STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
State of Minnesota,
Leon Edward Lasley, Jr.,
Filed September 8, 1998
Stearns County District Court
File No. K9972035
Hubert H. Humphrey III, Attorney General, Paul R. Kempainen, Assistant Attorney General, 1400 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101; and
Roger S. Van Heel, Stearns County Attorney, Administration Center, Room 448, 705 Courthouse Square, St. Cloud, MN 56303-4773 (for respondent)
John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Marie L. Wolf, Assistant State Public Defender, 2829 University Avenue S.E., Suite 600, Minneapolis, MN 55414 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Harten, Presiding Judge, Crippen, Judge, and Davies, Judge.
Convicted of first-degree burglary, Leon Lasley contends on appeal that (1) the court abused its discretion in sentencing him to a 180-month prison term as a career offender and (2) the court erred in admitting Spreigl and impeachment evidence during trial of the case. We affirm.
1. Career offender sentence.
Absent a clear abuse of discretion, this court is not to reverse the trial court's decision to depart from a presumptive sentence. State v. Flemino, 529 N.W.2d 501, 503 (Minn. App. 1995), review denied (Minn. May 31, 1995). Appellant contends that his sentence, a substantial departure from the presumptive 68-month sentence, is too harsh; he requests this court to reduce his sentence to 120 months. Under the career offender statute, Minn. Stat. § 609.152, subd. 3 (1996), the trial judge could have sentenced appellant up to a maximum of 240 months. Appellant has presented no compelling reason to disturb the trial court's exercise of discretion, and we must affirm the sentencing decision.
2. Spreigl and Impeachment Evidence.
Rulings on evidentiary matters rest within the sound discretion of the trial court. State v. Grayson, 546 N.W.2d 731, 736 (Minn. 1996). Appellant must show that the evidentiary decision caused him prejudice. State v. Landin, 472 N.W.2d 854, 859 (Minn. 1991).
Appellant contends that the trial court erred in admitting the Spreigl and impeachment evidence because the evidence of his motive was so strong that there was no need for this evidence. But appellant offered a substantial defense regarding his motive for the break-in. Although the state attempted at trial to minimize this defense, the subject remained a matter of serious dispute. Given this controversy, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in determining that the Spreigl evidence was necessary and material. See id. at 859-60 (identifying standards for admitting Spriegl evidence, largely calling comparative the consideration of materiality and prejudice).
Appellant also contends that the impeachment evidence lacked materiality because the crimes at issue occurred in 1989 and 1992, a number of years before the trial, and because burglary convictions do not suggest dishonesty. Appellant adds that the similarity of the prior claims increased the prejudice suffered by admitting the evidence. These arguments do not show an abuse of the trial court's discretion in circumstances where the issue of intent was vigorously disputed and where the credibility of the defendant was a serious issue in the case. See State v. Jones, 271 N.W.2d 534, 537-38 (Minn. 1978) (stating standards on permitting impeachment by proof of prior conviction).
Appellant contends that the dual use of his convictions for Spreigl and impeachment purposes confused the jury and amounted to improper character evidence. Under existing case law, there is no merit in this claim. It is undisputed that the trial court properly instructed the jury as to the purposes of the evidence and specifically told the jurors that the evidence was not to be considered as character evidence.
4. Pro se brief.
In his pro se brief, appellant claims that his trial counsel made several errors, including his refusal to call witnesses and obtain evidence. Because we have too little information to assess the merits of this claim, we refrain from deciding it. Appellant is not foreclosed from initiating post-conviction proceedings to permit exploration of his ineffective assistance of counsel claim. Having due regard for the limited standard of review on the finding of appellant's guilt, there is no merit in his assertions that the evidence is insufficient to show he committed first-degree burglary.
Dated: September 8, 1998