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In re Welfare of T.C.J.

December 14, 2004

IN THE MATTER OF THE WELFARE OF: T.C.J.


Hennepin County District Court File Nos. JX-03-056554, 238043.

Considered and decided by Lansing, Presiding Judge; Toussaint, Chief Judge; and Crippen, Judge.*fn1

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

A juvenile who is found not guilty of the charge that provides the basis for designating a juvenile proceeding an extended-juvenile-jurisdiction prosecution may not, consistent with equal protection, receive a stayed adult sentence under Minn. Stat. § 260B.130, subd. 4(b) (2002), for a companion charge that would not separately permit designation.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lansing, Judge

Affirmed as modified

OPINION

The district court denied certification of TCJ's assault charges and, following designation as an extended-juvenile-jurisdiction (EJJ) prosecution, a jury found TCJ guilty of third-degree assault and not guilty of first-degree assault. On appeal from the third-degree assault conviction, TCJ challenges the jury composition, evidentiary rulings, jury instructions, sufficiency of the evidence, and that part of his disposition that stays an adult sentence. We affirm the district court's rulings and instructions that underlie TCJ's adjudication but, to comport with constitutional requirements, modify the disposition to vacate the stayed adult sentence.

FACTS

TCJ's assault charges stem from a confrontation between him and a teacher near Park Center High School. TCJ, a seventeen-year-old former student, visited the school with a friend, JH, who was seeking enrollment materials. When TCJ and JH entered the school through a side entrance to the gymnasium, a member of the faculty recognized TCJ and knew that he was not currently a student. The teacher ordered them to leave the school grounds.

The teacher saw TCJ and JH on the school grounds several times that day and each time told them to leave. TCJ and JH failed to comply, and after a final response that the teacher characterized as insubordinate and disrespectful, they suddenly fled through a set of doors, which the teacher stated was off limits to students. The teacher, suspecting wrongdoing, pursued them.

When he caught up with them, they were off school property, and the teacher told them that they must return to the school to deal with the problem "[t]he easy way or the hard way." He then grabbed JH by the shirt. TCJ testified at trial that the teacher mistook JH for a student at the school and repeatedly referred to JH by the wrong name. JH spun from the teacher's grip and out of the shirt, then snatched it away from the teacher, who testified that he was struck across the face with the garment and pushed against a nearby car.

The teacher testified that JH began to choke him, and the teacher, who taught self-defense at the high school, countered by grabbing JH's hands. TCJ testified that the teacher grabbed JH by the throat. According to the teacher, TCJ punched him on the left side of his head, and when he moved to resist, JH began to hit him on the other side of his head. TCJ admitted to hitting the teacher in the face to get him to let go, but he claimed that another student who joined the fray also punched the teacher. The teacher sustained multiple jaw fractures, bruises, and abrasions, and lost several teeth. He testified that, despite his knowledge of self-defense techniques, he did not retaliate. TCJ testified that, despite JH's being choked, neither he nor JH sustained injuries from the altercation. Several other witnesses corroborated aspects of the testimony of each of the principal participants.

TCJ's age and the gravity of the first-degree-assault charge resulted in a presumptive certification to the district court. The district court determined that TCJ had presented evidence that overcame the presumption and designated the proceeding an EJJ prosecution. The jury acquitted TCJ of first-degree assault but found him guilty of third-degree assault. TCJ appeals both the conviction and the sentence.

ISSUES

Did the district court err in allocating or permitting peremptory challenges in the composition of the jury?

Did the district court abuse its discretion and deny TCJ a fair trial by excluding evidence of state policies ...


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