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State v. Irlas

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

December 27, 2016

State of Minnesota, Respondent,
v.
Daniel Irlas, Appellant.

         Mower County District Court File No. 50-CR-15-3

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

          Kristen Nelsen, Mower County Attorney, Megan A. Burroughs, Assistant County Attorney, Austin, Minnesota (for respondent)

          Charles F. Clippert, Assistant Public Defender, St. Paul, Minnesota (for appellant)

          Considered and decided by Reyes, Presiding Judge; T. Smith, Judge; and J. Smith, Judge. [*]

         SYLLABUS

         A state witness who is present at trial but who invokes the Fifth Amendment privilege, whether validly or not, is unavailable and cannot be considered subject to cross-examination for confrontation clause purposes, thereby precluding admission of the witness's out-of-court testimonial statement.

          OPINION

          REYES, Judge

         Appellant Daniel Irlas argues that the admission of his co-defendant Ernesto Salinas's guilty-plea transcript at appellant's criminal trial violated his right under the Confrontation Clause because Salinas was unavailable, and appellant was not afforded the opportunity to cross-examine him. Because we conclude that (1) Salinas was unavailable at trial, (2) the admission of his guilty-plea transcript violated appellant's right under the Confrontation Clause to confront witnesses against him, and (3) the admission constitutes reversible error, we reverse and remand.

         FACTS

         In the early morning hours of December 26, 2014, appellant and appellant's cousins, Salinas and W.B., drove to P.P.'s apartment. Prior to this, P.P. and Salinas were involved in an altercation in which P.P. struck Salinas with a pipe wrench. During this time, P.P. was smoking methamphetamine with a number of other individuals inside his apartment when W.B. knocked on the door to P.P.'s apartment. P.P. answered the door, and W.B. asked for someone unknown to P.P. P.P. asked the other individuals in the apartment if they knew the person, but no one did. P.P. went back to tell W.B. this, when he saw appellant and Salinas running towards him. P.P. had a pipe wrench by the door, and as they approached, he picked it up and swung the wrench in their direction. All three individuals then entered the house at which point appellant wrestled the wrench out of P.P.'s hands and repeatedly punched P.P. in the face. While appellant and P.P were fighting on the ground, W.B. hit P.P. in the stomach twice. During this altercation, Salinas ran to P.P.'s bedroom and removed some of his personal belongings. Salinas then came back out, grabbed the wrench, and hit P.P. approximately three times in the head with it. Afterward, all three individuals ran out of the apartment.

         P.P. suffered injuries to his diaphragm, a stab wound to his stomach, and a stab wound near his heart. During the fight, P.P. did not realize he had been stabbed and did not know who stabbed him; however, P.P. testified that the altercation was mainly between him and appellant.

         Appellant, Salinas, and W.B. were eventually arrested, and each was separately charged. Appellant was charged with the following: (1) second-degree attempted murder in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.19, subd. 2(1) (2014); (2) first-degree burglary in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.582, subd. 1(b) (2014); (3) first-degree burglary in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.582, subd. 1(c); (4) second-degree assault in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.222, subd. 2 (2014); and (5) fifth-degree assault in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.224, subd. 4(b) (2014).

         Prior to trial, Salinas entered a guilty plea to first-degree burglary and second-degree assault with the understanding that he would testify at appellant's trial. Testimony by Salinas during his guilty plea implicated appellant and W.B. as participating in the assault. Specifically, Salinas admitted that he went to P.P.'s house with appellant and W.B. in retaliation for P.P. striking Salinas with a wrench earlier that night. Salinas testified that he had stabbed P.P. with a knife and that appellant took part in assaulting P.P.

          At appellant's and W.B.'s joint trial, the state proceeded under a theory that Salinas had stabbed P.P., but appellant and W.B. each participated in the attack, and aided and abetted Salinas in stabbing P.P. Salinas took the stand and answered some preliminary questions, including the fact that he had pleaded guilty and admitted involvement in the attack. However, when the state asked him more specific ...


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