State v. Thompson, C8-97-272

Citation578 N.W.2d 734
Decision Date14 May 1998
Docket NumberNo. C8-97-272,C8-97-272
PartiesSTATE of Minnesota, Respondent, v. Dallas THOMPSON, Appellant.
CourtSupreme Court of Minnesota (US)

Rehearing Denied June 17, 1998.

Syllabus by the Court

1. Police officers' entry of an apartment where appellant was an overnight guest was justified because a person with apparent authority consented to the entry.

2. Admission in evidence of a video tape wherein appellant stated that he had a "hit list" and intended to "kill people" did not deprive appellant of his right to a fair trial.

3. The prosecutor's misconduct during opening and closing arguments was harmless error.

Melissa Sheridan, Asst. State Public Defender, for appellant.

Hubert H. Humphrey III, Atty. General, for respondent.

Robert M.A. Johnson, Anoka Cty. Atty., Marcy S. Crain, Asst. Cty. Atty., for respondent.

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


STRINGER, Justice.

Appellant was convicted of first-degree murder for the shooting deaths of appellant's former girlfriend and her mother. Appellant claimed that his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure was violated when the police entered a friend's apartment in which he was staying overnight and arrested him without a warrant or verifying that there was an existing warrant for his arrest on an unrelated matter. He also claimed that he was deprived of a fair trial when the trial court admitted in evidence a video tape in which appellant spoke of a "4 man hit list," his intention to "kill people," and expressed his distrust of and animosity toward "girls." The video tape also included references to illegal drug activity. Finally, appellant claimed that his right to a fair trial was violated by prosecutorial misconduct because, in opening and closing arguments, the prosecutor speculated as to what might have happened before the murders, invited the jurors to put themselves in the victim's shoes, compared appellant to O.J. Simpson, and disparaged the defense. After a careful review of the record we conclude that the conviction of appellant should in all respects be affirmed.

Just prior to 5:00 a.m. on November 2, 1995, 20-year-old appellant shot and killed his 16-year-old former girlfriend, Michelle Eardley ("M.Eardley"), and her mother, 42-year-old Susan Eardley ("S.Eardley"), in their split-level home located at 4185 Austin Street Northeast in Blaine, Minnesota. At 4:55 that morning, the Anoka County Central Communications Center received a 911 call from the Eardley residence but the call was disconnected and the message was unintelligible. Two Blaine police officers arrived at the residence to investigate the 911 call shortly after 5:00 a.m. The officers noticed that a screen had been pried away from a window on the north side of the house and the front door was slightly opened. The officers knocked on the door and identified themselves as police. When there was no response, they entered the home. They immediately smelled burned gun powder and found M. Eardley's body lying in the upstairs hallway outside a bedroom door. She had been shot once in the forehead. S. Eardley's body also was found upstairs on a bedroom floor. She had been shot in the neck, the bullet travelling through her chest and out her back. Both shots were delivered by a .44 caliber rifle fired from within a distance of one foot. Additional police and an ambulance were summoned.

Further investigation by the Anoka County Sheriff's Office disclosed that outside the Eardley residence the screen for M. Eardley's lower level bedroom window had been cut and pried back, and the glass was broken, a knife and sheath had been left on an air-conditioner located outside the window, there were footprints in the snow in that area, and there were two bullet holes in the siding outside of an upper level bedroom. Inside the residence, the investigation disclosed drops of blood in the basement stairwell, blood and tissue fragments on the bathroom floor, blood splatter, tissue and clumps of hair on the bedroom wall, three spent .44 Remington magnum shell casings, one outside the bedroom door where M. Eardley's body was found, one inside S. Eardley's bedroom, and one on top of the bed. A deformed, spent bullet was found on an end table, two bullet holes were found in the bedroom walls, the bedroom telephone had been disconnected, and there was blood on the wall jack.

