may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Curtis Marcell Smallwood,
Filed July 21, 1998
Dakota County District Court
File No. K1-96-2511
Steven P. Russett, Assistant State Public Defender, 875 Summit Avenue, Room 371, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Amundson, Presiding Judge, Peterson, Judge, and Shumaker, Judge.
Appellant challenges his first-degree burglary conviction, arguing that evidence seized from his car was improperly admitted and that his right to a fair trial was violated when the prosecutor stated in his opening statement that Smallwood had admitted his guilt in an attempt to craft a plea agreement. Appellant also challenges his 240-month sentence, arguing that a Maryland offense was inaccurately calculated as a dangerous offense, and that the sentence overstates his criminality. Because we find that the prosecutor's comments constitute prosecutorial misconduct and therefore denied appellant his right to a fair trial, we reverse appellant's conviction.
The prosecutor told the jury in his opening statement,
You're also going to hear from Investigator Robideau the defendant at one point in time even admitted that he wanted to plead guilty to this particular offense and receive an appropriate sentence.
Smallwood's attorney made no objection, although, after a recess, she asked the court that no reference of Smallwood's offer to plead guilty be admitted.
The prosecutor's statement was prosecutorial misconduct. A prosecutor "must avoid inflaming the jury's passions and prejudices against the defendant," particularly where credibility is the central issue. State v. Porter, 526 N.W.2d 359, 363 (Minn. 1995). Moreover, the prosecutor's statement was a direct violation of Minn. R. Evid. 410, which states:
Evidence of a plea of guilty, later withdrawn, or a plea of nolo contendere, or of an offer to plead guilty or nolo contendere to the crime charged or any other crime or of statements made in connection with any of the foregoing pleas or offers, is not admissible in any civil, criminal, or administrative action, case, or proceeding whether offered for or against the person who made the plea or offer.
Because we find that the prosecutor's comment denied Smallwood his right to a fair trial, we need not address the other issues presented on appeal.