Stearns County District Court File No. 73-CR-11-10818
Lori Swanson, Minnesota Attorney General, Karen B. Andrews, Assistant Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and Janelle P. Kendall, Stearns County Attorney, St. Cloud, Minnesota (for respondent)
David Merchant, Chief Appellate Public Defender, Davi Axelson, Assistant State Public Defender, St. Paul, Minnesota (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Smith, Presiding Judge; Schellhas, Judge; and Chutich, Judge.
We affirm appellant's conviction of aiding and abetting first-degree aggravated robbery because the district court did not abuse its discretion by admitting evidence of two of appellant's prior felony convictions.
Y.A.I. left his apartment on the evening of November 28, 2011, at approximately 10:00 p.m. to report to work. As he was walking, he was confronted by two men, one of whom Y.A.I. claimed was appellant Marcus Chappell. Y.A.I. was able to identify Chappell because Y.A.I. and Chappell had spent time together socially, they were former neighbors, and from Chappell's distinctive facial tattoos. Chappell approached Y.A.I. and questioned him about his postings on Chappell's ex-girlfriend's social media webpage. Y.A.I. responded by feigning ignorance. Chappell then attempted to strike Y.A.I., and Chappell's companion chased Y.A.I. with a stun device. Y.A.I., seeking to avoid the physical altercation, ran from the men and yelled, in an effort to gain aid from any passerby. The scuffle continued, with Y.A.I. running in circles screaming, the two men chasing him, striking him, and pulling him to the ground. Each time Y.A.I. was pulled to the ground, he was able to escape, until a third man, whom Y.A.I. did not recognize, approached and held Y.A.I. down. The three men proceeded to attack Y.A.I. through a series of kicks, punches, and continued application of the stun device. The men eventually removed Y.A.I.'s shirt and coat, and rifled through his pockets. After additional beating, the men left, taking Y.A.I.'s sweatshirt, coat, cigarettes, wallet, and two cellular telephones.
Y.A.I. reported the incident to law enforcement authorities, who arrested Chappell. Chappell was subsequently charged with one count of aiding and abetting first-degree aggravated robbery. Minn. Stat. § 609.245, subd. 1, .05, subd. 1 (2010). He denied involvement in the robbery, claiming instead to have been at home with his children during the incident.
Chappell testified at his jury trial and, in accordance with pre-trial rulings, was impeached with two of his prior felony convictions. To support his alibi, Chappell offered the testimony of two witnesses. One testified that on November 28, 2011, at 6:00 p.m., she dropped Chappell off at a friend's residence for him to assist with babysitting. She said that she picked him up from the same location the next morning. Another witness testified that she arrived at the residence to assist Chappell with babysitting at 9:45 p.m. and that he was present when she arrived. There was no motor vehicle at the residence.
The jury found Chappell guilty and he was subsequently sentenced.
Chappell asserts that the district court abused its discretion by admitting impeachment evidence at trial. Specifically, Chappell challenges a pre-trial ruling, in which the district court held that the state could impeach Chappell with two of his prior convictions: a felony domestic assault and felony theft. However, in an effort to prevent any unfair prejudice that could result from mention of the past convictions, the district court permitted the state to reference only that ...