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be unpublished and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
State of Minnesota,
Filed June 7, 2005
Stearns County District Court
File No. K8-03-4255
Mike Hatch, Attorney General,
1800 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101-2134; and
Janelle P. Kendall, Stearns
County Attorney, Michael J. Lieberg, Assistant County Attorney, Administrative
Center, Rm. 448, 705 Courthouse Square, St. Cloud, MN 56303 (for respondent)
John M. Stuart, State Public
Defender, Leslie Rosenberg, Assistant Public Defender, 2221 University Avenue SE, Suite 425, Minneapolis,
MN 55414 (for appellant)
and decided by Stoneburner, Presiding Judge; Lansing, Judge; and Willis, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
challenges his conviction of second-degree assault and seeks a new trial,
arguing that the district court’s evidentiary errors violated his
constitutional rights to present a defense and to confrontation. Because we determine that any errors made by
the district court were harmless, we affirm.
Madison was charged with second-degree
assault, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.222, subd. 1 (2002). A jury found him guilty, and the district
court sentenced him to 57 months in prison.
This appeal follows.
D E C I S I O N
Madison argues that the
district court made a number of evidentiary errors that violated his
constitutional rights to present a defense and to confrontation. “Evidentiary rulings rest within the sound
discretion of the trial court and will not be reversed absent a clear abuse of
discretion. On appeal, the appellant has
the burden of establishing that the trial court abused its discretion and that
appellant was thereby prejudiced.” State
v. Amos, 658 N.W.2d 201, 203 (Minn.
2003) (citation omitted).
Madison first argues that
his constitutional right to present a defense was violated because the district
court refused to allow two of his witnesses to testify. The state acknowledges that a defendant has a
constitutional right to present witnesses on his own behalf. But it argues that, under Chambers v.
Mississippi, a defendant must still “comply with established rules of
procedure and evidence.” 410 U.S. 284, 302, 93 S. Ct.
1038, 1049 (1973). Therefore, the state
argues that before Madison
can claim a violation of his constitutional right to present a defense, he must
show that the proposed evidence was admissible.
Madison sought to
introduce the testimony of a pastor and a deacon at the church that Madison and
the Washingtons attended. Both the pastor
and the deacon were to testify that Madison and the Washingtons had problems before
the incident outside the bar. Madison’s attorney explained to the district court that this
testimony supported Madison’s
self-defense argument. The proposed
witnesses’ knowledge of the problems came from Madison’s
description to them of his relationship with the Washingtons.
The pastor would also have testified that he talked to Madison and the
Washingtons regarding the alleged problems.
The district court determined that the proposed testimony was hearsay
and that no exceptions to the hearsay rule applied.
Hearsay “is a statement,
other than one made by the declarant while testifying at the trial or hearing,
offered in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted.” Minn.
R. Evid. 801(c). The proposed testimony
that Madison told
the pastor and the deacon that he and the Washingtons were having problems
would implicate the hearsay rule. Madison argued to the
district court that the testimony was being offered to prove that Madison and
the Washingtons had problems. We
conclude, therefore, that the statements were being offered for the truth of
the matter asserted and were hearsay.
argues on appeal that the proposed testimony was offered as evidence of Madison’s “then existing
mental or emotional condition as allowed under Minn. R. Evid. 803(3).” Madison
explains that the statements would have shown that he feared the Washingtons before the
incident at the bar. But the fact that
Madison and the Washingtons were having problems does not show that he had
reason to fear the Washingtons. At trial, Madison
did not argue that the proposed witnesses would testify that Madison
told them that he was afraid of the Washingtons. The proposed testimony of the pastor and the
deacon would not have revealed Madison’s
mental or emotional condition at the time of the incident outside the bar. The district court did not err by excluding
the testimony that Madison
had told the proposed witnesses that he and the Washingtons were having
problems before the incident outside the bar.
But the pastor’s
proposed testimony that he counseled Madison and the Washingtons regarding the
alleged problems does not implicate the hearsay rule because his proposed
testimony would describe his own actions, not Madison’s statements. It was error not to allow him to testify to
the fact that he counseled Madison and the Washingtons. But an evidentiary error is harmless if this
court is “satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that if the evidence had been
admitted and the damaging potential of the evidence fully realized, an average
jury (i.e., a reasonable jury) would have reached the same verdict.” State v. Post, 512 N.W.2d 99, 102 (Minn. 1994) (footnote
omitted). If there is a reasonable possibility
that the verdict might have been different if the evidence had been admitted,
the error is prejudicial. Id. In completing a “harmless error impact”
analysis, the inquiry is not whether the jury could have convicted the
defendant without the error, but rather, what effect the error “had on the
jury’s verdict and more specifically, whether the jury’s verdict is ‘surely
unattributable’ to the [error].” State
v. King, 622 N.W.2d 800, 811 (Minn. 2001)
(quoting State v. Juarez, 572 N.W.2d 286, 292 (Minn. 1997)).
