St. Louis County District Court File No. K7-02-102509.
1. When the district court fails to follow the procedure outlined in Minn. R. Crim. P. 17.03, subd. 5, before allowing the same attorney to represent two defendants at a joint trial, the burden is on the state to demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that a prejudicial conflict of interest did not exist.
2. The state fails to meet this burden when inconsistent defenses could have been presented at trial to address the differing culpabilities of the defendants and when the potential conflict of interest is compounded by the manner in which the charges against the defendants were presented to the jury.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Klaphake, Judge
Considered and decided by Klaphake, Presiding Judge, Toussaint, Chief Judge, and Peterson, Judge.
Appellant Charles Robert Walker and his co-defendant wife, Dawn Walker, were charged with aiding and abetting each other in the commission of felony check forgery and theft in violation of Minn. Stat. §§ 609.05, .631, subd. 2(1), .52, subd. 2(1) (2002). The charges arose from allegations that over a period of several months in 2002, Dawn Walker had issued unauthorized checks to herself and appellant from the account of their employer, Kodiak Home Improvement Company, and that they had taken certain movable property from their employer.
At the Walkers' request, the cases were consolidated for trial. Prior to trial, Dawn Walker's attorney withdrew. On the first day of trial, the parties moved to allow appellant's attorney to jointly represent them, and the district court granted that request. Following a two-day trial, the jury returned verdicts finding both parties guilty.
Because the district court failed to engage in an affirmative inquiry to determine whether appellant validly waived his right to have a separate attorney and because the state failed to show beyond a reasonable doubt that a prejudicial conflict of interest did not exist during trial, we reverse and remand.
In 1999, Tim Morgan, the owner of Kodiak Home Improvement Company (Kodiak), hired appellant's wife, Dawn Walker. She was initially hired as a receptionist, but soon was given additional responsibilities, including the authority to write checks on Kodiak's business account. In early 2002, Morgan gave Dawn Walker a pay increase, and she became the office manager and assumed additional duties, such as planning jobs and running the day-to-day affairs of the office. Dawn Walker had full access to all the company records and was in the process of transferring the information from company ledger books into the computer. During this time, appellant also worked for Kodiak as a subcontractor and mechanic.
In July 2002, after Morgan injured his shoulder, he spent less time in the office and on job sites. At the end of August 2002, he had surgery. During this time period, Morgan claimed that he relied more on Dawn Walker to run the business and did not closely monitor her.
On October 22, 2002, after Morgan had been back to work for a few weeks, Dawn Walker informed him that the office computer had gone down due to a power failure and that she was unable to operate it. She then called in sick for the next three days, and the following Monday, October ...