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,
Corey Chauncey Bradford,
Filed October 6, 1998
Reversed, Motions to Strike Denied
Hennepin County District Court
File No. 97092362
Hubert H. Humphrey III, Attorney General, 1400 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101; and
Michael O. Freeman, Hennepin County Attorney, Beverly J. Benson, Assistant County Attorney, C-2000 Government Center, Minneapolis, MN 55487 (for appellant)
William E. McGee, Hennepin County Public Defender, Peter W. Gorman, Assistant Public Defender, 317 2nd Avenue South, Suite 200, Minneapolis, MN 55401 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Toussaint, Chief Judge, Kalitowski, Judge, and Thoreen, Judge.*
Appellant State of Minnesota challenges the district court's decision to defer admission of evidence of a past pattern of domestic abuse to which respondent Corey Chauncey Bradford had stipulated. Appellant asserts the evidence is necessary to prove other elements of first- and second-degree murder and the district court abused its discretion by deferring its decision on the admissibility of the evidence until after the state presents its case. We reverse. Respondent's motions to strike are denied.
Evidentiary rulings are within the discretion of the district court, and those determinations will not be reversed absent an abuse of that discretion. State v. Carnahan, 482 N.W.2d 793, 794 (Minn. App. 1992).
Bradford was indicted on one count of first-degree intentional murder, one count of first-degree murder ("domestic homicide"), and one count of second-degree murder. The domestic homicide statute reads:
Whoever does any of the following is guilty of murder in the first degree and shall be sentenced to imprisonment for life:
* * * *
(6) causes the death of a human being while committing domestic abuse, when the perpetrator has engaged in a past pattern of domestic abuse upon the victim and the death occurs under circumstances manifesting an extreme indifference to human life.
Minn. Stat. § 609.185, subd. 6 (1996).
In a prosecution under this statute, only the "past pattern of domestic abuse," not the acts constituting the pattern, must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. State v. Cross, 577 N.W.2d 721, 726-27 (Minn. 1998). Respondent offered and the district court accepted over the state's objection, a stipulation that there had been a past pattern of domestic abuse. An offer to stipulate must be unequivocal and the stipulation must completely cover the issue sought to be removed from the jury's attention. See State v. Clark, 361 N.W.2d 104, 107-08 (Minn. App. 1985). The stipulation and admission may be so complete that it renders the first party's evidence wholly needless. State v. Weber, 272 Minn. 243, 251-52, 137 N.W.2d 527, 533 (Minn. 1965) (citation omitted). The state argues that, notwithstanding the stipulation, it should be allowed to present relationship evidence, including evidence of instances of domestic abuse, to establish the other elements of first- and second-degree murder. The state asserts that evidence of respondent's abuse and threats to hurt or kill the victim are relevant to: (1) premeditation; (2) intent to kill; (3) whether the death occurred during a domestic assault and during circumstances manifesting an extreme indifference to human life; (4) identity; (5) motive; and (6) whether the cause of death was a homicide and not a suicide as respondent maintains. We agree.
"It is the general rule that a party may not automatically preclude his adversary's proof by an offer to stipulate." State v. Durfee, 322 N.W.2d 778, 785 (Minn. 1982). The purpose of allowing evidence on a point stipulated to by the defendant is to prevent the defendant from unilaterally controlling the prosecution's use of relevant evidence. State v. Davidson, 351 N.W.2d 8, 10 (Minn. 1984).
Evidence of the relationship history between a defendant and victim is "ordinarily admissible in criminal prosecutions, regardless of its reference to another crime." State v. Blanchard, 315 N.W.2d 427, 431 (Minn. 1982). This evidence is relevant because it tends to show "a highly strained relationship" between the parties, motive, and premeditated intent. Id. Here, the evidence at issue is not Spreigl evidence, and the district court erred by relying on Spreigl analysis and Spreigl cases in postponing its decision on admissibility until after the state had presented its case in chief.
Although the district court erred in determining the state could not present relationship evidence in its case in chief, we agree with respondent that the proffered evidence may be suppressed if it is more prejudicial than probative under Minn. R. Evid. 403. We note, however, that
[i]n Rule 403, "prejudice" does not mean the damage to the opponent's case that results from the legitimate probative force of the evidence; rather, it refers to the unfair advantage that results from the capacity of the evidence to persuade by illegitimate means.
State v. Cermak, 365 N.W.2d 243, 247, n.2 (Minn. 1985) (quoting 22 Charles A. Wright & Kenneth W. Graham Jr., Federal Practice and Procedure § 5215, at 274-75 (1978)). Because the district court did not apply Minn. R. Evid. 403 to the specific alleged incidents of domestic abuse, we cannot, from this record, determine whether every alleged incident of domestic abuse is admissible. As noted above, however, the general rule allows relationship history between a defendant and victim.
In conclusion, while respondent has a right to stipulate to an element of the charged offense, this stipulation does not limit the state's ability to present otherwise admissible relationship evidence, including incidents of domestic abuse, for the purpose of proving the elements of first- and second-degree murder.
Finally, respondent, claiming prejudice, made a motion to strike pages 4 through 11 of appellant's brief. Because the complained of materials were part of the record on appeal and did not prejudice respondent, we deny respondent's motion. Respondent also filed a motion to strike the entirety of appellant's brief and a request for attorney fees as a sanction for appellant's misleading editing errors in summarizing a supreme court case. While we agree that appellant made editing errors, we deny respondent's motion for sanctions.
Reversed, motions to strike denied.
*Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.