State of Minnesota v. David Muniz Bustos

Minnesota case law summary by Attorney Richard Clem: criminal law.

State of Minnesota v. David Muniz Bustos. MN criminal law

David Muniz Bustos was convicted in McCleod County of first-degree murder while committing domestic abuse, as well as lesser included offenses. He appealed to the Minnesota Supreme Court.

One of the elements of the crime was at least two prior incidents of domestic abuse, and the defendant argued that the state failed to prove this element beyond a reasonable doubt. In particular, his attorney was instructed that during closing argument, he was not allowed to argue that "the State is required to prove any alleged incident of prior domestic abuse . . . beyond a reasonable doubt . . . ." An earlier case had held that a defendant accused of more than two incidents was not entitled to have more than two proved beyond a reasonable doubt. But the Supreme Court agreed that this was reversible error in his case, since the state was required to prove at least two incidents, even though the defendant was accused of more than two.

The Court also agreed with defendant that the trial court had erred in defining domestic abuse as "an act amounting to assault, domestic assault, criminal sexual conduct, terroristic threats, or similar acts if committed against a family or household member." The Court held tht the inclusion of the words "similar acts" was error, since the Minnesota Statutes criminalized only certain behavior.

For these reasons, the high court remanded the case for new trial on the first-degree murder charge, letting stand the convictions for the lesser offenses.

No. A13-0961 (Minn. April 1, 2015)

Please see the original opinion for the court's exact language.


Richard P. Clem is an attorney and continuing legal education (CLE) provider in Minnesota. He has been in private practice in the Twin Cities for 25 years. He has a J.D., cum laude, from Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul and a B.A. in History from the University of Minnesota. His reported cases include: Asociacion Nacional de Pescadores a Pequena Escala o Artesanales de Colombia v. Dow Quimica de Colombia, 988 F.2d 559, rehearing denied, 5 F.3d 530 (5th Cir. 1993), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 1041 (1994); LaMott v. Apple Valley Health Care Center, 465 N.W.2d 585 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991); Abo el Ela v. State, 468 N.W.2d 580 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991).

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