Here, the excluded
evidence would have informed the jury that the pastor had counseled Madison and
the Washingtons. The jury might infer
that Madison and the Washingtons were having problems. But the fact that there were problems does
not prove that Madison
acted in self-defense when he brandished the knife. Further, the pastor’s proposed testimony
explains nothing about the events on the night of the incident. We are satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt
that had this testimony been admitted, a reasonable jury would have reached the
same verdict that the jury did here. We
conclude, therefore, that the error of excluding the pastor’s testimony was
Second, Madison argues that the district court abused
its discretion by prohibiting him from using juvenile adjudications to impeach
two of the state’s witnesses. A district
court’s ruling on the impeachment of a witness by a prior conviction is reviewed
under a clear-abuse-of-discretion standard.
State v. Ihnot, 575 N.W.2d 581, 584 (Minn. 1998).
Under certain circumstances, a party may introduce evidence of a
witness’s criminal conviction to impeach the witness’s testimony, but juvenile
adjudications are inadmissible “unless permitted by statute or required by the
state or federal constitution.” Minn. R. Evid. 609(a), (d).
Juvenile adjudications may not be
used for the purpose of general impeachment of credibility. State v. Spann, 574 N.W.2d 47, 52 (Minn. 1998) (citing State v. Schilling, 270 N.W.2d
769, 772 (Minn.
1978)). “In the absence of a specific
challenge to a juvenile’s credibility demonstrating a clear motive to falsify
testimony, the interest protected in Rule 609(d) should not be subordinated to
the defendant’s right of confrontation.”
relies on Davis v. Alaska, 415 U.S.
308, 94 S. Ct. 1105 (1974), to argue that his
right to cross-examine the two witnesses in question was violated because he
was not allowed to use their juvenile adjudications for impeachment
purposes. But in Davis the witness was on probation as
a result of a juvenile adjudication and had a clear motive to falsify his
testimony and direct the blame elsewhere.
415 U.S. at 312-14,
319, 94 S. Ct. at 1108-09, 1112.
The instant case is distinguishable
provided no reason, at trial or on appeal, for suspecting that either witness
had an ulterior motive or a bias as a result of their juvenile adjudications
that would undermine the credibility of his or her testimony. We conclude, therefore, that the district
court did not abuse its discretion by prohibiting Madison from using juvenile adjudications for
the purpose of impeaching the testimony of the witnesses in question.
Madison next argues that the district court abused
its discretion by allowing the tape of the bar manager’s 911 call to be
replayed at the jury’s request after deliberations began. A district court has broad discretion to
determine what evidence a jury may review after retiring for deliberation, and
the district court’s determination is reviewed for an abuse of discretion. State v. Kraushaar, 470 NW.2d 509, 515
1991). This court has noted that when a
district court grants a jury’s request to review evidence, “a defendant can
hardly challenge the granting of such a request unless it unfairly
highlights a portion of the evidence.” State
v. Ross, 451 N.W.2d 231, 237 (Minn. App. 1990), review denied (Minn.
Apr. 13, 1990).
Madison argues that the district court abused its
discretion by allowing the tape of the bar manager’s 911 call to be replayed to
the jury because the tape from Madison’s
911 call had not been found by the state and was not available at trial. He argues that replaying the tape of the bar
manager’s call unfairly emphasized that evidence and that the jury’s request to
listen to the tape a second time shows that the jury gave great weight to the
call. But the jury also requested to
look at Madison’s
statement to the police, which suggests that the jury did not give undue weight
to the 911 tape. We conclude that the
district court did not abuse its discretion by allowing the tape of the 911
call to be replayed once to the jury in the courtroom after the jury had begun
Finally, in his pro se brief, Madison argues that he is
unlawfully imprisoned because he is innocent and because the state and the
Stearns County Police Department “suppress[ed]” the tape of his 911 call. The state could not find the tape of Madison’s call, and the
district court determined that there was no reason to believe “that the State
has not made a diligent effort to find it.”
potentially exculpatory evidence is destroyed or lost, to establish reversible
error a defendant must establish that such destruction of evidence was
intentional. State v. Heath, 685
N.W.2d 48, 55 (Minn. App. 2004), review denied (Minn. Nov. 16, 2004). Here, there is no evidence that the state
intentionally lost or destroyed the tape of Madison’s 911 call. We conclude, therefore, that there is no