State v. Lemieux, A05-554.

CourtSupreme Court of Minnesota (US)
Writing for the CourtAnderson
Citation726 N.W.2d 783
PartiesSTATE of Minnesota, Respondent, v. Wintersun LEMIEUX, Appellant.
Docket NumberNo. A05-554.,A05-554.
Decision Date18 January 2007
726 N.W.2d 783
STATE of Minnesota, Respondent,
Wintersun LEMIEUX, Appellant.
No. A05-554.
Supreme Court of Minnesota.
January 18, 2007.

[726 N.W.2d 784]

John Stuart, State Public Defender, Davi E. Axelson, Asst. Public defender, Minneapolis, MN, for Wintersun Lemieux, Appellant.

Lori Swanson, Atty. Gen., Thomas R. Ragatz, Asst. Atty. Gen., St. Paul, MN, Melanie Sue Ford, St. Louis County Atty., Duluth, MN, for the State, Respondent.

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


ANDERSON, RUSSELL A., Chief Justice.

Appellant Wintersun Lemieux was convicted and sentenced in St. Louis County District Court for the crime of first-degree murder in connection with the death of 68-year-old Irwin Teitelbaum. On appeal, Lemieux challenges the admission of evidence as having been derived from an illegal warrantless entry into his residence. Concluding that the entry was justified under the emergency-aid exception to the warrant requirement, we affirm.

Teitelbaum lived with his wife at 3 East 13th Street in the Harbor View housing complex in Duluth. The housing complex consisted of multi-unit homes, somewhat similar to condominiums with separate entrances and no common hallway. Teitelbaum delivered newspapers for the Duluth News-Tribune for some 15 years, having taken over the route from his sons. As a matter of routine, he would pick up the bundle of newspapers as soon as they were delivered. On July 9, 2003, when Teitelbaum's wife woke up, neither Teitelbaum nor the newspapers were there. She looked out the front window, saw her husband lying motionless on his back with blood all over his face, and called 911. The call came in to dispatch at 6:15 a.m.

Responding officers found Teitelbaum's body on the sidewalk. He had sustained massive trauma to the head, and there was blood on his clothes and a nearby canvas newspaper bag. He had been disrobed, except for a sock on one foot, and his clothes were scattered around the yard.

726 N.W.2d 785

Around 6:40 a.m., shortly after the officers cordoned off the area with crime scene tape, one of the officers saw Lemieux riding by the crime scene in a USA minivan taxi.1 The officer called the cab company and found out that the minivan taxi's fare had originated from 729 West 4th Street. Officers canvassed the area in the "line of sight" of the homicide, but came away with nothing pertinent.

The officer in charge of the investigation, Lieutenant Robert Brasel, convened a major-crime briefing at 10:30 a.m. to discuss what they knew and to "brainstorm" and prioritize what needed to be done. During the meeting, Tawnya Rainey's name was mentioned. Rainey resided at 15 East 13th Street, about a half block from the crime scene. Rainey was frequently gone from the residence during the summer but would still "pop in and out," and she also allowed others to stay there so there was a lot of "traffic" through that residence. The officers had previously had problems with that residence, including some criminal behavior; but because Rainey continued to pay the rent, they felt somewhat constrained in what they could do about it. Lieutenant Brasel decided to have an officer go to 15 East 13th Street in an effort to make contact with Rainey or any other occupants of the residence; he assigned that task to Sergeant Jon Haataja, specifically directing that if nobody was home, no officer was to enter the residence without talking to him (Brasel) first.

Meanwhile, Officer Shana Harris, who was among the first to arrive at the Teitelbaum crime scene but missed the briefing in order to complete her report, returned to Harbor View to do her own canvassing, intending to contact people she knew to see if they could provide any information on the homicide. She asked the Harbor View housing specialist, Susan Jordan, about problem residences, and Jordan brought up Rainey's name. Officer Harris was familiar with Rainey and had already tried calling her, but Rainey's phone number had been disconnected. After speaking with Jordan, Harris drove to 15 East 13th Street to do a "knock and talk" with Rainey or anyone else at that residence.

