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State v. Henderson

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

November 4, 2013

State of Minnesota, Respondent,
Michael Cordale Henderson, Appellant.


Nicollet County District Court File No. 52-CR-11-188

Lori Swanson, Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and

Michelle M. Zehnder Fischer, Nicollet County Attorney, James P. Dunn, Chief Deputy County Attorney, St. Peter, Minnesota (for respondent)

Cathryn Middlebrook, Interim Chief Appellate Public Defender, Leslie J. Rosenberg, Assistant Public Defender, St. Paul, Minnesota (for appellant)

Considered and decided by Schellhas, Presiding Judge; Hudson, Judge; and Worke, Judge.


Appellant argues that the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions of second-degree assault and making terroristic threats, and that the district court plainly erred in instructing the jury on self-defense. Appellant asks this court to vacate the terroristic-threats conviction because it arose out of the same behavioral incident as the assault conviction. Appellant also raises a number of issues in his pro se brief. We affirm because (1) the evidence is sufficient to support the convictions; (2) the district court's self-defense instruction was not plainly erroneous; (3) the district court's treatment of appellant's convictions did not violate Minn. Stat. § 609.04 (2012); and (4) appellant's pro se issues lack merit.


On March 31, 2010, appellant Michael Cordale Henderson was confined at the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter, after being civilly committed as mentally ill and dangerous (MID) in September 2009. On that date, J.M.R., a security counselor on appellant's unit, observed appellant carrying a box of sanitary wipes into his room. Sanitary wipes are among the items classified as "contraband" at the state hospital. J.M.R. had previously warned appellant about taking the wipes into his room. J.M.R. went to appellant's room to retrieve the wipes. He knocked, flipped open a curtain over the window to make sure appellant was clothed, opened the door, and told appellant that he was there to retrieve the wipes. Appellant began yelling, calling J.M.R. derogatory names and accusing him of sexually harassing him, and slammed the steel door as hard as he could. The loud noise attracted other security personnel. J.M.R. opened the door again and told appellant that he was not in trouble and that he merely had to hand over the wipes; he told appellant to go to a designated area where they could discuss the problem. J.M.R. spoke in a calm voice, according to other security personnel.

Security counselors D.T. and T.M. joined J.M.R. outside the door to appellant's room. Appellant screamed at J.M.R. to "come in here and get [the wipes] and see what happens, " and slammed the door again and locked it. J.M.R. told appellant that he had keys to the room and that he could not permit the wipes to be left in appellant's room. As J.M.R. unlocked and opened the door, appellant came to the door. Appellant was still very angry; he bent down and pulled something out of his socks. Appellant held the object in his fist with the point sticking out of his fist and yelled at J.M.R., "I'm going to kill you, m ----- r f----r." He swung his fist in a downward movement at D.T., who stepped back to avoid being hit, and then turned toward J.M.R., who began backing down the hallway. Appellant swung his fist from high over his head downward at J.M.R. As appellant swung, J.M.R. kicked him in the midsection, and then stepped close in to keep appellant from stabbing him with whatever was in appellant's fist. Finally, D.T. put appellant in a four-figure body hold with T.M.'s assistance, and all four men collapsed to the ground, with J.M.R. on the bottom. J.M.R. felt a couple of blows to his back while on the ground. Security counselor T.R. joined the group and helped to restrain appellant. After appellant was restrained, J.M.R. found a bent ballpoint pen on the floor that had a sharpened tip.

J.M.R. had two slight puncture wounds in his back in the area of his shoulder blades and also suffered a torn medial collateral ligament in his knee. J.M.R. opined that the injuries from the altered pen were less serious than they could have been because appellant struck him in the shoulder blade, rather than in an area of soft tissue. During the incident, J.M.R. believed that appellant "was trying to kill me."

Appellant was charged with one count of second-degree assault and one count of making terroristic threats. He represented himself and did not testify at trial. Appellant examined the state's witnesses, asking questions about whether J.M.R. had harassed him and made sexual overtures toward him. J.M.R. testified that appellant had made those allegations but that he had not harassed appellant in any way.

A jury found appellant guilty of both charged offenses. The district court entered convictions on both charges but sentenced appellant to 36 months in prison ...

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