This opinion will be unpublished and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
Filed August 2, 2005
Olmsted County District Court
File No. K0-02-2958
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 1800 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101; and
Raymond F. Schmitz, Olmsted County Attorney, Daniel P. H. Reiff, Assistant County Attorney, 151 S.E. 4th Street, Rochester, MN 55904 (for respondent)
John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Roy G.
Spurbeck, Assistant State Public Defender,
Considered and decided by Halbrooks, Presiding Judge; Minge, Judge; and Parker, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
appeal from conviction of a third-degree controlled substance offense, Scott
Caulfield argues that the district court abused discretion by admitting into
evidence a Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) laboratory report stating that
the substance seized from him contained cocaine. He contends that, under the rule of Crawford v. Washington, 541
When the police officer responded to the call, he approached Caulfield, a frequent patron, and asked for identification, which Caulfield provided. They then stepped outside, where the officer told Caulfield he was investigating the sale of narcotics and asked whether Caulfield had drugs on his person. Caulfield replied that he did not, but consented to a search of his person. Inside Caulfield’s left front pants pocket, the officer found a small Tylenol bottle containing six small plastic bags, each containing a white powder. When the officer asked him what was in the bags, Caulfield replied that it was “drugs” and that it was cocaine.
The officer testified that he arrested Caulfield and took possession of the Tylenol bottle and its contents. The same evening, he tested the contents of one of the bags with a standard field test for cocaine; the substance tested positive for the presence of cocaine. Another investigating officer, who had eighteen years of police experience, testified that the following day, he retrieved the evidence bags from the evidence technician. He unsealed them, weighed the substance separately from the bags, and performed another field test on the substance. That test also produced a positive result for cocaine. He then repackaged the substance in a single evidence bag and sent it to the BCA for further testing. The BCA test produced a laboratory report stating that the substance weighed 2.2 grams and contained cocaine. The laboratory report was signed and certified as accurate by the analyst, a forensic scientist who conducted the test.
The state charged Caulfield by amended complaint with a third-degree controlled-substance crime under Minn. Stat. § 152.023, subd. 1(1) (2000) for sale of a mixture containing a narcotic drug, and a fifth-degree controlled substance crime under Minn. Stat. § 152.025, subd. 2(1) (2000) for possession of a mixture containing a controlled substance. The district court held a bench trial after Caulfield waived his right to a jury trial. At trial, Caulfield challenged the admission of the BCA report without the testimony of the analyst who prepared it. He argued that the report was “testimonial” under the rule of Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36, 59-62, 124 S. Ct. 1354, 1369-71 (2004), and that its admission without the analyst’s testimony under the Minnesota notice-and-demand statute, Minn. Stat. § 634.15 (2000), violated his Sixth Amendment right to confrontation. The district court admitted the report, and Caulfield was convicted of controlled substance crime in the third degree and the lesser-included offense. This appeal followed.
D E C I S I O N
A district court’s evidentiary rulings lie within its sound judgment and
will not be disturbed absent an abuse of discretion. State
v. Amos, 658 N.W.2d 201, 203 (
The Sixth Amendment to the United States
Constitution provides that “[i]n all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall
enjoy the right . . . to be confronted with the witnesses against
Minn. Stat. § 634.15 (2000) allows, in a
criminal trial, the admission into evidence of “facts and results of a
laboratory analysis or examination” that are “prepared and attested by the
person performing the laboratory analysis or examination” and
conducted in a laboratory operated or authorized by the BCA. The statute provides that, if the defendant
wishes to request testimony by the person who performed the test, the defendant
must give the state notice ten days in advance of the request that the analyst
testify at trial, in person, on behalf of the state.
Caulfield contends that the district court abused discretion by admitting the laboratory report under Minn. Stat. § 634.15 without the testimony of the preparing analyst because the report is “testimonial” under Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36, 59-62, 124 S. Ct. 1354, 1369-71 (2004). He further argues that the admission of the report violated his Sixth Amendment right to confront witnesses against him.
the United States Supreme Court reexamined the admissibility of out-of-court
statements of unavailable witnesses in a criminal trial through the lens of the
Sixth Amendment. Crawford, 541
The Supreme Court in Crawford stated
that the Sixth Amendment right to confront one’s accuser cannot be satisfied by
the reliability analysis in Roberts
when “testimonial” statements are at issue.
