This opinion will be unpublished and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
Janet Marie Lynn,
Filed December 5, 2006
Anoka County District Court
File No. K2-05-4554
Mike Hatch, Attorney General,
Robert M.A. Johnson,
Daniel Guerrero, Meshbesher &
Considered and decided by Shumaker, Presiding Judge; Hudson, Judge; and Crippen, Judge.*
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
D E C I S I O N
The plasma-donation-center worker testified that she had previously observed appellant hitting the child. The district court admitted this testimony under Minn. Stat. § 634.20 (2004) as evidence of prior domestic abuse. Appellant argues that the district court abused its discretion by allowing this testimony because it was dissimilar and unsubstantiated, and because its prejudicial effect outweighed its probative value. Minn. Stat. § 634.20 provides that:
Evidence of similar conduct by the accused against the victim of domestic abuse, or against other family or household members, is admissible unless the probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of the issue, or misleading the jury, or by considerations of undue delay, waste of time, or needless presentation of cumulative evidence. “Similar conduct” includes, but is not limited to, evidence of domestic abuse, violation of an order for protection under section 518B.01; violation of a harassment restraining order under section 609.748; or violation of section 609.749 or 609.79, subdivision 1. “Domestic abuse” and “family or household members” have the meanings given under section 518B.01, subdivision 2.
rulings are within the discretion of the district court and will not be
reversed absent a clear abuse of that discretion. State
v. Johnson, 568 N.W.2d 426, 432 (
Appellant first argues that the
conduct described by the witness in the plasma-center incident is dissimilar to
the crime alleged in the complaint, primarily because the child was not severely
injured in September 2004, whereas he suffered life-threatening injuries in
January 2005. We disagree. As defined by section 518B.01, subdivision 2,
“domestic abuse” includes physical harm, bodily injury, or assault committed
against a family or household member by a family or household member.
Appellant also argues that evidence
of prior domestic abuse by a defendant against the same victim must be proven
by clear and convincing evidence and should be treated in the same manner as Spreigl evidence. But the Minnesota Supreme Court rejected this
argument in State v. McCoy, 682
N.W.2d 153 (
Spreigl evidence is oftentimes evidence of an unrelated crime against another person, which is offered for the purposes listed in Rule 404(b), such as to show identity, opportunity, intent, or modus operandi. Evidence of prior domestic abuse against the alleged victim may be different from this type of Spreigl evidence for at least two reasons: it is evidence of prior conduct between the accused and the alleged victim and it may be offered to illuminate the history of the relationship, that is, to put the crime charged in the context of the relationship between the two.
. . . .
Although this heightened evidentiary standard [of Rule 404(b)] serves the important purpose of helping ensure that a defendant is not unfairly prejudiced, the standard does not implicate a fundamental right. . . . We believe that the interests of justice are best served by allowing the introduction of evidence of similar acts by the accused against the alleged victim of domestic abuse without requiring that they first be established by clear and convincing evidence.
Finally, appellant argues that the
evidence of prior domestic abuse should not have been admitted because its
probative value was outweighed by its prejudicial effect. “[E]vidence of similar conduct in domestic
abuse trials is relevant and admissible unless the probative value of the
evidence is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice.” State
The record before us shows that the
district court carefully and thoroughly weighed the probative value of the
evidence of prior domestic abuse against its prejudicial effect. The district court acknowledged the
prejudicial nature of the evidence, but found that it did not outweigh its
probative value: “it goes without saying if [the evidence] didn’t have any
prejudicial value, it wouldn’t have any probative value. It wouldn’t have any usefulness, wouldn’t
have any meaning. The issue is [whether
the evidence] is unfair.” Appellant
appears to argue that because the evidence tended to paint her in an
unflattering light, it was unfairly prejudicial. But appellant has not shown how the evidence
“persuades by illegitimate means” or “giv[es] one party an unfair advantage.”
Appellant argues that her conviction should be reversed because the circumstantial evidence was insufficient to support the jury’s verdict. Specifically, appellant argues that the state’s evidence was not inconsistent with appellant’s explanation that the child’s injuries were the result of an accident.
considering 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 support
the jury’s verdict. State v. Webb, 440 N.W.2d 426, 430 (
Here, the bulk of the evidence against appellant was circumstantial. But the jury, as the trier of fact and ultimate judge of the credibility of the witnesses, was free to believe or disbelieve the testimony of any of the witnesses. Moreover, the medical evidence was overwhelming as all of the physicians testified that the child’s injuries were the result of substantial force. Based on the record and upon the assumption that the jury believed the prosecution’s witnesses and disbelieved any contrary evidence, we conclude that the circumstantial evidence in this case was more than sufficient to support the jury’s verdict.
remaining arguments are procedurally barred.
Although appellant’s counsel was an active participant in the creation
of the jury instructions, appellant argues that the district court’s limiting
instruction regarding the evidence admitted under Minn. Stat. § 634.20 was
insufficient. But by failing to object
to the instructions at trial, appellant has waived this argument. State
v. Gutierrez, 667 N.W.2d 426, 433 (
also argues that the prosecutor committed misconduct by eliciting testimony regarding
the credibility of appellant’s explanation for the victim’s injuries and by questioning
appellant’s husband’s motivation to seek immunity before testifying. Because appellant made no objection to the
prosecutor’s questions or arguments at trial on the grounds she now claims on
appeal, her arguments are procedurally barred.
State v. Ramey, 721 N.W.2d
294, 297 (
* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.