Court Cases By State - Minnesota

Court Cases by Minnensota

In the Matter of the Welfare of the Children of K.H.
2009 App. Unpub. LEXIS 1023 ( App. 2009)

Child has fetal alcohol syndrome and mother continues to have problems abusing alcohol. Mother left the 5-year-old child with FAS in car while she patronized a bar on a hot summer night. Her children were taken away and the case plan for mother involved sobering up and she refused to comply with the chemical-related aspects of the case plan.

v. Fardan
773 N.W.2d 303 ( 2009)

Juvenile defendant was convicted of first-degree felony murder, second-degree felony murder and first-degree aggravated robbery. Juvenile appeals the conviction, arguing that his Miranda waiver was invalid because of his limited ability to comprehend. Evaluation of the juvenile determined that he showed minimal characteristics of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and he was diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Effects/Neurobehavioral Disorder. He was in the average range overall in cognitive abilities and academic achievement and on the low end of average in functions like memory, language and adaptive behavior skills. The court found that his disability did not affect his ability to make a valid Miranda waiver and he had the necessary intelligence and capacity to understand the warnings. His FAE diagnosis was found not severe enough to constitute a mitigating factor in sentencing.

In the Matter of the Welfare of A.J.F.
2007 App. Unpub. LEXIS 73 (Ct. App. 2007)

A juvenile defendant charged with first-degree murder, first-degree aggravated robbery, second-degree assault, kidnapping, first-degree burglary and first-degree sexual conduct appeals an order certifying him to be tried as an adult. In certifying, a court may consider the individual’s level of culpability and any mitigating factors. The defendant argues the court did not consider his age and diagnoses of ADHD or fetal alcohol effects/neurobehavioral disorder as mitigating factors. Experts did not find that his FASD constituted a mitigating factor here so the order certifying him to be tried as an adult was affirmed.

In re Welfare of G.A.R.B.
2004 WL 51814 (Minn. Ct. App. 2004)

A minor charged with second-degree murder and tried as an adult. The minor challenged the order certifying him as an adult arguing that his lead poisoning, clinical depression and probable affliction with FAS were mitigating factors undermining his culpability in the crime. There was no formal diagnosis of FAS and no evidence of mental deficiency introduced at trial so the court could not accept it as a mitigating factor.

In the Matter of the Welfare of J.R.T.
2004 WL 614804 (Minn. Ct. App. 2004)

A minor was charged with second-degree murder and certified as an adult. He challenged the certification arguing diminished culpability for the murder because he lacked substantial capacity for judgment at the time of the offense due to his major depression and conduct disorders and fetal alcohol syndrome or fetal alcohol effects. The court found that the minor presented no evidence at the certification hearing to show how FAS or other conditions affected his judgment on the day of crime and found that the lower court was not erroneous in finding a lack of mitigating factors.

In the Matter of the Children of Corey Lee Dixon
2003 WL 21152526 (Minn. Ct. App.)

This is a case regarding the termination of the parental rights of the father of four children.

One ground for the termination was that the father had failed to "engage in a support group for Fetal Alcohol syndrome and Fetal Alcohol Effects." 2003 WL 21152526 at * 1. [Such support groups do not even exist in most areas.] This case is from St. Paul, Minnesota.

In The Matter of the Children of Dixon
2003 WL 21152526 (Minn. App.)

The appellate court approved the termination of the father's parental rights to four children. Two of the children had FAE. (*4)

The trial court, in deciding to terminate Dixon's parental rights, emphasized that it would be in the best interests of the children to be raised by someone who understood and could respond to "their special needs", including the FAE. (*4).

At one time a case plan had been prepared for Dixon that included "engag[ing]in a support group for Fetal Alcohol syndrome and Fetal Alcohol Effects." (* 1). Apparently Dixon failed to do so.

In the Matter of the Welfare of G.A.R.B.
2004 WL 51814 (Minn. App.)

G.A.R.B., a minor, was charged with second-degree murder. He challenged his "certification as an adult", which meant that G.A.R.B. would be tried as an adult.

In opposing that certification, counsel for G.A.R.B. argued that FAS was a mitigating factor. The appellate court upheld the decision of the district court that no mitigating factors were present. "[W]hile it has been suspected that G.A.R.B. may have been born with FAS, this diagnosis has never been established." 2004 WL 51814 at *2.

State v. Goldenstein
505 N.W. 2d 332 (Ct. App. Minn. 1993)

Mr. and Mrs. Goldenstein were convicted of sexually abusing several foster children, all of whom had apparently been diagnosed with FAS. The defendants were convicted on the basis of out-of-court statements that had been made by the children.

The court ruled that the children were all incompetent to testify.

"The trial court found the older girl incompetent on the basis of lack of ability to tell the truth and the younger girl incompetent on the basis of her lack of ability to remember what happened. The trial court found the boy incompetent because he refused to answer questions and was frightened."

05 N.W. 2d at 342 n. 7.

The trial judge refused to permit the defense to present testimony by an expert on FAS who would testify about "the impact the disease has on children's behavior and their ability to remember and describe events." 505 N.W. 2d at 342. The proposed witness was Dr. Robert W. ten Bensel. The trial judge did so on two grounds: (a) Dr. ten Bensel could not, based upon the records before him diagnose the children with FAS, and (b) the witness had not interviewed or examined the children (a result of the court's own order prohibiting any interview or examination).

In overturning the conviction, the appellate court explained:

"The admissible evidence at trial, especially the evidence from the medical and psychological professionals, often touched on FAS. The jury was never provided with information about the syndrome. The state contends that information about FAS is not relevant to the case and has no bearing on whether the children were sexually abused. FAS, however, apparently impacts a child's ability to remember and restate events. If medical records do, in fact, contain a FAS diagnosis of the children, this medical information directly affects the credibility of the children, would be helpful to the defense, and the expert testimony would assist the jury in discharging its factfinding duty."

505 N.W. 2d at 342.

The appellate court also held that the trial court had violated the constitutional rights of the defendants when it excluded evidence that the children had made false accusations of sexual abuse against another person. 505 N.W. 2d at 340.

State v. Ross
1996 WL 208476 (Minn. Ct. App.)

Ross was convicted of murder in the death of her foster child, DeJohn Speed. The child died from head trauma and numerous internal and external injuries.

Ross argued that she was denied the effective assistance of counsel because her attorney did not call a witness to testify that the child had FAS. Although the argument is not entirely clear, it appears Ross was claiming that FAS would have caused the child to injure himself. The appellate court rejected this claim because there was not evidence that any medical expert would actually testify the child had FAS. 1996 WL 208476 at *7.

See also  State v. Ross, 1994 WL 750593 (Minn. Dist. Ct.), holding that Ross would be allowed to adduce evidence that the child had FAS.