may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In the Matter of the Welfare of:
Watonwan County District Court
Hubert H. Humphrey III, Attorney General, 1400 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, Minnesota 55101 (for respondent)
Daniel A. Birkholz, Watonwan County Attorney, Todd L. Kosovich, Assistant County Attorney, 101 South Seventh Street, P.O. Box 461, St. James, MN 56081 (for respondent)
John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Charlann Winking, Assistant State Public Defender, 2829 University Avenue S.E., Suite 600, Minneapolis, MN 55414 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Toussaint, Presiding Judge, Huspeni, Judge and Schultz, Judge.
The district court adjudicated L.L.L. delinquent for violating Minn. Stat. § 609.343, subd. 1(a) (1996). L.L.L. challenges the adjudication, asserting that the evidence was insufficient to prove that he committed the charged offense. L.L.L. also seeks appellate review of documents excluded from evidence following an in camera review by the district court. We affirm.
Prior to the adjudication hearing, L.L.L.'s counsel requested an in camera review of various county records to determine if the records contained relevant evidence. The district court reviewed the files and excluded them, ruling that they had no evidentiary value. Appellant asks this court to review the files to determine if they contain relevant or exculpatory evidence. The state has not opposed this request and the files were forwarded as part of the record on appeal.
J.L. was four years old at the time of the incident and five years old at the time of the hearing. The district court permitted her to testify after conducting a competency hearing. The state also presented testimony from Kim Martinez, a nurse practitioner qualified as an expert witness in child sexual abuse. Martinez had conducted a physical exam on J.L. and had interviewed her shortly after the alleged sexual contact between L.L.L. and J.L. Martinez testified regarding the lack of physical evidence, which she noted is absent in most cases of child sexual abuse. The videotaped interview between Martinez and J.L. was played at trial and received into evidence.
L.L.L.'s expert, a psychologist specializing in juvenile sex offenders, testified that L.L.L. did not fit the typical profile of a sex offender. The psychological evaluation this expert completed on L.L.L. was received into evidence. Finally, L.L.L. testified on his own behalf and denied all of J.L.'s allegations.
Where credibility determinations are crucial, a reviewing court will give deference to the primary observations and trustworthiness assessments made by the district court. Engebretson v. Commissioner of Pub. Safety, 395 N.W.2d 98, 100 (Minn. App. 1986) (affirming district court finding even though contrary to the testimony of three witnesses); see also Minn. R. Civ. P. 52.01 (providing that in reviewing findings of fact, "due regard shall be given to the opportunity of the trial court to judge the credibility of the witnesses").
L.L.L. points to inconsistencies in J.L.'s out-of-court and in-court testimony as evidence of her lack of credibiltiy. But minor inconsistencies in a victim's testimony "are a sign of the fallibility of human perception--not proof that false testimony was given at trial." State v. Stufflebean, 329 N.W.2d 314, 319 (Minn. 1983) (quoting State v. Hanson, 286 Minn. 317, 335, 176 N.W.2d 607, 618 (1970)). The consistency of a victim's testimony should be considered. Id. Here, J.L.'s version of the events changed very little from the time she first discussed the incident with her mother to the time she testified at trial. Furthermore, the inconsistencies to which L.L.L. points are collateral to the issue of L.L.L.'s conduct and do not require reversal of the trial court's decision. See State v. Pieschke, 295 N.W.2d 580, 584 (Minn. 1980) (stating that inconsistencies in the state's case do not automatically require reversal of the jury's verdict because the factfinder considers them in weighing the witnesses' credibility). The record provides no basis for disturbing the district court's decision to credit J.L.'s testimony and that of her expert over that of L.L.L. and his expert.
We conclude that based on the evidence and testimony, the district court could reasonably conclude that the state failed to prove the elements of first-degree criminal sexual conduct beyond a reasonable doubt. It does not follow, as L.L.L. argues, that the court was unreasonable in finding L.L.L. guilty of second-degree criminal sexual conduct.
In a prosecution for criminal sexual conduct, there is no requirement that a complainant's testimony be corroborated. Minn. Stat. § 609.347, subd. 1 (1996); State v. Enger, 539 N.W.2d 259, 262 (Minn. App. 1995), review denied (Minn. Dec. 20, 1995). However, the absence of corroboration in a particular case may call for a holding that there was insufficient evidence on which a defendant could be found guilty. State v. Ani, 257 N.W.2d 699, 700 (Minn. 1977). For example, if the state's case consisted solely of J.L.'s testimony, it is possible that corroboration would be required. See id. But that is not the case here. J.L.'s testimony was corroborated at trial by her mother and by the sexual abuse expert who interviewed and examined her.
The trial court has broad discretion to admit or exclude evidence. Uselman v. Uselman, 464 N.W.2d 130, 138 (Minn. 1990). We will not disturb the district court's evidentiary ruling "unless it is based on an erroneous view of the law or constitutes an abuse of discretion." Id.
We have reviewed the files and we agree with the district court that the records contain no exculpatory evidence and lack any probative value. The records were properly excluded from evidence.
[ ]* Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.