This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).
State of Minnesota,
Catherine Lynn Doege,
Wright County District Court
File No. K6982224
Mike Hatch, Minnesota Attorney General, Timothy C. Rank, Assistant Attorney General, Suite 500, 525 Park Street, St. Paul, MN 55103-2106; and
Thomas N. Kelly, Wright County Attorney, Room 150, Government Center, 10 Second Street NW, Buffalo, MN 55313 (for respondent)
John M. Stuart, Minnesota State Public Defender, Scott G. Swanson, Assistant State Public Defender, 2829 University Avenue SE, Suite 600, Minneapolis, MN 55414 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Anderson, Presiding Judge, Crippen, Judge, and Amundson, Judge.
Appellant, convicted of conspiracy to commit a first-degree controlled substance crime, argues that (1) the district court erred by admitting a statement as Spreigl evidence; (2) the evidence was insufficient to support the guilty verdict; and (3) the district court abused its discretion by imposing the presumptive guidelines sentence. Because the challenged statement meets the Spreigl requirements for admission, the evidence sufficiently supports the jury’s verdict, and because this is not the rare case that warrants departure from the presumptive guidelines sentence, we affirm.
After 9:00 p.m. on August 30, 1998, a Monticello, Minnesota hotel clerk saw two men carrying coolers and duffel bags to an upstairs room. Hearing loud noises from the room around midnight, the clerk warned the guests to be quiet, and called the police when the noise continued. Wright County Deputy Sheriff Sean Deringer responded to the call. A.B. answered the hotel room door and agreed to let Deringer look around the suite to confirm that the guests had not caused any damage.
Deringer entered and noticed a powerful chemical odor. In the bedroom, Deringer saw appellant Catherine Lynn Doege step out of the bathroom wrapped in a bath towel. She seemed surprised to see him, and when Deringer asked her about a glass pipe on a table, appellant replied, “we used it to smoke meth earlier.” As Deringer conducted a pat-down search of A.B., appellant took a baby from a nearby crib and left the room. Deringer stopped her, but when he again turned his attention to A.B., appellant ran from the room a second time. Officers found her later that night hiding in a school bus with her baby. Appellant told a child protection worker that she had only smoked methamphetamine at the hotel, not manufactured it. Police later determined that the baby’s father, M.W., was also involved with the activities at the hotel room that night.
Other police officers arrived at the hotel room to investigate. The smoke detector had been disabled and officers found an air purifier running in the bathroom. Because there was an oily, yellow chemical on the bottom of the bathroom tub, together with a bucket and stopper, officers did not believe anyone had recently showered there. Officers also found chemicals of the type used to manufacture methamphetamine (bleach, brake cleaner, drain opener, lye, iodine, and red phosphorus) and drug manufacturing equipment (a propane torch, jars, flasks, gloves, funnels, filters, valves and a pump). Police recovered four plastic bags containing methamphetamine; one piece weighed over 50 grams. Expert witnesses testified that the hotel-room methamphetamine laboratory could produce “at least” 100 grams of methamphetamine, with a street value of $100 per gram. Police found appellant’s personal organizer. It contained an entry for someone named J.H., the name and address of a red phosphorus manufacturer and a list of prices and weights corresponding to the street value of methamphetamine.
In its case-in-chief, the state sought to introduce a February 1998 statement appellant made to a sheriff’s deputy during a criminal investigation. The court held a midtrial Rasmussen hearing and ruled that the statement was voluntary and admissible. When jury proceedings resumed, the deputy testified that during an interview at her home, appellant told him the prices, descriptions, and ratios of chemicals necessary to produce an ounce of methamphetamine, explained the manufacturing process, and said that she learned the procedure from J.H. The jury convicted appellant of conspiracy to commit a first-degree controlled substance crime (methamphetamine manufacture) in violation of Minn. Stat. §§ 152.096, subd. 1, 152.021, subd. 1(3) (1998) and one count of child endangerment in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.378, subd. 1(b)(2) (1998).
Appellant first argues that the district court committed reversible error by admitting her February statement wherein she explained the methamphetamine manufacturing process to a deputy sheriff. “[E]videntiary * * * rulings generally rest within the trial court’s discretion and will not be reversed absent a clear abuse of discretion.” State v. Glaze, 452 N.W.2d 655, 660 (1990) (Minn. 1990).
