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State v. Quick

April 10, 2003



The state presented sufficient evidence for the jury to conclude that the defendant acted with premeditation and without heat of passion.

Defendant was not denied his constitutional right to present a defense and to a fair trial when the district court excluded witness testimony that was marginally relevant to the issue of premeditation

Defendant's claim of ineffective assistance of counsel fails when the allegations of counsel error relate to trial tactics, which are not reviewable, or are not supported by the record.

Defendant's claim of prosecutorial misconduct is without merit when the alleged misconduct is not of such a serious and prejudicial nature that the defendant was denied a fair trial.

Defendant's claims of court error are unsupported by the record and are, therefore, without merit.


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

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Anderson, Paul H., Justice


Appellant Jon Earl Quick was convicted in Norman County of the premeditated first-degree murder of Justin Mueller. Mueller was the boyfriend of Quick's estranged wife. On appeal, Quick seeks to have his conviction reduced to first-degree manslaughter, asserting that the state failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he did not act in the heat of passion at the time of the shooting. In the alternative, Quick asserts that his conviction should be reversed and a new trial granted on the grounds he was denied his constitutional rights to present a defense and have a fair trial because the district court precluded testimony from three witnesses. In a supplemental pro se brief, Quick further contends that he did not receive a fair trial due to improper conduct by the judge, inadequate jury instructions, unfair and biased jury selection, inappropriate admission of evidence from an improper search, failure to prohibit his spouse from testifying at trial, ineffective assistance of counsel, and prosecutorial misconduct. We affirm.

Jon and Diane Quick were married on July 2, 1994, and less than a year later, moved to Ada, Minnesota. They had two children together and Diane had a child from a previous relationship. In May 2000, Diane told Jon she wanted a separation and in early June, Jon moved out of the family home. Jon then moved in with his cousin in Felton, Minnesota, approximately 15 miles from Ada. At first, Diane told Jon that the separation would be temporary and that they might still be able to work things out. Jon did not want the separation and asked Diane to go to marriage counseling, but she refused. Despite Jon's efforts at reconciliation, Diane filed for dissolution of the marriage on June 15, 2000. Diane also applied for, and was granted, a restraining order. In the application, Diane stated that her reasons for requesting the restraining order were Jon's "yelling and breaking of doors and panes of glass due to throwing things" and his inability "to handle [the] childrens crying or tempers in the right way." The restraining order prohibited Jon from going to the house in Ada except to visit the children on Saturdays, but allowed limited phone contact between Jon and Diane to address visitation issues.

Two months after Jon moved out, Diane began dating Justin Mueller, a good friend of her brother. Diane and Mueller's relationship soon became serious and Mueller was at Diane's home virtually every day. At some point, Jon became aware that Diane and Mueller were spending a considerable amount of time together, but he contends he was not aware of the seriousness of their relationship.

Despite the restraining order, Jon and Diane continued to have contact by telephone, notes, and e-mail on matters other than visitation, and Jon occasionally stayed with the children outside his scheduled visitation time. On Sunday, September 3, 2000, Jon went to the house to see the children, but Diane and Mueller had taken the children to Fargo. Jon left a note for Diane complaining that she was not around and that she was making it "impossible or very difficult" for him to see the children. The next day, Jon sent an e-mail to Diane which he addressed to "Di(rtbag)" and in which he wrote "[j]ust remember if you're going to act like a slut, or should I say be one, you need to learn to expect to be treated accordingly." Jon later apologized to Diane after learning that she had tried to contact him and tell him that the children would not be home for a visit.

On September 5, Jon made arrangements with Diane to go to the house to pick up a locket he had given her. Diane told Jon to come after 7:30 p.m. because she had to take one of the children to a school activity. When Jon arrived, Diane was not home and Mueller was mowing the lawn. Upset, Jon had some words with Mueller. He then went to the school and left a note on Diane's car that said, "Di, I'll bet you thought you were cute having me stop by while Justin was mowing your lawn. Well he's still alive though I don't know why, but you can go 2 hell." Jon said he left the note to scare and upset Diane by making her think he had beat up Mueller. Shortly thereafter, Jon visited Diane's brother in Fargo and told him that upon seeing Mueller mowing the lawn, he could have grabbed the rifle from his trunk and shot Mueller. At the time of the incident, Jon did have a rifle and ammunition in the trunk of his car, but Diane's brother did not think Jon was serious when he made that comment about Mueller.

On the evening of September 14, Diane had friends, including Mueller, over to play cards. That same evening, Jon attended a parenting class in Moorhead and got home around 10:00 p.m. Upon arriving home, Jon discovered that Diane had left a message for him on the answering machine. He also noticed that the caller ID indicated that she had called several times. Jon had a drink, checked his blood sugar, and gave himself an insulin shot for diabetes. He then called Diane and learned that she had some friends over. He asked Diane who was at the house, but she refused to tell him. Soon after the call, the remaining card players left, leaving only Diane and Mueller to clean up before going upstairs to bed together.