The Court declined to provide a comprehensive
definition of “testimonial,” but furnished “various formulations of [a] core
class of ‘testimonial’ statements.”
Minnesota Supreme Court has not yet articulated a comprehensive definition of “testimonial”
statements under the rule in Crawford. InState v. Martin, the supreme court
held that the district court did not abuse discretion by admitting a victim’s
statement under the dying declaration exception to the Crawford rule because the Sixth Amendment incorporates this
exception. Martin, 695 N.W.2d 578, 585 (
We are not unsympathetic
to the uncertainty that has been generated by the [
In this case, the basis
for admitting the laboratory report without the testimony of the preparing
analyst resides in the notice-and-demand statute, rather than a traditional
hearsay exception under
We recognize, without deciding the issue, that, should the laboratory reports be considered “testimonial” under the criteria set forth in Crawford, their introduction under Minn. Stat. § 634.15 without the testimony of the analyst who prepared them may implicate a defendant’s Sixth Amendment rights. See Burrell, 579 N.W.2d at 600 (noting that, in remand to determine whether statements of unavailable declarant were “testimonial,” state must prove that statements could be admitted consistent with Crawford and the Sixth Amendment).
Even assuming, however, that the district court abused
discretion in admitting the report, we conduct a harmless-error analysis to
determine whether the admission of that evidence was harmless beyond a
reasonable doubt. See State
v. Courtney, 696 N.W.2d 73, 79 (
A harmless error analysis considers “the importance of the witness’[s] testimony in the prosecution’s case, whether the testimony was cumulative, the presence or absence of evidence corroborating or contradicting the testimony of the witness on material points, the extent of cross-examination otherwise permitted, and, of course, the overall strength of the prosecution’s case.” Jones, 556 N.W. 2d at 910 (quotation omitted); see also King, 622 N.W.2d at 811 (stating that, in completing harmless error analysis, inquiry is not whether defendant would have been convicted without evidence, but whether verdict was “surely unattributable” to error).
argues that any error in admitting the BCA report was not harmless beyond a
reasonable doubt because conviction of third-degree controlled substance crime requires
proof that the substance seized is, in fact, a narcotic drug. See Minn. Stat. § 152.01, subd.
10 (2000) (defining narcotic drug); Minn. Stat. § 152.023 (2000) (stating that
person is guilty of third-degree controlled substance crime if that person
unlawfully sells one or more mixtures containing narcotic drug). Generally, a substance should be
scientifically tested so as to establish beyond reasonable doubt an essential
element of the charged crime. State v. Robinson, 517 N.W.2d 336, 339 (
In this case, the arresting officer testified that, when Caulfield was arrested, the officer performed a field test on the contents of one of the six plastic bags, which tested positive for cocaine. Another officer testified that the next day, he opened the six bags, removed the substance from them, and performed another field test on the powder. This also produced a positive result for cocaine. In addition, a police officer testified that Caulfield told the police immediately following his arrest that the substance in the Tylenol bottle was cocaine. Caulfield did not object to this testimony, and he did not testify at trial. Although a defendant’s “own personal belief of and representations of the substance as a controlled substance” may be insufficient by itself to prove the identity of a substance, Olhausen, 681 N.W.2d at 27, it may confirm an identification. And Minn. Stat. § 152.023, subd. 1(1), does not require that the controlled substance have a certain weight for conviction of third-degree controlled-substance crime. Finally, Caulfield’s possession of the substance in small bags is consistent with packaging the drug for sale and furnishes evidence that the substance was cocaine. Although Caulfield could have similarly packaged a placebo substance, the two field tests effectively negate that possibility. We also note that Caulfield would not have the incentive to misstate the nature of the substance to a police officer that he would to a buyer.
The evidence established that the substance in Caulfield’s possession tested positive for cocaine on two field tests, that it was packaged in small bags consistent with the sale of drugs, that Caulfield had been observed in short-term encounters consistent with drug transactions, and that Caulfield made an unrebutted statement to police that the substance was cocaine. Thus, the circumstantial evidence in support of Caulfield’s conviction is very strong. And in this case, unlike Olhausen, the state needed only to prove the identity of the substance, rather than both its identity and weight. See Olhausen, 681 N.W.2d at 26 (upholding conviction when sufficient nonscientific evidence exists to establish substance’s identity and weight). Therefore, we conclude that any error in admitting the BCA test result without the analyst’s testimony was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt, and we affirm.
* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.