The state sought to introduce appellant’s February statement for the purpose of showing appellant’s knowledge of the methamphetamine manufacturing process. The Minnesota Supreme Court has created procedural requirements and safeguards that govern the admission, presentation, and consideration of other-crime or bad-act evidence, commonly known as Spreigl evidence. State v. Billstrom, 276 Minn. 174, 149 N.W.2d 281 (1967); State v. Spreigl, 272 Minn. 488, 139 N.W.2d 167 (1965). Respondent state, relying on State v. Berry, 484 N.W.2d 14, 18 (Minn. 1992), contends that appellant’s statement was not Spreigl evidence, but was properly admitted under Minn. R. Evid 801(d)(2) as a party admission. We disagree. Minn. R. Evid. 801(d)(2) merely takes appellant’s statement out of the realm of hearsay, that is, the statement is deemed reliable, and that rule does not take into account the statement’s relevance or potential for prejudice. See id. Statements made in connection with other crimes are treated as bad acts subject to Spreigl analysis. State v. Chambers, 589 N.W.2d 466, 477 (Minn. 1999).
The first requirement for admitting Spreigl evidence is that the prosecution must provide defense counsel with a written statement of the other offenses it intends to introduce at trial. Spreigl, 272 Minn. at 496-97, 139 N.W.2d at 173; Minn. R. Crim. P. 7.02. This requirement protects a defendant against unexpected prior offense testimony. State v. Schweppe, 306 Minn. 395, 404, 237 N.W.2d 609, 616 (1975). Although full compliance with the notice requirement is ideal, a court may find substantial compliance if (1) the defense knows of the existence of the evidence, and (2) its importance did not become apparent to the state until after trial commences. State v. Bolte, 530 N.W.2d 191, 199 (Minn. 1995). Although no written notice was given in this case, defense counsel admitted that he knew about the statement three or four weeks before trial, and one week before trial, the prosecutor advised defense counsel of the state’s intent to introduce the statement and the defense did not object. We are satisfied that the notice requirement was substantially and satisfactorily met.
Minnesota Rule of Evidence 404(b) provides that evidence of other bad acts is admissible to prove, among other things, knowledge. State v. Shannon, 583 N.W.2d 579, 583 (Minn. 1998). The district court must find that (1) the evidence of the bad act is clear and convincing, (2) the evidence is relevant and material to the state’s case, and (3) the probative value outweighs the potential for unfair prejudice. See Chambers, 589 N.W.2d at 476 (Minn. 1999); see also Minn. R. Evid. 403. Appellant concedes that there was clear and convincing evidence that she had knowledge of how to manufacture methamphetamine, and we conclude that the statement was relevant in the determination by the jury of whether appellant played a role in the manufacturing process at the hotel.
District courts have broad discretion in determining whether the probative value of Spreigl evidence outweighs the danger of unfair prejudice. State v. Shamp, 422 N.W.2d 520, 526 (Minn. App. 1988); review denied (Minn. June 10, 1988). Generally, district courts should admit the Spreigl evidence only where it is needed to support the state’s burden of proof in an otherwise weak case. State v. Kennedy, 585 N.W.2d 385, 391-92 (Minn. 1998). Prejudice, in this context, does not mean the damage resulting from legitimate probative force of the evidence, but from the unfair advantage of persuasion by illegitimate means. State v. Cermak, 365 N.W.2d 243, 247 n.2 (Minn. 1985). Thus, the question of prejudice is resolved by determining whether the evidence encourages the jury to convict based on a prior crime rather than the charged crime. State v. Bolte, 530 N.W.2d 191, 197 n.3 (Minn. 1995).
The state’s case was entirely circumstantial, and the district court carefully and completely addressed the state’s intended scope of the deputy’s testimony at the Rasmussen hearing. The state limited the deputy’s testimony to appellant’s knowledge of the methamphetamine manufacturing process and redacted the context of the interview. The Spreigl evidence in this case completed the picture of appellant, and was not intended nor admitted “to paint another picture.” Berry, 484 N.W.2d at 18. Moreover, the district court cautioned the jury not to convict appellant of any offenses not charged. See Billstrom, 276 Minn. at 179, 149 N.W.2d at 285 (favoring cautionary instructions when Spreigl evidence has been admitted). Under these circumstances, we conclude that the district court did not clearly abuse its discretion by admitting appellant’s February 1998 statement.
