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Johnson v. State

January 15, 2004

KEVIN JOHNSON, RESPONDENT,
v.
STATE OF MINNESOTA, PETITIONER, APPELLANT.



SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

The interests of justice are served by permitting the state to argue the exclusionary rule on appeal where the applicability of the rule was necessarily implicated in the reasoning of the district court and the court of appeals addressed the rule in its decision.

DNA evidence seized pursuant to a court order under Minn. Stat. § 609.3461—an order later determined to have misconstrued the meaning of the statute—shall not be suppressed by virtue of the exclusionary rule.

Reversed.

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

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Meyer, Justice.

OPINION

We are presented with the issue of whether DNA evidence seized pursuant to a court order under a sentencing statute—an order later determined to have misconstrued the meaning of the statute—must be suppressed by virtue of the exclusionary rule. The court of appeals held that the evidence must be suppressed. We reverse.

On September 21, 1992, 17-year-old N.B. was sexually assaulted at knifepoint. The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) placed in its database a DNA profile from a vaginal swab it took from the victim. At that time, authorities were unable to link a suspect to the crime. Nearly seven years later, on April 19, 1999, BCA linked the DNA sample to respondent Kevin Johnson.

The DNA sample that linked Johnson to the 1992 sexual assault was taken in 1998 as part of a court order, issued as a condition of probation for Johnson's part in a 1997 crime.*fn1 In that case, Johnson was originally charged with first- and third-degree criminal sexual conduct under Minn. Stat. §§ 609.342, subd. 1(d), and 609.344, subd. 1(c) (2002), but pleaded guilty to the reduced charge of promoting prostitution by fraud ("prostitution scam case").*fn2 In connection with Johnson's guilty plea, the district court ordered Johnson to register as a predatory offender and submit a DNA sample. The court based its order on Minn. Stat. §§ 243.166, subd. 1(1) (2002) and 609.3461, subd. 1 (1996),*fn3 which require persons convicted of certain enumerated offenses and all other crimes "arising out of the same set of circumstances" to register as predatory offenders and submit DNA samples, respectively.

Johnson later moved to withdraw his guilty plea in the prostitution scam case, claiming that during the plea bargaining process his attorney did not inform him of his duty to register as a sex offender and that, had he known that he had to register as a sex offender as a condition of his plea, he would not have pleaded guilty. On April 20, 1999, the district court denied Johnson's motion to withdraw his plea. The court of appeals reversed, holding that the crime of promoting prostitution by fraud did not "arise out of the same set of circumstances" as his original charge and therefore Johnson could not be required to register as a sex offender. State v. Johnson, Nos. C9-99-1046 and CX-99-1265, 2000 WL 365051, at *2 (Minn. App. Apr. 11, 2000), rev. denied (Minn. June 13, 2000) (Johnson I).

At a November 13, 2000, Rasmussen hearing, Johnson's attorney made his first appearance in the 1992 sexual assault case. At this appearance, the attorney moved to suppress the 1999 DNA sample taken by Sergeant Martinson pursuant to warrant, but did not object to the 1998 DNA sample taken pursuant to the erroneous district court order.*fn4 The court denied the motion to suppress. On November 15, 2000, Johnson pleaded guilty to the 1992 sexual assault and the court sentenced him to 146 months in prison. Johnson appealed this sentence but later moved to stay the appeal and pursued post-conviction relief.

On November 21, 2001, Johnson brought this claim for post-conviction relief in the 1992 sexual assault case. He argued that he was deprived of his right to effective assistance of counsel by the failure of his attorney to file a motion to suppress the first DNA sample that was obtained based on Johnson's promotion of prostitution by fraud conviction.*fn5 But for counsel's deficient performance, Johnson argued, the district court would have suppressed the DNA sample and he would not have pleaded guilty to criminal sexual conduct.

The post-conviction court noted that, at the time of the Rasmussen hearing, the court of appeals had already issued its decision in Johnson I, in which it held that Johnson's prostitution scam conviction did not "arise out of the same set of circumstances" as the original charge against Johnson. Accordingly, the post-conviction court concluded that Johnson's counsel should have moved to suppress the DNA evidence, which had been ordered pursuant to identical statutory language as the registration order in Johnson I. The court also concluded that there was a reasonable probability that Johnson suffered actual prejudice as a result of his attorney's errors. Therefore, the court vacated Johnson's plea.

The state appealed, alleging that the post-conviction court erred in concluding that the exclusionary rule is applicable when a district court's erroneous interpretation of a statute led to an unauthorized seizure of DNA evidence. Johnson argued that the state had waived its argument that the exclusionary rule did not apply by failing to raise the issue before the post-conviction court. Although the court of appeals agreed with Johnson's waiver argument, it noted that the exclusion of the DNA evidence was necessary to provide Johnson with a "meaningful remedy" for the ...


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