This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2006).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Darnell Louis Frazier,
Filed September 25, 2007
Concurring specially, Randall, Judge
Jackson County District Court
File No. 32-CR-05-1235
Lori Swanson, Attorney General, James B. Early, Assistant
Attorney General, 445 Minnesota Street, Suite 1800, St. Paul,
Robert O’Connor, Jackson County Attorney, 405 Fourth Street, Suite 2D, Jackson, MN 56143 (for respondent)
John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Theodora Gaitas, Assistant State Public Defender, 2221 University Avenue Southeast, Suite 425, Minneapolis, MN 55414 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Randall, Presiding Judge; Halbrooks, Judge; and Parker, Judge.
an afternoon in November 2005, a
D E C I S I O N
1. Prior bad acts
that the district court erred by admitting his tape-recorded statement that he
had eight prior incarcerations for auto theft because it was impermissible
character evidence. This court reviews
the district court’s decision to admit Spreigl
evidence for an abuse of discretion. State v. Ness, 707 N.W.2d 676, 685 (
Evidence of other
crimes, wrongs, or bad acts may be admitted only for limited, specific purposes,
including to show motive, intent, knowledge, identity, absence of mistake or
accident, or a common scheme or plan.
In his tape-recorded
interview with the trooper, appellant stated that, “I went to prison for eight
different auto thefts. . . . I pretty much know how it goes as far as auto
theft.” Following a pretrial hearing,
the district court admitted the statement over appellant’s objection on the
ground that he “volunteered” it. Rule
404(b) allows admission of evidence that appellant had been incarcerated for
stealing cars in the past because it is indicative of his intent to commit a similar
crime and demonstrates an absence of mistake, namely, the possibility that he
went for a long drive in a car that he had no idea was stolen. See
Minn. R. Evid. 404(b). In a case such as
this when appellant was not the driver and presented a conflicting alibi, the
statement was helpful in showing that appellant had not put himself in a
situation where he was riding in a stolen car by mere chance. Furthermore,
evidence is not unfairly prejudicial simply because it is damaging to a
defendant’s case; rather, to be unfairly prejudicial, the evidence must have
the potential to induce the fact-finder to convict the defendant for
illegitimate reasons. See State v. Townsend, 546 N.W.2d 292,
2. Hearsay statements
Appellant argues his tape-recorded interview with the trooper, ruled admissible by the district court, alluded to statements made by appellant’s companions, which were hearsay statements admitted in violation of the Sixth Amendment’s Confrontation Clause. In taking the statement, the trooper told appellant that his companions had said that it was appellant’s girlfriend’s car; the trooper also told appellant that there were some inconsistencies between appellant’s story and those of his companions. The trooper elicited responses to these comments. Appellant sought to have the trooper’s comments redacted. The district court denied the motion. Appellant claims that the trooper’s statements were hearsay, and the district court erred by admitting them.
reviewing court will not reverse a district court’s evidentiary rulings unless
the district court abused discretion. State v. Amos, 658 N.W.2d 201, 203 (
Hearsay is an
out-of-court statement offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted.
the trooper’s statements were not offered to prove the truth of the matter
asserted, namely, that appellant stole the car.
Rather, they demonstrate the many inconsistencies between appellant’s
own statements, as well as the statements of his companions, and impeach his
credibility. In particular, because some
of the passenger statements claim that appellant’s girlfriend owned the car,
and the others address who actually drove the car, they do not directly prove
that appellant stole the car himself.
Because they are not hearsay statements, their admission did not violate
the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment.
3. Accomplice-testimony jury instruction
Appellant argues that
the district court erred by failing to give an instruction informing the jury
it could not convict appellant based on uncorroborated accomplice
testimony. Specifically, appellant
argues that his companion William Clark’s testimony, as well as the testimonial
statements of appellant’s other companions relayed to appellant by the trooper
in the recorded interrogation, were accomplice testimony. Here, no accomplice instruction was
requested, and none was given. And
appellant did not object to the instructions.
Therefore, we review for plain error. State
v. Griller, 583 N.W.2d 736, 740 (
review, a defendant may obtain relief if he was denied a fair trial. State
v. Litzau, 650 N.W.2d 177, 182 (
Under Minn. Stat. § 634.04 (2004),
a conviction cannot be had upon the testimony of an accomplice, unless it is corroborated by such other evidence as tends to convict the defendant of the commission of the offense, and the corroboration is not sufficient if it merely shows the commission of the offense or the circumstances thereof.
When an accomplice instruction is
warranted, the district court has a duty to give the instruction even if the
attorneys do not request it. State v. Strommen, 648 N.W.2d 681, 689 (
Here, the conviction does not rely on the statements repeated by the trooper or those of William Clark. Rather, the statements merely described the circumstances of the case and impeached appellant’s credibility by highlighting the inconsistencies in the many stories about the origin of the Saturn automobile. Therefore, corroboration was not necessary and the district court’s failure to give the instruction was not plain error.
4. Sufficiency of evidence
that there was no evidence that proves he drove the car into
evidence is generally entitled to the same weight as direct evidence; however,
if a conviction is based on circumstantial evidence, a higher level of scrutiny
is warranted. State v. Bias, 419 N.W.2d 480, 484 (
appellant of bringing stolen goods into the state, the state must prove that:
(1) appellant brought property into the State of
that he drove the car for “one hour,” but later stated that he drove the car
for a “couple hours.” Therefore, based
on appellant’s statement that he drove for a “couple of hours,” a reasonable
inference could be drawn by the jury that appellant “brought” the car into
5. Validity of sentence
Appellant argues that his sentence was invalid because the guidelines
sentence conflicts with the sentences for theft prescribed by Minn. Stat.
§ 609.52, subd. 3 (2004). Whether a
statute or a provision of the sentencing guidelines has been properly construed
is a question of law to be reviewed de novo. State v.
Zeimet, 696 N.W.2d 791, 793 (
Under the guidelines, a felony theft of less than $2,500 carries a severity level of II. But the guidelines mandate a severity level V for the offense of bringing stolen property valued under $2,500 into the state. Minn. Sent. Guidelines V. Using a special-verdict form, the jury found that the value of the Saturn was more than $1,000, but less than $2,500.
Appellant argues that because the legislature directs sentences for bringing stolen property into the state to be in accord with sentences for other theft crimes and the severity level assigned to the offenses of theft and bringing stolen property into the state are different under the guidelines, appellant’s sentence is invalid because the offense should have been ranked a severity level II—just like theft.
the commission has fulfilled its legislative mandate to assign presumptive
sentences for the relevant offenses, including the assignment of severity
levels. Appellant’s presumptive
sentence of 48 months in prison does not exceed the maximum penalty of 60
months prescribed by the statute.
RANDALL, Judge (concurring specially)
I concur in the result.
* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.
State v. Jackson, 726 N.W.2d 454, 461
Appellant also argues that there was insufficient evidence that the Saturn was
worth at least $1,000. But here, both
the owner of the car and his father testified that the car’s value was
$1,500. And the owner of a property may
testify to its value without any further foundation. State