This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1994).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
State of Minnesota,
Michael Lynn Hughes,
Filed May 21, 1996
Hennepin County District Court
File No. 95-012513
Hubert H. Humphrey, III, Attorney General, 1400 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for Respondent)
Michael O. Freeman, Hennepin County Attorney, Linda K. Jenny, Assistant County Attorney, C-2000 Government Center, Minneapolis, MN 55487 (for Respondent)
Lawrence W. Pry, Assistant State Public Defender, 875 Summit Avenue, LEC 304, St. Paul, MN 55105 (for Appellant)
Considered and decided by Huspeni, Presiding Judge, Crippen, Judge, and Klaphake, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Michael Lynn Hughes appeals from a judgment of conviction for theft of a motor vehicle, Minn. Stat. § 609.52 (1994), claiming the trial court committed reversible error in admitting evidence of a prior drug conviction. Because we conclude the trial court's ruling was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt, we affirm.
D E C I S I O N
Whether or not a prior felony conviction involves dishonesty or falsity, it is admissible to attack a witness's credibility when the court determines its probative value outweighs its prejudicial effect. Minn. R. Evid. 609(a). The trial judge's ruling should be based on findings on the record regarding:
(1) the impeachment value of the prior crime, (2) the date of the conviction and the defendant's subsequent history, (3) the similarity of the past crime with the charged crime (the greater the similarity, the greater the reason for not permitting use of the prior crime to impeach), (4) the importance of defendant's testimony, and (5) the centrality of the credibility issue.
State v. Jones, 271 N.W.2d 534, 538 (Minn. 1978) (citation omitted); Minn. R. Evid. 609(a) committee cmt.
At issue is Hughes's three-year-old felony conviction for fifth-degree possession of crack cocaine.  Despite the broad wording of Rule 609(a), the rule distinctly requires the probative value to outweigh the prejudicial effect of the evidence. The drug conviction "by itself 'arguably had very little relevance to'" Hughes's truthfulness. State v. Owens, 373 N.W.2d 313, 317 (Minn. 1985) (prior drug conviction lacked relevance, but allowed for impeachment purposes after defendant had questioned key prosecution witness regarding drug involvement). Although the trial court correctly found that some of the Jones factors favored allowing the evidence in this case, the lack of probative value of the evidence should have been decisive.
Whether or not the drug conviction should have been admitted, we conclude that any error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. The county attorney did not use, much less rely on, the prior drug conviction evidence, so the damaging potential of the evidence was not fully realized and did not affect Hughes's substantial rights. See Minn. R. Crim. P. 31.01; cf. State v. Post, 512 N.W.2d 99, 102 (Minn. 1994) (applying harmless error analysis where defense evidence is excluded). Furthermore, the other evidence of Hughes's guilt was strong, and the jury did not convict on his propensity to commit crime. State v. Jackson, 469 N.W.2d 457, 461 (Minn. App. 1991).
Admission of Hughes's other prior conviction for providing false information to a police officer is undisputed.