Anoka County District Court File No. 02-CR-11-2511
Lori Swanson, Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and
Anthony C. Palumbo, Anoka County Attorney, Robert D. Goodell, Assistant County Attorney, Anoka, Minnesota (for respondent)
David W. Merchant, Chief Appellate Public Defender, Melissa Sheridan, Assistant Public Defender, St. Paul, Minnesota (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Ross, Presiding Judge; Peterson, Judge; and Smith, Judge.
36-year-old Reid Smith punched his 80-year-old father in the face, hit him with a gun, kicked him, threatened to cut his throat with a shard of glass, smashed a guitar over his head, and fired gunshots into walls. Now Smith appeals from his convictions for first-and second-degree assault and terroristic threats arising from the battering, arguing that the district court committed plain error by instructing the jury that he had a duty to retreat before he could defend himself (because, he argues, he was in his own home) and that the district court and his counsel committed numerous other errors. Because the record indicates that Smith was merely a guest in his father's home during the assault, and not a resident there, his jury-instruction argument does not warrant reversal. And his other claims of error lack any persuasive merit. We therefore affirm.
Reid Smith lived briefly with his aging father, an avid gun collector, in March 2011. Soon after Smith moved out, his father discovered several guns missing and suspected Smith of taking them. He called Smith and demanded their return. Smith promised to return them that night, but he didn't. When Smith arrived at about noon the next day, he beat his father using one of the guns he had taken, as well as with his fists and feet. Smith seized a piece of broken glass and threatened to cut his father's throat with it. He also threatened to kill his father's girlfriend. Then he fired several bullets, striking various walls but not his father, and he smashed a guitar over his father's head. Smith went momentarily into a bedroom and returned with a sword in one hand and a pistol in the other. Smith's father pulled a gun from a case and fired a shot, causing Smith to flee.
A neighbor called police. Police arrived to find Smith's father bleeding badly. He had a ruptured eardrum and suffered persistent dizziness. When police found Smith, they saw a few scratches on his arms and hands.
The state charged Smith with attempted second-degree murder, first-degree assault, second-degree assault, and terroristic threats. Smith testified during his jury trial that he had moved into the house to help his father address his hoarding problem, but that he had left the house to stay elsewhere before the altercation. Smith gave the jury several reasons justifying his actions, or otherwise minimizing his culpability. He asserted that his father had initiated the conflict by pulling a gun on him. He claimed that he chose to stay rather than to flee because he feared that his father would shoot him if he fled. He told the jury that his father's injuries were caused by the struggle over the gun when various household items fell onto him. He insisted that the gun had discharged several times during the struggle only on accident. And he said that he left the house as soon as he could do so safely.
Smith had already agreed through counsel that the jury should be instructed that his right to self-defense includes a duty to retreat. The jury was partially, but not entirely persuaded by Smith's argument. It acquitted him of second-degree murder, but it found him guilty of all other charges. The jury also considered facts bearing on sentencing and found three aggravating factors: Smith's father was particularly vulnerable due to his advanced age; Smith committed the offense within his father's zone of privacy; and Smith treated his father with particular ...