This opinion will be unpublished and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,
Randy Michael Johnston,
Filed September 20, 2005
Otter Tail County District Court
File No. K0-03-1988
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, James B. Early, Assistant Attorney General, 1800 Bremer Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101-2134; and
David J. Hauser, Otter Tail County Attorney, Otter Tail County Courthouse, 121 West Junius Avenue, Suite 320, Fergus Falls, MN 56537 (for respondent)
John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Theodora Gaïtas, Assistant Public Defender, 2221 University Avenue Southeast, Suite 425, Minneapolis, MN 55414 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Kalitowski, Presiding Judge; Shumaker, Judge; and Minge, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Appellant challenges his convictions of third- and fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct, arguing that the district court erred by admitting (1) testimony from the complainant’s social worker that complainant was a “vulnerable adult” based on social services administrative criteria; and (2) testimony from police officers that referred to the complainant as a “vulnerable adult.” We affirm.
D E C I S I O N
“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 (
Appellant argues that the district court erred by allowing testimony of a social worker that the victim was a “vulnerable adult” because that testimony encompassed an element of the offense and was a mixed question of law and fact. But at trial, appellant’s objection to the testimony was that it was irrelevant under rule 401, inadmissible under rule 402, and confusing to the jury under rule 403.
“‘Relevant evidence’ means evidence
having any tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to
the determination of the action more probable or less probable than it would be
without the evidence.”
Here, the state needed to show that (1) the complainant was mentally impaired; and (2) that appellant knew or had reason to know that complainant was mentally impaired. Because the social worker’s testimony was relevant to show that complainant met the definition of “mentally impaired” under the statute, therefore making the existence of a fact (that complainant was mentally impaired) more probable under rule 401, the district court did not err in overruling appellant’s objection under rules 401 and 402.
Even if relevant, “evidence may be
excluded if its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of .
. . confusion of the issues . . . .”
Here, appellant argues that the social worker opined on a mixed question of law and fact because the jury could confuse the social worker’s testimony about complainant being a “vulnerable adult” with the legal question of whether complainant was “mentally impaired” under the third- and fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct statutes. The district court correctly ruled that the evidence was relevant and admissible. The court stated:
[T]he fact that this young lady does qualify for Human Services benefits and is mentally impaired under those regulations is certainly some evidence that she is impaired and that the jury can consider that . . . but it’s not conclusive at all on the issue of whether she’s mentally impaired under the statute . . . for criminal law purposes.
On appeal, appellant also supports his
objection to the social worker’s testimony by citing several cases that hold
that experts may not testify as to whether a defendant has the requisite mens
rea to support his argument.
And even if the district court did err in admitting the testimony, appellant must show prejudice from the error. Here, the complainant testified and the jury was able to assess her limitations and intelligence level. The complainant testified that she is “mentally handicapped” and the jury was provided with the psychological reports indicating that the complainant was mildly mentally retarded. During closing arguments, the prosecutor emphasized the complainant’s “child-like demeanor”; her general lack of sophistication and past inappropriate choices with regard to sexual matters; psychological reports indicating low or impaired intelligence; and her social age that indicated she had the “common sense” of a 10- to 12-year-old child. The district court read the standard criminal jury instruction for third-degree criminal sexual conduct and a slightly altered instruction for fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct. Based on these facts, appellant cannot show that he was prejudiced by the district court’s admission of the social worker’s testimony.
Appellant also argues that the
district court plainly erred in admitting the testimony of two police officers that
included references to the complainant as a “vulnerable adult,” although
appellant did not object at trial when the officers testified.