may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
State of Minnesota,
Stanley Warren Burch,
Filed November 24, 1998
Hennepin County District Court
File No. 97045286
Michael O. Freeman, Hennepin County Attorney, Michael Richardson, Assistant County Attorney, C-2000 Government Ctr., Minneapolis, MN 55487 (for respondent)
John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Rochelle R. Winn, Assistant State Public Defender, 2829 University Ave. S.E., Minneapolis, MN 55414-3230 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Amundson, Presiding Judge, Foley, Judge, and Thoreen, Judge.[**]
Stanley Warren Burch appeals his convictions for attempted first-degree murder, attempted second-degree murder, and assault in the first degree. Burch argues the district court erred by not allowing him to call an expert witness who would have testified generally about paranoid schizophrenia. The victim was a paranoid schizophrenic but testified that she had not had any problems with her disease for nine years because she had been taking her medicine. Because we find no abuse of discretion, we affirm.
On the evening of May 24, 1997, Debra Davenport was walking toward the 200 Club on West Broadway in Minneapolis when she met Stanley Warren Burch. Burch asked Davenport if she wanted to walk to his place and then ride to the 200 Club together in his car. Davenport agreed. After they arrived at Burch's house, Burch attacked Davenport, first by throwing a glass of drain cleaning solution containing 70 percent sulfuric acid onto her, and then by punching her and cutting her with a knife. Davenport was seriously injured, suffering second- and third-degree burns over 25 percent of her body.
At trial, Davenport testified that she suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and that she was on medication for that condition. Burch then sought to call an expert witness, Dr. Alsdurf, to testify about the effects of paranoid schizophrenia, as well as about the possible interaction between crack cocaine and the medicine Davenport was taking for her schizophrenia. The district court denied Burch's request.
The jury subsequently found Burch guilty of attempted first-degree murder in violation of Minn. Stat. §§ 609.185(1) (1996), 609.17 (1996); attempted second-degree murder in violation of Minn. Stat. §§ 609.19(1) (1996), 609.17; and assault in the first degree in violation of Minn. Stat. §§ 609.221 (1996), 609.101, subd. 2 (1996). Burch appeals the district court's decision denying him the opportunity to call his expert.
The decision to admit the testimony of an expert witness will not be reversed on appeal absent an abuse of discretion. State v. Koskela, 536 N.W.2d 625, 629 (Minn. 1995). In determining whether to admit expert testimony, the ultimate question is whether the testimony will assist the jury in arriving at its verdict. State v. Myers, 359 N.W.2d 604, 609 (Minn. 1984); Minn. R. Evid. 702. The district court should not admit evidence, however, even if it is relevant, when its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice. Myers, 359 N.W.2d at 609; Minn. R. Evid. 403.
Burch sought to call Dr. Alsdurf as an expert witness to testify about the symptoms suffered by an individual diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and about how the use of crack cocaine may interact adversely with the prescription medicine Davenport was taking. The district court refused to allow Burch to call Dr. Alsdurf stating:
Based on the evidence adduced at trial thus far and the arguments presented by counsel at this particular point in time, also based on the Court's review of the medical records in camera, which have been provided and which have been made available to both counsel in this case, it appears at this time to the Court that to allow the Defendant to call Dr. Alsdurf as an expert -- expert witness would under the circumstances introduce evidence which might indeed, Mr. Mogelson, be education and informative about the disease of paranoid schizophrenia in a broad sense. However, it is well taken that Dr. Alsdurf would have no particular familiarity with this individual and this individual's case. And I would note that the testimony from Ms. Davenport herself, ah, was quite forthcoming in terms of her experience, the length of her disease, her various hospitalizations, her medications, and in fact, in her response in cross-examination, her awareness of many of the side effects of various things.
* * * *
The person who is on trial her is Mr. Burch, not Ms. Davenport. The issue before the Court is whether or not Mr. Burch assaulted Miss Davenport or attempted to murder her. It is not whether or not Miss Davenport is a paranoid schizophrenic. And as I've repeatedly said before on other issues, we are not going to convert this into a trial of Miss Davenport and her paranoid -- paranoid schizophrenia. And particularly under the circumstances where there has been no specific offer of proof by the defense to date even as to what the theory of their defense is.
We believe the district court's ruling articulated the competing interests well and clearly indicated that the testimony in this case would have been repetitive and potentially prejudicial. On these facts, and in light of the offer of proof, we cannot say the district court abused its discretion by refusing to allow Burch to call Dr. Alsdurf as an expert witness. See Bixler v. State of Minnesota, 582 N.W.2d 252 (Minn. 1998) (stating that decision not to admit expert testimony will not be reversed absent clear error and that district courts have wide latitude to exclude repetitive and prejudicial evidence); State v. Saldana, 324 N.W.2d 227, 231 (Minn. 1982) (once witness found competent to testify expert testimony concerning witness's credibility or ability to distinguish truth from fantasy generally inadmissible).
Burch filed a pro se brief in which he raises several issues. After carefully reviewing Burch's brief and the record, we find no merit in any of Burch's claims. We therefore do not discuss them further.
[*]Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. Art. VI, § 10.
[**]Retired judge of the district court serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. Art. VI, § 10.