This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2002).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
State of Minnesota,
Linda Marie Moore,
Reversed and remanded.
Hennepin County District Court
File No. 02067484
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 1800 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101-2134; and
Amy Klobuchar, Hennepin County Attorney, David C. Brown, Assistant County Attorney, C-2000 Government Center, Minneapolis, MN 55487 (for appellant)
Leonardo Castro, Hennepin County Public Defender, David P. Murrin, Assistant Public Defender, 317 Second Avenue South, Suite 200, Minneapolis, MN 55401 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Klaphake, Presiding Judge, Peterson, Judge, and Minge, Judge.
On this appeal from a pretrial discovery order, the prosecution challenges disclosure of redacted portions of the victim’s medical record to defense counsel. Because the redacted portions cover medical treatment that is unrelated to any aspect of the criminal case, and because that part of the record should remain confidential, it was an abuse of discretion for the district court to order its disclosure even to defense counsel. We reverse the pretrial discovery order and remand for further proceedings.
Minneapolis police officers, responding to a shooting report, found a woman lying on the ground in a pool of blood with a large gunshot wound to her forehead. The officers questioned the witnesses and victim and received a consistent account of the events leading to the shooting. The victim was at a bar with her girlfriend where a dispute arose between the victim’s girlfriend and respondent regarding a boyfriend. The parties left the bar and the dispute eventually led to a road-rage incident and to respondent firing a pistol. The bullet ricocheted off the hood of the car and hit the victim in the forehead. Respondent was ultimately charged with assault in the first degree, two counts of assault in the second degree, and with being a prohibited person in possession of a firearm.
Pursuant to respondent’s discovery request, the state provided the victim’s medical records regarding the medical attention she received following the shooting incident, but the state redacted portions of the records. The redacted portions of the medical records show that while the victim was treated for the gunshot wound, she requested and received treatment for an unrelated medical condition. The respondent moved for, and the district court granted, an order directing disclosure of the redacted material with the condition that the defense attorney not provide the redacted material to his client. The state requested that the district court conduct an in camera review of the redacted portions. The district court decided that defense counsel could review unredacted copies.
At the bench hearing the following day, the state moved the court to conduct an in camera review of the records and to reconsider allowing defense counsel access to the unredacted medical records. The district court judge stated that he would conduct an in camera review while on the bench and then briefly reviewed the unredacted records. The court stated that part of the issue was motive and made reference to “the nature of the relationship here, which was apparently one man in the middle of two women.” The state reminded the court that the victim was not one of the two women involved with the same man. The court indicated its understanding of this but denied the motion to reconsider, allowing respondent to review the unredacted records. In the context of asking the district court to allow this appeal, the state informed the court that the victim would not cooperate as a witness if the redacted material was made available to the defense and that the case would then have to be dismissed. The state filed a notice of appeal.
Criminal defendants have a broad right to discovery and to prepare and present their defense. State v. Paradee, 403 N.W.2d 640, 642 (Minn 1987). This right is part of the constitutional right to a fair trial. See State v. Richards, 495 N.W.2d 187, 191 (Minn. 1992) (noting that every criminal defendant has a right to be treated with fundamental fairness and afforded an opportunity to present a complete defense). However, victims and witnesses have a right of privacy that must be considered and balanced against the right of the criminal defendant. Paradee, 403 N.W.2d at 642. In striking this balance, the district court has broad discretion in rulings on discovery and evidence. State v. Bakken, 604 N.W.2d 106, 110 (Minn. App. 2000), review denied (Minn. Feb. 24, 2000). The district court’sdetermination following an in camera review is subject to independent appellate review. Paradee, 403 N.W.2d at 642; see also Minn. R. Crim. P. 9.03, subd. 6 (stating that following an in camera review, the entire record “shall be sealed and preserved in the records of the court, to be made available to the reviewing court in the event of an appeal.”). This court reviews a district court’s decision to release non-public data under the abuse-of-discretion standard. State ex rel Humphrey v. Phillip Morris, Inc., 606 N.W.2d 676, 685 (Minn. App. 2000), review denied (Minn. Apr. 25, 2000).
The respondent argues that, because defense counsel agreed to review the medical records and to not disclose the redacted portion to the accused, there is adequate protection of the interest of the accused and a proper balance of the interests in this case. Under Paradee, if defense counsel has reason to believe that relevant evidence is contained in confidential files, the district court should conduct an in camera review of the files to determine whether they are material and relevant for the defense. 403 N.W.2d at 642. This approach “strikes a fairer balance between the interest of the privilege holder in having his confidences kept and the interest of the criminal defendant in obtaining all relevant evidence.” Id. (emphasis added). In Paradee, the Minnesota Supreme Court stated that this is “fully consistent with the broad discovery allowed by [Minn. R. Crim. P. 9.03, subd. 6],” which requires a showing of good cause prior to conducting an in camera review. Id. Rule 9.03 also provides guidelines for petitioning the court to redact certain portions of the record. Minn. R. Crim. P. 9.03,subds. 5-7.
The state argues that the redacted portions of the victim’s medical records are irrelevant to the case and that the district court abused its discretion by ordering their disclosure. Evidence is relevant if it logically or reasonably tends to prove or disprove a material fact in issue, or tends to make such a fact more or less probable, or affords the basis for or supports a reasonable inference or presumption regarding the existence of a material fact. State v. Horning, 535 N.W.2d 296, 298 (Minn. 1995). Here, the district court found that the unredacted medical records were relevant because of motive. However, the record shows that respondent did not intend to shoot the victim. The bullet ricocheted and hit the victim by accident. There is nothing in the redacted portions of the victim’s medical reports that is relevant to the crime, including intent, motive, or other aspects of the defense. In addition, the record shows that the victim has a strong interest in maintaining the confidentiality of the records. We conclude that the district court did not conduct an adequate in camera review and abused its discretion in ordering disclosure of the material in dispute to defense counsel.
In this proceeding the state supplied the redacted records without seeking any prior protective order. There is a procedure for obtaining in camera review and requesting such a protective order. Minn. R. Civ. P. 9.03, subds. 5-7. In the future we expect that a request to redact portions of the record would be handled by a prior motion from the state so that, pursuant to Paradee, the district court judge has more time to conduct the in camera review. However, on this record, we find that the redacted portions are irrelevant, and the interest in protecting the confidentiality of the victim’s information outweighs the public policy implications of correcting the state’s procedural errors.
Reversed and remanded.