State v. Flores, CX-87-871

CourtSupreme Court of Minnesota (US)
Citation418 N.W.2d 150
Docket NumberNo. CX-87-871,CX-87-871
PartiesSTATE of Minnesota, Respondent, v. Ramon FLORES, Appellant.
Decision Date15 January 1988

Syllabus by the Court

1. The trial court did not err in its instructions to the jury on premeditation and the intoxication defense.

2. There is sufficient evidence to support a conviction of murder in the first degree.

3. The trial court acted within its sound discretion by sustaining an objection to the relevance of defense expert's speculation regarding defendant's blood alcohol concentration twelve hours after the shooting.

4. The trial court acted within its sound discretion in admitting evidence that defendant threatened the victim's friends four and one-half hours before the shooting.

5. The trial court acted within its sound discretion in admitting an alleged replica of the murder weapon for demonstrative purposes.

C. Paul Jones, State Public Defender, Michael Cromett, Asst. Public Defender, Minneapolis, for appellant.

Hubert H. Humphrey, III, Minnesota Atty. Gen., St. Paul, Marcy S. Crain, M. Katherine Doty, Asst. Co. Atty., Anoka, for respondent.

Heard, considered, and decided by the court en banc.


POPOVICH, Justice.

Ramon Flores was convicted of murder in the first degree in connection with the shooting death of Kalen Ortenblad, in violation of Minn.Stat. Sec. 609.185(1) (1986), after a jury trial in Anoka County District Court, and was sentenced to life imprisonment. On appeal, appellant alleges (1) the trial court's jury instructions regarding premeditation and intoxication were erroneous; (2) there was insufficient evidence to support a conviction of murder in the first degree; and (3) the trial court committed reversible error with regard to three evidentiary rulings. We affirm.

At the time of the offense, appellant lived with his girlfriend, Betty Ortenblad, in her home in Ham Lake, Anoka County, Minnesota. They met in 1983 at a meeting of divorced and separated people and began dating. Appellant moved into her home in August, 1985, with two of his children from his previous marriage, Melanie, aged 19, and Ramon, Jr., aged 16. Ortenblad's son, Kalen Ortenblad, aged 20, was also living in the house at that time.

Appellant and Ramon, Jr., moved out in January, 1986, as a result of strained relations between Betty Ortenblad and appellant's son. Melanie Flores stayed and Kalen Ortenblad moved out, joining the United States Navy in February, 1986. Appellant and his son moved back in July, 1986. Shortly thereafter, a friend of Melanie's, Kimberly Bever, moved into the house and occupied the bedroom that had been used by Kalen. In late July, 1986, Kalen Ortenblad returned home on leave from the Navy.

On Wednesday, July 30, 1986, the day of the shooting, appellant, Betty Ortenblad, Melanie Flores and Kim Bever each went to work. Betty Ortenblad was the first to arrive home, about 4:00 p.m. Appellant returned home about 4:20 p.m. Appellant complained to her about an incident that had occurred two nights earlier where Kim, Kalen and a friend had awakened appellant and Betty Ortenblad with loud talking and noise late in the evening.

Kim Bever arrived home about 6:30 p.m. She spent approximately two hours packing things in the bedroom in the lower portion of the house. She observed appellant drinking beer when she arrived home but testified he did not appear intoxicated then.

Kalen Ortenblad spent the day with friends. During the afternoon Kalen and a friend, Pete Chouinard, went swimming in the Rum River. After swimming, Kalen and Chouinard drove to the Ortenblad residence so Kalen could change clothes. When they arrived, appellant, Kimberly Bever and Betty Ortenblad were at home. Kalen and Chouinard spent approximately 20 minutes at the house. During this time, Betty Ortenblad reprimanded appellant in the presence of Kalen and Chouinard for using profanity. Betty Ortenblad testified at trial this made appellant angry.

While Kalen was out of the room, Chouinard had a conversation with appellant. Appellant told Chouinard he was tired of people stealing things from the house and if certain of Kalen's friends came over to the house without Kalen being present appellant would "cut their balls off." After Kalen returned, appellant encouraged Betty Ortenblad to inform Kalen of an incident that had occurred in the Bahamas. Betty Ortenblad testified her feelings were hurt by Flores' attempt to mention the incident, which she considered confidential. Kalen stated he did not want to hear about the incident.

