State v. Gibbs

Full title:STATE of North Dakota, Plaintiff and Appellee v. Moe Maurice Gibbs

Court: Supreme Court of North Dakota

Date published: Apr 2, 2009

Facts

 At about 9:00 p.m. on September 13, 2006, Valley City State University student Mindy Morgenstern was found dead in her off-campus apartment. Morgenstern was found inside the front door of her apartment with a cloth belt around her neck, a slit throat, and two kitchen knives next to her body. Pine Sol had been poured over her upper torso and face. George Mizell, the state forensic examiner, determined the cause of Morgenstern’s death was an “incised wound of the neck/asphyxia.”

[¶ 3] There were no signs of forced entry into Morgenstern’s apartment, and there were no known witnesses to her death. Morgenstern was last seen at the university campus, where she logged off a school computer at 12:23 p.m. on September 13. Morgenstern’s apartment was minutes from the campus, and she failed to answer a cell phone call from a friend at 12:47 p.m. Law enforcement officials testified they believed Morgenstern was killed between 12:45 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. on September 13. There were no usable fingerprints on the knives found by Morgenstern’s body, and an analysis of deoxyribonucleic acid (“DNA”) on the knives excluded Gibbs as a contributor to that DNA. Both an analysis of DNA on rubber gloves found in Morgenstern’s apartment and a mitochondrial DNA analysis of a piece of hair found in her left hand excluded Gibbs as a contributor. However, DNA analysis of scrapings and clippings from Morgenstern’s fingernails on her left hand matched a profile of Gibbs’ DNA. A DNA analysis from the fingernail clippings resulted in 41.2 nanograms of DNA, with 30.8 nanograms matching Gibbs’ DNA profile and the remainder matching Morgenstern’s DNA profile. A DNA analysis of the scrapings from Morgenstern’s fingernails indicated a 2 to 1 ratio of Gibbs’ DNA to Morgenstern’s DNA. A DNA analysis of a spot on Morgenstern’s shirt indicated that Gibbs could not be excluded as a contributor of that DNA.

Issue

Decision

 Under our deferential standard of review of claims about the sufficiency of the evidence, we conclude sufficient circumstantial evidence existed for the jury to find Gibbs guilty of murder.

We affirm the judgment.

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