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State v. Nose

August 21, 2003

STATE OF MINNESOTA, RESPONDENT,
v.
TONY ALLEN ROMAN NOSE, APPELLANT.



SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

DNA statistical testimony and additional DNA statistical evidence presented on remand and the district court's supplemental findings and conclusions relating thereto exceeded the scope of remand.

The district court did not abuse its discretion in admitting: (1) DNA evidence, having determined that it was foundationally reliable; (2) probability statistics on DNA testing using the product rule; (3) testimony that the defense could have conducted its own DNA testing; and (4) a picture on the wall depicting a human image that was similar to the position of the victim's body.

Prosecutor did not commit prosecutorial misconduct by making reasonable inferences and arguments based on the evidence presented.

Prosecutor committed prosecutorial misconduct by stating in closing argument that a picture found in the defendant's bedroom reflected the defendant's personality and values, but the verdict was surely unattributable to the prosecutor's improper character argument and the misconduct is harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Anderson, Russell A., Justice.

Affirmed.

Considered and decided by the court without oral argument.

OPINION

Appellant Tony Allen Roman Nose was convicted in Washington County of first-degree murder while committing or attempting to commit criminal sexual conduct and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the death of Jolene Stuedemann. Upon review, we stayed the appeal, retained jurisdiction, and remanded the case to the district court for a hearing on whether the PCR-STR method of testing DNA has gained general acceptance within the relevant scientific community. State v. Roman Nose, 649 N.W.2d 815, 823 (Minn. 2002).

On remand, the district court issued its findings of fact and concluded in its order that PCR-STR testing is generally accepted in the relevant scientific community as reliable. In Roman Nose's appeal, now before this court, he concedes the general acceptance issue given our recent holding in State v. Traylor, 656 N.W.2d 885 (Minn. 2003). We address the remaining issues raised by Roman Nose in his initial appeal as well as additional arguments presented following remand. Specifically, in his initial appeal, Roman Nose asserted that the district court erred when it admitted: (1) DNA evidence; (2) random match probability statistics; (3) testimony that Roman Nose could have conducted his own DNA testing; and (4) a picture found on Roman Nose's bedroom wall. Roman Nose further argued that the prosecutor committed misconduct by misstating testimony and by misleading the jury about inferences that could be drawn from the evidence. Roman Nose now also asserts that the DNA evidence, even if admissible, was presented in a misleading and prejudicial manner. We affirm.

The body of 17-year-old Jolene Stuedemann was found in her home on July 11, 2000. The autopsy revealed that she had been beaten, stabbed multiple times with a screwdriver, and sexually assaulted. That same evening, Roman Nose took his Walkman and left his group home residence without permission. He went to the home of Andy Reiman, the boyfriend of Stuedemann. There, Roman Nose, Reiman, and Stuedemann drank beer and watched television. Roman Nose also claimed that Stuedemann gave him some marijuana and that he and Stuedemann did some "coke."

Roman Nose testified that he was sitting on the couch listening to music with his eyes shut and that when he opened his eyes, he saw Reiman and Stuedemann engaging in sexual intercourse. According to Roman Nose, he and Stuedemann then had sex while Reiman slept. Reiman testified, however, that he did not fall asleep immediately after he and Stuedemann had sex and that he was certain that Stuedemann did not have sex with Roman Nose.

Stuedemann left around 3:30 a.m. while Roman Nose was sleeping. Reiman then woke Roman Nose and he left around 4 a.m. Roman Nose eventually returned to the group home. Because he had been reported as a runaway the night before, the house parent notified police of Roman Nose's return to the group home and a police officer interviewed Roman Nose. Roman Nose told the officer that he had been with Reiman the night before.

After talking with Roman Nose, the officer responded to a call that resulted in the discovery of Stuedemann's body. At the scene, investigators discovered part of a set of headphones under Stuedemann's body and a blood-stained screwdriver near the body. They also found a piece of crumpled newspaper in Stuedemann's mouth and a bathroom towel with blood on it. Dolores Schoenbauer, a forensic scientist at the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA), performed DNA testing on the blood found on the newspaper, screwdriver, and bathroom towel. Schoenbauer testified that the blood matched Stuedemann's DNA profile and that the probability of a match on the blood on the newspaper and screwdriver was 1 in 63 trillion.*fn1 Fingerprint analysis was also performed on the newspaper and a latent fingerprint was found that matched Roman Nose's left middle finger.

Subsequently, the house parent learned of blood-stained clothing belonging to Roman Nose that had been placed in a trash bag in the garage of the group home, and she notified the police. Authorities found the lower half of a set of headphones in the group home's kitchen garbage and a Walkman with no headphones attached in Roman Nose's bedroom. The police also found a pair of boxer shorts in Roman Nose's bedroom that were stained with a mixture of blood and semen and a picture on the wall that depicted a suspended human form with arms extended and stars trailing from the hands.

