Filed October 23, 2007.
Appeal from the District Court, Meeker County, File No. CR-05-677.
Lori Swanson, Attorney General, James B. Early, Assistant Attorney General, Stephanie Beckman, Meeker County Attorney, (for respondent).
John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Theodora Gaïtas, Assistant Public Defender, (for appellant).
This opinion will be unpublished and may not be cited except as provided by Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2006).
Appellant Devin Blom challenges his conviction of first-degree burglary, contending that the state's evidence was insufficient to support the conviction. We affirm.
Appellant was convicted of first-degree burglary of an occupied dwelling in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.582, subd. 1(a) (2004). To prove this charge, the state was required to show that (1) the defendant entered a dwelling place without consent; (2) the defendant intended to commit a crime within the building; and (3) the dwelling place was occupied by another person while the burglary was taking place. Id.Appellant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence regarding the element of intent, arguing that his conviction cannot stand because the state relied on inadequate circumstantial evidence to prove this requisite element. We disagree.
In considering a claim of insufficient evidence, our review is "limited to a painstaking analysis of the record to determine whether the evidence, when viewed in a light most favorable to the conviction," was sufficient to permit the fact-finder to reach the verdict that it did. State v. Webb, 440 N.W.2d 426, 430 (Minn. 1989). We operate under the assumption that the fact-finder believed the state's witnesses and disbelieved any evidence to the contrary. State v. Moore, 438 N.W.2d 101, 108 (Minn. 1989).
Intent to commit a crime within the dwelling generally must be proved through the use of circumstantial evidence. State v. Ring, 554 N.W.2d 758, 760 (Minn.App. 1996) (citing State v. Crosby, 277 Minn. 22, 25, 151 N.W.2d 297, 300 (1967)). When assessing the sufficiency of the evidence, circumstantial evidence is given as much weight as any other type of evidence, as long as the circumstantial evidence forms "a complete chain which, in light of the evidence as a whole, leads so directly to the guilt of the accused as to exclude, beyond a reasonable doubt, any reasonable inference other than that of guilt." State v. Jones, 516 N.W.2d 545, 549 (Minn. 1994) (quoting State v. Wahlberg, 296 N.W.2d 408, 411 (Minn. 1980)). Because a jury is in the best position to evaluate circumstantial evidence, their verdict is entitled to deference. Webb, 440 N.W.2d at 430.
Here, the state put forth sufficient circumstantial evidence to permit the fact-finder to make a reasonable inference of appellant's intent. Appellant's admissions established that he entered the garage through its service door, and then proceeded to knock on, open up, and enter the house through an interior door leading from the garage into the home. Both A.A., the 12-year-old child that was at home at the time of the burglary, and her father testified that the service door had been locked. In addition, A.A. gave eyewitness testimony that she saw appellant standing inside her entryway digging through the pockets of her father's coat.
Appellant argues that his testimony provides a rational hypothesis inconsistent with guilt. We disagree. A defendant's testimony as to his intentions is not binding on the fact-finder if the "natural and probable consequences of his actions" demonstrate a contrary intent. State v. Cooper, 561 N.W.2d 175, 179 (Minn. 1997). Here, the fact-finder reasonably weighed the credibility of the witnesses and found appellant's theory implausible.
Appellant admitted to having entered the home, but testified that he mistakenly believed he was entering the home of an old high school friend. While evidence at trial established that the friend's parents live in a home adjacent to the burglarized home, exhibits and testimony presented by the state showed that the two homes are noticeably dissimilar in color, size, architecture style, driveway shape, the direction their garage doors face, and the side of the garage on which their service doors are located. Moreover, the alleged friend testified that, while he knew appellant from high school, he did not consider him a friend and had not had any contact with appellant for several years prior to the burglary.
Having reviewed the record in the light most favorable to the conviction, we conclude that the state presented sufficient circumstantial evidence at trial for the fact-finder to reasonably infer that appellant was guilty of first-degree burglary.