court's finding that criminal defendant did not carry his burden of proving that peremptory strike was motivated by racial discrimination was not clearly erroneous.

4. District court did not abuse its discretion by admitting a 911 tape into evidence that was relevant to criminal defendant's state of mind around the time of the murder and not unduly prejudicial, or in admitting evidence of an object found near victim's body that could not be ruled out as the murder weapon.

5. Circumstantial evidence of guilt excluded beyond a reasonable doubt any reasonable inference other than guilt, where the evidence provided a motive for criminal defendant to be angry with the victim and where blood spatter matching the victim's DNA was found on clothing criminal defendant admitted wearing on the night of the murder.

6. Given that closing argument reference to O.J. Simpson was made not so much to compare appellant to Simpson as to make allegations about police officers, and that comment was not a theme of closing argument, and where appellant failed to object to comment, we conclude comment does not constitute plain error that warrants new trial.

Affirmed.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Anderson, Russell A., Justice.

Hennepin County

Heard, considered, and decided by the court en banc.

OPINION

Appellant Robert Marlyn Taylor was convicted of premeditated first-degree murder for the killing of John Turner and sentenced to life in prison. In this direct appeal, he argues inter alia that the indictment should have been dismissed due to prosecutorial misconduct during grand jury proceedings, that the state's peremptory strike of a juror from the venire constituted purposeful racial discrimination in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, that the district court improperly admitted the recording of a 911 call into evidence, and that the evidence was insufficient to convict him. We affirm.

John Turner ran an antique business from his home in south Minneapolis, which was filled with antiques and collectibles, including antique tools. Turner also owned the house next door, which he rented to appellant's estranged wife and children. Appellant sometimes lived with his wife and did occasional odd jobs for Turner. On the evening of December 24, 1999, Turner had his daughters and a friend over for dinner. Turner planned to meet another friend for breakfast the next morning, but when the friend telephoned at breakfast time, he reached Turner's answering machine. When Turner failed to arrive at his wife's home*fn1 for Christmas dinner, his wife and daughter drove to his home and found his front door unlocked, several lights on inside, and the kitchen faucet running. They found Turner's body in a pool of blood, in the same clothing he wore the previous evening at dinner. Turner's wallet was missing.

Police noted signs of a struggle around the body. A round-handled metal "die stamp"*fn2 -- approximately 4 inches long and weighing 5½ pounds -- was found near the body. Blood found on the die stamp matched the DNA profile of Turner. A medical examiner concluded that Turner received eight blows to the head and face with a heavy object, that blunt force trauma caused Turner's death, and that the die stamp could have been the death weapon. Nearly every bone in Turner's skull was fractured. According to the medical examiner, the eight blows could have been accomplished within seconds, and the time of death was between 7:30 p.m. and 7:30 a.m. Turner had wounds on both hands that could be consistent with defensive wounds.

Appellant's sister Edith Taylor testified that appellant spent several hours cooking and drinking alcoholic beverages at her home in St. Paul on the afternoon of December 24. Appellant's sister Brenda Adams testified that around 9 p.m. that evening appellant had a few drinks at her home in St. Paul but that he was not intoxicated. Brenda and appellant argued over a family matter and appellant left. Soon Edith arrived at Brenda's house, intoxicated. Brenda asked Edith to leave, and Edith said she was going to go back home and, according to Brenda, "punch [appellant] in the head." Edith returned to her home to find appellant sleeping. Appellant woke up and argued with Edith, and Edith called 911 at approximately 12:50 a.m. Over the objection of defense counsel the recording of the 911 call was played for the jury, including the following exchange:

Edie: Stop it, Bobby...

Bobby: You'll get it to...

Edie: Stop don't try to cut me stop. Stop.

Male voice: Don't try to cut her, see you're drunk- (commotion) (inaudible) * * *.

Bobby: I don't give a f__k about Brenda, f__k Brenda, I told you I've been having a dream, Brenda f__k me (inaudible) * * *.

Edie: ...you hurt her feelings that was wrong.

Bobby: I'll go to Brenda's house. I'll slap Brenda's f__king face you know why?

Edie: You hurt Jenae's feelings...Brenda's feelings.

Bobby: (inaudible) F__k Jenae...F__k Jenae.

Later on the same tape, Edith and the 911 operator had this exchange:

Operator: Is he drunk?

Edie: Yes.

Operator: And you want him out of ...


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