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State v. Vance

August 31, 2004

STATE OF MINNESOTA, RESPONDENT,
v.
ELTON PEREZ VANCE, APPELLANT.



Dakota County District Court File No. K3-03-408.

Considered and decided by Harten, Presiding Judge; Kalitowski, Judge; and Anderson, Judge.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

Where the credibility of the victim is at issue and the district court determines that expert testimony regarding battered-woman syndrome will assist the jury in resolving factual questions presented at trial, the district court may admit the testimony even if neither party has directly impeached the victim's trial testimony.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kalitowski, Judge

Affirmed in part and remanded in part

OPINION

Appellant challenges his convictions of second-degree assault, third-degree criminal sexual conduct, and three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. Appellant contends that the district court erred in admitting expert testimony on battered-woman syndrome and in imposing an upward sentencing departure.

FACTS

Appellant Elton Perez Vance and the victim, A.S.T., began an on-and-off relationship in 1996; and appellant is the father of the victim's children. On the afternoon of February 2, 2003, the victim called 911 and reported that appellant had been beating her all day at her apartment. At trial, the 911 dispatcher testified, and a tape of the call was played for the jury. Crying and upset, the victim told the dispatcher that she had recently escaped to a neighbor's apartment with one of her children and that appellant was still in her apartment either sleeping or passed out from alcohol with one of her other children. Although the victim denied that appellant had threatened her with any weapon, she told the dispatcher that appellant had cut her hair again and had beaten her with his fists.

Three Eagan police officers responded to the 911 call and testified at trial. While one officer secured appellant's location, two officers spoke with the victim. The officers testified that the victim was crying and very upset. They also testified that the victim was severely beaten around the face and that her injuries included swollen lips, black-and-blue eyes, facial swelling, and marks, bruises, and abrasions around her neck. The victim also had several cigarette burns on her body, and her shirt and body were wet with urine. The police took photographs of the victim and her injuries.

The victim told the police officers that appellant was still in her apartment and gave them permission to enter her apartment and remove appellant. Upon entering the victim's apartment, officers discovered appellant asleep on a mattress with a child lying near him. The police officers arrested appellant. The police informed appellant that he was being taken into custody because they believed he had committed third-degree assault against the victim and explained that it was third-degree assault because the victim had been burned. According to the police, appellant stated, "Now you're going to tell me that I burned my baby's mommy with cigarettes, too." But the police had never told appellant what had caused the victim's burns. Appellant repeatedly stated, "I didn't do sh-t" and inquired whether the victim was pressing charges. The police told appellant that in domestic assault situations, the police press charges to relieve the victim from the burden. Appellant replied that the victim had done this before, she would not show up to court, and he would "beat this thing."

While the police officers were arresting appellant, a paramedic talked with the victim. The paramedic testified that the victim was crying, very upset, disheveled, and bleeding. The paramedic also testified that the victim had multiple abrasions down her neck; swollen lips; severe facial swelling; bruising all over her body including on her neck, chest, side, and back; cigarette burns all over her body; and a large part of her hair had been cut off. The victim told the paramedic that appellant had repeatedly forced her to have oral and vaginal sex with him, burned her with a cigarette, cut her hair, choked and strangled her, punched and kicked her, and urinated on her. The victim stated she had resisted the first few times appellant had sexually assaulted her, but she stopped resisting when appellant beat her even more severely.

After arresting appellant, one of the police officers spoke with the victim. In addition to reiterating earlier statements she had made to the police, the victim told the officer that appellant had cut off clumps of her hair with a kitchen knife, repeatedly forced her to have oral and vaginal sex, and repeatedly burned her with a cigarette.

The police officers searched the victim's apartment for evidence and photographed and collected a steak knife, a cigarette butt found near the mattress where appellant had been sleeping prior to his arrest, clumps of the victim's hair, and two or three ...


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