Forensic testing on the headphone indicated that the headphones found in the garbage and the part of the headphones found under Stuedemann's body could have been a match. DNA testing was performed by the BCA on the blood on the jeans and jersey found in the garage and on the blood/semen mixture on the boxer shorts found in Roman Nose's bedroom. The BCA's Schoenbauer testified that the blood found on Roman Nose's jeans and jersey matched Stuedemann's DNA profile, with the probability of such a match 1 in 63 trillion. When analyzing the jeans, Schoenbauer also found semen on the zipper area. DNA testing by Schoenbauer revealed that the semen contained a mixture of DNA, with the predominant DNA profile matching Roman Nose's DNA profile. Schoenbauer testified that the probability of a match of the predominant DNA profile was 1 in 63 trillion. As to the blood/semen mixture found on Roman Nose's boxer shorts, Schoenbauer first performed a differential extraction to separate the sperm cell from the nonsperm cell and then analyzed the respective parts. She determined that the sperm portion of the mixture matched Roman Nose's DNA profile with the probability of a match 1 in 63 trillion and that the nonsperm portion was consistent with coming from both Roman Nose and Stuedemann.

As part of the investigation, a perineal swab and vaginal swabs were also taken from Stuedemann's body and tested for semen, which was found on both swab types. Schoenbauer testified that DNA testing on the perineal swab indicated that Roman Nose was the source of the semen with a probability of a match 1 in 63 trillion. Schoenbauer further testified that the vaginal swabs contained a mixture of DNA with the predominant DNA profile matching Roman Nose's DNA profile and the probability of such a match was 1 in 63 trillion. Schoenbauer also identified weaker DNA profiles on the vaginal swabs and testified that she could not eliminate either Reiman or Stuedemann as possible sources of the weaker DNA profiles.

Roman Nose testified at trial and offered his version of events that transpired that night. According to Roman Nose, after he left Reiman's home he began walking back to the group home and realized he did not have his Walkman. He attempted to sneak into the group home, but when that attempt failed, he went to Stuedemann's home. He found the lights on, but nobody answered the door. Fearing that Stuedemann had overdosed, he entered the home through the back door and discovered her body. Roman Nose testified that he ran inside, knelt on one knee beside the body, saw some paper stuffed in her mouth, and tried to pull it out but could not. He then saw his Walkman next to Stuedemann's body. Roman Nose testified that he did not call police because he was scared because he had used drugs and had sex with Stuedemann, had her blood on his clothing, and his Walkman was next to her body. Roman Nose testified that he then vomited in the toilet, took his Walkman, and ran to the group home. He changed his clothes and slept in a van in front of the group home. Roman Nose told a house parent that he had changed clothes because he had spilled beer on them.

Roman Nose was found guilty by a Washington County jury of murder in the first degree while committing or attempting to commit criminal sexual conduct and premeditated murder in the first degree. The district court entered judgment of conviction on the charge of murder in the first degree while committing or attempting to commit criminal sexual conduct in the first or second degree under Minn. Stat. §á609.185(2) (2000) and sentenced Roman Nose to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Roman Nose appealed to this court, asserting that the district court erred when it admitted DNA evidence without conducting a hearing on the first prong of the Frye-Mack standard, the general acceptance of the PCR-STR*fn2 method of testing DNA currently being used by the BCA. Roman Nose further argued that the court erred when it concluded under prong two of the Frye-Mack standard that the BCA's method of DNA testing produced evidence that was foundationally reliable and accurate and allowed the admission of the DNA evidence. In addition to the allegedly erroneous admission of the DNA evidence, Roman Nose also challenged the court's admission of random match probability statistics, of testimony that it was BCA policy to save a portion of the physical evidence for the defendant to conduct his own DNA testing, and of a picture found on the wall of Roman Nose's bedroom. Lastly, Roman Nose asserted that the prosecutor committed prosecutorial misconduct when he misstated testimony and misled the jury about inferences that could be drawn from the evidence. Because of these errors by the district court and the prosecution, Roman Nose asserted that he was denied his right to a fair trial and consequently, should be awarded a new trial.

Upon review, we stayed the appeal, retained jurisdiction, and remanded the case to the district court for "a hearing on whether the PCR-STR method of testing DNA has gained general acceptance within the relevant scientific community." Roman Nose, 649áN.W.2d at 823. Upon remand, the district court held a Frye-Mack hearing as instructed and heard testimony from 13 witnesses. Additionally, the court heard testimony and received documentary evidence related to statistics and population databases although it recognized that the evidence may be beyond the scope of the remand.

Subsequent to the hearing, the district court issued its findings of fact and concluded in its order that PCR-STR testing is generally accepted in the relevant scientific community as reliable. In addition, the court issued supplemental findings and conclusions on the presentation of DNA probability statistics based on the additional evidence presented during the hearing. Upon Roman Nose's motion, this court vacated the stay and reinstated Roman Nose's appeal.

Roman Nose now concedes the general acceptance issue given our recent holding in State v. Traylor. 656 N.W.2d at 893. However, he continues to argue that his conviction should be overturned and he be granted a new trial based on the other issues originally raised, but not resolved, in his initial appeal to this court. In addition, based on the additional information presented in the Frye-Mack hearing on remand, Roman Nose now contends that the DNA evidence was presented to the jury in a misleading and prejudicial manner.

I.

We begin by examining Roman Nose's challenge to the district court's evidentiary rulings regarding the admissibility of evidence. Rulings on evidentiary matters rest within the sound discretion of the trial court, and we will not reverse such evidentiary rulings absent a clear abuse of ...


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