This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
State of Minnesota,
Daniel Lee Woodbeck,
Pine County District Court
File No. K9-02-1169
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, John B. Galus, Assistant Attorney General, 1800 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101-2134; and
John K. Carlson, Pine County Attorney, Pine County Courthouse, 315 Main Street South, Pine City, MN 55063-1693 (for respondent)
Richard A. Sand, Daniel S. Adkins, Richard Sand, Adkins & Associates, 175 Lexington Parkway North, Suite 200, St. Paul, MN 55104 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Lansing, Presiding Judge; Halbrooks, Judge; and Minge, Judge.
Appellant challenges the district court’s denial of his motion to suppress evidence from the examination of dogs that were later euthanized and cremated by animal control officers. Because we find that the evidentiary value of the dogs was not apparent at the time they were destroyed and because we find that the rules of criminal procedure did not require the police to preserve the dogs to allow appellant to examine them, we affirm.
On March 23, 2001,
The seized animals were examined by an Animal Humane Society veterinarian. The veterinarian made records of her examinations of the seized dogs, including five of the dogs appellant is charged with mistreating. The veterinarian stated that the dogs were 10-30% underweight and had scars and lesions that were consistent with dog fighting.
a deputy interviewed appellant on the telephone. Appellant stated that he owned the dogs, that
they came from fighting bloodlines, that he knew some of the dogs were in poor
shape, that he obtained the prescription drug from a friend, and that his dogs
had been confiscated the previous year, but he had gotten them all back. The deputy informed appellant that he had
until April 3, 2001, to request a hearing for the possible return of the
animals. Several dogs were transferred
to the Animal Humane Society of Minneapolis; others were placed with the City of
St. Paul Department of Animal Control.
Pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 343.235 (2000), the dogs were held for ten
days and then euthanized and disposed of by the
Approximately one-and-a-half years after the dogs were seized, a complaint was filed charging appellant with five counts of animal fighting, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 343.31 (2000). Appellant made a discovery motion seeking production of the dogs seized, or in the event they had been euthanized, access to the carcasses of the dogs for physical examination. Because the dogs had been euthanized and cremated so appellant was not able to inspect them, he moved to suppress the evidence of the condition of the dogs. This motion was denied. Appellant waived his right to a jury trial and stipulated to the prosecution’s case pursuant to State v. Lothenbach, 296 N.W.2d 854 (Minn. 1980). On March 22, 2004, the district court found appellant guilty of all five counts of animal fighting. This appeal followed.
A. Due Process
that because he was not allowed to examine the dogs or their carcasses, his due
process rights and rights under the Minnesota Rules of Criminal Procedure were
violated, and the evidence from the examination of the dogs should be
excluded. Due process rights are
implicated when the state fails to preserve evidence relevant to the case. State
v. Krosch, 642 N.W.2d 713, 718 (
an appellate court to reverse a district court ruling on lost or destroyed
evidence, the appellant must show that the destruction was intentional and that
the exculpatory value of the evidence was apparent and material. State
v. Friend, 493 N.W.2d 540, 545 (
Heath, the police searched a
methamphetamine laboratory and discovered numerous items consistent with the
manufacture of methamphetamine, as well as a white substance that turned out to
be methamphetamine. 685 N.W.2d at
54. The defendant was convicted of five
counts of controlled-substance crime, including conspiracy to manufacture and
aiding and abetting possession with intent to sell.
argues that the exculpatory value of the evidence is undeniable because the
physical appearance of the dogs, including the nature of the lesions, is at the
center of the charged offenses. However,
appellant does not state how his ability to examine the dogs would produce
exculpatory evidence or what type of exculpatory evidence he hopes to obtain. In this case, the appellant presumably knew
the dogs’ condition. Until they were
seized, they were in his custody and control.
Appellant makes no claim that the appearance of the dogs supports his
innocence. Therefore, appellant has not
shown that the exculpatory nature of the evidence was apparent at the time the
dogs were euthanized and cremated by animal control officers. Furthermore, appellant has failed to show
that by allowing the dogs to be killed and cremating their remains, the
officers acted in bad faith. Police
officers have a duty to take possession of any animals which have been cruelly
treated and deliver them to the care of the proper officials for care and
could also have questioned the veterinarian who examined the dogs and introduced
evidence to explain their appearance.
Courts have often found that the ability of a defendant to examine the
person who gathered the evidence shows the ability of the defendant to obtain
comparable evidence, which diminishes any burden on a defendant’s due process
right from the destruction of evidence. See Trombetta,
The facts of this case are very similar to the recent decision of this court in Heath. As in Heath, police destroyed evidence pursuant to state regulations, and there is no indication that the officers acted in bad faith. See 685 N.W.2d at 56. Also the case before us is similar to Heath, in that there was no evidence that the dogs had an exculpatory value that should have been apparent to the state. See id.
B. Rule 9.01
Appellant also argues that his rights to discovery under the rules of criminal procedure were violated because he was not allowed to examine the dogs or their carcasses. Appellant relies specifically on Minn. R. Crim. P. 9.01, subd. 1(4), which states:
The prosecuting attorney shall disclose and permit defense counsel to inspect and reproduce any results or reports of physical or mental examinations . . . . The prosecuting attorney shall allow the defendant to have reasonable tests made. If a scientific test or experiment of any matter, except those conducted under [the chapter on traffic regulations], may preclude any further tests or experiments, the prosecuting attorney shall give the defendant reasonable notice and an opportunity to have a qualified expert observe the test or experiment.
Appellant argues that the rule required the state to give reasonable notice to appellant that the examination of the dogs was going to occur so that appellant could have a qualified expert observe the examination of dogs. However, the examination of the dogs by a veterinarian is not a test or experiment that precludes further tests or experiments. The euthanization and cremation of the dogs was not related to the examinations performed by the veterinarian. Rather, the dogs were euthanized and cremated after the appellant chose not to request a hearing to regain possession of the dogs. None of the rules for discovery cited by the defendant require the state to turn over evidence it does not have in its possession and cannot obtain. In accordance with Rule 9.01, subd. 1(4), appellant was allowed to inspect the reports that the veterinarian made regarding the physical examination of the dogs.
The district court did not err by refusing to suppress the evidence from the examination of the dogs because the exculpatory value of the dogs at the time they were destroyed was not apparent and because the state did not act in bad faith in permitting destruction of the dogs. Furthermore, the requirements for discovery contained in the Minnesota Rules of Criminal Procedure did not require the state to retain the dogs or the carcasses until appellant could examine them.