Hennepin County District Court File No. 27-CR-11-39109
Lori Swanson, Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and Michael O. Freeman, Hennepin County Attorney, Thomas A. Weist, Assistant County Attorney, Minneapolis, Minnesota (for respondent).
David W. Merchant, Chief Appellate Public Defender, Leslie Rosenberg, Assistant Public Defender, St. Paul, Minnesota (for appellant).
Considered and decided by Larkin, Presiding Judge; Halbrooks, Judge; and Worke, Judge.
Appellant challenges his conviction of third-degree sale of a controlled substance pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 152.023, subds. 1(1), 3(b) (2010), on the grounds that (1) he is entitled to a new trial because one of the jurors revealed during deliberations that she had not understood much of the proceedings due to difficulty with the English language and (2) the state failed to prove that he was the individual who sold drugs to an undercover police officer. Because the district court did not abuse its discretion by allowing deliberations to continue and the evidence is sufficient to support the verdict, we affirm.
On October 29, 2011, Minneapolis police conducted an undercover operation in response to community complaints about street-level drug dealing in the Stevens Square neighborhood of Minneapolis. A man wearing a black jacket and baseball cap approached Undercover Officer Sara Metcalf and asked, "Are you looking for something?" Officer Metcalf told him that she was "looking for a 20." The man sold her two rocks of crack cocaine in exchange for a $20 bill with a pre-recorded serial number. Based on Officer Metcalf's description of the man, uniformed officers stopped and searched an individual a short distance away. The man was identified as appellant Joseph Benjamin Stuckey. The police recorded the serial number of the $20 bill in his front pocket, but did not seize the $20 bill or tell Stuckey why they had stopped him. He was then released.
One and one-half months later, Stuckey was charged with third-degree controlled-substance crime. He pleaded not guilty and demanded a jury trial. At trial, he testified that on October 29, two officers stopped him while he was walking home from a friend's house. But he testified that he had never seen Officer Metcalf before and did not sell her crack cocaine.
Officer Metcalf identified Stuckey as the individual who sold her crack cocaine, and testified that she watched the uniformed officers stop him after the buy. An audio recording of the sale was admitted into evidence. Officers Hung Do and Deb Hubert positively identified Stuckey as the individual they stopped based on Officer Metcalf's description. Officer Hubert identified the serial number of the $20 bill they found in Stuckey's possession as matching the bill used by Officer Metcalf in the buy.
During deliberations, the jury sent a note to the district court that stated, "A jury member has revealed just now that she has not understood much of the proceedings over the past day due to English language issues. How do we proceed?" Both the prosecutor and defense counsel believed that they knew the identity of the juror in question, because only one potential juror identified English as a second language. At defense counsel's suggestion, the district court repeated a portion of the jury instructions addressing the duty of jurors to deliberate and discuss the case with each other. The district court concluded, "You are the jury, the 12 of you, and so we need you to continue working with those instructions in mind toward trying to reach a verdict."
The jury found Stuckey guilty. The district court sentenced him to 30 months in ...