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Torres v. State

Supreme Court of Minnesota

October 2, 2013

Rusttee Allan Torres, petitioner, Appellant,
v.
State of Minnesota, Respondent.

Office of Appellate Courts Rice County

Rusttee A. Torres, Bayport, Minnesota, pro se.

Lori Swanson, Attorney General, Saint Paul, Minnesota; and G. Paul Beaumaster, Rice County Attorney, Benjamin Bejar, Assistant County Attorney, Faribault, Minnesota, for respondent.

Wright, J. Took no part, Lillehaug, J.

SYLLABUS

The postconviction court did not abuse its discretion by denying petitioner's request for a new trial based on allegations of newly discovered evidence when the alleged evidence is cumulative, impeaching, or doubtful. Rainer v. State, 566 N.W.2d 692, 695 (Minn. 1997).

Considered and decided by the court without oral argument.

OPINION

WRIGHT, Justice.

In his second postconviction petition, Rusttee Allan Torres seeks relief from his conviction of first-degree murder in the course of a burglary, arising out of the death of J.S. Torres alleges that he is entitled to a new trial based on newly discovered evidence. The postconviction court denied Torres's petition after an evidentiary hearing, and we affirm.

On May 8, 1999, Dylan Frohn and Chris St. Martin drove from Faribault to a home in Medford that Torres shared with Tracy Sailor.[1] Frohn told Torres, Sailor, and St. Martin that, during a drug transaction earlier that day, T.S. had swindled Frohn out of $160. The four men drove from Medford to Faribault and spent the afternoon drinking alcohol, using drugs, and looking for T.S. while they drove around Faribault in Torres's vehicle. They found T.S. and his younger brother, J.S., in front of a liquor store. After an altercation between Frohn and T.S., the men continued using drugs and alcohol while driving from Faribault to Medford and back.

Torres, Sailor, St. Martin, and Frohn eventually arrived at Frohn's home in Faribault, where they put on gloves in preparation for a fight with T.S. They next traveled to a hotel where they thought T.S. was staying. But they did not find him there. Frohn later drove the group to J.S.'s apartment where they hoped either to find T.S. or to "rattle [J.S.'s] cage" in an effort to make J.S. disclose T.S.'s whereabouts. St. Martin, who was heavily intoxicated, remained in the vehicle while Torres, Frohn, and Sailor went to J.S.'s apartment. Frohn knocked on the door. When J.S. opened the door, Sailor rushed in, pushing Frohn into the apartment. Torres followed. Sailor grabbed J.S. by the throat and pinned him against a wall. While Frohn and Sailor searched the apartment for T.S., Torres held J.S. at gunpoint in the living room. Shortly thereafter, J.S. was killed, and the three men fled the apartment. J.S.'s friends discovered his body lying face down on the living room sofa. His throat had been slashed with a knife, and he had been stabbed several times in the back.

Following an investigation, Torres was charged by indictment with first-degree premeditated murder, first-degree felony murder during the commission of a burglary, and second-degree intentional murder. In exchange for their agreement to testify at Torres's trial, Frohn and Sailor pleaded guilty to second-degree felony murder. Sailor testified that, after completing his search of the apartment, he heard a gurgling sound as he entered the living room. There, he observed Torres stab J.S. in the back with a knife as J.S. lay face down on the couch.

According to Frohn's testimony, he searched the apartment, after which Torres told him to go into the kitchen while Torres asked J.S. some questions. Frohn complied and heard a choking or gurgling sound shortly thereafter. Sailor and Torres subsequently entered the kitchen and directed Frohn to lock the door behind them as they left the apartment. Although Torres did not testify at trial, the officers that interviewed him testified that Torres said he saw Frohn kill J.S.

The jury found Torres guilty of first-degree felony murder and second-degree intentional murder; he was acquitted of first-degree premeditated murder. After adjudging Torres guilty of first-degree felony murder, the district court imposed a sentence of life in prison. We affirmed Torres's conviction on direct appeal, State v. Torres, 632 N.W.2d 609, 611 (Minn. 2001), and we subsequently affirmed the summary ...


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