AUSTIN EDITION -- State court upholds conviction in Austin case

By Amy Olson

A 38-year-old Austin man will remain in prison after the state's Supreme Court upheld his 1999 conviction for sexually abusing a young girl.

The Minnesota Supreme Court refused to hear John M. Karnes' appeal. The ruling, announced Thursday, comes two months after the Minnesota Court of Appeals held that Karnes received a fair trial in November 2000 on charges he abused the daughter of a friend in August 1999 when he spent the night at the home. The girl was then 5 years old.

Karnes was sentenced in February 2001 to nine years in prison.


Karnes appealed his conviction, claiming prosecutorial misconduct and the court's admission of a previous conviction for a controlled substance crime. He also claimed the court abused its discretion by sentencing Karnes to a longer prison sentence than suggested for such crimes under the state's sentencing guidelines.

His attorney argued that prosecutor Jonathan Olson's questioning of two witnesses, including the girl's mother, and Olson's response to defense attorney Evan Larson's comments differentiating between pattern sex offenders and single instances inflamed jury members' passions and prejudiced them against him.

The Appeals Court found Olson's comments were "sarcastic," but not inflammatory and noted that Larson brought up the issue. The panel of judges also dismissed Karnes' concerns about his prior criminal history, because his attorney questioned him about it when he took the stand in his defense.

Karnes is incarcerated at the Minnesota Correctional Facility–Moose; Lake. He will be eligible in February 2007 for release under the state's one-third sentence reduction policy, if he maintains good behavior, according to the Minnesota Department of Corrections.

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