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State v. Lagred

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

February 11, 2019

State of Minnesota, Respondent,
v.
Adam Ryan Lagred, Appellant.

          Renville County District Court File No. 65-CR-17-176

          Keith Ellison, Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and David Torgelson, Renville County Attorney, Olivia, Minnesota; and Scott A. Hersey, Special Assistant County Attorney, St. Paul, Minnesota (for respondent)

          Cathryn Middlebrook, Chief Appellate Public Defender, Rochelle R. Winn, Assistant Public Defender, St. Paul, Minnesota (for appellant)

          Considered and decided by Reyes, Presiding Judge; Connolly, Judge; and Larkin, Judge.

         SYLLABUS

         The alternatives in Minnesota's first-degree aggravated-robbery statute, Minn. Stat. § 609.245, subd. 1 (2016), are means of committing the offense, and those alternatives are consistent with the fundamental fairness required by due process. A jury therefore need not unanimously agree regarding which of those means was used to commit a first-degree aggravated robbery.

          OPINION

          LARKIN, JUDGE

         Appellant challenges his conviction of first-degree aggravated robbery, arguing that the district court's jury instructions regarding that offense violated his right to a unanimous verdict. We affirm.

         FACTS

         Respondent State of Minnesota charged appellant Adam Ryan Lagred with first-degree aggravated robbery under Minn. Stat. § 609.245, subd. 1, second-degree assault under Minn. Stat. § 609.222, subd. 1 (2016), and threats of violence under Minn. Stat. § 609.713, subd. 1 (2016). The case was tried to a jury.

         The evidence at trial showed that Lagred and the victim, J.H., are acquaintances and had known each other for over a decade. In 2013, Lagred and his then-girlfriend stayed at J.H.'s house for one or two weeks. J.H. allowed Lagred's girlfriend and her children, but not Lagred, to stay at his house again in 2014, which angered Lagred. In November 2014, J.H. confronted Lagred concerning Lagred's treatment of his girlfriend and his refusal to return property to her.

         On May 15, 2017, J.H. visited an apartment complex to see a friend, unaware that Lagred lived in the same complex. As J.H. was walking to his car in the parking lot, he heard someone say, "Come here you son of a b-tch." J.H. turned and saw Lagred approaching him with a baseball bat. Lagred was out of control and screaming. J.H. held up his hands and attempted to calm Lagred. Lagred yelled at J.H., swung the bat at him twice, and then hit him on the head with the bat. Next, Lagred demanded that J.H. empty his pockets. J.H. had a small pocket knife, which Lagred took. J.H. allowed Lagred to take the knife because he was afraid of being hit with the bat again.

         S.D., one of Lagred's neighbors, was walking through a nearby parking lot and observed the altercation between J.H. and Lagred. S.D. testified that Lagred was holding a baseball bat and that Lagred and J.H. seemed to be arguing. S.D. stood between J.H. and Lagred, and tried to calm Lagred. Lagred was yelling and swinging the bat in the air. S.D. did not see Lagred hit J.H. with the bat, but he saw Lagred take J.H.'s pocket knife.

         M.P., another one of Lagred's neighbors, observed the incident from her living room window. M.P. testified that Lagred was "behaving rather erratically" and approached J.H. in "a confrontational manner." M.P. saw Lagred hit J.H. with the baseball bat, but she did not see J.H. remove anything from his pockets or give anything to Lagred.

         After the incident, J.H. drove to a police station and reported the incident to a police officer. The police photographed a bump on J.H.'s head, which had been caused by the blow from the bat. J.H. spoke with his mother, a registered emergency medical technician, about his injury, but he did not seek other medical attention. J.H. suffered from headaches and light-sensitivity for a month after the incident.

         The district court instructed the jury that it could find Lagred guilty of first-degree aggravated robbery either because he was armed with a dangerous weapon, or because he inflicted bodily harm upon J.H., while committing a robbery. Lagred did not object to the instruction or propose an alternative instruction. Consistent with the district court's instruction, the prosecutor argued, in closing, that although the jury was required to reach a unanimous verdict on the elements of aggravated robbery, it did not need to unanimously decide whether Lagred was armed with a dangerous weapon or inflicted bodily harm while committing the alleged robbery.

         The jury found Lagred guilty as charged. The district court entered judgment of conviction on the aggravated-robbery charge, granted Lagred's motion for a downward dispositional departure, and stayed execution of a 68-month prison term. Lagred appeals.

         ISSUE

         Did the district court's jury instructions regarding first-degree aggravated robbery violate Lagred's right to a unanimous verdict?

         ANALYSIS

         District courts are entitled to considerable latitude when selecting language for jury instructions, but the jury instructions cannot materially misstate the law. State v. Carridine, 812 N.W.2d 130, 144 (Minn. 2012). Appellate courts review jury instructions as a whole to determine whether the instructions accurately stated the law in a manner that could be understood by the jury. State v. Kelley, 855 N.W.2d 269, 274 (Minn. 2014).

         Normally, an appellate court reviews a district court's jury instructions for an abuse of discretion. State v. Huber, 877 N.W.2d 519, 522 (Minn. 2016). But if a defendant failed to object to the jury instructions at trial, as is the case here, an appellate court reviews the instructions for plain error. State v. Milton, 821 N.W.2d 789, 805 (Minn. 2012). "Under the plain-error doctrine, the appellant must show that there was (1) an error; (2) that is plain; and (3) the error affected substantial rights." Huber, 877 N.W.2d at 522. If the first three parts of the plain-error doctrine are satisfied, the reviewing court corrects the error only if it "seriously affects the fairness, integrity, or public reputation of judicial proceedings." Id. (quotation omitted). If the reviewing court concludes that any part of the plain-error test is not satisfied, the court need not consider the other parts. State v. Brown, 815 N.W.2d 609, 620 (Minn. 2012).

         Lagred was convicted of first-degree aggravated robbery under Minn. Stat. § 609.245, subd. 1, which provides, "Whoever, while committing a robbery, is armed with a dangerous weapon or any article used or fashioned in a manner to lead the victim to reasonably believe it to be a dangerous weapon, or inflicts bodily harm upon another, is guilty of aggravated robbery in the first degree . . . ." A robbery occurs if a person,

having knowledge of not being entitled thereto, takes personal property from the person or in the presence of another and uses or threatens the imminent use of force against any person to overcome the person's resistance or powers of resistance to, or to compel acquiescence in, the taking or carrying away of the property.

Minn. Stat. § 609.24 (2016).

The district court instructed the jury as follows:
The elements of Aggravated Robbery in the First Degree are: First, [Lagred] took a small pocket knife from the person of [J.H.]. Second, [Lagred] knew that he was not entitled to take it. Third, [Lagred] used force to compel acquiescence in the taking or carrying off of the pocket knife. Fourth, [Lagred] was armed with a dangerous weapon or inflicted bodily harm upon [J.H.]. . . . Fifth, [Lagred's] act took place on or about May 15, 2017, in Renville ...

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