This opinion will be unpublished and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
Ivan Joseph Diaz,
Filed November 7, 2006
Hennepin County District Court
File No. 05006211
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 1800 Bremer Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, Minnesota 55101; and
Amy Klobuchar, Hennepin County Attorney, Michael Richardson, Assistant County Attorney, C-2000 Government Center, 300 South Sixth Street, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55487 (for respondent)
John M. Stuart,
State Public Defender, Davi E. Axelson, Assistant Public Defender,
Considered and decided by Wright, Presiding Judge; Halbrooks, Judge; and Hudson, Judge.
Appellant Ivan Joseph Diaz
challenges an evidentiary ruling that allowed the state to impeach him with his
prior convictions if he chose to testify.
Appellant argues that his prior convictions were inadmissible because
they were stale and substantially similar to the present charges. Appellant also urges this court to abandon the
“whole person” rationale for determining the impeachment value of prior convictions. Because we conclude that the prior
convictions were admissible and the “whole person” rationale remains firmly
In April 1995, appellant pleaded guilty to first-degree aggravated robbery and first- and second-degree assault. Appellant served an 86-month sentence for these convictions.
In late January 2005, approximately three years after his release from prison, appellant was arrested in connection with another robbery. Relying on the robbery victim’s identification of appellant as the robber, the state charged appellant with first-degree aggravated robbery and simple robbery on February 1, 2005.
At trial, appellant planned to present an alibi based mainly on his own testimony. The state notified appellant, however, that it intended to impeach him with his 1995 convictions if he testified. In response, appellant brought a motion in limine to exclude the prior convictions arguing that the prior convictions were ten years old and substantially similar to the present charges. Appellant also argued that his testimony was important to his defense and that the introduction of his prior convictions would likely prevent him from testifying.
The district court denied appellant’s motion in limine. The court noted the age of the convictions and their similarity to the offenses charged in the present case, but it denied appellant’s motion, stating that “[t]he case language that I recall is the necessity of having the jury see the picture of the whole person . . . .” The court, therefore, ruled that it would “allow the State the opportunity to impeach with these [prior] convictions if the Defendant determines to testify.”
Appellant’s counsel objected to the ruling, and appellant decided not to testify. This appeal follows.
Appellant argues that the district court erred by admitting the evidence of his prior convictions because the prior convictions are ten years old and substantially similar to the present charges. Appellant also argues that this court should abandon the “whole person” analysis. We disagree.
Like other evidentiary
rulings, a district court’s ruling on the impeachment of a witness with a prior
conviction is reviewed under a clear-abuse-of-discretion standard. State
v. Ihnot, 575 N.W.2d 581, 584 (
Appellant’s prior convictions were punishable by imprisonment in excess of one year. Therefore, the issue before this court is whether the district court abused its discretion by determining that the probative value of the 1995 convictions outweighed their prejudicial effect.
To determine whether the
probative value of impeachment evidence outweighs its prejudicial effect,
courts must consider: (1) the impeachment value of the prior conviction; (2)
the date of conviction and the defendant’s subsequent history; (3) the
similarity of the past and charged crimes; (4) the importance of the defendant’s
testimony; and (5) the centrality of the credibility issue. State
v. Jones, 271 N.W.2d 534, 537–38 (
Here, the district court obviously considered the Jones factors in denying appellant’s motion in limine, but the court referred to only three of the five factors on the record. First, the district court briefly noted the age of appellant’s convictions. Second, the district court noted the similarity of the prior convictions to the present charges. Finally, the district court concluded that appellant’s prior convictions have impeachment value based on an examination of the “whole person.” But the district court erred in failing to record its findings on the importance of appellant’s testimony or the centrality of the credibility issue. Because the district court failed to make more detailed, explicit findings on the record, we must perform an independent analysis of the Jones factors to determine whether the district court abused its discretion by admitting appellant’s prior convictions for impeachment purposes. Vanhouse, 634 N.W.2d at 719.
1. The Impeachment Value of Appellant’s Prior Crimes
convictions have impeachment value based, at least in part, on the “whole person”
rationale. Under the “whole person” rationale,
a prior conviction can have impeachment value simply because it helps the jury
see the “whole person,” thus allowing the jury
to better evaluate the truthfulness of the defendant’s testimony. Swanson,
707 N.W.2d at 655; Gassler, 505
N.W.2d at 67 (quoting State v.
