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State v. Scanlon

August 10, 2006



1. When months have elapsed between a defendant's invocation of the right to counsel and the defendant's subsequent statements, the defendant was sufficiently "out of custody" to nullify the Edwards invocation under both the Fifth Amendment to the Federal Constitution and Article 1, Section 7 of the Minnesota Constitution.

2. Inadmissible hearsay statements cannot inherently connect an alternative perpetrator to a crime, and thus the alternative perpetrator evidence here was properly excluded. Additionally, as there was no evidence inherently connecting the alternative perpetrator to the crime, the district court did not err in excluding reverse-Spreigl evidence concerning the alleged alternative perpetrator.

3. The state's discovery violations did not deprive the defendant of a fair trial because the discovery violations were the result of oversight or mistake, not deliberate attempts to hide facts or surprise the defense, and none of the violations were prejudicial, singly or cumulatively.

4. A conviction based on circumstantial evidence will only be upheld if, when viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to the conviction, reasonable inferences from the circumstantial evidence are consistent only with the defendant's guilt and inconsistent with any rational hypothesis except that of guilt. The circumstantial evidence at issue is sufficient to uphold the verdict.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Anderson, G. Barry, Justice.

Hennepin County

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


On January 22, 2005, appellant Matthew Scanlon was convicted of the first-degree premeditated murder of bait shop owner Vermont "Ike" Isaacson. On direct appeal, Scanlon alleges that (1) his statements of December 23, 2003, and March 27, 2004, were erroneously admitted in violation of his Fifth Amendment right to counsel; (2) he was erroneously prohibited from admitting evidence of an alternative perpetrator; (3) the state's discovery violations cumulatively deprived him of a fair trial; and, (4) the evidence was insufficient to sustain his conviction. We affirm.

On September 22, 2003, Ann and Tim Oorlog came home a day early from a trip. They arrived home at about 10:30 p.m. and noticed that the lights in the bait shop next to their home were off, but the bait shop door was open and the neon "open" sign in the bait shop window was on. The next day, when the Oorlogs arose at around 5:00 a.m., they noticed that the bait shop door was still open and the neon sign was still on, which was very unusual. Alarmed, Tim Oorlog went to the bait shop. He discovered the body of the bait shop owner, Isaacson, on the floor of the shop.

Isaacson was killed by a shotgun blast to the chest. The alarm had not been turned on or triggered, and Isaacson's keys were in his hand, indicating that he had been about to leave for the night when he was shot. Isaacson was known, at least within his circle of friends, to carry thousands of dollars of cash at all times. He favored $100 bills in particular, but his records, compared with the cash found in his security deposit box, indicated that on the day he was murdered he might have been carrying a substantial number of twenties (totaling approximately $2500). Isaacson's wallet was not found, but the money in the register, in his bank bag, and in the motor shop in back of the bait shop was untouched. No directly incriminating or exculpating physical evidence was found at the scene or elsewhere.

Upon investigation, police learned that Scanlon, an acquaintance of Isaacson's, was the last person seen with Isaacson. A friend of Scanlon reported that Scanlon had remarked that Isaacson would be "an easy guy to knock off" because he was a loner and carried a lot of money on him.

Police further learned that Scanlon had significant financial difficulties. Scanlon lived with an aunt, to whom he paid $250-$300 rent per month. Scanlon had not been working for some time, and his personal and business checking accounts had been overdrawn and closed by his bank for nonpayment. He also had borrowed money from various friends and relatives that he had not repaid, and owed more than $19,000 in child support payments. His truck badly needed repairs, but he told acquaintances that he could not afford to get it fixed. Finally, the aunt with whom Scanlon lived had given Scanlon $830 in cash so that he could write a check for her monthly mortgage payment. On September 15, 2003, Scanlon's aunt received a threat of foreclosure, as Scanlon's mortgage check had bounced. Scanlon's aunt was upset and worried about the mortgage payment and confronted Scanlon about it. He told her not to worry about it, that he would go to the bank and "get things straightened out."