Kalen then drove Chouinard home. The two planned to meet around 11:00 p.m. to "party." Kalen then apparently drove to the home of his friend Mike Kuehn and then to Coon Lake to meet two girls they had planned to take out later in the evening. The girls were not at home so Kalen and Kuehn went to a liquor store and then to a SuperAmerica station where Melanie Flores worked. After visiting with Melanie, Kalen and Kuehn made a second trip to a liquor store about 10:00 p.m. Kalen and Kuehn then drove to the Ortenblad home so Kalen could get more money. Kalen parked in the driveway and turned off the ignition, but asked Kuehn to stay outside in the truck.

About 8:30 p.m. while Kalen was away, Kim Bever, after packing her things, got in her car to go to her parent's house. Appellant came out while she was sitting in her car and complained people were not listening to him. He then picked up a two-by-four and struck Betty Ortenblad's car with it two or three times.

Kim Bever returned about 9:30 p.m. and resumed packing. Appellant and Betty Ortenblad were the only other people at home. As Bever was packing, appellant came and spoke to her about the argument he had had with Betty Ortenblad earlier in the day regarding his use of profane language. Appellant became angry as he spoke. Bever attempted to change the subject by asking him about a door to be used for remodeling of a bathroom. Appellant became angry and pulled a rifle from beneath a couch in the family room, pointing it at the door and asking Bever if she wanted to see him shoot it. Bever informed appellant she did not, and he put the rifle back under the couch. Bever returned to her packing while appellant continued to speak to her and continued to appear angry. Bever testified at trial that at this time appellant appeared more intoxicated than she usually saw him. This testimony was impeached by the testimony of Anoka County Deputy Sheriff Alan Yauk, who testified that immediately after the murder Bever stated appellant was no more intoxicated than usual.

As appellant was speaking to Bever, Kalen returned home and entered the hallway where they were speaking. Appellant had his back to Kalen. When Bever greeted Kalen, appellant immediately turned around and yelled several times for Kalen to get his "fucking friends out of here." Kalen was alone at the time. Kalen glared at appellant and punched the wall and a door. Betty Ortenblad came into the room and told appellant to "shut up and get out." Appellant went upstairs and Kalen went to the bedroom in which Kim was packing and got two $20 bills. He left the bedroom and walked to the landing of the stairway as appellant came back downstairs.

There was conflicting testimony as to what occurred next. At trial, Betty Ortenblad testified appellant shot Kalen in the stomach as appellant tripped while descending the stairs. She testified further that after Kalen fell forward onto the floor, appellant stumbled again and the gun discharged, striking Kalen two or three more times as appellant attempted to regain his balance.

Betty Ortenblad's testimony was impeached by several law enforcement officers who testified she had previously described the shooting in a manner inconsistent with her trial testimony. Anoka County Deputy Sheriff Alan Yauk testified that shortly after the shooting Betty Ortenblad told him appellant shot Kalen. She said as Kalen lay on the floor moaning appellant fired two or more shots into his back, and she did not mention appellant's stumbling on the stairs. Investigator Rolland Johnson also testified Betty Ortenblad failed to mention appellant's stumbling in the description of the shooting she gave to him shortly after the incident.

Betty Ortenblad gave two formal statements to police after the incident. Investigator Terry Larkin testified that in an interview approximately two hours after the shooting Betty Ortenblad stated appellant came down the stairs, shot Kalen in the abdomen and, after Kalen had fallen to the floor, stood over him and fired two or three more times into his back. At 10:20 a.m. on July 31, 1986, Ms. Ortenblad gave a similar statement to Investigator David Pecchia of the Anoka County Sheriff's Office. In neither statement did she mention appellant's stumbling on the stairs, nor was it mentioned when she testified before the grand jury.

Immediately after the shooting, Betty Ortenblad called the police. Appellant left the house and drove away in her car. About 3:00 a.m., the vehicle was found near an apartment complex where appellant had formerly lived. The gun used in the killing was never found. At 7:00 a.m. appellant called the Ortenblad residence and spoke to his daughter, Melanie. Melanie testified she informed appellant he had killed Kalen and he was surprised. This testimony was impeached by the testimony of Investigator Rolland Johnson, who testified that after the phone call Melanie Flores called him and said appellant had called and asked how Kalen was and said he had "gotten rid of the gun." Appellant turned himself in to Hennepin County authorities later that morning.

An autopsy was performed on Kalen Ortenblad on July 31, 1986, by Dr. Laurel Krause. Dr. Krause testified at trial four bullet wounds were found, one in the groin and three in the back, but the groin wound alone was not fatal. Dr. Krause stated the shot to the groin was from straight ahead of the victim, while the shots to the...

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