This opinion will be unpublished and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
Jeffrey Patrick Anderson,
Toussaint, Chief Judge
Dissenting, Randall, Judge
Chisago County District Court
File No. K8-03-626
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, Thomas R. Ragatz, Assistant Attorney General, 1800 Bremer Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101-2134; and
Katherine Johnson, Chisago County Attorney, Mark Person, Assistant County Attorney, Chisago County Courthouse, 313 North Main Street, Center City, MN 55012 (for respondent)
Steven P. Russett, Assistant State Public Defender, 2221 University Avenue Southeast, Suite 425, Minneapolis, MN 55414 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Willis, Presiding Judge, Toussaint, Chief Judge, and Randall, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Appellant challenges his conviction of second-degree controlled substance offense. Because sufficient evidence supports the jury’s verdict and the district court did not abuse its discretion in admitting evidence of appellant’s prior conviction, we affirm.
While on patrol, Deputy Steven Pouti observed a vehicle exceeding the speed limit. As Pouti pulled up behind the vehicle, its driver quickly turned into a driveway without signaling. Pouti activated his emergency lights and followed the vehicle into the driveway. Both Pouti and the driver got out of their vehicles. As Pouti talked to the driver, he observed appellant Jeffrey Anderson sitting in the front passenger seat, moving both hands to the left side of his seat area. Pouti also observed a knife on the floor in front of the driver’s seat. Pouti’s observations prompted him to instruct appellant to keep his hands visible. Appellant complied. As Pouti continued to talk to the driver, he again noticed appellant moving around and instructed him a second time to sit still and keep his hands visible. Shortly thereafter, Pouti observed appellant reaching over to open the door and told him to stay in the vehicle. At trial, Pouti testified he did not know what appellant was doing with his hands nor did he see anything in appellant’s hands.
When a second deputy, Mark Stovern, arrived on scene, Pouti advised Stovern to have appellant get out of the vehicle because he believed appellant was either reaching for or attempting to hide something. After appellant got out of the vehicle, Stovern conducted a pat-down search. Appellant told Stovern that he had a knife, but no knife was found during the search. But a white tube from a Bic stick pen with a white powdery substance residue on the inside and a melted end was found in appellant’s pants pocket. Based upon his experience and training, Stovern believed the tube to be drug paraphernalia used for ingesting or inhaling methamphetamine. As Stovern conducted his pat-down search of appellant, Pouti conducted a search of the driver and found a vial of methamphetamine and more methamphetamine wrapped in tinfoil.
Pouti next searched the vehicle, beginning with the area where appellant had been moving his hands. Pouti found a ziplock baggie between the passenger seat and the center console. The baggie contained a substance that was later determined to be methamphetamine. Appellant was arrested for possession of a controlled substance.
Appellant was transported to jail, where he was interviewed by Pouti. When asked what he had been doing with his hands in the car, appellant stated he was reaching for a knife or his pack of cigarettes. At trial, appellant testified he was reaching for his seatbelt and denied any knowledge of the baggie containing methamphetamine.
At trial, the court allowed the state to impeach appellant with his 2002 conviction of possession of methamphetamine. After the state rested, appellant moved for a directed verdict of acquittal, arguing that the state’s evidence was purely circumstantial, consistent with appellant’s innocence, and insufficient for a jury to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that the appellant was guilty of possession. The district court denied appellant’s motion, finding that there was sufficient evidence for a jury to determine that appellant possessed and exercised exclusive dominion or control of the methamphetamine. The court denied a similar motion by appellant after all evidence had been presented.
A jury found appellant guilty of controlled-substance crime in the second degree—possession. This appeal followed.
D E C I S I O N
Appellant argues that the state’s circumstantial evidence fails to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that appellant committed the charged crime. Appellant argues the evidence was as consistent with his assertion of innocence as with the state’s assertionn of guilt.
a claim of insufficient evidence, this court’s review is limited to a
painstaking analysis of the record to determine whether the evidence, when
viewed in the light most favorable to the conviction, is sufficient to allow
the jurors to reach the verdict that they did.
State v. Webb, 440 N.W.2d 426, 430 (
To find an
individual guilty of unlawful possession of a controlled substance, the state has
to prove that the individual was in actual or constructive possession of the substance
and had actual knowledge of the nature of the substance. State
v. Florine, 303
(a) that the police found the substance in a place under defendant’s exclusive control to which other people did not normally have access, or (b) if police found it in a place which others had access, there is a strong probability (inferable from other evidence) that defendant was at the time consciously exercising dominion and control over it.
state’s evidence included testimony from Pouti, who observed appellant reaching
in the area where the methamphetamine was found and moving his hands in that
area after being told to keep his hands visible and who found methamphetamine
between appellant’s seat and the center console.
