Facts: Kyle John Kelbel was convicted of first-degree murder, past pattern of child abuse, in violation of Minnesota state statute section 609.185(5) and second-degree murder, in violation of Minnesota statute 609.19, subdivision 2(1). He was sentenced to life in prison for the death of Kailyn Marie Montgomery. Kelbel appealed, and argued that the district court failed to instruct the jury that it must find that the state proved beyond a reasonable doubt each of the acts that constituted the past pattern of child abuse and he also argued that the evidence against him was insufficient to prove past pattern of child abuse against Kailyn. Kelbel testified that the head injury of Kailyn was inflicted by a cup thrown at her head by step brother Evan. Kelbel also testified that other injuries found on Kailyn were caused by Evan and that he is “rough” with her. Medical examiners ran an autopsy on Kailyn’s body and determined that the injuries had been caused by blunt trauma and force caused by a knee or fist. Medical examiners testified that the injuries caused could not have been caused by a cup thrown at her head or by an accidental fall down the stairs.
Kailyn’s mother, Lindsey, also testified that Kailyn had previous injuries that she became concerned with. Upon retrieving a search warrant, police entered Lindsey’s home to find further evidence. Police found a dent in the wall near Kailyn’s bed. After Kelbel was eventually found guilty of the charges brought, Kelbel filed a motion for a judgement of aquittal and for a new trial on the grounds that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction. The district court denied the motion. Issue: Kelbel argued that the district court failed to instruct the jury that in order to convict him of first-degree murder, past pattern child abuse, they must find beyond a reasonable doubt that he committed each of the acts that constitutes past pattern child abuse. Moreover, Kelbel argued that his due process rights were violated when the jury was not instructed correctly because Minnesota statute 609.85(5) mirrors the language in 609.85(6), therefore creating multiple elements that must be proven.
Kelbel’s second argument also stated that the evidence against him was insufficient. Reasoning: The rules of statutory construction do not support Kelbel’s argument that “past pattern child abuse” constitutes several elements; therefore the district court’s denial of his motion was fully upon the court’s discretion. The court’s refusal to give the jury Kelbel’s instruction to prove each element of “past pattern child abuse” is also under the court’s discretion. The medical examiner’s testimony revealed that Kailyn died of internal bleeding caused by multiple blows to her abdomen and based on testimonies given by a neighbor and by Lindsey, it was confirmed that Kelbel was alone with Kailyn during the time she received her injuries.
Testimonies given about Kailyn’s injuries before December 4th also reveal that Kelbel was alone with Kailyn during the time she received injuries. Moreover, the court concludes that the testimonies of medical examiners and by Lindsey are sufficient to support the jury’s verdict. Holding: Kelbel’s conflicting explanations for Kailyn’s injuries did not coincide with testimonies given my medical examiners, Lindsey, Olster, and a neighbor, so the court holds that evidence presented is sufficient for the jury to reach a verdict. The court also concludes that the district court did not abuse discretion when refusing to instruct the jury that each element of “past pattern child abuse” must be proven.
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