State v. Crockson, Jr., Minn.Ct.App., 9/22/2014. A jury convicted Mr. Crockson, Jr. of two counts of burglary and two of three assault charges. Mr. Crockson, Jr. and three juveniles had gone over to T.C.’s place, where they also found C.C. and D. H. In fact, it was C.C. who opened the door and let everyone in. C.C. had sold Mr. Crockson, Jr. a cell phone, but Mr. Crockson, Jr. accused C.C. of not giving him the phone’s correct PIN number. The two argued over this and when they reached an impasse on whether this was true or not one of the juvenile’s handed Mr. Crockson, Jr. a revolver, which he placed to C.C.’s head, one assumes to move the discussion to a more satisfactory conclusion. Mr. Crockson, Jr. then directed the juveniles to assault D.H., which they did.
Near the end of the trial, the trial judge permitted the state to amend the complaint, which had charged that Mr. Crockson, Jr. was subject to an enhanced sentence for the assaults because he was a felon in possession of a firearm. The amendment changed the basis for the enhanced sentence to second or subsequent offense involving a firearm. The state’s proof, however, only established that Mr. Crockson, Jr.’s prior assault conviction had involved a “dangerous weapon” rather than proof of a firearm.
On appeal, Mr. Crockson, Jr. mostly argued about the sentence. Before that, however, he argued that C.C. was not in “lawful possession” of the apartment; that is, she lacked a legal right to exercise control over the premises, including deciding who gets to come in and who has to leave. Mr. Crockson, Jr., seemed to want to have his proverbial cake ad eat it too. If C.C.lacked the authority to throw Mr. Crockson, Jr. and the juveniles out, then the burglary element, “unlawful entry,” which includes overstaying your welcome and getting thrown out, isn’t proven. Thus, no burglary. But, if C.C. couldn’t throw everyone out then she could not invite them in, either. Which suggests that they were what? Alas, the court avoids this existential conundrum by concluding that because C.C. was living at T.C.’s apartment at the time with T.C.’s permission then she had authority to admit and deny entrance.
The trial court adjudicated Mr. Crockson, Jr.’s guilt on both burglary convictions, even though everyone agreed that the two were part of a single course of behavior. This was a mistake that the state conceded. The appellate court lectures the trial court on the proper drill in this situation, which is to accept both guilty verdicts but to adjudicate guilt and impose sentence on only one of the two guilty verdicts.
Because the state failed to prove that Mr. Crockson, Jr.’s previous conviction involved a firearm – a “dangerous weapon” being too amorphous - the appellate court vacates the assault sentences and remands for resentencing without regard to the mandatory minimum sentence of sixty months. A victory of sorts – it moots the business about the end of trial amendment of the complaint - but not one that anyone’s going either to celebrate or lose sleep over; the sentence on the burglary was a third longer in duration.