Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
State of Minnesota,
Michael Troy Olson,
File No. K5972329
Robert M.A. Johnson, Anoka County Attorney, M. Katherine Doty, Assistant County Attorney, 2100 Third Avenue, 7th Floor, Anoka, MN 55303 (for respondent)
John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Mark F. Anderson, Assistant Public Defender, 2829 University Avenue, Suite 600, Minneapolis, MN 55414 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Harten, Presiding Judge, Short, Judge, and Amundson, Judge.
Michael Troy Olson was convicted of one count of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.345, subd. 1 (1996). On appeal, Olson argues he was denied a fair trial because: (1) the prosecutor endorsed witness testimony and made assertions of personal opinion in closing argument; and (2) the jury discovered that Olson was unemployed, in custody, and represented by a public defender. We affirm.
Olson argues the cumulative effect of the prosecution's endorsement of witness testimony and assertions of personal opinion in closing argument, and the statements before the jury that Olson was unemployed, in custody, and represented by a public defender warrant a new trial. See State v. Porter, 526 N.W.2d 359, 365-66 (Minn. 1995) (concluding prosecutor's attempts to inflame passions and prejudices of jury and to bolster credibility of witness were improper and, when viewed with other circumstances, warranted new trial). However, the record demonstrates: (1) defense counsel, not the prosecutor, elicited the information that Olson was unemployed; (2) when a defense witness volunteered information that Olson was in jail and represented by a public defender, defense counsel objected, and the trial court sustained the objection and granted a motion to strike; (3) when the prosecutor asked: "Are there any notes or connotations on that bail--excuse me--that evaluation?", defense counsel objected, and the trial court sustained the objection and granted a motion to strike; (4) although the prosecutor used "I think" several times during closing argument, the prosecutor did not appeal to the jurors' prejudices, stress accountability, or attack Olson's character; (5) the victim described the assault in detail, and her testimony was corroborated by another witness; (6) Olson's testimony was inconsistent with a defense witness's testimony; (7) the jury was able to consider four of Olson's prior felony convictions when evaluating his credibility; and (8) the trial court denied Olson's motions for a mistrial. Under these circumstances, the prosecutor's conduct was not so prejudicial that Olson's right to a fair trial was denied. See State v. James, 520 N.W.2d 399, 405 (Minn. 1994) (trial court in best position to evaluate propriety of prosecutor's closing argument); compare State v. Starkey, 516 N.W.2d 918, 928 (Minn. 1994) (upholding conviction even though prosecutor inappropriately asserted opinion of defendant's credibility by stating in closing argument, "I mean, I find that impossible to believe that, if that is in fact the fact") with Porter, 526 N.W.2d at 365-66 (reversing conviction where prosecutor impinged on juror independence). After a careful review of the record, we conclude any trial error was harmless in light of the overwhelming evidence of Olson's guilt. See State v. Ashby, 567 N.W.2d 21, 28 (Minn. 1997) (concluding prosecutorial error was harmless given strength of evidence against defendant).