This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).

 

STATE OF MINNESOTA

IN COURT OF APPEALS

C6-99-1571

 

State of Minnesota,
Respondent,

vs.

Harris Lee Williams,
Appellant.

 

Filed June 20, 2000

Affirmed

Crippen, Judge

 

Hennepin County District Court

File No. 99048084

 

 

Mike Hatch, Attorney General, Suite 500, 525 Park Street, St. Paul, MN 55103; and

 

Jay M. Heffern, Minneapolis City Attorney, Cheri A. Townsend, Assistant Minneapolis City Attorney, 300 Metropolitan Centre, 333 South Seventh Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for respondent)

 

William E. McGee, Chief Public Defender, Hennepin County, Renée Bergeron, Assistant Public Defender, Suite 200, 317 Second Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55401 (for appellant)

 

            Considered and decided by Shumaker, Presiding Judge, Crippen, Judge, and Klaphake, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N

 

CRIPPEN, Judge

            Appellant Harris Williams asserts that the trial court denied his right to confront the witnesses against him by improperly limiting his cross-examination of police witnesses.  Finding no abuse in the trial court’s exercise of discretion, we affirm.

FACTS

 

            Appellant was convicted of misdemeanor solicitation of prostitution after a jury trial.  During the trial, appellant was denied the opportunity to cross-examine police witnesses regarding his contention that they had a financial interest in his case.  Appellant wished to inquire about forfeiture laws that would allow the confiscation of his vehicle, a 1996 Ford Explorer, if he were to be convicted, and the distribution of a portion of net forfeiture proceeds to the Minneapolis Police Department. 

D E C I S I O N

1.         Cross-examination

            The trial court’s authority to restrict the scope of cross-examination is limited by the Sixth Amendment right of an accused person to “be confronted with the witnesses against him.”  State v. Lanz-Terry, 535 N.W.2d 635, 640 (Minn. 1995) (quoting Davis v. Alaska, 415 U.S. 308, 315, 94 S. Ct. 1105, 1110 (1974)).  The defendant shows a violation of this right when the trial court prohibits him from “engaging in otherwise appropriate cross-examination designed to show a prototypical form of bias” by the witness.  State v. Pride, 528 N.W.2d 862, 865-66 (Minn. 1995) (quoting Delaware v. Van Arsdall, 475 U.S. 673, 680, 106 S. Ct. 1431, 1436 (1986)). 

Even where a defendant asserts the Confrontation Clause, the trial court retains discretion to exclude evidence of extraneous matters to prevent confusion of the issues or interrogation that is only marginally relevant.  Lanz-Terry, 535 N.W.2d at 641 (citing Van Arsdall, 475 U.S. at 679, 106 S. Ct. at 1435).

            This case gives us no occasion to determine authoritatively a defendant’s right to cross-examine police witnesses on the forfeiture topic because the record shows that (a) appellant disclosed no reason to believe police officers had a direct, personal interest in the fruits of a forfeiture; (b) although it is evident that some of the fruits of a forfeiture would benefit the Minneapolis Police Department,[1] there was no offer to show that these funds would be used for any unit of the Department or activity of the Department in which the officers held any special interest; and (c) there was no offer to show any likelihood of net forfeiture proceeds from the taking of appellant’s vehicle or from a category of vehicles of like kind or age.  In these circumstances, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in finding that there was no foundation for the inquiry that appellant proposed.  Cf. Pride, 528 N.W.2d at 866 (trial court erred in prohibiting cross-examination that might have given jury significantly different impression of witnesses’ credibility, where proposed cross-examination had potential to demonstrate alleged victim’s ulterior motives and police officer’s interest in the outcome of the trial).

2.         Prosecutorial Misconduct

            Appellant asserts that effects of the trial court’s cross-examination ruling were aggravated by the prosecutor’s statement in closing argument that the police witnesses were neutral in the case.  Because the record does not establish a financial interest or bias of the witnesses, the closing argument was appropriate, certainly not the plain error that must occur when, as here, no objection was made to the prosecutor’s argument.  See State v. Whittaker, 568 N.W.2d 440, 450 (Minn. 1997) (failure to object or seek cautionary instructions at trial waives defendant’s right to raise the issue on appeal, unless the comments were unduly prejudicial).  Although the prosecutor’s statement makes the issue of the police witnesses’ alleged financial interest more important, it does not alter our analysis of that issue.

3.         Sufficiency of Evidence

            Finally, appellant questions the sufficiency of the evidence to sustain his conviction, largely because of his claim that a police tape of a conversation, which the police said involved contact with a different defendant, in fact represented his conversation with the undercover police officer and demonstrated his lack of solicitation.  The credibility of the officers’ description of the conversation they heard, together with the evidence concerning the identification of the voice on the tape as appellant’s voice, are matters of credibility properly left for the jury to decide.  See State v. Doppler, 590 N.W.2d 627, 635 (Minn. 1999) (credibility of witnesses is a question for the jury).  Similarly, arguments by appellant regarding other inconsistencies in the testimony of the officers do not raise an issue permitting disregard of the jury verdict.

Affirmed.

 

 

 



[1] Under Minn. Stat. § 609.5312, subd. 3(a) (1998), appellant’s vehicle was subject to forfeiture if he were convicted of the prostitution offense.  Under Minn. Stat. § 609.5315, subd. 5a (1998), the Minneapolis Police Department would receive 40% of the proceeds from the forfeiture, after payment of expenses and liens.