Mille Lacs County District Court File No. 48-CR-10-1656
Lori Swanson, Attorney General, James B. Early, Assistant Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and Janice S. Jude, Mille Lacs County Attorney, Milaca, Minnesota (for respondent)
Jennifer Holson Chaplinski, Special Assistant Public Defender, Chaplinski Law Office, St. Cloud, Minnesota (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Peterson, Presiding Judge; Bjorkman, Judge; and Klaphake, Judge. [*]
In this appeal from a conviction of aiding and abetting second-degree murder, appellant argues that the district court committed plain error that affected his substantial rights by failing to instruct the jury on the requirement that accomplice testimony be corroborated. We affirm.
On the evening of July 16, 2010, the victim attended a party hosted by his girlfriend. Early the next morning, the girlfriend found the victim across the street at Nathan Bugg's residence with Bugg, Joshua Boyd, and appellant Aaron Beaulieu. The girlfriend went home, and the victim remained at Bugg's residence. Six days later, the victim's partially burned body was found in a wooded area.
Appellant was charged with one count of aiding and abetting second-degree intentional murder, two counts of aiding and abetting second-degree unintentional murder, one count of third-degree assault, and one count of misdemeanor assault. The case was tried to a jury.
Bugg testified at trial that, at some point while the victim was at Bugg's residence, appellant became angry and began yelling at the victim. The victim did not yell back, and the situation calmed down for a while. But then appellant came running out of the house, charged the victim, knocked him to the ground, and began punching him in the head. Bugg testified that the victim was down on the ground trying to protect himself and that appellant stood over the victim and punched him in the head more than five times.
Bugg testified that, when appellant stopped punching the victim, Boyd dragged the victim into the garage, and someone closed the garage door. Boyd then began kicking the victim in the body and head. Bugg testified that he kicked the victim because he was afraid of Boyd and that he and appellant tried to pull Boyd away from the victim. Although at trial Bugg could not recall whether appellant kicked the victim in the garage, a few days after the offense, Bugg had told B.M. that Boyd and appellant were stomping on the victim's head. Bugg testified that, when they stopped assaulting the victim, they left him moaning on the garage floor and went inside the house to talk and drank more alcohol.
Bugg and Boyd then loaded the victim into the back of Boyd's Suburban. Bugg testified that the victim was snoring and unconscious when they loaded him into the Suburban. Bugg testified that appellant told Boyd to take the victim home, but no one called the police, an ambulance, or the victim's mother or girlfriend.
At about 8:30 a.m. on July 17, J.B. saw Boyd driving a Suburban and "cruising in the field" near the intersection of Timber Trails Road and Wakidaaki Road. J.B. had never seen anyone driving in that field. At 9:24 a.m., police found Boyd's Suburban abandoned in a ditch at the intersection of 452nd Street and Timber Trails Road. Also that morning, K.B. saw Boyd walk from the woods to Boyd's mother's home. Boyd's shirt was white with a dark color that, at the time, K.B. thought was blood; at trial, K.B. testified that it could have been mud.
Appellant's cousin M.J. testified at trial that appellant told him about the assault. M.J. testified:
Q. Okay. And did something happen, besides drinking, that ...