Sergeant Haataja and Officer Harris arrived at 15 East 13th Street at about the same time. When the officers approached the front of the residence, they saw that the screen on the window to the right side of the door had been torn loose, the window had been pushed up, and the door was "slightly open, not latched." They could hear music playing inside, and a CD sounded like it was skipping. Haataja began pounding on the door loud enough to be heard over the music as Harris shouted out Rainey's name, calling for her to answer the door. While this was going on, a neighbor from the adjacent dwelling stepped out and told Harris that he had heard someone inside 15 East 13th Street singing "that night." The officers were concerned that a burglary had occurred. Around noon, approximately 14 minutes after the officers' arrival, Haataja called Lieutenant Brasel to report what they had observed. Brasel told them to call for backup and to do a "health and welfare" check for possible injured occupants, emphasizing that they were looking for injured persons, not searching or doing anything else. Part of the reason Haataja was given this assignment was that Brasel knew Haataja "understood that."

Sergeant Haataja and Officer Harris, joined by two other officers, entered the residence with their firearms drawn and did a quick sweep of the floors, "clearing" the rooms as they moved through. As

726 N.W.2d 786

Haataja walked through the kitchen after checking the back door to make sure it was locked, he saw Teitelbaum's electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card in plain view. After the sweep-search, the residence was secured and a search warrant obtained. While Haataja was guarding the back entrance pending the arrival of the search warrant and trying to be of more use, he called Lemieux's probation officer to see if he had an address for Lemieux. Meanwhile, as Harris was guarding the front entrance, the neighbor told her that Lemieux had been staying at the Rainey residence. During the execution of the search warrant, police officers found blood smears, that were later determined to match Teitelbaum's DNA profile, underneath the exterior window and inside on the banister leading to the basement; miscellaneous items belonging to Teitelbaum below the interior window sill; and a credit union envelope, that contained $180 in cash, with Lemieux's and Teitelbaum's fingerprints.

In their investigation, police officers learned that the USA minivan taxi that drove by the crime scene on July 9, 2003, had picked up Lemieux from 729 West 4th Street at 6:35 a.m. Lemieux gave the driver $3 in change, wanted to go to Harbor View, and asked whether the driver had heard "if anything exciting" was "going on." The driver dropped off Lemieux shortly after driving by the crime scene because the cab fare meter had gone beyond the amount of money he had given her.

The police also learned that Lemieux showed up at 729 West 4th Street in the early morning hours of July 9, 2003. He was alone, "pretty frantic, breathing hard," and holding a baseball bat. He had blood on his hands and his clothes. He asked the resident, Tracy Wentland, for a change of clothes, and she showed him where an ex-boyfriend had left some clothing. Lemieux left his own clothing in a garbage bag in Wentland's basement. He told Wentland "the whole story": that he had hit somebody with the baseball bat, that the man was dead, and that he took the man's clothing off and threw it in the garbage. Wentland called a cab and gave Lemieux $3 in change for the cab fare. During a warranted search of Wentland's residence, police officers found Lemieux's clothing and a baseball bat. Forensic testing of the clothing yielded profiles matching Teitelbaum's DNA; and the bat had DNA matching Lemieux's profile on the shaft and Teitelbaum's profile on the tip.

Lemieux was arrested in the afternoon of July 9, 2003; and following a Miranda waiver, Lieutenant John Beyer questioned him about his activities over the previous 24 hours. Lemieux said that he had been staying at Rainey's residence, and that on July 8 he got up at 5 p.m., went downtown, and started drinking. He returned to the residence around 11:30 p.m. He said that he did not have a key, but the door was unlocked. He continued to drink and fell asleep. He denied hurting or fighting with an older man in the Harbor View area but admitted slapping and kicking somebody who was in his mid-twenties. Lemieux wanted to know how his name "[came] up in this;" and when told that his name came up because he was in a cab that morning, he said, "So you have got me in here over that?" The next day, the officer told Lemieux that he was going to be charged with second-degree murder and that a grand jury would be convened to seek first-degree murder charges. Lemieux responded, "That's not right, it wasn't premeditated."

Lemieux was indicted by grand jury for first-degree premeditated murder, first-degree felony murder, and second-degree murder, in violation of Minn.Stat.

726 N.W.2d 787

§§ 609.185(a)(1), (a)(3), and 609.19, subd. 1(1) (2004). While awaiting trial, Lemieux told the police that they "wouldn't have to go through all of this if [they] would just get him a better deal." Lemieux went on to say, "I'm not saying I didn't do it, but you need to get me a better deal." When asked what he meant by a "better deal," Lemieux said, "Something other than first-degree."

Before trial, Lemieux moved to suppress the evidence discovered during the warrantless sweep-search of 15 East 13th Street, and all evidence derived from that search. Following a three-day omnibus hearing, the district court denied the motion, concluding that the warrantless entry was justified under the emergency-aid exception to the warrant requirement. At trial, in addition to evidence from the search, the state...

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