ST. PETER — A Minnesota Security Hospital inmate's conviction for assaulting a guard with a sharpened pen has been upheld by the Minnesota Court of Appeals.
A jury convicted Michael Cordale Henderson, 49, of assault and making terroristic threats in April 2012 for an incident that was reported by hospital staff on March 31, 2009.
Henderson appealed the convictions, claiming there wasn't enough evidence to support them and that the judge didn't provide proper jury instructions for his self-defense claim. Henderson also claimed he only should have been convicted and sentenced for one crime because they both happened during the same incident.
The appeals court issued a ruling Monday that said there was sufficient evidence, the jury instructions met requirements, both convictions should stand, and that Henderson's claims "lack merit."
Henderson was committed to the hospital as a mentally ill and dangerous person in September 2009. On March 31, 2009, he assaulted a security guard who was attempting to stop him from bringing sanitary wipes into his room because the wipes were considered contraband.
The guard reported he attempted to calmly retrieve the wipes from Henderson, who started yelling, making threats and drew the attention of other security guards by slamming the steel door to his room. Those two guards told investigators the victim remained calm after they arrived while he continued to attempt to get the wipes out of the room.
When the guard opened Henderson's door again, he allegedly threatened to kill the victim while brandishing a sharp object. When Henderson moved toward the victim in an apparent attempt to stab him, they were knocked to the ground. The victim reported he was stabbed twice in the back while Henderson was being restrained.
A bent pen, which had a sharpened tip, was found on the ground. The victim had two puncture wounds in his back and had torn a knee ligament during the confrontation. The victim told investigators the injuries would have been worse if the pen didn't hit his shoulder blade and that he believed Henderson was attempting to kill him.
Henderson represented himself during the jury trial in April 2012. While questioning witnesses, he implied the victim had sexually harassed him.
His appeal claimed the pen wasn't a deadly weapon, so there wasn't enough evidence for a second-degree assault conviction. The appeals court disagreed in its ruling, which said the tip had been sharpened, Henderson rushed the victim and threatened to kill him with it, and enough force was used to leave to puncture wounds.
The weapon didn't cause "great bodily harm," but it could have and that is all the law requires, the ruling said. It also said Henderson did not show he was acting in self defense and that the assault and threat charges were separate.
District Court Judge Todd Westphal sentenced Henderson to 36 months in prison on May 22, 2012. The sentence will run consecutively to a five-year prison sentence Henderson received in Hennepin County in 2011. Henderson also has to serve a 23-year prison sentence he received in Hennepin County in 2012. The Hennepin County convictions are for kidnapping and criminal sexual conduct charges stemming from two 2007 incidents.