Ramsey County District Court File No. 62-CR-11-2710
Lori Swanson, Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and John J. Choi, Ramsey County Attorney, Kaarin Long, Assistant County Attorney, St. Paul, Minnesota (for respondent)
Cathryn Middlebrook, Interim Chief Appellate Public Defender, Charles F. Clippert, Assistant Public Defender, St. Paul, Minnesota (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Schellhas, Presiding Judge; Hudson, Judge; and Ross, Judge.
A jury found that Byron Brantley shot two men outside a St. Paul bar, killing one of them. It acquitted him of first-degree murder but convicted him of second-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder. Brantley argues that the district court improperly prohibited him from presenting alternative-perpetrator evidence and improperly allowed the state first to elicit testimony that he used a racial epithet and then to refer to the epithet in its closing argument. He also asserts that the district court erred when it denied him a Schwartz hearing after a juror said she felt pressured by other jurors to reach her verdicts. We conclude that Brantley fails to show that he was prejudiced by the district court's prohibiting him from presenting alternative-perpetrator evidence, or that eliciting testimony of Brantley's racial epithet constituted prosecutorial misconduct, or that the court abused its discretion by denying a Schwartz hearing. We therefore affirm.
A Ramsey County jury heard evidence depicting the following story of a fatal shooting in St. Paul. Sometime around midnight on April 12, 2011, Byron Brantley and three friends, Xavier Buckhanan, Leandrews Miller, and David Keys, went to Born's Bar. A bouncer frisked them at the door and found no weapons, but the group had stashed handguns in Miller's car. A fight soon erupted between Brantley and other patrons. Bouncers tossed Brantley and many others out of the bar.
Brantley was angry. He, Miller, and Keys walked to Miller's car. Miller and Keys got into the front seat, and Brantley, still upset, started back toward the bar. Buckhanan went to Miller's car and got in the back seat.
Trevell Glass had been with a friend, Derek Hines, when the fight broke out. They also went outside immediately afterward. Hines testified that he then heard someone say, "Oh, we should go get a gun." He decided to get Glass's car to drive himself and Glass home. Glass stayed, talking to an acquaintance, Ryan Davis. Glass remarked, "[T]hat was some bullshit, " referencing the bar fight. According to Davis, a man then "popped up out of nowhere, " asked, "[W]hat you mean by that?" and shot Davis in the abdomen. Davis fled. Hines testified that the same man then shot Glass multiple times. Both Hines and Davis identified the man as having two tattoos on his face, one under each eye—marks distinctive to Brantley—and in court they identified Brantley as the shooter.
Buckhanan also testified that he saw Brantley shoot the two men. He said that he was seated in Miller's parked car down the block, and when he saw Brantley start shooting, he began shooting also, but from inside the car. According to Buckhanan, after Brantley shot Glass and Davis, Brantley returned to Miller's car, got in the back seat, and then Buckhanan, Miller, Keys, and Brantley drove away.
Police arrived. Glass was dead. Davis was taken to the hospital to undergo surgery. Witnesses described Miller's car, and Officer Benjamin Lego pulled it over. Brantley jumped out and ran away. He had what appeared to Officer Lego to be a bulge in his sweatshirt and was holding his stomach. Officer Lego stayed with the car and arrested Miller, Keys, and Buckhanan.
Another officer and his German Shepherd tracked Brantley and found him hiding between a garage and a retaining wall a few blocks away from the stopped car. The officers arrested Brantley, and the dog helped officers find three guns nearby. Forensic DNA and ballistic testing ...