Minn. man convicted of attempted murder loses appeal centering on photo ID
DULUTH, Minn.-The Minnesota Court of Appeals has upheld the case of a Hermantown man who was convicted of luring a victim to rural Rice Lake and stabbing him a dozen times.A St. Louis County jury in November 2015 found Andre Verlin Anderson guilt...
DULUTH, Minn.-The Minnesota Court of Appeals has upheld the case of a Hermantown man who was convicted of luring a victim to rural Rice Lake and stabbing him a dozen times.
A St. Louis County jury in November 2015 found Andre Verlin Anderson guilty of felony charges of attempted second-degree murder, first-degree assault and theft of a motor vehicle.
A co-defendant testified that Anderson was recovering from a heroin overdose when he launched an unprovoked attack on 22-year-old Chad Johnson, whom he had just met, along remote Hicken Road in August 2014.
Prosecutors said Anderson and the co-defendant, Steven Robert Hager, then left Johnson for dead while stealing his truck, which was later found burned in West Duluth. Johnson survived after making his way to a nearby residence and calling for help.
Senior Judge John DeSanto sentenced Anderson to nearly 18 years in prison, saying in January 2016 that the incident was "heinous" and "clearly shows the devastation and tragic results of heroin and other substance abuse."
Anderson, now 30, filed an appeal that focused largely on issues related to Johnson's identification of him through a photo lineup.
Johnson, who could not tell investigators Anderson's name, described his attacker by physical features. He failed to pick Anderson out of one photo lineup, but recognized him from a second lineup showing a newer mugshot.
Defense attorneys raised issues at trial and in the appeal over the process, noting that Anderson was the only suspect shown in two lineups and arguing that his mugshot was different in appearance, potentially leading the victim to provide a false identification.
The appeals court, however, ruled that there was substantial corroborating evidence to support that Anderson was the attacker. The judges noted several other people identified Anderson as Hager's boyfriend, and that phone records led investigator to look at Anderson as a suspect.
"All of this occurred before the photo lineup was presented to (Johnson)," Judge Edward Toussaint wrote in the opinion.
The appeals court also denied a claim that Anderson should have been allowed to call an expert witness to testify about potential issues surrounding eyewitness identification procedures, such as those used in the photo lineup.
Toussaint wrote that it is within the district court's discretion to determine whether such testimony would be helpful - and, in this case, DeSanto had ruled that it was not.
Judge John Rodenberg issued a concurring opinion upholding the convictions, but said he was troubled by the question of the expert testimony. He noted that the precedent for the ruling was set in a case from 1980, lacking recent studies on the topic.
"Given what we now know about the limitations of eyewitness testimony," Rodenberg wrote, "a jury needs something more in its quest for the truth than cross-examination of a witness certain of what he has seen, or argument by counsel that the witness did not see that of which he himself is certain."
Finlayson murder appeal fails
Meanwhile, a separate three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals upheld a Sandstone man's murder conviction and 40-year prison sentence.
Robert Sam Raisch Jr., 51, was convicted by a Pine County jury in October 2015 on three felony charges in the killing of 59-year-old James Shepardson, whose body was discovered in a burned-out mobile home in Finlayson in March 2015.
Raisch raised a number of issues, including the prosecution's introduction of evidence from an earlier aggravated robbery conviction and the court's denial of his motion for a mistrial based on improper law enforcement testimony at the trial.
The appeals court said the robbery evidence was relevant and that the court took proper action to remedy potentially prejudicial testimony.