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State v. Williams

Supreme Court of Minnesota

March 7, 2018

State of Minnesota, Respondent,
v.
Jamaine Jamie Williams, Appellant.

         Ramsey County Office of Appellate Courts

          Lori Swanson, 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, Suzanne M. Senecal-Hill, Assistant State Public Defender, Saint Paul, Minnesota, for appellant.

         SYLLABUS

         The alleged errors, considered separately or cumulatively, were harmless, and therefore do not justify a new trial. Affirmed.

          OPINION

          HUDSON, Justice.

         Appellant Jamaine Jamie Williams was found guilty by a jury of two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of second-degree murder, and one count of attempted second-degree murder after a home-invasion shooting in an apartment left two men dead and a third gravely wounded. Williams is now serving two consecutive life sentences and a consecutive term of 153 months in prison. On direct appeal, Williams argues the district court committed reversible error by (1) allowing the State to depose a material witness before trial; (2) admitting a redacted transcript of the deposition at trial; and (3) admitting evidence that, 1 week before the murders, in that same apartment, Williams had pointed a gun at two of the victims and threatened to "kill everybody" in the apartment. According to Williams, the alleged errors were harmful because the formal nature of the deposition unfairly bolstered the deposed witness's credibility and the evidence regarding his prior threat unfairly influenced the jury.[1] Williams also argues that if any of the alleged errors, standing alone, is insufficient to justify a new trial, the cumulative effect of the alleged errors deprived him of a fair trial. We conclude that the alleged errors, whether separate or cumulative, were harmless because there is no reasonable possibility that they substantially affected the verdict. We therefore affirm Williams's convictions.

         FACTS

         At approximately 12:30 a.m. on December 10, 2015, a shooting took place at the Saint Paul apartment of J.S. At the time of the shooting, there were several people in the apartment, including J.S; J.S.'s housemate S.L., who had previously been in a relationship with Williams and had two children with him; D.J., who was in a relationship with S.L.; K.P., a friend of D.J.'s, who was in a relationship with J.S.; and P.T., a friend of D.J.'s. Police arrived at the apartment soon after receiving multiple reports of shots fired. They found D.J. and K.P. inside the apartment, dead from multiple gunshot wounds. A trail of blood led from the apartment to P.T., who was found approximately one block away with multiple gunshot wounds, including to the head. P.T. was taken to the hospital and survived after intensive medical treatment.

         In the hours preceding the shooting, appellant Jamaine Jamie Williams sent a series of threatening text messages to S.L. Williams also asked S.L. if he could come over to the apartment, but she avoided answering his question. Cell phone records indicated Williams's cell phone was in an area that included the apartment at 12:31 a.m.

         Williams had previously lived at the apartment with S.L., J.S., and the children, but he had moved out after he and S.L. ended their relationship. Williams was upset after the break-up and suspected that S.L. was dating either D.J. or K.P. Shortly after midnight, there was a knock on the door to the apartment. J.S. opened the door and saw Williams there. He pointed a gun at her, told her to move, and entered the apartment. S.L. and J.S. fled the apartment and ran to nearby United Hospital.

          A security guard at United Hospital testified to seeing the two women run hysterically to the hospital early on December 10. J.S.'s mother testified at trial that J.S. called her at approximately 1:00 a.m. and said that Williams "had just shot her house up." The security guard testified that she overheard J.S. tell her mother that "JJ" (J.S.'s nickname for Williams) shot up J.S.'s house.

         Later that day, police recovered a black jacket from underneath a car several blocks from the apartment. The jacket had gunshot residue on the front and sleeves, as well as DNA on the collar and cuffs. The DNA on one of the cuffs contained a mixture from three or more individuals. Later analysis of the DNA indicated Williams was the most probable match for the major DNA profile developed from the DNA found on the cuff.

         Around noon on the day of the shooting, the police took Williams into custody at a residence in Bloomington. Williams was heard on the squad car video saying into his cell phone that "they got me bro." A car at the residence contained dried blood on the driver's seat and a 9-millimeter shell casing ...


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