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State v. Johnson

Supreme Court of Minnesota

July 18, 2018

State of Minnesota, Respondent,
Antionette Rie Johnson, 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, Melissa Sheridan, Assistant State Public Defender, Eagan, Minnesota, for appellant.


         1. Assuming, without deciding, that appellant's statement to police should not have been admitted into evidence because it was obtained in violation of her constitutional rights, the error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.

         2. It was plain error for the district court to give the jury a no-adverse-inference instruction without appellant's consent, but the error was not prejudicial.

         3. Assuming, without deciding, that prosecutorial misconduct occurred during closing argument and was plain error, the error was not prejudicial.



         Appellant Antionette Rie Johnson was charged with the first- and second-degree murder of Renaldo McDaniel on an aiding-and-abetting theory. A jury found Johnson guilty on both counts, and she was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of release. On direct appeal, Johnson raises three issues. First, she argues that the district court erred by admitting into evidence a statement police obtained in violation of her constitutional rights. Second, she contends that the district court erred by giving a no-adverse-inference instruction to the jury without her consent. Third, she asserts that the prosecutor committed misconduct during closing argument by alluding to her failure to testify. We affirm Johnson's conviction.


         On June 12, 2016, at 8 p.m., Daryl Curtis shot and killed Renaldo McDaniel in the parking lot of an auto parts store in Saint Paul. See State v. Curtis, 905 N.W.2d 609, 612- 14 (Minn. 2018). Police obtained surveillance footage from a nearby Walmart and a childcare center. The footage from Walmart showed that, before the shooting, Curtis was accompanied by two women, T.S. and Johnson, and that Johnson was driving a maroon SUV. The footage from the center showed that this SUV stopped just before 8 p.m., Curtis got out and tucked something into the back of his pants, and, 3 minutes after McDaniel was shot, Curtis ran down an alley and the same SUV pulled up by him and drove away.

         About 90 minutes after the shooting, Johnson received a call from her boyfriend, J.C. J.C. is Curtis's cousin, and was in jail at the time. During this call, Johnson told J.C.: "So um, you know dude, uh dark skinned? With the braids? . . . Well, he's outta here." J.C. asked, "What happened?" and Johnson replied, "He's just, he's outta here. Like gone, forever."

         Ten days later, on June 22, a Saint Paul police officer saw Johnson and the maroon SUV at a gas station. Johnson, along with her 8-month-old son, was taken to the police station for questioning.

         At the station, Johnson was questioned for about 2 hours by a single plainclothes officer. Johnson's son was in the interrogation room at the start of questioning. Johnson was read her Miranda rights, and was twice told that she had the right to an attorney. Johnson stated that she understood her rights. During questioning, Johnson confirmed that on June 12: (1) she was with T.S. and Curtis; (2) she was driving the maroon SUV; (3) Curtis left the SUV and walked in the direction of the auto parts store, the scene of the shooting; (4) she picked Curtis up at 8:01 p.m., after the time of the shooting; and (5) she received the jailhouse call from J.C.

         During questioning, Johnson offered her own version of these events. Johnson told the officer that, accompanied by T.S. and Curtis, she had driven to Dairy Queen to pick up dinner for her son. Dairy Queen was next to the auto parts store. The line at Dairy Queen was long, so Johnson decided to go to White Castle instead. On the way to White Castle, she dropped Curtis off on Aurora Avenue, near the auto parts store, so he could walk to his uncle's house. While in line at White Castle, she received a call from Curtis-two minutes after she had dropped him off-telling her that his uncle was not home. Johnson picked Curtis up, again on Aurora Avenue.

         Johnson's story was inconsistent with surveillance footage, and other evidence also suggested that her story was false. Despite being presented with those inconsistencies, Johnson held firm to her story. ...

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