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Carpenter v. State

January 29, 2004

GENE W. CARPENTER, PETITIONER, APPELLANT,
v.
STATE OF MINNESOTA, RESPONDENT.



SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

Imposition of a consecutive life sentence for a first-degree murder conviction for the second of two murders did not unfairly exaggerate defendant's criminality.

Affirmed.

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

OPINION

ANDERSON, Paul H., Justice.

On March 20, 2001, appellant Gene William Carpenter murdered Mark Place and later that same day murdered Tammy Olson. Carpenter entered guilty pleas to first-degree murder charges in both cases and was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences. Carpenter subsequently petitioned for postconviction relief on several grounds, including attorney-client conflict, judicial bias, vindictive prosecution, and diminished capacity. The court denied his petition and he now appeals, asserting that the second consecutive life sentence unfairly exaggerates his criminality. We affirm.

On January 26, 2001, the Hibbing police responded to a call from 11-year-old Nicole Carpenter concerning threats made by her father, Gene William Carpenter (Carpenter), against her mother, Tracy Carpenter. Subsequently, Tracy Carpenter petitioned for an order for protection from Carpenter and, on January 29, 2001, the Saint Louis County District Court granted her a temporary order for protection. On February 5, 2001, the court issued an order for protection excluding Carpenter from any residence of Tracy Carpenter-including the family's mobile home in Hibbing-and provided for Carpenter's supervised visitation of Nicole. Carpenter then began living with his sister in Hibbing.

Tracy and Nicole continued living in the family's mobile home until February 23, 2001, when Tracy moved because she had heard that Carpenter had attempted to buy a weapon. Tracy and Nicole moved to a town in another county to live with a relative. Tracy kept the information about where she and Nicole were living secret from Carpenter. She did not even tell her twin sister, Tammy Olson, who lived in nearby Keewatin with her boyfriend, Mark Place. After she left Hibbing, Tracy gave Olson a key to the mobile home and asked Olson to remove Tracy's and Nicole's clothes and other possessions from the home. Olson and Place did this around Friday, March 16, 2001.

Carpenter knew Olson and Place socially and after Tracy moved away he continued to have contact with them. Carpenter somehow learned that Olson and Place had removed things from the mobile home. On the morning of March 20, 2001, Carpenter drove his all-terrain-vehicle from his sister's home to the Olson-Place home. He stated that his purpose was to seek the return of the items removed from the mobile home. Carpenter arrived at the Olson-Place home between 9:45 a.m. and 10:15 a.m. Place was home alone working on the kitchen floor.

According to Carpenter's plea statement, he confronted Place in the kitchen seeking the return of the items Olson and Place had removed from the mobile home and an argument ensued. This argument quickly escalated into a fight between the two men, but Place eventually gave up the fight. Place then took Carpenter to the garage where he said the items taken from the mobile home were stored. When the items in question were not in the garage, Carpenter took Place back into the house and bound him to a rocking chair in the living room using duct tape and cable ties that he had found in the garage. Carpenter eventually unbound one of Place's hands so that Place could smoke a cigarette. Sometime thereafter, Carpenter unbound Place completely and allowed him to go to the bedroom for more cigarettes. Place returned holding a .22 caliber handgun and demanded that Carpenter leave. Carpenter told Place that he had already tried committing suicide and did not care if Place shot him. When Place hesitated, Carpenter overpowered him and the two fell to the floor. At some point during their struggle, Carpenter took the handgun from Place. As Carpenter got up from the floor, he shot Place twice in the chest. Carpenter subsequently placed a T-shirt over Place's head and moved his body to the bedroom where he put it under a bed.

After hiding Place's body, Carpenter left the Olson-Place home and drove Place's car back to his sister's house to retrieve a change of clothing. Still driving Place's car, Carpenter went to Olson's workplace in Hibbing. He arrived at about 2:15 p.m. Although Carpenter did not know which building Olson worked in, he eventually found her and told her that Place, who usually picked her up from work, had injured his back and asked Carpenter to pick her up. Olson left work with Carpenter around 2:30 p.m.

Olson and Carpenter returned to the Olson-Place home in Keewatin. Once inside the home, Carpenter pushed Olson down on a couch and asked her where Tracy was. Olson responded by asking where Place was, but Carpenter refused to tell her unless she first told him where Tracy was. Olson told him that Tracy was with Carpenter's half-sister who lived north of the Twin Cities. At some point during this confrontation, Carpenter bound Olson's wrists using duct tape. He then placed duct tape over her mouth because she was screaming. Olson eventually agreed to help Carpenter find Tracy, so Carpenter removed the restraints. Carpenter and Olson then left the house at approximately 4:15 p.m. in Place's car with Olson driving. Carpenter brought with him the .22 caliber handgun that he had used to shoot Place and also a nine-millimeter handgun that he had found in Place's bedroom.

Carpenter and Olson drove south on Highway 65 toward where his half-sister lived. After a while, they stopped at a gas station to ask for directions and Carpenter discovered that they had traveled too far south. Olson then asked Carpenter to drive because she did not have her glasses with her. They then turned around and drove north. They still could not find the home of Carpenter's half-sister and, because it was getting foggy, Carpenter decided to return to Keewatin. At approximately 10:00 p.m., Carpenter pulled off the highway near Mora in Kanabec County. The property where he pulled off contained an unoccupied trailer home, a shed, and a portable bathroom. Carpenter and Olson remained inside the car and talked. Carpenter told Olson that he was sad and feeling down over Tracy leaving him. Olson then told Carpenter that Place was "screwing Tracy" and, after hearing this, Carpenter became angry.

At some point, Olson got out of the car to use the portable bathroom. Carpenter also got out of the car and brought the .22 caliber handgun with him. He subsequently stated that he brought the handgun with him because he had decided to kill Olson. After Olson used the portable bathroom, she and Carpenter were behind the shed with Olson standing in front of Carpenter. Olson continued talking about Place "sleeping with" Tracy. Carpenter then shot Olson four times. Three of the shots hit Olson in the middle ...


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