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State v. Rivetts

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

June 17, 2013

State of Minnesota, Respondent,
v.
Eugene Edward Rivetts, Appellant.

UNPUBLISHED OPINION

Stearns County District Court File No. 73CR1010243

Lori Swanson, Minnesota Attorney General, John B. Galus, Assistant Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and Janelle P. Kendall, Stearns County Attorney, St. Cloud, Minnesota (for respondent)

Eugene Edward Rivetts, Faribault, Minnesota (pro se appellant)

Considered and decided by Stoneburner, Presiding Judge; Johnson, Chief Judge; and Willis, Judge.[*]

STONEBURNER, Judge

Appellant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to support his convictions of criminal vehicular homicide. We affirm.

FACTS

After a day of drinking that began at about 10:30 a.m. on August 16, 2009, appellant Eugene Edward Rivetts, driving a Hummer H2 eastbound on Stearns County Road 17, collided with a westbound Toyota Corolla driven by Ryan DeZurik at approximately 10:36 p.m. DeZurik was killed on impact. The Hummer traveled 160 yards beyond the point of impact and came to rest next to a power pole in the north ditch.

At the scene of the accident, Rivetts denied that he was the driver of the Hummer and his passenger, Timothy Rausch, who had been drinking "drink for drink" with Rivetts all day, asserted that he had been the driver. Rausch, who was unaware at the scene that a person had died in the collision, told an officer that he had swerved to miss a deer. Rivetts appeared intoxicated at the scene and was belligerent. He was arrested for obstructing the legal process.

Rausch's blood was drawn and testing revealed an alcohol concentration of 0.26. Rivetts was not tested. Rausch was charged with criminal vehicular homicide.

Based on evidence in the Hummer, police began to suspect that Rivetts had been driving the Hummer at the time of the collision. Rausch eventually told the police that Rivetts was the driver. Rivetts was charged with two counts of criminal vehicular homicide, and Rausch was charged with aiding and abetting an offender. Rausch pleaded guilty and testified for the state at Rivetts's trial, at which only the state presented evidence.

The state's expert accident reconstructionist, Lt. Adam Fulton of the Minnesota State Patrol, testified that County Road 17 is predominately an east-west, two-lane road with a posted speed limit of 55 m.p.h. and no lighting in the area of the collision. Fulton testified that skid marks from the Corolla started in its lane of travel (westbound) and crossed the centerline into the eastbound lane. Mark Sprengler, the Minnesota State Patrol Sergeant who assisted Fulton in the accident reconstruction, opined that Rivetts drove the Hummer straight into a slight, one-degree curve in the road near the collision site, causing the Hummer to cross into DeZurik's lane of travel. Both Fulton and Sprengler opined that this caused DeZurik to brake the Corolla and try to steer away from collision by going into the eastbound lane. The collision occurred near the centerline. There was no evidence that Rivietts applied the brakes before the collision, but skid marks from the Hummer indicate that he braked after impact.

Fulton testified that skid marks occur once the wheels have locked up, preventing the driver from steering. Based on marks on the road, Fulton estimated the Hummer's speed on impact at no less than 62 m.p.h. and the Corolla's speed on impact at no less than 29 m.p.h. The Hummer's sensing diagnostic module (SDM) indicated that the airbag deployed at the time of the crash and that the Hummer was going between 96 and 98 m.p.h. when the airbag ...


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