Appellant next argues that the evidence was insufficient for the jury to find her guilty of conspiracy to commit a first-degree controlled substance crime. In assessing the sufficiency of the evidence, we view the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict and determine whether the jury could permissibly reach the result it did. State v. Webb, 440 N.W.2d 426, 430 (Minn. 1989). When a conviction rests on circumstantial evidence, we accord the jury due deference because of their opportunity to evaluate the evidence. Id. Circumstantial evidence is sufficient if the evidence and the reasonable inferences are “consistent only with the defendant’s guilt and inconsistent with any rational hypothesis except that of guilt.” State v. Bowles, 530 N.W.2d 521, 534 (Minn. 1995). Appellant’s rational hypothesis was that she was merely present in the hotel room and thus innocent of the charged crime.
Under the statute in effect on the date of appellant’s offense, a person is guilty of a first-degree controlled substance crime if “the person unlawfully sells one or more mixtures of a total weight of 50 grams or more containing methamphetamine.” Minn. Stat. § 152.021, subd. 1(3) (1998). The definition of “sell” includes manufacturing. See Minn. Stat. § 152.01, subd. 15a(1) (1998). The elements of the crime of conspiracy are: (1) an agreement with another to commit a crime; and (2) an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy. Minn. Stat. § 609.175, subd. 2 (1998); State v. Olkon, 299 N.W.2d 89, 104 (Minn. 1980). A factfinder may infer a conspiracy from the facts proved, and no formal agreement need be shown. State v. Watson, 433 N.W.2d 110, 114-15 (Minn. App. 1988), review denied (Minn. Feb. 10, 1989).
The hotel clerk arrived at 9:00 p.m. but did not see appellant enter or leave the room until she fled from police after midnight. The chemicals, equipment, and the methamphetamine found at the scene, together with the condition of the hotel room, established a methamphetamine manufacturing laboratory. The oily, yellow substance, the bucket and the stopper, all found in the bathtub, are inconsistent with the inference that appellant used the shower just before police arrived. Appellant’s personal organizer referenced chemicals, prices and weights corresponding to methamphetamine, and contained the name of the person who taught appellant how to make methamphetamine. Appellant knew the ingredients, ratios, mixing methods and the filtering process for manufacturing the drug. Appellant had a close relationship with M.W., one of the men involved in the manufacturing laboratory. Appellant admitted using methamphetamine, and twice attempted to flee the crime scene. The state argued that A.B. and M.W. moved equipment and supplies, while appellant “cooked” the methamphetamine -- an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy.
On this evidence, the jury could reasonably infer that there was an agreement between appellant, A.B. and M.W. to manufacture methamphetamine, and overt acts on appellant’s part in furtherance of the conspiracy. Viewed in the light most favorable to the conviction, we conclude that the evidence was sufficient to permit the jury to find appellant guilty of conspiracy to commit methamphetamine manufacture.
Finally, appellant claims that the district court abused its broad sentencing discretion by imposing the presumptive 86-month guidelines term of imprisonment. Appellant argues that she was merely present at the scene, had a criminal history score of zero, and as the mother of two small children, the presumptive sentence was unduly harsh. We will not interfere with a district court’s broad sentencing discretion unless there has been an abuse of that discretion. State v. Warren, 592 N.W.2d 440, 451 (Minn. 1999). District courts have no discretion to depart from the guidelines unless aggravating or mitigating factors are present. State v. Spain, 590 N.W.2d 85, 88 (Minn. 1999). The sentences provided in the sentencing guidelines grid are presumed appropriate for every case, and only in the “rare case” will this court reverse imposition of the presumptive sentence. State v. Kindem, 313 N.W.2d 6, 7 (Minn. 1981); Minn. Sent. Guidelines II.D.
This is not the “rare” case that warrants reversal of the presumptive guidelines sentence. The jury rejected appellant’s theory that she was merely present at the crime scene. A lack of criminal history is not a mitigating factor, since it is already considered in the sentencing guidelines grid. State v. Brusven, 327 N.W.2d 591, 593 (Minn. 1982). Finally, sentencing courts may not consider social factors when imposing sentences. See Minn. Sent. Guidelines II.D.1. Appellant’s parental status is a social factor. The presence of her child at the scene of methamphetamine manufacture resulted in appellant’s conviction for child endangerment and in fact supports the state’s argument that a presumptive sentence was appropriate.