State v. Barnes

713 N.W.2d 325 (2006)

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State v. Barnes

Minnesota Supreme Court
713 N.W.2d 325 (2006)

  • Written by Haley Gintis, JD

Facts

On July 13, 2004, a 911 dispatcher received a call from Charles Ray Barnes (defendant), claiming that his ex-wife, Erin Rooney, had overdosed on drugs. Barnes told the dispatcher he had just arrived home and found Rooney unconscious. Police officers and paramedics arrived at the scene and pronounced Rooney dead. The officers questioned Barnes about a syringe on the living room table. Barnes informed the officers that Rooney was addicted to heroin, and she had likely used the syringe to inject herself. The officers then interviewed Barnes about the events that took place. Barnes provided a different story from the one he told the dispatcher. Barnes stated that he had fallen asleep after having dinner with Rooney and woke up to find her unconscious. An autopsy was performed the following day. The autopsy revealed that Rooney’s neck had been broken and she suffered hemorrhaging. The death was treated as a homicide. Barnes was arrested and convicted with first-degree domestic-abuse murder, among other charges. Barnes was sentenced to life in prison. Barnes appealed the conviction on the ground that first-degree domestic-abuse murder was violative of the state’s equal protection laws because it impermissibly punished conduct identical to the conduct punished in the depraved-mind murder statute and carried with it a harsher punishment.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Hanson, J.)

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