Hennepin County District Court File No. 27-CR-11-34403
Lori Swanson, Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and Michael O. Freeman, Hennepin County Attorney, Michael Richardson, Assistant County Attorney, Minneapolis, Minnesota (for respondent)
David W. Merchant, Chief Appellate Public Defender, Richard Schmitz, Assistant Public Defender, St. Paul, Minnesota (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Ross, Presiding Judge; Chutich, Judge; and Kirk, Judge.
Appellant Cory Donta Edwards challenges his convictions of attempted first-degree murder, attempted second-degree murder, first-degree assault, and first-degree aggravated robbery. Edwards argues that he is entitled to a new trial because (1) the state improperly used peremptory challenges to remove two members of the jury panel based on their race, (2) the prosecutor committed misconduct by improperly shifting the burden of proof to Edwards, and (3) the district court proceedings violated his right to a speedy trial. Because these arguments are without merit, we affirm the convictions.
On October 26, 2011, W.J. was robbed and shot point-blank several times by a man he later identified as Edwards. W.J. and Edwards were acquainted before the shooting and W.J. knew Edwards by his street name, "Shorty C." On that day, Edwards asked W.J. to drive him to an intersection in Minneapolis so Edwards could meet a friend. When they arrived, Edwards's friend was across the street in a champagne- or gold-colored sports utility vehicle (SUV). Because "something didn't feel right" to W.J., he wrote down the SUV's license-plate number and later gave it to the police.
W.J. testified that Edwards got out of W.J.'s GMC Yukon and turned around, pointing a handgun at W.J., who was still sitting in the driver's seat. Edwards demanded money, and W.J. gave Edwards everything he had, about $550. Edwards then "just started shooting." W.J. balled up to shield himself, and took several bullets in the arms and torso. After Edwards stopped shooting, he jumped into the other SUV, which quickly drove away.
Severely injured and bleeding, W.J. crawled out of the Yukon where a passerby saw him and called 911. When help arrived, a police officer asked W.J. who shot him and he responded, "Cory Williams, Cory Williams shot me." The day after the shooting, W.J. told police that "Shorty C" was the man who shot him. Police showed W.J. a photo lineup, and he "quickly and . . . positive[ly]" identified Edwards as the shooter. W.J. suffered severe injuries but ultimately survived.
At trial, W.J. testified that he was mistaken about the shooter's last name on the day of the shooting, and that it was Cory Edwards, not Cory Williams, who shot him. He explained that "I [told the officer] Cory Williams but I just remembered his last name [began] with W, and . . . Williams came to my head, but it was Edwards." At trial, he testified, "There is no doubt in my mind that Shorty C shot me, " and identified Edwards as Shorty C.
Other trial testimony from law enforcement and crime-lab employees corroborated W.J.'s testimony that Edwards was the shooter. With the license-plate number of the SUV that W.J. wrote down, officers determined that the getaway vehicle was a silver GMC Jimmy registered to a man named C.O. C.O.'s ex-girlfriend testified that C.O. was friends with Edwards and that she had met Shorty C (whom she identified in the courtroom as Edwards) on two occasions at C.O.'s barber shop. In addition, forensic investigation revealed the presence of Edwards's fingerprints in W.J.'s Yukon. Edwards chose not to testify at trial, and the defense did not present any witnesses.
The jury found Edwards guilty of all four charges and the district court sentenced him to 220 months in prison. Edwards appealed.
I. Batson Challenge
Edwards first challenges the state's use of two peremptory challenges to remove potential jurors M.M. and L.R., contending that the state improperly struck the two jurors because they were African American. The district court allowed the strikes to stand, concluding that the state had shown valid race-neutral ...