Woodbury man granted new trial in shooting caseA Woodbury man convicted in a Dakota County shooting case is entitled to a new trial, an appeals court decided.
By: Mike Longaecker, Woodbury Bulletin
A Woodbury man convicted in a Dakota County shooting case is entitled to a new trial, an appeals court decided.
The Minnesota Court of Appeals reversed a 2010 second-degree assault conviction against Marcus Rollins of Woodbury, declaring the case was “plagued by structural error.” The case was remanded for retrial.
Rollins was accused of pulling out a gun and firing three rounds into an SUV on March 13, 2010, in Burnsville. Prosecutors alleged Rollins fired the shots after the SUV bumped into his vehicle while parked at a gas station, the impact from which injured him.
Three of the SUV’s occupants fled the vehicle into the gas station, while the driver fled the scene on foot; Rollins was arrested at the scene. Police found three bullet holes in the SUV and four shell casings at the scene.
Rollins was charged with four counts of second-degree assault. During a jury trial, First District Court Judge Rex Stacey took the unusual action of imposing four additional counts against Rollins – all for terroristic threats.
Jurors returned a guilty verdict on one count of second-degree assault and on all four terroristic threats counts. Rollins was sentenced to a year in jail placed on probation for 15 years.
Rollins appealed the conviction on multiple fronts, including that the judge erred by describing terroristic threats as “a lesser-included offense of second-degree assault” and that Stacey tainted the jury by using the pronoun “I” in handing out court instructions.
The appeals court largely agreed with Rollins’ claims.
Regarding the additional charges tacked on, “(Rollins) was therefore deprived of the constitutional right to receive timely notice of the charged offenses.” That decision reversed the terroristic threats convictions.
In his argument against Stacey’s use of the word “I,” Rollins theorized that Stacey’s use of the word – with regard to the added terroristic threats charges – “signaled to the jury that those charges were particularly appropriate.”
“We agree,” the panel opined, and went on to state, “caselaw has recognized that the jurors may lend particular credence to the words of the district court, and as such the district court’s use of the first-person is even more damaging.”
The court continued:
“We are not assured that the consequence of the district court’s structural error was limited to the erroneous terroristic threats convictions and did not taint the entire deliberative process.”