This opinion will be unpublished and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
In the Matter of the Welfare of:
Filed December 19, 2006
Hennepin County District Court
File No. 221130/J9-05-054590
Leonardo Castro, Fourth District Public Defender, Matthew M. Jaimet, Assistant Public Defender, 317 Second Avenue South, Suite 200, Minneapolis, MN 55401 (for appellant)
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 1800 Bremer Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101-2134; and
Considered and decided by Ross, Presiding Judge; Willis, Judge; and Dietzen, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Appellant L.J.L. appeals from an order of the juvenile division of the district court adjudicating him delinquent as an extended-jurisdiction juvenile and imposing both a juvenile and an adult sentence. Appellant argues that the district court abused its discretion when it denied his motion to cross-examine the state’s juvenile eyewitness regarding the witness’s probationary status and when it admitted a surveillance videotape into evidence without requiring the state to adequately authenticate the videotape. We find that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it denied appellant’s motion to cross-examine the juvenile witness and that although admission of the videotape was an abuse of discretion, the error was not prejudicial, and we affirm.
Before testimony at trial began, L.J.L. moved the district court at a Rasmussen hearing to allow cross-examination of J.T., the state’s only eyewitness, regarding J.T.’s probationary status. After giving defense counsel an opportunity to voir dire J.T. regarding his juvenile record and probationary status to ensure that J.T. had not been promised anything in exchange for his identification of L.J.L. or his testimony, the district court denied the motion. At trial, J.T. testified that he had seen L.J.L. with several friends at the scene of the shooting and that L.J.L. was wearing a “white jacket with like a wolf on it, like a little Tasmanian devil or something.” When shown a white jacket with a depiction of Wile E. Coyote on the back, J.T. confirmed that it was the same jacket, and the jacket was entered into evidence. J.T. then testified that he saw L.J.L. pull out a gun that day and fire approximately six shots. He further testified that he was later shown a lineup from which he identified L.J.L. as the shooter and L.J.L.’s cousin as having been present at the scene.
Investigator Michael LaVine of the
Metro Transit police testified that he obtained a search warrant and went to
the residence address that L.J.L. had given when he was arrested, which was the
home of L.J.L.’s cousin and his aunt. Investigator
LaVine seized the white Wile E. Coyote jacket, and then, after reviewing the
Hark’s Market surveillance videotape, he returned to the house and seized a
second jacket, “a white team jacket . . . without a hood.” This second jacket (the
The jury found L.J.L. guilty on all three counts. The district court adjudicated L.J.L. delinquent and imposed both a juvenile and an adult sentence. This appeal follows.
D E C I S I O N
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 (
argues that it was an abuse of discretion and a Confrontation Clause violation
for the district court to deny his motion to cross-examine 15-year-old J.T.
regarding his probationary status. “Based on concerns about
such things as harassment, decision making on an improper basis, confusion of
the issues, and cross-examination that is repetitive or only marginally
relevant, the [district] court possesses wide latitude to impose reasonable
limits on cross-examination of a prosecution witness.” State
v. Tran, 712 N.W.2d 540, 550 (
L.J.L. asserts that he did not seek to impeach J.T. under Minnesota Rules of Evidence 609, which governs general impeachment by evidence of conviction of a crime and limits impeachment that uses evidence of juvenile adjudications. Rule 609(d) allows evidence of juvenile adjudications only when “permitted by statute or required by the state or federal constitution.” L.J.L. contends that he sought instead to impeach J.T. specifically for bias or interest under rule 616, “to show the jurors that it was in [J.T.’s] self interest to cooperate with the police and the prosecution throughout his involvement in the case.”
At the Rasmussen hearing, L.J.L. argued that because J.T. was on probation and in jeopardy of having his probation revoked when the police approached him on the day of the shooting, J.T. may have been motivated by self-interest to assist the police in their investigation and prosecution. L.J.L. further argued that when specific impeachment going to bias or interest under rule 616, as opposed to general impeachment under rule 609, is involved, Davis demands that L.J.L.’s right to confrontation override J.T.’s and the state’s interests in keeping juvenile adjudications confidential.
state argued at the Rasmussen hearing
that even if L.J.L. characterized the purpose of his proposed cross-examination
as impeachment under rule 616, L.J.L. in fact sought to attack J.T.’s credibility
under rule 609 and that the attack was impermissible because evidence of
juvenile adjudications is specifically inadmissible under rule 609(d) unless
constitutionally required. And the
“constitutionally required” exception invokes Davis, the state argued, which only allowed cross-examination
regarding a juvenile’s record because that juvenile was also a potential
suspect in the crime, which gave him significant motivation to lie and
implicate someone else. The state
distinguished the facts of the present case from those in
the district court’s provisional ruling at the Rasmussen hearing, which it adopted and finalized during trial
after giving defense counsel an opportunity to voir dire J.T., the district
court denied L.J.L.’s motion to cross-examine J.T. regarding his probationary
status. The court adopted the state’s
Rule 616 talks about bias, prejudice or interest of the witness for or against any party to the case. That’s not what you’re talking about. You’re talking about an interest in his own welfare, not against a party in the case. And so this is not a 616 issue. . . .
You verbalize no -- even a scintilla of evidence that any negotiations or promises were made by the police to J.T. to secure his cooperation in identifying your client or anybody in connection with this offense.
