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State v. Parks

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

December 30, 2013

State of Minnesota, Respondent,
James Russel Parks, Appellant.


Benton County District Court File No. 05-CR-12-1386.

Lori Swanson, Attorney General, Matthew Frank, Assistant Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and Karl Schmidt, Acting Benton County Attorney, Foley, Minnesota (for respondent)

Melissa Sheridan, Special Assistant State Public Defender, Eagan, Minnesota (for appellant)

Considered and decided by Cleary, Chief Judge; Kirk, Judge; and Smith, Judge.

SMITH, Judge

We affirm appellant's convictions of first-degree burglary and misdemeanor domestic assault because the district court did not (1) misstate the law or abuse its discretion by denying appellant the appointment of substitute counsel or (2) abuse its discretion by admitting evidence of his being under the influence of a controlled substance at the time of his arrest.


Although S.F. had been romantically involved with appellant James Russel Parks, she tried to end the turbulent and sometimes violent relationship in the summer of 2012. S.F. obtained a no-contact order in July 2012, following an incident in which Parks broke her finger. At about 7:15 on the morning of August 5, 2012, Parks showed up outside her workplace, a group home, bearing gifts and seeking reconciliation. Parks asked S.F. to accompany him to a nearby park to talk, but she remained inside the group home and told him to leave. He remained outside, continuing to ask her to talk to him. S.F. retreated to an attached garage to smoke a cigarette. Parks continued attempting to appeal to her through a mail slot located on a service door to the garage. When S.F. refused his requests, Parks broke through the service door. He grabbed S.F., restraining her in a bear hug as she struggled. He released her after she threatened to call the police. S.F. fled to her boss's office, and her boss summoned police.

A police officer responded and took a statement from S.F. S.F. then called her roommate and learned that Parks was at her residence. A sheriff's deputy went to S.F.'s residence to arrest Parks for domestic assault. When the deputy told Parks that he was there to arrest him, Parks became upset. The deputy observed that Parks was sweating, "jittery, " and "fidgety, " which the deputy believed were indications that Parks was under the influence of a controlled substance. Parks insisted that someone would need to come to get his vehicle, and he moved to retrieve the vehicle's keys from inside the house. The deputy ordered Parks to stop, but Parks ignored him. The deputy attempted to restrain Parks, and a struggle ensued. Although Parks broke free and fled toward his vehicle, the deputy eventually subdued Parks. Police officers discovered a marijuana pipe in Parks's pants pocket and another in Parks's vehicle.

Police interviewed Parks at a police station, where he claimed that it was S.F., and not him, who had broken the service door on the garage at her workplace. Parks also stated that S.F. had assaulted him and that he had merely defended himself.

At a pretrial hearing, Parks complained about his appointed attorney's "demeanor, " alleging, "I'm not even given the chance to ask any kind of legal questions whatsoever." The district court opined that Parks's appointed attorney "does an excellent job" and that it was "sure he is doing all he can for you, " concluding to Parks, "I'm going to take [the public defender's] word over yours." The district court also told Parks that he could fire his appointed attorney, but if he did so, he would be required to either retain his own attorney or proceed pro se. Parks stated that he had "no choice at this time" but to retain his appointed attorney, but he asked that the district court confirm on the record that his attorney would meet with him before trial. The attorney promised to meet with Parks before trial, and Parks raised no further complaints about his attorney's attitude or performance.

Before trial, Parks moved the district court to exclude the testimony from S.F. and a non-police witness regarding the drug paraphernalia found in his vehicle. On the day of trial, however, Parks's attorney stated, "I believe the issue has been resolved between the State and myself, " and the prosecutor told the court that "the State does not intend to elicit any testimony regarding the contents of [Parks's vehicle] that was near the Defendant when he was arrested with the possible exception of the arresting deputy [who] did observe a broken glass pipe." When the arresting deputy testified, the state elicited testimony about drug paraphernalia discovered on Parks's person and in his vehicle during his arrest. Parks objected to the testimony as irrelevant, but the district court overruled his objections.

Parks also testified in his own defense. He claimed that he and S.F. had smoked marijuana together, sharing a bowl through the mail slot of the service door as they talked. He said S.F. had let him into the garage to discuss their relationship problems, but that she became angry and hit him, forcing him to restrain her in self-defense. He testified that ...

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