Appellant argues that Pouti’s testimony does not unerringly show that appellant
was in exclusive dominion and control over the methamphetamine. But determining the weight and credibility of
witness testimony is a matter for the jury.
The state’s evidence also
included appellant’s possession of a tube allegedly used to ingest drugs, his
testimony that he used methamphetamine on the day of his arrest, and evidence
of his prior conviction of possession of methamphetamine to show his knowledge
that the baggie contained methamphetamine and his intent to possess the
drug. If the evidence, taken as a
whole, makes the state’s theory reasonable and appellant’s theory unreasonable,
the possibility of innocence does not require reversal of a jury verdict. See,
e.g., State v.
next argues the district court abused its discretion in determining that his
prior conviction was admissible for impeachment purposes. This court reviews a district court’s ruling
on impeachment of a witness by prior conviction under an abuse-of-discretion
standard. State v. Ihnot, 575 N.W.2d 581, 584 (
(1) the impeachment value of the prior crime, (2) the date of the conviction and the defendant’s subsequent history, (3) the similarity of the past crime with the charged crime (the greater the similarity, the greater the reason for not permitting use of the prior crime to impeach), (4) the importance of defendant’s testimony, and (5) the centrality of the credibility issue.
State v. Jones,
271 N.W.2d 534, 538 (
district court’s failure to place its Jones-factor
analysis on the record is harmless error if the conviction could have been
admitted after a proper application of the Jones-factor
analysis. State v. Vanhouse, 634 N.W.2d 715, 719 (Minn. App. 2001), review denied (
Appellant argues that his prior conviction has no impeachment value
because his drug-possession conviction has little to do with his truthfulness
and honesty. But although a prior
conviction may not be one of dishonesty, it allows the jury to see a defendant
as a whole person, especially if the prior conviction was recent. State
v. Brouillette, 286 N.W.2d 702, 707 (
Appellant relies on State v. Taylor, 264 N.W.2d 157, 157 (
A crime does not need to be one of dishonesty to have probative value. Vanhouse, 634 N.W.2d at 719. Because the district court admitted evidence of appellant’s prior conviction, the jury was able to more accurately determine the truth of appellant’s testimony. The district court properly assessed the impeachment value of appellant’s prior conviction.
Second, the district court considers the date of the conviction and the defendant’s subsequent history. Appellant’s prior conviction occurred just over two years before the current conviction; the prior conviction is not stale.
Third, the district court considers the similarity of the past crime and the charged crime: the greater the similarity, the greater the reason for not admitting the prior crime. But evidence of similar crimes has been admitted for impeachment purposes. See, e.g., Ihnot, 575 N.W.2d at 588 (finding no abuse of discretion in admitting a third-degree criminal-sexual-conduct conviction for impeachment in a trial for first-degree criminal sexual conduct); State v. Frank, 364 N.W.2d 398, 399 (Minn. 1985) (affirming decision to allow impeachment by two prior rape convictions in trial for first-degree criminal sexual conduct).
Here, any adverse effect that the similarity between appellant’s offenses might have had on the jury was eliminated by a cautionary instruction. The district court instructed that the jury that it “must not consider any previous conviction as evidence of guilt or of the offense for which [appellant] is on trial.” Also, appellant had an opportunity to explain any inconsistencies. He was not unduly prejudiced by the admission of his prior conviction.
Fourth, the district court considers the importance of defendant’s testimony. The state’s introduction of evidence of the prior conviction did not keep appellant from testifying. Appellant was able to explain his presence and actions.
Finally, the district court considers the centrality of the credibility issue. The district court stated that, when a defendant testifies, “credibility is ultimately going to be an issue.” The jury had to choose between appellant’s testimony and that of the deputies. Appellant argues that the parties’ dispute was centered on inferences that could be drawn from undisputed facts; credibility was not at issue. But this argument ignores the jury’s need to rely on the testimony of both appellant and the deputies when interpreting inferences drawn from the facts, particularly because the state’s case was based on circumstantial evidence. “Where credibility is a central issue, then a greater case can be made for admitting the impeachment evidence, because the need for the evidence is greater.” Vanhouse, 634 N.W.2d at 720 (quotation and citation omitted).
After analyzing the evidence of appellant’s prior conviction using the Jones factors, we conclude that the district court did not abuse its discretion in allowing the evidence.
