This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).






State of Minnesota,


Jeffrey Douglas Reiter,


Filed March 20, 2001


Crippen, Judge


Hennepin County District Court

File No. 99021507



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


Amy Klobuchar, Hennepin County Attorney, Gayle C. Hendley, Assistant County Attorney, C-2000 Government Center, Minneapolis, MN 55487 (for respondent)


Douglas W. Thomson, Suite W-1260, 332 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101; and


Lisa Lodin Peralta, 205 Commerce at the Crossings, 250 Second Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55401 (for appellant)


            Considered and decided by Lansing, Presiding Judge, Crippen, Judge, and Kalitowski, Judge.


U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N




Following his conviction for false imprisonment and terroristic threats, appellant Jeffrey Reiter challenges the admission of testimony related to his prior abuse of the victim and the exclusion of expert testimony.  Finding no abuse of discretion in the trial court’s evidentiary rulings, we affirm.



            In late 1999, a jury determined appellant’s guilt, and the trial court sentenced him to concurrent, 40-month terms of imprisonment.  The convictions arose out of conduct that took place in February 1999, when appellant was on a date with the mother of his child, fought with her, and threatened to beat her to death.



Rulings on evidentiary matters rest within the sound discretion of the trial court and will not be reversed absent a prejudicial abuse of that discretion.  State v. Bauer, 598 N.W.2d 352, 362 (Minn. 1999).

1.         Domestic-Abuse Evidence

Appellant contends that the trial court abused its discretion because the evidence of his prior attack on the victim was more prejudicial than probative.  Minn. Stat. § 634.20 (2000) provides for admitting evidence of the accused’s prior conduct against the domestic-abuse victim, “unless the probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice.”

Normally a determination of whether the probative value outweighs the prejudicial effect would take into account the other evidence presented and the need for that testimony.  See, e.g., State v. Kennedy, 585 N.W.2d 385, 391-92 (Minn. 1998) (noting that Spreigl evidence may be admitted only if the other evidence is weak or inadequate and the trial court should make that assessment after the state has presented all of its non-Spreigl evidence). In this case, the evidence of prior conduct came in with the first witness’s testimony.  Although the statute does not address timing, it does not invite the procedure used by the trial court because the statute requires the court to weigh the probative value of the testimony in the trial proceedings. 

Nevertheless, the circumstances of this case confirm the trial court’s expectations that the evidence would not be unfairly prejudicial, and because appellant’s testimony directly contradicted the evidence against him, the domestic-abuse evidence had significant probative value.  See id. at 390-91 (allowing evidence that the defendant sexually assaulted the victim in a similar manner six months after the charged incident to rebut defendant’s allegation that the victim fabricated the incident). 

The number of cases approving the admission of relationship evidence[1] and the statute in this case, which specifically allows domestic-abuse evidence, disprove appellant’s argument that this type of evidence is so inherently prejudicial as to substantially outweigh its probative value.  Furthermore, the supreme court has “on numerous occasions recognized the inherent value of evidence of past acts of violence committed by the same defendant against the same victim.”  State v. Williams, 593 N.W.2d 227, 236 (Minn.) (citation omitted), cert. denied, 528 U.S. 874, 120 S. Ct. 180 (1999).

Appellant also contends he was unduly prejudiced because the trial court gave no cautionary instruction before the evidence came in, giving the instruction only at the conclusion of the case.  Nothing in Minn. Stat. § 634.20 diminishes the importance of cautionary instructions.  See, e.g., State v. Bolte, 530 N.W.2d 191, 197 (Minn. 1995) (“The trial court should give an appropriate cautionary instruction both upon receipt of the other-crime evidence and as part of the final instructions, even if not specifically requested to do so by defense counsel.” (citation omitted)).  Even so, because prejudice is not otherwise evident and appellant did not request a timely cautionary instruction, we find no error in the delay.

2.         Expert testimony

Appellant contends that the trial court abused its discretion by not allowing him to present expert testimony on the effects of alcohol to impeach the victim’s credibility.  The record does not suggest that the jury needed expert testimony to assess the effects of alcohol on the victim’s ability to perceive and remember the events that happened that evening.  See State v. Provost, 490 N.W.2d 93, 103 (Minn. 1992) (“[E]xpert opinion testimony about the general effects of * * * intoxication is ordinarily inadmissible because most jurors have some experience with th[is] condition[].”). 

Also, we find no abuse of discretion because the trial court properly found that appellant failed to establish a proper foundation.  Appellant presented no evidence that showed exactly what quantity of alcohol was consumed by the victim and the record is not clear whether the victim consumed drinks over a two-hour or a four-hour period. 

Thus, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in excluding the evidence.




[1] State v. Walthers, 620 N.W.2d 727, 729 (Minn. App. 2000) (citing cases upholding the admission of relationship evidence).