Stearns County District Court File No. 73CR113550
Lori Swanson, Minnesota Attorney General, John B. Galus, Assistant Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and
Janelle Kendall, Stearns County Attorney, St .Cloud, Minnesota (for respondent) Jenny Chaplinski, Special Assistant State Public Defender, St. Cloud, Minnesota (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Stoneburner, Presiding Judge; Rodenberg, Judge; and Klaphake, Judge. [*]
Appellant challenges his convictions of multiple counts of criminal sexual conduct, arguing that the district court committed reversible error by allowing the jury, during deliberations, to review the video recordings of the complainants' police interviews. We affirm.
Four children, A.F., S.S., J.F., and B.F., all loosely affiliated blended-family members of appellant Donald Reinhart Frey who had visited or stayed in Frey's home, reported that Frey had sexual contact with them. During its investigation, police conducted Cornerhouse-type recorded video interviews with each child. Frey was charged by criminal complaint in Stearns County with two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct under Minn. Stat. § 609.342, subd. 1 (2010), and nine counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct, under Minn. Stat. § 609.343, subd. 1 (2010). Each child testified at trial, and the jury viewed the interview recordings, which were admitted into evidence. The jury also viewed the videotaped recording of Frey's interview with police, in which he denied the allegations.
On the second day of jury deliberations, the jury sent the following question to the district court judge: "May we watch the interview videos again with the transcripts, if possible? We would like to see all the videos. (But we don't need a review of the house layout)." The district court read the question on the record in the presence of counsel and Frey.
Frey's attorney objected, arguing that because the children's interviews were not entirely consistent with the children's testimony, allowing the jury to watch those videos would give the prosecutor "a second bite of the apple" and would give those interviews undue prominence. The prosecutor pointed out that some of the interviews were exculpatory. After a brief recess, during which the district court reviewed the authority cited by counsel, the district court made a detailed record of the factors it considered in reaching its decision to play each video recording for the jury once in open court in one uninterrupted session with Frey and counsel present.
The jury subsequently found Frey guilty of two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and eight counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct. The district court sentenced Frey to 144-months on a first-degree offense, stayed for 30 years, and placed appellant on probation with conditions, which included a one-year jail term, subject to work release. This constituted a downward dispositional departure from the presumptive sentence. The district court also imposed concurrent sentences on three of the second-degree criminal sexual conduct offenses. This appeal followed.
On appeal, Frey asserts that allowing the jurors to view the recordings during deliberations constituted reversible error. "A jury may request review of testimony or other evidence after it has retired to deliberate, and the court has discretion to grant the request." State v. Reed, 737 N.W.2d 572, 586 (Minn. 2007). The Minnesota Rules of Criminal Procedure set forth the method a district ...