MN Court: Victim’s role irrelevant in deciding damages

In a decision that forced a conservative and liberal justice to dissent, the Minnesota Supreme Court has ruled authorities cannot blame the victim when determining the restitution criminals are required to pay in some cases.

Justice Wilhelmina Wright, in possibly her last court opinion before becoming a federal judge, rejected a Winona, Minn., man’s argument that because a man he stabbed started the fight, his restitution should be cut in half.

Brandon Riggs was assaulted after an argument at a Minnesota City, Minn., gas station over the quality of the marijuana he sold to Darin Salisbury, who chased him before Riggs stabbed him twice.

At his trial, Riggs was ordered to pay half of the victim’s employment-related costs as a result of the stabbing. But the Minnesota Court of Appeals overturned the order, saying state law does not allow the victim’s role to be considered.

In her decision today, Wright agreed, writing that the Legislature provided specific factors to be considered when calculating restitution and the role of the victim isn’t one of them.

That drew a dissent from Chief Justice Lori Gildea, who argued that had the victim not started the confrontation, he wouldn’t have suffered the economic loss.

Justice Alan Page, in possibly his last dissent before retiring, also disagreed with Justice Wright, but for a different reason than Justice Gildea’s.

“In this case, the victim’s role as aggressor was part and parcel of the incident that was the basis for Riggs’ conviction,” Page argued.

Here’s the full opinion (pdf).