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State v. Barta

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

October 21, 2013

State of Minnesota, Respondent,
v.
Michael Christopher Barta, Appellant.

UNPUBLISHED OPINION

Rice County District Court File No. 66-CR-11-3484

Lori A. Swanson, Attorney General, John B. Galus, Assistant Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and G. Paul Beaumaster, Rice County Attorney, Faribault, Minnesota (for respondent)

Brock J. Specht, Special Assistant Public Defender, Mitha V. Rao, Special Assistant Public Defender, Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi, LLP, Minneapolis, Minnesota (for appellant)

Considered and decided by Smith, Presiding Judge; Worke, Judge; and Rodenberg, Judge.

WORKE, JUDGE

Appellant challenges his convictions of first-degree burglary and stalking, arguing that his convictions should be reversed because his custodial interrogation was not recorded in violation of State v. Scales, 518 N.W.2d 587 (Minn. 1994). We affirm.

FACTS

Appellant Michael Christopher Barta and M.M. dated for several months in 2011. When M.M. broke up with appellant, she told him that she did not want any further contact with him. When appellant persisted in sending M.M. "really insulting and threatening" text messages, she blocked his number on her cell phone. Despite M.M.'s efforts to avoid him, appellant was waiting for M.M. when she and her twelve-year-old son, D.M., arrived at her apartment on December 20, 2011. Appellant asked M.M. why she would not talk to him, and she told him she did not want to talk to him and that he should leave.

Appellant next appeared at M.M.'s residence at about 8:30 or 9:00 p.m. on December 23. D.M. first saw appellant's arm punch through a duct-taped broken window in the front door of the apartment, and D.M., realizing that someone was trying to break in, ran to his mother's bedroom. M.M. put D.M. behind her and quickly locked and latched the bedroom door. Appellant pounded on the bedroom door and asked what was going on in the bedroom, and M.M. told him to go away. Appellant then broke down the bedroom door and entered the room.

M.M. repeatedly asked appellant to leave and gestured that she was going to call police. As appellant was almost out the front door, he stuck his boot in the door to keep M.M. from closing the door, but he finally left. During the incident, appellant repeatedly accused M.M. of cheating on him. M.M. testified that the incident was "scary" and caused her to be "terrified." D.M. testified that he was "panicking" as the incident occurred.

Appellant was arrested and interrogated for about ten minutes by Faribault police officer Erik Prink. Prink attempted to record the interrogation but no recording resulted, so Prink summarized the interrogation in a report.

Appellant was charged with first-degree burglary and felony stalking. Appellant moved to exclude evidence of the interrogation. At a pretrial hearing, Prink testified that he used a hand-held "voice recording system" that worked by "[t]ak[ing] it off hold[, ] [p]ress[ing] the power button. . . . and then . . . hit[ting] the record[] button." According to Prink, the recording device was supposed to have an automatic save function. Prink also testified that he had used the device 20 to 30 times, and that problems had occurred a "[s]mall percentage of the time." Those problems included that he "hit the wrong button, forgot to hit record when [he] turned it on, plugging it into the computer and accidentally deleting things." Prink said that the problems were due to both equipment malfunctions and operator error. Prink also testified that he gave appellant a Miranda warning before the interrogation. Appellant testified that he received no Miranda warning from Prink. The district court denied appellant's motion to suppress evidence of appellant's custodial interrogation.

Appellant testified at trial that on the night of the offense he went to M.M.'s apartment earlier than they had agreed upon, walked into her bedroom, and discovered her with a man. But he admitted that when he initially spoke to police, he twice lied about what occurred on the night of the offense and concocted a story about being home in bed. He also testified that he spoke with an "Officer Gliem, " in January and admitted to him that he was at M.M.'s apartment on the night of the offense. Further, appellant denied startling M.M. and D.M. on December 20 and testified that he ...


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