Ramsey County District Court File No. 62-CR-11-6883.
Lori Swanson, Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and John J. Choi, Ramsey County Attorney, Peter Reed Marker, Assistant County Attorney, St. Paul, Minnesota (for respondent).
David W. Merchant, Chief Appellate Public Defender, Lydia Maria Villalva Lijo, Assistant Public Defender, St. Paul, Minnesota (for appellant).
Considered and decided by Chutich, Presiding Judge; Peterson, Judge; and Ross, Judge.
In this appeal from a conviction of felony domestic assault, appellant argues that because inflammatory photographs of the complainant were not relevant and had minimal probative value, the district court erred by allowing the state to present the photographs to the jury. We affirm.
Appellant Troy James Bonkowske was unemployed and had been living in his car when he moved in with his brother in July 2011. Friction developed between the two, and the brother told appellant that he had to move out by that evening. Appellant was still there the next morning. The brother left for the day, and, when he returned home that night, he started an argument with appellant. The brother admitted drinking two or three beers during the day and two or three mixed drinks with dinner.
The brother testified that the argument escalated, appellant grabbed him, threw him on the couch, climbed on top of him, held down his arms, and began punching him in the face. Appellant punched his brother in the face at least six times. The brother covered his face and kicked at appellant and punched him a couple of times in an effort to get appellant off of him. The brother testified that appellant choked him by putting "his arms around my neck and squeez[ing] me real hard, " causing the brother to be unable to breathe for about ten seconds. Appellant then stopped and got up, and the fight ended.
The brother then threatened to kill appellant and went into the bedroom to get a gun. By the time the brother loaded the gun and came out of the bedroom, appellant had left. The brother went back into the bedroom and put the gun under the bed. Appellant called 911 and hid in the building's parking lot until police arrived.
Ramsey County Sheriff's Deputy John Eastham responded to the 911 call. Appellant told Eastham that the brother had started a fight, appellant had gotten away, and the brother had gone to get a gun and would be coming outside. Eastham testified that, after seeing the extent of the brother's injuries, he knew that appellant's description of events was inaccurate. Eastham described the brother as having blood "all the way across his face and down, " "marks all over his face, " and bleeding from the mouth. Eastham testified, "It was obvious somebody had beat [the brother] pretty well." Appellant appeared fine and had only minor injuries.
The brother told Eastham that, after he told appellant that appellant needed to leave, appellant began beating him. The brother stated that he felt like appellant was going "to squeeze him to death" and that appellant "kept beating him on the face." The brother stated that, when he was able to get free, he told appellant that he was going to get his gun and went into the bedroom and got the gun and loaded it. The brother was five feet, eight inches tall and weighed about 175 pounds, and he estimated that appellant was six feet, one inch tall and weighed between 230 and 250 pounds.
Appellant was tried on one count of felony domestic assault in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.2242, subd. 4 (2010). Appellant testified at trial that, after the brother started the argument with him, the brother threatened to kill appellant, said he was going to get a gun, and hit appellant. Appellant claimed that the brother moved toward a table with two knives lying on it, so appellant hit the brother to prevent him from getting the knives. Appellant had not told Eastham about any knives on the table. Appellant testified that the two wrestled for a while, hit each other a few times, and appellant released the brother when the brother agreed to leave appellant alone. According to appellant, when ...