Todd County District Court File No. 77CR11472
Lori Swanson, Attorney General, Karen B. Andrews, Assistant Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and Charles Rasmussen, Todd County Attorney, Long Prairie, Minnesota (for respondent)
John M. Stuart, Minnesota State Public Defender, F. Richard Gallo, Jr., Assistant State Public Defender, St. Paul, Minnesota (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Kirk, Presiding Judge; Johnson, Chief Judge; and Stoneburner, Judge.
Appellant challenges his conviction of second-degree intentional murder, arguing that his statement during the plea that he did not intend to kill his victim rendered the plea inaccurate such that his conviction constitutes a manifest injustice. Because appellant has failed to establish that acceptance of his plea constituted a manifest injustice, we affirm.
In May 2011, appellant Jeffrey Allen Brooks burglarized a residence. One of the owners of the residence returned home while Brooks was in the lower level. Brooks, rather than escaping through a lower-level exit, rushed upstairs and confronted D.F., a petite woman, who was entering her home. Brooks struck D.F., knocking her to the ground, and then kicked her in the head at least twice while she remained helpless on the ground. He grabbed her purse, fled the scene, and got rid of the items he had stolen and the clothing he had worn during the attack. Hours later, D.F. was discovered by her son. An autopsy confirmed that D.F. died of blunt force injuries to her head.
Brooks was arrested and charged with intentional murder in the second degree in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.19, subd. 1 (2010). A grand jury was to convene on November 21, 2011, to consider additional charges, including first-degree murder, but on November 18, 2011, Brooks entered a plea of guilty to the second-degree murder charge. It is undisputed that, prior to the plea hearing, there was an off-the-record discussion among counsel and the district court in which the district court was informed that Brooks would plead guilty to the charge, thereby avoiding an indictment for first-degree murder, in exchange for a prison sentence in the range of 346 to 480 months, contingent on confirmation of his criminal history score of five. The parties agreed that the district court could rely on the probable-cause portion of the complaint as well as Brooks's plea. The discussion included an agreement that if Brooks was unable to provide an adequate factual basis for the intent element of second-degree murder, he would, alternatively, offer an Alford plea.
Brooks validly waived his trial rights at the plea hearing. He was then questioned extensively by his attorney, the prosecutor, and the district court about his decision to plead guilty to second-degree intentional murder. Brooks confirmed that he had discussed with counsel the meaning of "premeditation" and "intent to kill, " what instructions on premeditation and intent to kill the district court would most likely give to a jury, "and that determining somebody's intent is something that's difficult for a jury to do unless somebody gets up and says I intended this result." In relevant part, the following colloquies took place at the plea hearing:
Counsel: Now you've maintained that [intent to kill] wasn't what was going through your mind at the time, but you do want to plead to this charge; is that correct?
Counsel: And we talked about that the jury is going to look at facts surrounding circumstances to determine what your intent would have been, and you – we talked about that a lot and regardless of the level of charges, Mr. Brooks, that there was a substantial likelihood that a jury would convict you of more serious charges including the charge you're pleading guilty to which is intent to kill; is that right?
Brooks: Yeah. Yes.
Counsel: Okay. Now, you also agree that given what you're going to be saying and discuss what happened on May 20 that there would be enough evidence to convict, that because there were multiple blows that a jury – that ...