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State v. Curtis

Supreme Court of Minnesota

January 10, 2018

State of Minnesota, Respondent,
v.
Daryl Negel Curtis, Appellant.

         Office of Appellate Courts Ramsey County

          Lori Swanson, Minnesota Attorney General, Saint Paul, Minnesota, and John J. Choi, Ramsey County Attorney, Thomas R. Ragatz, Assistant Ramsey County Attorney, Saint Paul, Minnesota, for respondent.

          Cathryn Middlebrook, Chief Appellate Public Defender, Jennifer Workman Jesness, Assistant State Public Defender, Saint Paul, Minnesota, for appellant.

         SYLLABUS

         1. The district court did not abuse its discretion in declining to excuse a juror who was not actually biased.

          2. The district court did not abuse its discretion in excluding reverse-Spreigl evidence on the ground that the defendant did not show by clear and convincing evidence that a third party was involved in a previous shooting.

Affirmed.

          OPINION

          LILLEHAUG, JUSTICE.

         Appellant Daryl Negel Curtis was convicted in Ramsey County District Court of first-degree premeditated murder for the shooting death of Renaldo McDaniel. On direct appeal, Curtis argues that the district court abused its discretion when it declined to excuse a juror who, after the trial began, realized that she knew a witness and had been exposed to news coverage of the shooting. Curtis also argues that the district court abused its discretion by excluding reverse-Spreigl alternative-perpetrator evidence. Because we conclude that the district court did not abuse its discretion in either respect, we affirm Curtis's conviction.

         FACTS

         At around 8 p.m. on June 12, 2016, McDaniel was shot and killed in the parking lot of an auto parts store in Saint Paul. Immediately before McDaniel was shot, he was standing next to his cousin, Z.M., and looking under the hood of a car. At trial, Z.M. testified that she did not see the shooter's face, but did see a light-skinned black man wearing a red shirt running away from the scene. Two store employees also saw a light-skinned black man in a red shirt at, and running away from, the scene. When shown a photograph of Curtis, one of the clerks identified him as the shooter.

         T.S., Curtis's girlfriend, testified that she, Curtis, and an acquaintance, A.J., [1] had been driving around Saint Paul on the night of McDaniel's death. T.S. testified that they drove to the auto parts store with the intent of getting a part for Curtis's car. They spotted McDaniel looking under the hood of a car in the parking lot, and Curtis told A.J. to keep driving. Curtis texted the license plate number of the car to T.S. at 7:53 p.m. A.J. drove around the block. Curtis got out of the car, taking with him a gun from A.J.'s purse. Curtis called A.J. moments later, asking to be picked up. When he entered the car, Curtis told A.J. that he "shot the guy." As confirmed by surveillance video from a nearby store, Curtis was wearing a red shirt.

         The jury returned verdicts of guilty against Curtis on one count of first-degree premeditated murder and one count of second-degree murder. The district court convicted Curtis of first-degree murder.

         We turn now to the facts underlying Curtis's two primary arguments, concerning a juror and reverse-Spreigl evidence. Prior to the trial, each prospective juror completed a juror questionnaire that included a list of 48 trial witnesses and inquired about media exposure related to the case. One member of the jury panel, Juror 1, responded that she was not acquainted with any of the witnesses and had never heard of the case or seen any media coverage of it. Upon hearing opening statements, Juror 1 realized that she knew witness Z.M. and had heard about the shooting on the news. Juror 1 immediately brought her realization to the court's attention.

         The court questioned Juror 1 about the extent of her acquaintance with Z.M. Juror 1 said that she believed that she had attended high school with Z.M., but that they were not friends, did not take classes together, did not spend time together outside of ...


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