Though Scanlon had at one time worked in the bait shop, he had not worked there for a long time, and it was unusual for him to be there frequently or for long periods of time.*fn1 But beginning on September 16, 2003, and continuing for the week before Isaacson's murder, Scanlon suddenly began coming to the shop nearly every day and staying all day.*fn2 Scanlon told police that he arrived at the bait shop at about 8:30 a.m. on September 22. Both Isaacson and Scanlon remained at the shop until at least 7:30 p.m. Witnesses also testified that the radiator fluid stains by the bait shop were from Scanlon's vehicle, which had a leaking water pump. These stains appeared to indicate that the car had been backed up and parked briefly by Isaacson's car, where it would be difficult to see.

A neighbor testified to seeing Scanlon's truck still in the bait shop parking lot, now with its hood up, at 8:30 p.m. At that time he also saw Isaacson and Scanlon walking from the front of the bait shop to the back of the bait shop. Another witness testified that at about 8:45 p.m., Scanlon's truck was by the shop with its hood up.*fn3 A friend of Isaacson, Kenneth Day, testified that Isaacson called him at approximately 9:00 p.m. to ask Day to open and run the bait shop the next day, as Isaacson had to attend a trade show. Day reported that during the call, Isaacson did not indicate that anyone else was in the shop, and that Isaacson seemed to be getting ready to leave for the night.

At approximately 11:00-11:30 p.m., another witness, Thomas Anderson, saw a truck by the bait shop with an individual inside. Anderson identified Scanlon's truck as consistent with the vehicle he had seen, but there were inconsistencies with his original statements about the truck and his description of the individual in the truck did not match Scanlon. A pizza deliveryman reported that at 11:30 p.m. there were no vehicles near the bait shop.

The night of Isaacson's murder, Scanlon returned to his aunt's house at approximately 10:30 p.m. and gave her about $1000-$1250 in 100s, 20s, and possibly 50s. Scanlon left and drove to a SuperAmerica gas station, where at about 11:00 p.m. he filled up his gas tank and bought sundries, paying in cash.

The next day, Scanlon went to another aunt's house at about 7:30 in the morning. He left briefly to buy about $100 worth of tools, antifreeze, and a new water pump, for which he paid cash. He returned to his aunt's house and made an unsuccessful attempt to fix his truck's water pump. When he found he could not fix the truck, he went to a Sinclair station with his cousin's fiancé, Eugene Strange. Scanlon told the Sinclair owner that he could spend up to $1000 fixing the truck. Scanlon paid the resulting $802.27 repair bill in twenties. While waiting for the car to be fixed, Scanlon bought lunch for Strange. Scanlon also promised to give Strange $100 to gamble with, but later revised the offer to $20. The police arrested Scanlon at the Sinclair station at 4:35 p.m. When arrested, Scanlon had either $298 or $398 in his wallet.*fn4

Following a search of Scanlon's residence, the police found a .12 gauge shotgun in a closet near Scanlon's room.*fn5 While it was not possible for the police to determine whether that shotgun was the one that had killed Isaacson, it was the correct gauge. Police also recovered some Federal Cartridge Company brand number five shot in Scanlon's room. A firearms expert testified at trial that the shot cup and wad from the crime scene were Federal brand. The expert also testified that the weight of the pellets retrieved from Isaacson's body was most consistent with five shot, though the diameter of the somewhat mangled pellets appeared to match that of six shot (the expert noted that given the condition of the pellets, the diameter was also consistent with four and five shot).*fn6 Evidence at trial indicated that five shot was comparatively rare and not very useful for hunting. But a defense investigator testified that five shot is readily available at local stores.

Scanlon's Statements

Scanlon gave three interviews to the police, and his stories varied widely. Scanlon was first interviewed on September 23, 2003, after he was taken into custody and received a Miranda warning. He spoke with police for a time and then requested counsel. The district court allowed officers to testify regarding the information elicited from Scanlon before he requested counsel, but excluded any testimony ...

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