On appeal, L.J.L. dismisses
court has determined that evidence of the probationary status of a witness in a
criminal trial is subject to rule 616, and the district court mischaracterized
the limits of rule 616 when it deemed the rule inapplicable to evidence of J.T.’s
probationary status. See State v. Johnson, 699 N.W.2d 335,
339 (Minn. App. 2005) (citing rule 616 in upholding a district-court decision
allowing cross-examination of a witness regarding his probationary status “to
show that he had a motive to lie”), review
characterizing evidence of J.T.’s probationary status as evidence of bias under
rule 616, as L.J.L. urges, does not change our analysis. Under either
rule 616 or the exception in rule
609(d) that allows admission of evidence of juvenile adjudications when
constitutionally required, L.J.L.’s confrontation right is implicated, and we
relies instead on three “bias” cases, none of which is persuasive. In
although the district court may have wrongly concluded that rule 616 does not
apply here, the court also based its decision on
next argues that the surveillance videotape from Hark’s Market was admitted
without proper foundation testimony as to “either the accuracy of its content
or the reliability of the process used to produce it.” A videotape is classified as a photograph for
the purpose of proving its content.
L.J.L. argues that In re Welfare of S.A.M., 570 N.W.2d 162
(Minn. App. 1997), describes the two exclusive methods by which a proponent can
authenticate a videotape and that the district court required neither in the
present case. L.J.L. dismisses the
state’s theory that “surveillance videos speak for themselves” as having no
support in the
S.A.M. involved the admissibility of a
surveillance videotape from a city bus.
570 N.W.2d at 163. The state was
unable to authenticate the videotape by providing a witness with personal
knowledge that the “matter is what it is claimed to be,” which the S.A.M. court called the “pictorial
witness theory,” and which, before S.A.M.,
was the only method of videotape authentication recognized by
The state contends that the two authentication methods described in S.A.M. are nonexclusive. The state argues that the videotape was “self-authenticating” because it was date-and-time coded and property-inventoried according to standard procedure, and the state notes that the district court concluded that the videotape was the “best evidence” of what it would show. The state’s characterization of the videotape as “self-authenticating” is misplaced. Minnesota Rules of Evidence 902 provides a list of self-authenticating documents for which extrinsic evidence of authenticity is not a condition precedent to admissibility, and the type of evidence at issue here is not on that list.
state cites two cases from other jurisdictions in support of its argument. In State
v. Early, 674 P.2d 179 (Wash. Ct. App. 1983), the
And the facts of United States v. Rembert, 863 F.2d 1023
(D.C. Cir. 1988), are distinguishable from those here. In Rembert,
the “internal indicia of date, place, and event depicted in the evidence itself”
were “coupled with” the fact that the authenticating witness explained how the
cameras worked, where they were located, how often they photographed, and that
the date and time at which the pictures were made were imprinted on the
When it overruled defense counsel’s objection and admitted the videotape, the district court stated:
I’m going to overrule the objection. I’m going to let the tape in and if I’ve erred, then I’ve erred. But it seems to me that tapes of this kind are made . . . where people otherwise might not have the opportunity to see what’s being surveyed. And it’s the best evidence of what it’s going to show.
district court’s apparent reliance on the best-evidence rule was inappropriate,
because the rule is inapplicable here.
If the state had offered only the testimony of a person who viewed the
videotape, rather than the videotape itself, to describe the content of the
videotape, the best-evidence rule would have been implicated and required
admission of the videotape itself.
The district court abused its discretion when it failed to require the state to authenticate the surveillance videotape using at least one of the two methods described in S.A.M. There was no evidence on which the district court could have based a determination required by rule 901(a) that the “matter in question is what its proponent claims.” But this abuse of discretion mandates reversal only if the admission of the videotape was prejudicial to L.J.L., that is, only if “there is a reasonable possibility that the wrongfully admitted evidence significantly affected the verdict.” Post, 512 N.W.2d at 102 n.2. We conclude that there was no such prejudice here.
argues that the district court’s wrongful admission of the videotape was
prejudicial because the videotape corroborated J.T.’s identification testimony by
placing at the scene of the shooting the two jackets taken from L.J.L.’s home. L.J.L. points out that J.T. did not identify
the jacket as a Wile E. Coyote jacket until after he was shown both jackets by
police—before that, J.T. had just referred to it as a “white hoodie”—so J.T.’s
identification of the jacket was less credible before the jury was shown the
jackets and the videotape, which allowed the jurors independently to place the
jackets at the scene. L.J.L. further
argues that only the videotape placed the
The state argues that any error in the admission of the videotape was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. The state points out that the videotape is of extremely poor quality—it is “barely audible, blurry, and full of static disturbances,” and although it is “barely possible to get a fleeting glimpse” of individuals wearing white jackets, it is impossible to identify those individuals. Therefore, the state argues, the videotape could not have contributed to L.J.L.’s conviction. The state also notes that L.J.L. actually used the videotape to his advantage when he argued during his closing argument that L.J.L.’s cousin could have been the shooter given the cousin’s testimony that he would have been wearing the Wile E. Coyote jacket on the day of the shooting.
having viewed the videotape, Investigator LaVine obtained a warrant based on
J.T.’s statement and recovered the Wile E. Coyote jacket from L.J.L.’s home. J.T. identified the Wile E. Coyote jacket as
the jacket that the shooter wore, and J.T. unwaveringly identified L.J.L. as
the shooter and as the one wearing the Wile E. Coyote jacket. The presence of the Wile E. Coyote jacket at
the scene was significant, but J.T.’s testimony established this fact; it was
not meaningfully bolstered by the evidence on the videotape. Even if the image of the jacket on the
videotape corroborated J.T.’s testimony that the Wile E. Coyote jacket was at
the scene, the jury must have believed J.T.’s testimony standing alone to
identify L.J.L. as the shooter and return a guilty verdict. And it is unlikely that the presence of the
Although the district court abused its discretion when it admitted the videotape without requiring the state to sufficiently authenticate the evidence, the error was not prejudicial.