This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).




State of Minnesota,



Matthew Tyler Young,


Filed February 25, 1997


Toussaint, Chief Judge

Ramsey County District Court

File No. K4942792

Hubert H. Humphrey, III, Attorney General, 1400 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent)

Susan Gaertner, Ramsey County Attorney, Mark Nathan Lystig, Assistant County Attorney, Suite 315, 50 W. Kellogg Boulevard, St. Paul, MN 55102 (for respondent)

Harlan Goulett, Daniel Mohs & Associates, 5500 Wayzata Boulevard, Minneapolis, MN 55416 (for appellant)

Considered and decided by Toussaint, Chief Judge, Randall, Judge, and Davies, Judge.


TOUSSAINT, Chief Judge

Matthew Tyler Young appeals from a conviction for attempted first-degree murder and second-degree assault, claiming (1) the trial court abused its discretion in admitting Spreigl evidence and (2) prosecutorial misconduct in injecting character evidence. Because the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting Spreigl evidence and the prosecutor's misconduct was not prejudicial, we affirm.


The decision to admit evidence of prior crimes lies in the sound discretion of the trial court and will not be reversed absent a clear abuse of discretion. State v. Moorman, 505 N.W.2d 593, 601 (Minn. 1993). This court may find any error in admitting Spreigl evidence harmless if the defendant's guilt was "conclusively proven" by properly admitted evidence. See State v. Dinneen, 300 Minn. 354, 359, 220 N.W.2d 292, 295 (1974) (quoting State v. Hutchison, 121 Minn. 405, 409, 141 N.W. 483, 484 (1913)); State v. Perez, 397 N.W.2d 916, 920 (Minn. App. 1986). Serious prosecutorial misconduct does not mandate a new trial if there is certainty beyond a reasonable doubt that the error was harmless. State v. Boitnott, 443 N.W.2d 527, 534 (Minn. 1989) (citing State v. Caron, 300 Minn. 123, 128, 218 N.W.2d 197, 200 (1974)). Evidence of prior crimes may be admissible to prove intent, as well as motive, absence of mistake or accident, and other elements. State v. Norris, 428 N.W.2d 61, 69 (Minn. 1988); Minn. R. Evid. 404 (b).

The trial court ruled that the state could present Spreigl evidence concerning two prior bad acts to show Young's intent in firing shots at two police officers. The first an incident occurs about fourteen months before the charged offense and resulted in a conviction for second-degree assault. The second was an incident about thirteen months earlier for which Young was convicted of carrying stolen weapons. When he was arrested for this offense, and later while being booked, Young made comments about killing the arresting officer if he had the chance, and about "wasting" cops in the future.

Young's defense was that at the time of the charged offense he had been severely depressed and that he had shot at police only with the intent of drawing fire on himself and thereby ending his own life. Young's threatening comments towards police officers were highly probative regarding his mental state, and relevant to rebut his defense of suicidal intent. They were properly ruled admissible as Spreigl evidence. See State v. Brown, 345 N.W.2d 233, 237-38 (Minn. 1984)(in prosecution for killing police officer, voluntary statement made months earlier that he would not be taken alive again and would take some cops with him the next time was properly admitted); State v. Skramstad, 433 N.W.2d 449, 453-54 (Minn. App. 1988)(in prosecution for terroristic threats against police officer, evidence of threats defendant made four months earlier against a different officer was properly admitted), review denied (Minn.Mar. 13, 1989).

We need not address the admissibility of the other Spreigl evidence because any error would be harmless in any event. See State v. Aligah, 434 N.W.2d 460, (Minn. 1989) (citing Milton v. Wainwright, 407 U.S. 371, 372 (1972) (any error in admission of challenged testimony harmless beyond reasonable doubt). Young admitted firing at the two officers and did not contest any element of the offenses except mental state. Given all the circumstances surrounding Young's firing at the officers and the properly-admitted prior threats, the State conclusively proved Young's intent to kill without the other Spreigl evidence.

Young argues that the prosecutor committed prejudicial misconduct by (1) injecting character evidence and (2) referring to evidence (a) had been ruled inadmissible or (b) of which the defense had not been given proper notice. We agree the prosecutor committed serious misconduct in alluding to or arguing character evidence that had not been ruled admissible or had not been the subject of proper notice to the defense. See, e.g., State v. Harris, 521 N.W.2d 348, 354 (Minn. 1994) (prosecutor may not by questions or by innuendo raise in the jurors' minds the spectre of evidence that is inadmissible or lack factual basis). But, as discussed above, there was conclusive evidence of the offenses, including the required mental state. The prosecutor's argument was not so egregiously improper that it might warrant reversal without a showing of prejudice. Cf. State v. Salitros, 499 N.W.2d 815, 820 (Minn. 1993) (reversing due to prosecutor's use of three types of clearly improper argument). We note the defense counsel did not object to the question asking whether Young had ever shot at police on another occasion. This question does not appear to have been intended to suggest Young had shot at police officers previously. Rather, the question appears to have been directed toward discrediting the challenged connection between Young's depression and his conduct (i.e., by showing that Young had been depressed in the past but had never before shot at police).