This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).

 

STATE OF MINNESOTA

IN COURT OF APPEALS

A04-1280

 

In the Matter of the Welfare of H.R.

 

Filed April 12, 2005

Affirmed
Klaphake, Judge

 

Hennepin County District Court

File Nos. 249703 & J9-03068131

 

Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 1800 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN  55101-2134; and

 

Amy Klobuchar, Hennepin County Attorney, Jean Burdorf, Assistant County Attorney, C-2000 Government Center, Minneapolis, MN  55487 (for respondent)

 

Leonardo Castro, Chief Fourth District Public Defender, Barbara S. Isaacman, Assistant Public Defender, 317 2nd Avenue South, Suite 200, Minneapolis, MN  55401 (for appellant H.R.)

 

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

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N

KLAPHAKE, Judge

            Appellant H.R. was adjudicated delinquent of first-degree criminal sexual conduct.  Appellant contends that the evidence was insufficient to support the adjudication of delinquency, and that the district court erred by admitting the child victim’s out-of-court statements without ruling on the admissibility of the statements after an evidentiary hearing.

            Because, viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to the determination, there is sufficient evidence to support the adjudication of delinquency, and because the district court did not abuse its discretion by admitting the statements, we affirm.

D E C I S I O N

            1.         Sufficiency of Evidence

            On appeal from a delinquency adjudication, this court is “limited to ascertaining whether, given the facts and legitimate inferences, a factfinder could reasonably make that determination.”  In re Welfare of S.M.J., 556 N.W.2d 4, 6 (Minn. App. 1996).  The reviewing court views the evidence in a light most favorable to the determination and assumes that the factfinder found the state’s witnesses credible and disbelieved any contrary evidence.  Id.  The victim’s testimony need not be corroborated, although under certain circumstances, the absence of corroboration may demonstrate an insufficiency of evidence.  State v. Wright, 679 N.W.2d 186, 190 (Minn. App. 2004) (citing State v. Ani, 257 N.W.2d 699, 700 (Minn. 1977)), review denied (Minn. June 29, 2004); see also State v. Huss, 506 N.W.2d 290, 292-93 (Minn. 1993) (reversing conviction where child victim’s testimony not credible because of leading and suggestive interviewing techniques).  Corroboration may be provided by properly admitted prior consistent statements.  See Wright, 679 N.W.2d at 190.

            We must rely on the district court’s opportunity to judge the credibility of the witnesses.  See Huss, 506 N.W.2d at 292.  Here, the district court made a specific determination that the victim and her mother were credible witnesses and that appellant and his aunt were not credible.  Based on the record before us and viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to the determination, we must conclude that sufficient evidence supports the district court’s adjudication of delinquency. 

            2.         Evidentiary Rulings

            The appellate court reviews the district court’s evidentiary rulings for abuse of discretion.  State v. Amos, 658 N.W.2d 201, 203 (Minn. 2003).  Appellant has the burden of establishing that the court abused its discretion and that prejudice resulted from the ruling.  Id. 

            Minn. Stat. § 595.02, subd. 3 (2002), permits the use of an out-of-court statement made by a child under 10 years of age about an act of sexual contact or penetration as substantive evidence if (a) the court conducts a hearing outside the presence of the jury on the reliability of the statement; (b) the child testifies or, if unavailable, the act is corroborated by other evidence; and (c) the proponent of the statement notifies the adverse party of the intent to offer the statement.  Appellant argues that the juvenile court failed to conduct a hearing outside the presence of the jury.

            The issue of the out-of-court statements was raised at a pretrial hearing; both counsel argued briefly and the district court took the motion to suppress under advisement, intending to review the offered videotape and synopsis to determine if the questioning had been leading or suggestive.  After review and prior to the hearing, the district court issued its order, finding that the videotape and synopsis were not leading or suggestive, and that the child victim was “articulate,” the statements “spontaneous and essentially consistent,” and that there were sufficient “time, place, and circumstance” indicia of reliability.  The district court declined to rule on the admissibility of the statements until she knew whether the child would testify, in accordance with the requirements of Minn. Stat. § 595.02, subd. 3. 

            On the day of the hearing, the parties stipulated to admission of the videotape, synopsis, and medical records.  The district court once again declined to rule on admissibility of the victim’s out-of-court statements to her mother until she could determine their reliability.  After hearing the mother’s testimony, the district court ruled that the statements were reliable and admitted them.

            We conclude that the district court followed the requirements of Minn. Stat. § 595.02, subd. 3.  Appellant raised the issue at a pretrial hearing, the district court gave real and careful consideration to the statutory factors governing admissibility of these statements, and the child victim testified at the hearing. 

            Appellant further contends that although he stipulated to the admissibility of the videotape, synopsis, and medical reports before trial, this stipulation was ineffective because the district court did not specifically rule on whether the out-of-court statements were offered as substantive or corroborative evidence.  But Minn. Stat. § 595.02, subd. 3, permits use of an out-of-court statement as substantive evidence if the district court makes the appropriate findings required by the statute.   Because the district court found that the evidence had sufficient indicia of reliability, the out-of-court statement could be used as substantive evidence.

            Affirmed.