Meanwhile, in northeast Minneapolis, at about 5:40 a.m., a Minneapolis police officer on routine patrol observed two men standing at a pay phone at the intersection of Central Avenue Northeast and 26th Avenue. When the officer made eye contact with the men, one of them, wearing a Michigan Wolverines jacket and a Wolverines hat, ran away. He was later identified as appellant. The other man walked briskly in another direction. When the officer stopped the man and frisked him, he identified himself to the officer as Christopher DiLaura. He was not carrying any identification. In response to questioning, DiLaura told the officer his friend's name was Dallas Thompson, and that he ran away because there were some outstanding warrants for his arrest. 1 DiLaura told the officer that he, his girlfriend Kerry Cronin, and appellant were staying with a friend Christina Lopez, at 2620 Quincy Street Northeast, 2 and that his girlfriend could verify his identity. A second officer arrived in response to a call for assistance and searched the area for appellant. The search was unsuccessful, so both officers accompanied DiLaura to Lopez's apartment to confirm DiLaura's identity and to look further for appellant.

When they arrived at 2620 Quincy Street Northeast, the officers knocked on the exterior door to the stairway leading to the upstairs apartment unit and a young man of approximately 18 years of age answered. To the officer's question whether the young man lived there, he replied that he did not. The officer told him that he needed to speak to the renter and to Kerry Cronin. The young man let the officers in and led them up the stairs. There was an open door at the top of the stairs leading into the apartment through the kitchen area. The officers went into the kitchen with the young man and inquired whether the young man knew appellant and if he was there. The young man answered no to both questions. When the officer again asked to speak to the renter, the young man pointed to a bedroom inside the apartment--the bedroom of Christina Lopez. The officer stood outside the bedroom door and asked Lopez if she knew appellant and if he was there. She said that she did not know him. Because the officer saw a Wolverines jacket on the couch, he did not believe that appellant was not there.

The officer then asked to speak to Cronin and a woman from a second bedroom responded. The officer asked her if appellant was there--Cronin replied that she did not know him and that he was not there. The officer walked to her bedroom door and asked her to come out so he could talk to her. She got out of bed, and as she approached, he looked inside the doorway and saw a figure standing against the wall with his arms outstretched. To the officer's query, "Dallas?" there was a response, "Yeah." The officer then walked into the bedroom, placed appellant in an escort hold and took him outside to the squad car.

In the squad car appellant told the officer his name and date of birth. The second officer checked with the radio dispatcher for warrants on appellant and discovered two: one for a minor in consumption and the other for an open bottle violation. After confirming the warrants over the police radio, the officer formally placed appellant under arrest, handcuffed him, and took him to the Hennepin County jail. Because the officer smelled alcohol on appellant's breath and he was 20-years-old at the time, he was arrested for minor in consumption as well as the two outstanding warrants. At the jail, the officer noticed that appellant had blood on his pant leg.

Back at the crime scene, the investigating officers had learned that Blaine police officers had been called to the Eardley residence on earlier occasions to investigate domestic disturbances between appellant and M. Eardley. When the investigating officers called to see if there were any arrest warrants out for appellant, they discovered that appellant had been picked up by the Minneapolis police and was being held in Hennepin County jail. The lead investigator telephoned the officer who arrested appellant, told him that appellant was a suspect in a double homicide, and asked the officer if appellant had any blood on him. The officer replied that he had noticed blood on appellant's clothing. Shortly thereafter, another Anoka County investigator went to see appellant in jail and discovered that he had fresh cuts on his leg, cuts and scrapes on his hands, and a scrape on his back. A search of 2620 Quincy Street Northeast was conducted that morning pursuant to a warrant and disclosed several pieces of evidence, including a Wolverines jacket, a garbage bag containing a bloody paper towel and a pair of black nylon jogging pants that were torn in front and in back and stained with blood. The search also disclosed a Ruger .44 caliber magnum semi-automatic rifle with a scope hidden behind the living room couch. The police seized the evidence and Cronin's 1981 Chevrolet Malibu, parked behind the duplex, because it had blood on the outside of the driver's door window and inside on the seat, head rest, steering wheel, turn signal lever, seat belt, and headlight switch.

Testing by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension revealed that the rifle seized from the apartment fired the casings found at the Eardley residence, that blood found at the residence matched appellant's as did the blood on the paper towel, the steering wheel, the turn signal, and the seat belt. It also matched blood found on the Wolverines jacket and jogging pants to appellant's with a random match...

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