Hennepin County District Court File No. 27-CR-11-27425 Lori Swanson, Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and
Michael O. Freeman, Hennepin County Attorney, Lee W. Barry, Assistant County Attorney, Minneapolis, Minnesota (for respondent)
David W. Merchant, Chief Appellate Public Defender, Davi E. Axelson, Assistant Public Defender, St. Paul, Minnesota (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Halbrooks, Presiding Judge; Worke, Judge; and Larkin, Judge.
Appellant challenges his conviction of prohibited person in possession of a firearm, arguing that the district court erred by denying his motion to suppress evidence on constitutional grounds and by allowing the jury to hear evidence regarding a witness's fear of testifying. We discern no error in the district court's rulings and therefore affirm.
On July 27, 2011, Minneapolis police officers responded to a shooting near the intersection of 21st and Penn Avenues North. An individual had been shot in the back. A witness at the scene informed the police that a Mitsubishi Diamante automobile was involved with the shooting. The witness provided the police with the Mitsubishi's license plate number and informed them that the vehicle was driven by a white female and that there were three black male passengers in the car. A police sergeant entered the vehicle information into a "KOPS" alert to inform other officers that the vehicle had been involved in a shooting.
The following day, officers spotted the vehicle about ten blocks from the area of the shooting. One of the officers who observed the vehicle was aware of the KOPS alert and had also independently learned about the vehicle and its involvement in the shooting from other officers. The officers observed that a white female was driving and that there were three black male passengers. Four squad cars were called to the scene. Officers activated the emergency lights on their vehicles to stop the Mitsubishi and then ordered its occupants out at gunpoint. As the occupants got out of the Mitsubishi, one of them told the officers that there was a gun in the car. The officers handcuffed all of the occupants and put them into the back of squad cars. Next, the officers searched the Mitsubishi and found a pistol under the driver's seat, which would have been within reach of the rear driver-side passenger. Officers arrested that passenger, appellant Antonio Depreese Arnold, for possession of the pistol. They searched Arnold and found shell casings on his person. Respondent State of Minnesota subsequently charged Arnold with prohibited person in possession of a firearm.
Prior to trial, Arnold moved the district court to suppress the firearm and ammunition, contending that the police lacked reasonable, articulable suspicion to stop the vehicle and that Arnold's placement in a squad car after the initial stop constituted an illegal arrest. After a hearing, during which two police officers testified, the court ruled that the stop was justified and that Arnold was not arrested when he was handcuffed and placed in the squad car.
At trial, the state called N.K., the driver of the Mitsubishi, to testify. N.K. testified that when she picked Arnold up on July 28, he was carrying a gun inside a gym bag. After testifying that she and her passengers stopped at a Wal-Mart without making a purchase, N.K. acknowledged that she had previously told the prosecutor that Arnold purchased bullets at Wal-Mart. N.K. then testified that she was nervous and scared. Over Arnold's objection, the following exchange occurred:
PROSECUTOR: Could you tell us why you are feeling a ...