After hanging up with Diane, Jon made his lunch for the next day and did some laundry. He testified that at this point he strongly suspected there was something going on between Diane and Mueller and he had to prove to himself that he could trust her. He called Mueller's residence to see if Mueller was home, but no one answered the phone. He then decided to drive to Ada.

Upon arriving in Ada, Jon drove around the block by Diane's home and saw that Mueller's car was parked in her driveway. Jon observed a neighbor in the neighbor's backyard and drove around the block a second time because he did not want anyone to know that he was there. He then parked in Diane's driveway and saw that all the lights were off in the house. He took the loaded.22 rifle, which was still in its case, from the back seat of his car and approached the house.*fn1 Jon testified that at this point he wanted to scare and humiliate Mueller and planned to take Mueller four or five miles out of town and make him walk back.

Jon tried to enter the house through the back door, but it was locked. He next tried a basement window and was able to gain entrance. He then climbed the stairs to the first floor, unlocked the back door, took off his shoes, and took the rifle out of the case. He testified that the house was so quiet that it made him think he was jumping to conclusions, so he thought about leaving through the back door, but he just could not go. Jon further testified that he took his shoes off so that he could get back out of the house without anyone knowing he was there if there was no truth to his suspicions. He walked through the house and started up the stairs to the second floor where the master bedroom was. About three-fourths of the way up the stairs, Jon said he heard Diane giggle and he testified that he recognized the giggle as one he knew from their intimate moments together. He then ran up to the top of the stairs, turned on the light, and opened the door to the master bedroom.

Diane and Mueller were in bed together and Jon testified that Mueller was naked. Mueller got out of bed and moved toward Jon who was out in the hallway. Jon then fired the rifle five times. At trial, Jon stated that Mueller lunged toward him and tried to grab the rifle and he just reacted. After the last shot was fired, Mueller was laying face down in the hallway. When Diane heard the shots, she called 911. After the shooting, Jon closed the door to his children's bedroom across the hall and went back into the master bedroom. He knelt down on his knees and pointed the rifle at himself. Diane grabbed the rifle from him and ran outside with it. Jon covered Mueller's body with a blanket and went downstairs.

An Ada police officer and a Norman County sheriff's deputy responded to the 911 call. Shortly after they arrived, Diane came running out of the house carrying the rifle and yelling for help. While the deputy locked the rifle in the trunk of his squad car, the police officer went into the house with Diane and observed Mueller's body lying in the upstairs hallway covered with a blanket. The officer checked Mueller for a pulse and breathing and found none. After putting the rifle in his car, the deputy entered the house and found Jon sitting on the couch, hunched over with his elbows on his knees. Jon told the deputy he was sorry and asked, "Is he dead? Did I kill him?" Jon also said "I told her to wait until after the divorce." The deputy then arrested Jon and took him to the sheriff's department. On the way, Jon asked the deputy to shoot him.

The Ada police chief contacted the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) for assistance. A special BCA agent arrived in Ada around 1:00 a.m. on September 15, 2000. The agent met with Jon Quick at the Norman County jail and asked to interview him. Quick requested an attorney and the agent terminated the interview. Sometime later, the agent again approached Quick and asked for consent to search his car and the room where he was staying. Quick agreed and executed a consent form authorizing a search of his car and his room. On the consent form, Quick initialed the clause that said he had the right to refuse to give consent and that no promises or threats had been made to him to induce him to consent. A search of the car revealed a container filled with numerous boxes of.22 caliber live rifle ammunition.

Dr. Susan Roe, the medical examiner, conducted the autopsy on Mueller. She concluded that Mueller had been shot five times—once in the left shoulder, once by the right armpit, twice in the back, and once in the forehead. Roe noted a grazing wound on the back surface of Mueller's right hand and scrapes and abrasions on Mueller's elbows and knees that were consistent with him falling to the floor. While the shots to the shoulder and armpit hit no vital organs, both shots to the back went through vital organs. Roe stated that Mueller would have been able to move for only a brief period of time after sustaining the wounds to his back before he lost consciousness. The bullet to the forehead fragmented, with part of the bullet going into the brain. Roe stated that the shot to the forehead was fatal and Mueller would have lost consciousness immediately.

