This opinion will be unpublished and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
Lavelle Rossell Bible,
Filed May 9, 2006
Hennepin County District Court
File No. 04025457
Mike Hatch, Attorney General,
John M. Stuart, State Public
Defender, Suzanne M. Senecal-Hill, Assistant Public Defender,
Considered and decided by Toussaint, Chief Judge; Hudson, Judge; and Crippen, Judge.*
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
On appeal from his conviction of third- and fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct, appellant argues that (a) the trial court abused its discretion in denying his motion to sever charges because the offenses had separate alleged victims and were not part of the same behavioral incident; (b) because he was acquitted of the fifth-degree offense, joinder was prejudicial because the offense could not be admitted as Spreigl evidence; and (c) the court abused its discretion in admitting into evidence letters he wrote from jail when those letters were not disclosed before trial and were severely prejudicial. Because the offenses were properly joined as part of the same behavioral incident, and because the letters were not unfairly prejudicial, we affirm.
Appellant argues that the district court abused its discretion by denying his motion to sever the charge of fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct against J.J. from the charges of third- and fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct committed against M.M.M.
This court reviews the denial of a motion to sever
under an abuse-of-discretion standard. State v. Dick, 638 N.W.2d 486, 490
(Minn. App. 2002), review denied (Apr. 16,
2002). The Minnesota Rules of Criminal Procedure
expressly require the district court, upon motion, to sever offenses or charges
if they are not related. Minn. R. Crim.
P. 17.03, subd. 3(1)(a). For purposes of
subdivision 3(1)(a), charges are related if they form part of “a single
behavioral incident or course of conduct.” State v.
Profit, 591 N.W.2d 451, 458 (
Appellant admits that the alleged offenses involving J.J. and M.M.M. occurred closely in time and within the same house. But he argues that joinder was improper because the offenses were separate and distinct in that they could have been proven independently of one another; nor were they motivated by an effort to obtain a single criminal objective. Thus, appellant argues, they did not satisfy the “third prong” of Profit. Appellant mistakenly characterizes the Profit analysis as a three-prong test. It is not. Rather, Profit addresses three “factors” that courts should consider in determining whether offenses constitute a single behavioral incident. Profit, 591 N.W.2d at 458. A weakness in one factor does not dilute the strength of the others.
Appellant also argues that
joinder was improper under State v.
Butterfield, 555 N.W.2d 526 (Minn. App. 1996), review denied (Minn. Dec. 17, 1996). In Butterfield,the defendant subjected the same victim
to multiple incidents of violent sexual assaults occurring over a one-day
period at three separate locations.
In our view, this case is more analogous to State v. Dukes, 544 N.W.2d 13 (
Here, there are three charges of criminal sexual conduct with two victims. The alleged incidents occurred on the same morning within minutes of each other; thus, the time factor supports joinder. The incidents with each victim also occurred within the same townhouse in bedrooms just across the hall from each other, satisfying the geographic-proximity factor. The conduct involved in both allegations was appellant using his hand to touch the victim in the area of her buttocks. Although there are two separate victims and three charged crimes, the crimes are so factually related in time, place, and motivation that we conclude they constitute a single behavioral incident. Because the multiple charges constituted a continuing course of conduct or single episode, the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying appellant’s motion to sever the charges.
Because we conclude that the
offenses were not improperly joined, we decline to address appellant’s argument
that his acquittal of the fifth-degree offense proves the joinder was prejudicial.
State v. Kates, 616 N.W.2d 296, 299 (Minn. App. 2000) (applying the Spreigl analysis to determine whether
evidence from improperly joined
offenses was prejudicially erroneous), review
Appellant argues that because the letters he wrote to Medlock and M.M.M. from jail—which were discovered and admitted during the trial—severely prejudiced appellant, the district court abused its discretion by not suppressing the letters in their entirety.
general, “[e]videntiary 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 (
First, appellant argues that the letters were improperly admitted because they were turned over too late in the trial process. Here, the prosecution did not learn of the existence of the four letters until the first day of testimony at trial. The prosecutor learned of the letters from Medlock, who was testifying that day. The prosecutor informed opposing counsel as soon as he heard about the letters, and promptly gave opposing counsel copies. The district court declared the letters to be “newly discovered evidence.” Appellant does not dispute that the prosecution complied with his continuing obligation to disclose under Minn. R. Crim. P. 9.03, subd. 2(b), but argues that the witness should have mentioned the letters earlier. Because appellant does not argue that the state violated the discovery rules, appellant’s argument that the letters should have been excluded as a discovery sanction must fail. Further, appellant does not argue that Medlock purposefully withheld the information until trial. Instead, appellant argues that Medlock had the letters for several months before the trial began and should have brought the letters to the attention of the prosecutor sooner. This argument also fails because appellant, having written and sent the letters, was equally aware of their existence and could have informed defense counsel of their existence.
Next, appellant argues that the evidence should have been suppressed under Minn. R. Evid. 403, which provides that relevant evidence may be excluded if its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice. But appellant claimed merely that the defense strategy might have been different had he known the letters were going to be used. The district court found the “possibility” that the defense strategy “might” have been different was too tenuous to show real prejudice. The district court noted that there was “nothing in the letters saying ‘I didn’t know what I was doing. It was an accident. I was too drunk. I don’t recall it.’ And so I don’t see how the letters would help the decision toward an intoxication defense if that were the case.”
The district court engaged in a detailed review of the letters on the record and received input from both counsel. The district court excluded two of the letters as irrelevant, and portions of the admitted letters were specifically redacted as prejudicial or otherwise inadmissible. Appellant failed to demonstrate actual prejudice. On this record, the district court did not abuse its discretion by admitting the redacted letters as evidence.
* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.