Friday, December 30, 2011

2011's Most Interesting MN Supreme Court Ruling on a Criminal Defense Appeal

One of my favorite things to do when I have a few extra minutes (usually over my morning coffee) is to head over to the MN Supreme Court rulings and read through the recent criminal defense appeals that have gone to a decision.  This is a great way for Minnesota criminal defense attorneys to stay up to date on the ever-changing precedents regarding criminal defense, while at the same time learning some do's and don'ts of representing clients.

My favorite case of the year was the review of a conviction of a Minneapolis man for aiding and abetting first degree premeditated murder for the benefit of a gang.  The case involved a drive by shooting perpetrated allegedly by one gang against another.  The usual appeals were present (insufficient assistance of counsel, statutory bar of conviction, insufficient evidence, etc...), but what made this case so interesting was that the principle party who fired the shots was only convicted of 2nd degree murder, whereas his accomplice was convicted of aiding and abetting first degree murder.  The reasonable assumption is that if the actual murderer was found to have not committed 1st degree murder, his accomplice could therefore not be found to have aided and abetted such a crime.

This was the argument made by the appellant's attorney, citing Minn.Stat. 609.05, claiming that it precluded the appellant's conviction of this specific crime.  Unfortunately, the statute does the exact opposite of that, in that it expressly prohibits such a charge under these circumstances.  The pertinent section reads,

"person liable for the crimes of another may be charged with and convicted of the crime although the person who directly committed it has not been convicted, or has been convicted of some other degree of the crime or of some other crime based on the same act."

Clearly, Minnesota statutory law was in favor of the state in this situation, meaning that the appellant's attorney was likely grasping at straws with this objection.  The eyewitness evidence was pretty overwhelming in this case, and both the appellant and his attorney were likely doing whatever they could think of to get his sentence reduced from life without possibility of release to something involving the possibility of parole.

Other interesting nuggets from this case involve how differently juries and judges can see the same facts.  In the trial for the trigger-man, the defense elected for a bench trial.  The judge in that case concluded that there was insufficient evidence to prove premeditation on the part of the shooter, as well as to prove the group he was a member of qualified as a "gang" under the relevant Minnesota statute.  Given the exact same facts (presumably), the jury in the accomplice's trial found sufficient evidence to support both of those claims, making a conviction at the level of 1st degree murder easier to justify.  In cases like this where there is the possibility of a high amount of prejudice against the defendant and a high level of emotion, it would not be unreasonable for the defense to ask for a bench trial as opposed to a jury trial.  Jury's tend to feed off the emotion of the proceedings more than will a judge, who has made impartiality his living.

This case illustrates just how complicated and nuanced criminal cases can be, and how important it is to have a competent criminal defense attorney on your side.  While not every case has the repercussions of a murder trial, there is no such thing as a minor criminal conviction.  Any conviction can cost you privileges, freedom, and the ability to gain employment, so regardless of what crime you are being charged with, be sure to contact a Minnesota criminal defense attorney immediately to set up a plan of action regarding your case.  Doing so could be the difference in guilt or innocence.

If you want to read more MN appellate court rulings, check out  Here you can find both Court of Appeals rulings as well as Supreme Court rulings.

Here's hoping everybody has a happy, safe, and crime-free New Year!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Let's Get This Rolling!

Welcome!  You have stumbled upon Minnesota's newest legal blog covering the topics of criminal law and defense.  Hopefully you are here for entertainment purposes only, but if you have been charged with a crime and are looking for answers, hopefully you'll be able to find something of use within these pages!

BDH Law Office is a criminal defense firm located just minutes north of St. Paul, MN.  From the smallest traffic offense to the most severe felony charge, criminal proceedings are full of nuance and pitfalls that can really hurt your reputation, impede your rights, and even hinder your ability to find employment.  In this blog, you will have the opportunity to read about cases in the news that we find interesting, see questions asked by other readers, and learn about common misconceptions and myths regarding criminal defense.  I'll be posting to this blog 3 or 4 times a week, so check back often to stay up to date with all the goings on in Minnesota criminal law!

In the mean time, feel free to check out the other social network outlets for the BDH Law Office.  Our Twitter handle is @bdhlawoffice.  Follow us on Twitter to get updates about our practice, as well as info and opinions regarding the world of criminal law.  Join our group on Facebook at  Be a part of the discussion boards, participate in polls, and even chat directly with an attorney.
You can also check out our entry on LawGuru under Minnesota law firms.  The official website of BDH Law Office can be found at  You can read more about our firm, our areas of practice, and our attorneys.  You can even fill out a contact form with a short summary of your situation directly to an attorney at BDH Law Office in order to have your case reviewed.  Whether we feel like we can help you or not, a BDH Law Office attorney will be in touch with you within the hour to discuss your situation with you.

Nothing on this blog is intended act as legal advice.  It is solely for entertainment purposes.  If you have been charged with a crime or believe you will be charged with a crime, no amount of internet research will be sufficient to ensure the success of your case.  Contact a Minnesota criminal defense attorney immediately to get specific advice and guidance regarding your situation.

Thanks, everyone!