Brouillette, 286 N.W.2d 702, 707 (
Appellant argues that it is
time for the
This court’s role is not to
reexamine established precedent. See, e.g., Sefkow v. Sefkow, 427 N.W.2d 203, 210 (
2. The Date of Conviction and Appellant’s Subsequent History
Appellant’s prior convictions were within the time limit for admissibility. Impeachment evidence
is not admissible if a period of more than ten years has elapsed since the date of the conviction or of the release of the witness from the confinement imposed for that conviction, whichever is the later date, unless the court determines, in the interests of justice, that the probative value of the conviction supported by specific facts and circumstances substantially outweighs its prejudicial effect.
Appellant’s prior guilty pleas were entered on April 21, 1995. He served an 86-month executed sentence for those convictions. Appellant was released from incarceration approximately three years before he was charged with the present offenses. The 1995 convictions, therefore, are admissible because less than ten years have elapsed since appellant’s release from confinement for those crimes.
Even if appellant had not been confined for his 1995 convictions, the convictions were within the ten-year limit. The date of the presently charged offense is the appropriate end point for the ten-year time limit for determining whether a conviction is stale under Minn. R. Evid. 609(b). Ihnot, 575 N.W.2d at 585. Here, appellant was charged with the present offenses on February 1, 2005. Therefore, even if the ten-year limit began running on the date appellant’s guilty plea was entered (April 21, 1995) the present charges were within the ten-year time limit by more than two months.
The district court incorrectly
determined that the end date of appellant’s ten-year limit was the date of
trial. If a witness whose credibility is subject to
impeachment by evidence of a prior conviction also happens to be the defendant in
that case, the time limit for impeachment becomes subject to potential abuse
through delay or manipulation. State v. Munger, 597 N.W.2d 570, 572 (Minn.
App. 1999) (citing Ihnot, 575 N.W.2d at 585), review denied (Minn. Aug. 25, 1999). Because of this potential for abuse, it is
inappropriate to use either the date of the current trial or the date of the
defendant’s testimony as the end date for the impeachment time limit.
Because less than ten years elapsed since appellant’s release from confinement for his prior convictions and because appellant’s present offenses occurred less than ten years after his prior convictions, and because appellant was in prison for much of the intervening period, we conclude that the prior convictions were not barred due to age. This factor weighs in favor of admission of the prior convictions.
3. Similarity of the Past and Charged Crimes
Appellant’s prior aggravated-robbery conviction is substantially similar to the present aggravated-robbery charge. Therefore, the similarity of the aggravated-robbery charges appears to weigh in favor of excluding the prior convictions. But the elements of appellant’s prior assault convictions are substantially different from the present robbery charges. Because of this difference, we conclude that this factor favors admission of the prior convictions. Even if we were to assume that this factor weighs against the admission of appellant’s prior convictions, they would still be admissible because the remaining factors weigh in favor of admission. Swanson, 707 N.W.2d at 656.
4. The Importance of Appellant’s Testimony
Appellant’s testimony is important in this case because it would be necessary to substantiate his alibi. To the extent that admission of appellant’s prior convictions prevented him from testifying, this factor weighs in favor of exclusion. State v. Hofmann, 549 N.W.2d 372, 375 (Minn. App. 1996), review denied (Minn. Aug. 6, 1996); Vaughn v. Love, 347 N.W.2d 818, 821 (Minn. App. 1984), review denied (Minn. July 26, 1984). But if it was important for appellant to testify, it was also important for the jury to evaluate his credibility. Therefore, this factor must be considered in conjunction with factor five, the centrality of the credibility issue.
5. The Centrality of Appellant’s Credibility
If appellant had testified,
his credibility would have been central to the case because his testimony was
essential to his defense. A criminal
defendant’s credibility is subject to impeachment once the defendant takes the
stand. Swanson, 707 N.W.2d at 657 (citing State v. Silvers, 230
Here, as in Swanson, appellant intended to present an alibi defense, for which his testimony was the main source of evidence. Therefore, we conclude that his credibility would have played a central role in this case, and factors four and five weigh in favor of admitting the prior crimes for impeachment purposes.
Citing State v. Blasus, 445 N.W.2d 535 (
On the totality of this record, we conclude that an independent Jones-factor analysis demonstrates that evidence of appellant’s prior crimes was admissible for impeachment purposes against appellant. Swanson, 707 N.W.2d at 656. Further, we conclude that the district court committed harmless error by failing to place an explicit Jones-factor analysis on the record. Vanhouse, 634 N.W.2d at 719. Therefore, the district court did not abuse its discretion by allowing the state to impeach appellant with his prior convictions.