may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
State of Minnesota,
Danny Dale Hazemann,
Filed August 17, 1999
Clay County District Court
File No. K69883
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, Catherine M. Keane, Assistant Attorney General, 1400 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101-2131; and
Todd Webb, Clay County Attorney, Courthouse, 807 North 11th Street, P.O. Box 280, Moorhead, MN 56561 (for respondent)
John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Cathryn Middlebrook, Assistant State Public Defender, 2829 University Avenue S.E., Suite 600, Minneapolis, MN 55414 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Kalitowski, Presiding Judge, Crippen, Judge, and Thoreen, Judge.[*]
Appellant Danny Dale Hazemann contends the district court abused its discretion: (1) by admitting Spreigl evidence that resulted in prejudicial error, and (2) by denying his motion for a new trial where the prosecutor failed to disclose that one of its witnesses had a prior conviction. We affirm.
As with other evidentiary issues, this court will not reverse a trial court's decision to admit Spreigl evidence absent a clear abuse of discretion. State v. Chambers, 589 N.W.2d 466, 476-77 (Minn. 1999). Appellant has the burden of showing that the admission of the evidence was both erroneous and prejudicial. Id. at 477.
1) that the evidence is clear and convincing that the defendant participated in the other offense;
2) that the Spreigl evidence is relevant and material to the state's case; and
3) that the probative value of the Spreigl evidence is not outweighed by its potential for unfair prejudice.
State v. Shannon, 583 N.W.2d 579, 583 (Minn. 1998).
Appellant contends the state failed to establish the second and third Spreigl requirements.
In determining the relevance and materiality of Spreigl evidence, "the trial court should consider the issues in the case, the reasons and need for the evidence, and whether there is a sufficiently close relationship between the charged offense and the Spreigl offense in time, place or modus operandi."
State v. Kennedy, 585 N.W.2d 385, 390 (Minn. 1998) (quoting State v. DeBaere, 356 N.W.2d 301, 305 (Minn. 1984)). The closer the relationship between the events, the greater the relevance or probative value of the evidence. Id. Spreigl evidence need not be identical to the charged crime, but must be sufficiently or substantially similar to the charged offense in time, place, and modus operandi. Id. at 391.
We agree with appellant that the Spreigl evidence here is of questionable relevance. The earlier offense took place when appellant was a juvenile, 17 years prior to the current offense. Thus the temporal relationship between the two offenses is weak. Also, while there are general similarities between the offenses, the underlying facts of the two offenses are significantly different. In the previous offense, appellant and A.W., the alleged victim, were teenagers living in the same house. Appellant's contention that there was miscommunication between him and A.W. as to the nature of their relationship is at least in part supported by A.W.'s testimony that when she squirmed to get away from appellant, he left her room. In this case, appellant, who was 33 years old, allegedly fondled his cousin, who was only 11 years old.
The district court noted its concern about the remoteness in time and dissimilarity in place and modus operandi between the two incidents, and stated that the real problem was appellant's statement to the police that he had never been involved in a problem like this before. The court concluded that:
I may have leaned to keeping [the evidence] out if not for the statement of the defendant to [the police] that he had never been involved in a problem like this before.
But Spreigl evidence is not admissible for impeachment purposes. While Minn. R. Evid. 609 generally allows impeachment by evidence of a conviction, evidence of a juvenile adjudication may not be admitted unless permitted by statute or required by the state or federal constitution. Minn. R. Evid. 609(d).
We conclude that because of the age and nature of the Spreigl offense and because the district court allowed an impermissible factor to influence its decision, the district court erred by admitting the Spreigl evidence. But this determination does not end our analysis because appellant must show that the error was prejudicial. A conviction will not be reversed if the error in admitting the other-crime evidence was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. See State v. Link, 289 N.W.2d 102, 106 (Minn. 1979) (holding that erroneous admission of other-crime evidence did not require reversal where admission of evidence was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt). If a verdict is not attributable to an error in admitting Spreigl evidence, the error is harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. Shannon, 583 N.W.2d at 585-86. The question is whether the error "reasonably could have impacted upon the jury's decision." State v. Juarez, 572 N.W.2d 286, 292 (Minn. 1997).
Appellant argues that A.W.'s testimony concerning the Spreigl offense prejudiced the context in which the jury viewed appellant's behavior toward K.P. We disagree. First, we note that the questionable relevance of the prior incident was argued to the jury. More importantly, K.P.'s testimony was in all significant respects consistent with her prior statements and K.P.'s mother and father corroborated her story. Moreover, appellant's own testimony was inconsistent, and included an admission that he may have inadvertently touched K.P. as she alleges. Finally, the district court properly instructed the jury that the evidence of the prior incident was offered for "the limited purpose of assisting * * * in determining whether defendant committed those acts with which defendant is charged in the Complaint * * *." The court further cautioned:
Defendant is not being tried for and may not be convicted of any offense other than the offense charged in the Complaint. You are instructed specifically that you are not to convict the defendant on the basis of these occurrences from the early 1980's. To do so might result in unjust double punishment.
The court reiterated this instruction at the close of the trial.
Because the testimony of the victim was largely corroborated and the jury was properly instructed on the limited use of the Spreigl evidence, we conclude the verdict was not attributable to the admission of the 17-year-old Spreigl offense and therefore, any error in admitting the evidence was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.
The prosecuting attorney is only required to disclose information of which the attorney has "actual knowledge." Minn. R. Crim. P. 9.01, subd. 1(1)(a). There is no evidence that the prosecutor or anyone who participated in the investigation was aware of A.W.'s conviction. See Minn. R. Crim. P. 9.01, subd. 1(7) (the obligation to disclose extends to members of the prosecution staff and to those who participated in the investigation or evaluation of the case). We conclude the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying appellant's motion for a new trial.
[*] Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.