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Lapenotiere v. State

Supreme Court of Minnesota

August 1, 2018

Edward John Lapenotiere, Jr., Appellant,
v.
State of Minnesota, Respondent.

          Cathryn Middlebrook, Chief Appellate Public Defender, Adam Lozeau, Assistant State Public Defender, Saint Paul, Minnesota, for appellant.

          Lori Swanson, Attorney General, Matthew Frank, Assistant Attorney General, Saint Paul, Minnesota; and

          Brian Middendorf, Morrison County Attorney, Little Falls, Minnesota, for respondent.

          Chutich, J. Concurring, Gildea, C.J. Took no part, Thissen, J.

         SYLLABUS

         1. When the area surrounding school property is organized in a city-block system, the "school zone," as defined by Minnesota Statutes section 152.01, subdivision 14a(2) (2016), includes the entire area of a city block that is located diagonal to school property.

          2. The evidence was sufficient to support appellant's conviction for second-degree sale of a controlled substance in a school zone.

         Affirmed.

          OPINION

          CHUTICH, Justice.

         Appellant Edward John LaPenotiere, Jr., was charged with second-degree sale of a controlled substance for selling heroin and Vicodin in a "school zone." Under Minnesota Statutes section 152.01, subdivision 14a(2) (2016), a "school zone" includes "the area surrounding school property . . . to a distance of 300 feet or one city block, whichever distance is greater, beyond the school property." At trial, the State introduced a map and testimony demonstrating that the drug sale had occurred at LaPenotiere's home, which is located on a city block that is diagonal, or kitty-corner, to school property. The jury found LaPenotiere guilty as charged. LaPenotiere subsequently filed a petition for postconviction relief, arguing that the State had failed to prove that the sale occurred within 300 feet of school property. The postconviction court denied the petition, and the court of appeals affirmed. Because a "school zone" includes the entire area of a city block that is kitty-corner to school property, when the land surrounding school property is organized in a city-block system, we affirm.

         FACTS

         The State of Minnesota charged LaPenotiere in 2013 with second-degree sale of a controlled substance in a school zone. See Minn. Stat. § 152.022, subd. 1(6)(i) (2012) (defining a second-degree offense based on the sale of certain controlled substances "in a school zone"). Minnesota law defines "school zone," in pertinent part, as "(1) any property owned, leased, or controlled by a school district . . . [and] (2) the area surrounding school property as described in clause (1) to a distance of 300 feet or one city block, whichever distance is greater, beyond the school property." Minn. Stat. § 152.01, subd. 14a (1)-(2) (2016).

         At trial, the State presented evidence that LaPenotiere sold heroin and Vicodin out of his home and that LaPenotiere's home was within a school zone. The location of the Little Falls school property and LaPenotiere's home is depicted in Diagram 1 below.

         [Image Omitted]

         LaPenotiere's home is located on the northeast corner of a rectangular city block; his block, in turn, is kitty-corner[1] from school property in the northwest direction.

         The State offered evidence to establish the location of the school and the site of the sale. The State's evidence included an aerial satellite map, which was marked Exhibit 4, and testimony from a police deputy who identified Exhibit 4 as "a map of the Little Falls school area" and "a fair and accurate representation of where the school is and where the defendant's home is." Given the evidence showing that LaPenotiere's home was on a city block kitty-corner to the school property, the State did not present any evidence about whether the home was within 300 feet of the school property.

         The jury found LaPenotiere guilty of selling a controlled substance in a school zone, and the court imposed a presumptive sentence.[2] LaPenotiere did not file a direct appeal.

         In 2016, LaPenotiere filed a timely petition for postconviction relief, claiming that the State had failed to prove that the drug sale occurred in a school zone. LaPenotiere argued that the evidence showing that his block was kitty-corner to school property was insufficient because the one-city-block method of proving the school-zone element applies only to blocks with a side facing the school property. According to LaPenotiere, this result is compelled by our decision in State v. Carufel, 783 N.W.2d 539 (Minn. 2010).

          In Carufel, the issue before us was whether the drug sale had occurred within a "park zone," defined by statute to include "the area within 300 feet or one city block, whichever distance is greater, of the park boundary." 783 N.W.2d at 543 (quoting Minn. Stat. § 152.01, subd. 12a (2008)). The drug sale occurred in the defendant's house, which was located on a block with a side facing a public park. Id. at 541.[3] In affirming the defendant's conviction, we held that "when the land surrounding a public park is an area divided into rectangular blocks bounded by city streets on all four sides, the phrase 'the area within . . . one city block . . . of the park boundary'" unambiguously includes "the entire area of a block that is directly adjacent to the park." Id. at 545. We acknowledged that the statutory phrase "one city block" could be read "to mean both a distance measurement from the park, and . . . the entire area of that city block." Id. at 544 n.2. Because the defendant's house fell "both within the distance measurement of one city block and within the area measurement of a city block," our discussion of the distance-versus-area question was limited. Id. In a concurrence, Justice Paul Anderson discussed this distance-versus-area question, explaining that it might impact the issue of "whether a point located on [a kitty-corner block was] within the park zone." Id. at 549 (Anderson, Paul H., J., concurring).

         LaPenotiere reads our analysis in Carufel as limiting the term "one city block," as used in the statutory definition of a park zone, to include blocks with a side facing the park boundary and to exclude kitty-corner blocks. According to LaPenotiere, the same limitation should be placed on the term "one city block" in the statutory definition of a school zone because the same term was at issue in Carufel. LaPenotiere therefore argued to the postconviction court that when a drug sale occurs on a block without a side facing the school property (e.g., a kitty-corner block), the State must prove that the sale occurred within 300 feet of the school property. Because the record did not contain any evidence that LaPenotiere's home was within 300 feet of the school property, he claimed that the State had presented insufficient evidence to support his conviction.

         The postconviction court denied LaPenotiere's petition, explaining that LaPenotiere misread our holding in Carufel. According to the postconviction court, the phrase "directly adjacent" actually includes kitty-corner blocks, so the entire area of LaPenotiere's block is included in the school zone.

         On appeal, LaPenotiere renewed these same arguments. The court of appeals affirmed. Lapenotiere v. State, 902 N.W.2d 464, 467 (Minn.App. 2017). Unlike the postconviction court, however, the court of appeals distinguished between kitty-corner blocks and blocks that are "directly adjacent" to school property.[4]Id. at 466-67. Ultimately, the court rejected LaPenotiere's argument, as depicted in the following diagram, that Carufel limited the zone created by the term "one city block" ...


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