Heard, considered, and decided by the court en banc.
1. The standard for deciding a motion to acquit in a bench trial is the same as that applicable in a jury trial, namely, whether the state's evidence is sufficient "to sustain a conviction." In considering the sufficiency of the state's evidence, the district court may view the evidence in the light most favorable to the state and need not weigh the evidence or make credibility determinations.
2. In a bench trial, the district court may, over the objection of the defendant, consider an uncharged lesser-included offense where the evidence provides a rational basis to convict of the lesser offense but acquit of the charged offense.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hanson, Justice.
Appellant Billy Dawson Slaughter was charged with two counts of aggravated robbery under Minn. Stat. § 609.245, subd. 1 (2004) and one count of simple robbery under Minn. Stat. § 609.24 (2004). After Slaughter waived his right to a jury trial, the district court acquitted him of the charged robbery offenses, but convicted him of the uncharged lesser-included offense of felony theft under Minn. Stat. § 609.52, subd. 2(1) (2004).*fn1 The court of appeals affirmed the conviction. State v. Slaughter, No. A03-601, 2004 WL 615042 (Minn. App. March 30, 2004). We granted further review to consider Slaughter's arguments that (1) the district court improperly denied his motion for judgment of acquittal, (2) the court improperly raised and considered the lesser-included offense of theft, and (3) there was insufficient evidence to sustain his conviction of theft. We affirm.
At 12:51 a.m. on September 8, 2002, Minneapolis Police Officers Jarrod Roering and Nicholas Antila were dispatched to 610 Penn Avenue North. When the officers arrived, Stacy Love was standing at the base of the steps leading to the porch, approximately 6 to 8 feet from Slaughter. Love told the officers that Slaughter had just snatched several gold chains from her neck, and that he had a knife.
Before the officers searched Slaughter, he told them that he had a knife in his pocket. Antila searched Slaughter and found a folded silver-bladed knife with a multi-colored handle. Antila's report stated that the knife was wrapped in a plastic bag, but Antila could not recall exactly how the bag was wrapped around the knife. The officers did not find any jewelry on Slaughter's person or within his reach.
While speaking with Love, Roering noticed some scratches on her neck. Love said the scratches felt "like skin burn." Roering searched the area and found a small piece of a gold necklace in the grass along a sidewalk near 610 Penn. He also found a piece of a necklace dangling off a fence and another piece in the grass near 620 Penn.
Slaughter was charged with two counts of aggravated robbery and one count of simple robbery. He waived his right to a jury trial and the case proceeded to trial before the court.
Love testified for the state. She stated that on the night of September 7, 2002, she was gambling at a friend's house until the friend's son told her that Slaughter wanted to see her. When she went outside to talk to Slaughter, he asked her for "[his] 10 dollars" but she did not know what he was talking about. Nonetheless, she walked with Slaughter to a neighbor's house to find the person who was supposed to have given her Slaughter's $10.
She stated that after she knocked on the door, and her boyfriend Leroy Jackson came to open it, Slaughter snatched her necklaces from behind and took off running. Love and Jackson chased Slaughter to 610 Penn, where Slaughter ran up on the porch and banged on the door to the house. Love testified that she saw Slaughter holding an object with a "sharp twinkling like a blade or something" in front of him. She thought the object was "a knife or blade or something." She decided not to approach him and instead called the police on her cell phone and blocked Slaughter from leaving.
Jackson also testified for the state. Jackson admitted to smoking crack and having an altercation with Love earlier that day. He said that he was gambling in the basement of 620 Penn that evening when Love came over. When he went upstairs and opened the door, Love said "he snatched my chains," and pointed at Slaughter. Jackson thought she looked stunned and shocked. He confirmed Love's testimony that the two of them chased Slaughter to the porch at 610 Penn. Jackson testified ...