of Appeals Office of Appellate Courts
Ellison, Attorney General, Saint Paul, Minnesota; and John J.
Choi, Ramsey County Attorney, Peter R. Marker, Assistant
County Attorney, Saint Paul, Minnesota, for respondent.
Cathryn Middlebrook, Chief Appellate Public Defender, Jenna
Yauch-Erickson, Assistant Public Defender, Saint Paul,
Minnesota, for appellant.
phrase "personal property" in Minnesota Statutes
section 609.24 (2018), the robbery statute, is a technical
term meaning any property other than real property. Property
belonging to a business falls within the definition of
"personal property" under the robbery statute.
John Lee Bowen was convicted of simple robbery for taking a
bottle of brandy from a liquor store and assaulting the store
manager. The sole issue here is whether the phrase
"personal property" in the robbery statute,
Minnesota Statutes section 609.24 (2018), includes the
property of a business. Bowen challenges the sufficiency of
the evidence, contending that "personal property"
means property belonging to a person. Because the bottle that
he took belonged to the store and not to a person, he claims
that he cannot be convicted of simple robbery. The State
argues that Bowen's conviction is valid because
"personal property" includes all property other
than real property. We conclude that the evidence is
sufficient to support the conviction because "personal
property" as used in the robbery statute is a technical
term that has acquired the specialized meaning of all
property other than real property. Accordingly, we affirm the
decision of the court of appeals, which upheld Bowen's
facts here are not in dispute. Bowen entered a liquor store
in Saint Paul and started an argument with a cashier. After
the cashier told Bowen to leave the store, Bowen left, but he
returned less than 1 hour later. When he returned, Bowen
pushed a rack off of the counter and asked for the managers
as he moved toward the cashier. The cashier paged the
managers through the intercom system, then jumped over the
counter and ran. Two managers responded; the first approached
Bowen while the second called the police. Bowen began
knocking liquor bottles off of the shelves behind the counter
and took a bottle of brandy from one of the shelves. He then
punched the approaching manager in the face. As he walked out
the door carrying the bottle of brandy, Bowen said,
"I'm going to come back and shoot all of you."
State charged Bowen with simple robbery and threats of
violence. At trial, Bowen argued that the bottle of brandy
was not "personal property," as required by the
robbery statute. The jury found Bowen not guilty of threats
of violence and guilty of simple robbery. The district court
sentenced Bowen to 38 months of imprisonment but stayed
execution of the sentence and placed him on probation for 5
appealed to the court of appeals, which affirmed his
conviction. State v. Bowen, 910 N.W.2d 39, 41-42
(Minn.App. 2018). The court of appeals held that the meaning
of "personal property" is ambiguous because the
phrase could be understood according to Bowen's proposed
meaning, property of a person, or the State's proposed
meaning, all property that is not real property. Id.
at 44. The court of appeals then examined the phrase under
two canons of construction, in pari materia and
imputed common law meaning. Id. at 45. The court
determined that the canons of construction supported the
State's meaning of "personal property" and
therefore held that the State had satisfied its burden of
proving that Bowen took "personal property" from
the liquor store. Id. at 46. We granted Bowen's
petition for review.
consider a claim of insufficient evidence, "our review .
. . is limited to a painstaking analysis of the record to
determine whether the evidence, when viewed in the light most
favorable to the conviction, was sufficient to permit the
jurors to reach the verdict which they did." State
v. Webb, 440 N.W.2d 426, 430 (Minn. 1989). "When a
sufficiency-of-the-evidence claim turns on the meaning of the
statute under which a defendant has been convicted, we are
presented with a ...