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State v. Waiters

Supreme Court of Minnesota

June 26, 2019

State of Minnesota, Respondent,
v.
Ricky Darnell Waiters, Appellant.

          Winona County Office of Appellate Courts

          Keith Ellison, Attorney General, Saint Paul, Minnesota; Karin Sonneman, Winona County Attorney, Winona, Minnesota; and Scott A. Hersey, Special Assistant Winona County Attorney, Saint Paul, Minnesota, for respondent.

          Cathryn Middlebrook, Chief Appellate Public Defender, Leslie J. Rosenberg, Assistant Public Defender, Saint Paul, Minnesota, for appellant.

         SYLLABUS

         1. The State presented evidence sufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that appellant discharged a firearm "toward" a building.

         2. The prosecutor did not commit prosecutorial misconduct when reminding the jury of its duty to decide the case based on the evidence, rather than on the emotional appeals made by defense counsel during closing argument.

         3. Appellant's pro se claims are without merit.

         Affirmed.

          OPINION

          HUDSON, Justice.

         Appellant Ricky Darnell Waiters shot two customers in a bar parking lot, killing one and wounding the other. He was charged and convicted of several offenses, including first-degree felony murder, attempted first-degree felony murder, and drive-by shooting (the underlying felony). On appeal, Waiters argues that the evidence was insufficient to prove that he discharged a firearm "at or toward" a building or vehicle-a necessary element of drive-by shooting. He also argues that the prosecutor engaged in prosecutorial misconduct when she argued during her rebuttal that Waiters's closing argument was trying to play on the jury's emotions. Finally, Waiters raises three additional arguments in his pro se supplemental brief. We conclude that there is sufficient evidence in the record for a reasonable jury to find that Waiters discharged a firearm "toward" a building, the prosecutor did not commit prosecutorial misconduct, and Waiters's pro se arguments are without merit. Accordingly, we affirm.

         FACTS

         The facts of this case center on a bar parking lot located in Winona and depicted below:[1]

         (Image Omitted)

         Six features of the parking lot are relevant here: (1) on the north side of E.B.'s Corner Bar is a door facing the lot; (2) on the western edge of the lot is a house with a privacy fence that separates the house from the parking lot; (3) on the northern edge of the lot is an alley that provides access into the parking lot; (4) on the eastern edge of the lot is a semitrailer that is parked parallel to Ewing Street; (5) an approximately 9-foot gap exists between the front of the semitrailer and the rear wall of the bar; and (6) two covered picnic tables are located near the back door of the bar, which is approximately 18 feet from Ewing Street.

         With this scene in mind, we turn to the events of the early morning of July 27, 2016. At approximately 1:00 a.m., Waiters pulled into the parking lot of E.B.'s Corner Bar using the alley entrance on the northern edge of the lot. As Waiters parked his car, two of the bar's customers approached Waiters's vehicle and told him he was parked the wrong way.[2]Waiters then put his car in reverse, pulled back into the alley, and turned right onto Ewing Street. After driving a few yards, Waiters stopped his car at the 9-foot gap between the semitrailer and the bar. According to several eyewitnesses, when Waiters reached the gap, he pulled out a gun, and, sweeping from left to right, fired six shots toward two groups of bar customers. The first group ...


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