Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Troy Bradley Bloom, petitioner,
State of Minnesota,
Filed February 10, 1998
Hennepin County District Court
File No. 93013805
Lawrence W. Pry, Assistant State Public Defender, 875 Summit Avenue, LEC 304, St. Paul, MN 55105 (for appellant)
Hubert H. Humphrey III, Attorney General, 1400 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101; and
Michael O. Freeman, Hennepin County Attorney, Donna J. Wolfson, Assistant County Attorney, C-2000 Government Center, Minneapolis, MN 55487 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Randall, Presiding Judge, Toussaint, Chief Judge, and Foley, Judge.
Appellant challenges the district court's denial of his petition for postconviction relief, arguing that newly discovered evidence entitles him to a new trial. The record supports the district court's denial of appellant's petition for postconviction relief. We affirm.
A DNA profiling analysis was conducted on the semen sample taken from J.P.'s vehicle the day after the assault. A forensic scientist searched the BCA's database and came up with five individuals whose DNA matched the samples. Appellant was one of the five individuals. After the test results were reported to the sheriff's office, appellant was arrested. After the arrest, a blood sample was extracted from appellant and delivered to the BCA for additional DNA analysis.
At trial, in addition to the forensic scientist's testimony, the state presented testimony by Dr. Daniel Hartl, a professor of biology at Harvard University. Additional evidence presented by the state consisted of appellant's two prior rape convictions and the testimony of three of appellant's coworkers.
To contradict this testimony, appellant presented evidence that he had a beard and a mustache at the time of the assault, unlike J.P.'s attacker, whom she described as baby-faced with no facial hair. Appellant himself took the stand and testified that he had a beard and a mustache the night of the incident. To corroborate appellant's testimony, defense counsel called appellant's mother and sister. Two of appellant's former girlfriends also testified that appellant had facial hair at or around the time of the assault.
Notwithstanding this testimony, the jury convicted appellant on all four counts. Following the jury verdict, however, appellant discovered a videotape made November 26, 1992, four days after the incident. On the tape, appellant has a mustache. In a postconviction petition, appellant asked for a new trial based on this newly discovered evidence. The district court denied appellant's petition finding that the videotape did not answer the question of whether he had a beard on the date of the assault, it was cumulative, and it was unlikely that the tape would produce an acquittal at retrial.
(1) that the evidence was not known to him or his counsel at the time of trial, (2) that his failure to learn of it before trial was not due to lack of diligence, (3) that the evidence is material (or as we have sometimes said, is not impeaching, cumulative, or doubtful), and (4) that the evidence will probably produce either an acquittal at a retrial or a result more favorable to the petitioner.
Race v. State, 504 N.W.2d 214, 217 (Minn. 1993) (quoting Race v. State, 417 N.W.2d 264, 266 (Minn. 1987)).
In this case, it is undisputed that the first two elements have been satisfied. Thus, this court is left to decide whether the newly discovered evidence is material and whether it would lead to an acquittal if appellant were granted a new trial.
The postconviction court found that the evidence was cumulative because the issues relating to appellant's facial hair were "extensively explored at trial through several defense witnesses." We agree.
While the videotape addresses an important issue in this case, namely, whether appellant had facial hair, this issue was extensively debated at trial. Defense witnesses and state witnesses alike testified to the fact that appellant either had a beard or a mustache around the time of the assault and also that appellant's facial hair grew quickly. J.P. was the only one who testified that appellant did not have any facial hair. J.P., however, never had contact with appellant's face. Because she had a stocking cap over her face the majority of the time J.P. only caught a glimpse of appellant. Furthermore, it was late at night and the car was dark. Based on this evidence, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in finding that the evidence is not material because it is cumulative.
Next, the newly discovered evidence would likely not result in an acquittal at retrial. The evidence presented at trial was circumstantial. Nevertheless, circumstantial evidence is entitled to as much weight as any other kind of evidence. State v. Race, 383 N.W.2d 656, 661 (Minn. 1986). In a criminal case, a conviction based on circumstantial evidence may stand
only where the facts and circumstances disclosed by the circumstantial evidence form a complete chain which, in the light of the evidence as a whole, leads so directly to the guilt of the accused as to exclude, beyond a reasonable doubt, any reasonable inference other than that of guilt.
State v. Anderson, 379 N.W.2d 70, 75 (Minn. 1985) (quoting State v. Wahlberg, 296 N.W.2d 408, 411 (Minn. 1980)).
Accordingly, it is noteworthy to explore the circumstantial evidence presented at the first trial to determine, in light of this new evidence, whether the outcome in a second trial would be different. As previously discussed, both the defense and state witnesses testified that appellant had a mustache at or near the time of the incident. Thus, appellant's argument that the jury was free to reject the defense witnesses as biased is unfounded.
Next, the state presented DNA evidence linking appellant to the crime. The forensic scientist testified that the DNA in appellant's blood sample matched the DNA in the semen sample recovered from J.P.'s vehicle. The expert testified that the probability of a random match was 1 in 4.6 million. Dr. Daniel Hartl corroborated this testimony, indicating that with each additional test the accuracy of the identification begins to reach the specificity of a fingerprint.
There was also evidence of two prior rape convictions presented as Spreigl evidence. These two instances are indistinguishable from what happened to J.P. Like the other two victims, J.P. was taken from her apartment, thrown into a car, driven to a secluded area, and raped.
Finally, appellant's own statements were used against him at trial. Appellant's coworker testified that appellant talked about how he had hurt people in the past. The coworker asked appellant if he found himself in the same situation would he do it again, and appellant replied he would, but that he would make sure no one saw his face.
The newly discovered evidence in this case does not force the jury to view the DNA and Spreigl evidence in a different light. Cf. State v. Jacobson, 326 N.W.2d 663, 667 (Minn. 1982) (holding new trial is required where newly discovered evidence offers alternative hypothesis inconsistent with defendant's guilt). In addition, the videotape does not suggest anything new because the jury heard witness testimony regarding appellant's facial hair at or near the time of the incident. The previously discussed evidence presented in a new trial, along with the videotape, will not produce a different outcome. As we review the record, it is abundantly clear that the postconviction court did not abuse its discretion in denying appellant's motion for a new trial.