Roe found noticeable stippling around the wounds to the left shoulder and right armpit, indicating that the rifle was within two feet when fired. In addition, Roe noted that in each case the projectile of the bullet was from up to down on Mueller's body. The state pointed out in its cross examination of Quick that Mueller was taller than Quick and, therefore, Quick had to be above Mueller when he fired each of the shots. The team leader who processed the crime scene stated that based on the blood patterns from the two wounds on Mueller's back, he believed that the upper wound occurred while Mueller's torso was in an erect position and it continued to bleed after Mueller's torso was on the ground. The other wound on Mueller's back occurred after Mueller was already on the ground. Roe concluded that the cause of death was multiple traumatic injuries due to multiple gunshot wounds.

Quick was indicted by a Norman County grand jury on one count of first-degree murder for the shooting death of Mueller and went to trial in October 2001. The district court provided jury instructions on both first-degree premeditated murder and first-degree heat of passion manslaughter. The jury returned a guilty verdict of murder in the first degree and the court sentenced Quick to life imprisonment.


Quick argues that his conviction should be vacated and the case remanded for sentencing on the lesser-included offense of heat of passion manslaughter. He asserts that the state failed to provide sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he did not act in the heat of passion. In reviewing a claim of insufficiency of the evidence, the scope of review is limited to ascertaining whether, based on the evidence presented at trial, the jury could have reasonably concluded that the defendant is guilty of the offense. State v. Vick, 632 N.W.2d 676, 690 (Minn. 2001). In doing so, we view the evidence "in the light most favorable to the jury's verdict and assume that the jury believed the state's witnesses and disbelieved the defendant's witnesses." Id. We will uphold the jury's verdict if, giving due regard to the presumption of innocence and to the state's burden of proving the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the jury could reasonably have found the defendant guilty. State v. Johnson, 568 N.W.2d 426, 435 (Minn. 1997).

"[C]ircumstantial evidence in a criminal case is entitled to as much weight as any other type of evidence so long as the circumstances proved are consistent with the hypothesis that the accused is guilty and inconsistent with any rational or reasonable hypothesis except for that of guilt." State v. Wallace, 558 N.W.2d 469, 472 (Minn. 1997). The circumstances must "form a complete chain which, in the light of the evidence as a whole, leads so directly to the guilt of the accused as to exclude, beyond a reasonable doubt, any reasonable inference other than that of guilt." State v. Wahlberg, 296 N.W.2d 408, 411 (Minn. 1980). Even with this stricter standard, the jury determines the credibility and weight of the circumstantial evidence. See Wallace, 558 N.W.2d at 472. Therefore, we continue to assume the jury believed the state's witnesses and disbelieved the defendant's witnesses. Id.

To be guilty of first-degree premeditated murder, Quick must have caused the death of Mueller with premeditation and with intent to effect his death. Minn. Stat. §á609.185(1) (2002). Premeditation means to "consider, plan or prepare for, or determine to commit, the act referred to prior to its commission." Minn. Stat. § 609.18 (2002). "A finding of premeditation does not require proof of extensive planning or preparation to kill, nor does it require any specific period of time for deliberation." State v. Cooper, 561 N.W.2d 175, 180 (Minn. 1997). Premeditation is a state of mind and, therefore, generally proved through circumstantial evidence of the "defendant's words and actions in light of the totality of the circumstances." State v. Brocks, 587 N.W.2d 37, 42 (Minn. 1998). "[T]he evidence as a whole may support a finding of premeditation even if no single piece of evidence standing alone would be sufficient." State v. Moore, 481 N.W.2d 355, 361 (Minn. 1992).

In Moore, we recognized three categories of evidence that are relevant when inferring premeditation. Id. The first category is "facts about how and what the defendant did prior to the actual killing which show he was engaged in activity directed toward the killing, that is, planning activity." Id. (quoting Wayne R. Lafave & Austin W. Scott, Jr., Handbook on Criminal Law §á73 (1972)). Evidence of planning would include prior possession of the murder weapon by the defendant and surreptitious approach of the victim. Id.; see, e.g., State v. Voorhees, 596 N.W.2d 241, 247-48, 253 (Minn. 1999) (bringing rifle to estranged wife's place of work and quietly approaching her when she went outside to smoke supported inference of premeditation); Moore, 481 N.W.2d at 361-62 (removing shotgun from normal storage under the bed, loading it, and placing it on the shelf in the living room before the killing showed planning).

The second category of evidence relevant to show premeditation is "facts about the defendant's prior relationship and conduct with the victim from which motive may be inferred." Moore, 481 N.W.2d at 361 (quoting Wayne R. Lafave & Austin W. Scott, Jr., Handbook on Criminal Law ยงรก73 (1972)). Evidence in this category includes prior threats by the defendant, plans or desires of the defendant that would have been advanced by the victim's death, and prior conduct by the victim known to have angered the defendant. Id.; see, e.g., State v. Lodermeier, 539 N.W.2d 396, 398 (Minn. 1995) (arguing with the victim the night before the killing, the deterioration of the defendant and victim's relationship, and being ...

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