Appellant also argues that the district court abused its discretion by admitting into evidence the particular facts of his prior conviction to show appellant’s intent to posses and his knowledge that the substance was in fact methamphetamine.
district court may not admit evidence of other crimes to prove the character of
the defendant in order to show the defendant acted in conformity with the
The admission of Spreigl evidence lies within the
sound discretion of the district court and will not be reversed absent a clear
abuse of discretion. State v. Spaeth, 552 N.W.2d 187, 193 (
determining whether such evidence is admissible, the district court must decide
“(1) that the evidence is clear and convincing that the defendant participated
in the other offense; (2) that the Spreigl evidence is relevant and
material to the state’s case; and (3) that the probative value of the Spreigl
evidence is not outweighed by its potential for unfair prejudice.” State v. Shannon, 583 N.W.2d 579, 583
Appellant argues that the facts of his prior conviction are not relevant and material to show that he knew what was in the baggie because the jury could infer from the fact of his previous conviction that he knows what methamphetamine is. Furthermore, he argues the facts of the prior conviction are not necessary because he was not claiming that he did not know what the substance was; rather, he was claiming that he did not know the methamphetamine was in the vehicle and that he never had possession of the baggie. He also argues the facts of the prior incident were different: his prior offense occurred more than three years earlier and involved drugs found in a cigarette box in a car that appellant owned, and the drugs in this incident were not in appellant’s car and not in a cigarette box. Finally, appellant argues that the potential for prejudice outweighed the probative value of the Spreigl evidence. He argues there was a great risk that the jury concluded that he likely possessed the drugs because of his propensity to commit such crimes. But, as explained above, the jury was specifically instructed not to consider the prior conviction as evidence of guilt.
The facts of appellant’s prior
conviction go to prove that he constructively possessed the drugs. In appellant’s prior offense, the drugs were
found between his passenger seat and the center console. In this offense, the drugs were again found
between the seat and center console.
Additionally, the prior offense occurred just over three years earlier
and both offenses occurred inside a vehicle.
closer the relationship [between the events], the greater the relevance or
probative value of the evidence and the lesser the likelihood that the evidence
will be used for an improper purpose.” State
v. Bolte, 530 N.W.2d 191, 198 (
RANDALL, Judge (dissenting).
I respectfully dissent. The facts of appellant’s prior conviction are almost identical to the facts of his current charge. Based upon this record, it is probable that the jury improperly convicted appellant on its belief that he had a propensity to commit the crime, rather than on the evidence as a whole. The prejudice of the Spreigl evidence far outweighed its probative value. I conclude, as a matter of law, that the prior conviction was far more prejudicial than probative.
State v. Jones, the district court is
to consider the similarity of the past crime with the charged crime, keeping in
mind, the greater the similarity, the greater the reason for not permitting the
use of the prior crime to impeach. 271
N.W.2d 534, 538 (
After analyzing appellant’s prior conviction under the Jones-factor analysis, it should not have been admitted as impeachment evidence. His prior conviction was merely a possession charge, it was not directly related to his truthfulness or honesty.
evidence of appellant’s prior conviction came in for only one reason, to show
he is a bad person and acted in conformity with his past bad behavior. Under
The state proposes that the prior conviction was introduced to show that appellant knew what was in the bag in the current charge. That prior conviction was not relevant to show knowledge. Appellant never denied that he knew the bag contained methamphetamine.
The state also argues that the prior conviction was introduced to show appellant “intended to posses” the bag of methamphetamine. Again, the facts of appellant’s prior conviction do not show that he “intended to posses” the drugs in the current charge. His prior offense occurred more than three years earlier, the drugs were found in a cigarette box in a car he owned, while he was driving alone. Here, he was not in his own car but merely a passenger and the drugs were not found in a cigarette box, but between the seats in the center of the vehicle. It is apparent the state introduced the prior conviction to show that because he was in the vicinity of drugs under similar facts, he acted “in conformity with” the facts underlying his prior drug-related conviction. This simply is not supposed to be allowed.
Frankly, the hard and fast rule against allowing matters into evidence to show that one “acted in conformity” with bad acts of the past, is honored far more in the breach than in the observance. What is supposed to be a real rule of real criminal law has become a throwaway. It can be said that, generally, the test of whether Spreigl evidence is admissible is, “Well, was it offered.” Spreigl evidence is legitimately kept out of a trial on either one of two unambiguous prongs. The first prong is, has the state met all the prerequisites and laid the proper foundation. If the state has not, you go no further; the evidence does not come in. If the evidence offered passes the first test, it then moves on to the second prong, which is, even if the proper foundation is laid and even if this is proper Spreigl evidence, it is inadmissible if its prejudicial value outweighs the probative value. On this second prong, if we ever got honest about it, perhaps 60% to 90% of all offered Spreigl would fail the second prong. On these facts, I conclude that the offered Spreigl failed the second prong. Once it got in to show the appellant acted in conformity with the prior conviction, the case was pretty much all over.
I dissent and would reverse the conviction and remand for a new trial without the Spreigl evidence.