Hennepin County District Court File No. 27-CR-10-7607.
Lori Swanson, Minnesota Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and Michael O. Freeman, Hennepin County Attorney, Linda M. Freyer, Assistant Hennepin County Attorney, Minneapolis, Minnesota (for respondent).
David Merchant, Chief Appellate Public Defender, St. Paul, Minnesota; and Melissa Sheridan, Assistant State Public Defender, Eagan, Minnesota (for appellant).
Considered and decided by Peterson, Presiding Judge; Chutich, Judge; and Smith, Judge.
In this appeal from a conviction of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, appellant argues that the district court abused its discretion by admitting prior bad act, or so-called Spreigl evidence, regarding a sexual assault charge against appellant three years earlier. In his pro se supplemental brief, appellant alleges a litany of reversible errors committed by the district court, ranging from evidentiary rulings to ineffective assistance of counsel. Because the district court did not abuse its discretion by admitting the Spreigl evidence, and because the record does not support appellant's pro se arguments, we affirm.
On July 22, 2004, M.L. left her St. Paul apartment to go for a bike ride. Since the early 2000s, M.L. had experienced mental health issues causing her to hear voices. On that date, she noted that "voices [were telling her] to get out of the house and get into the street." Although prescribed Zyprexa and Risperidone to treat her mental health symptoms, M.L. had not been taking her medications for "a couple days."
After arriving at a Minneapolis park, M.L. decided to rest on a park bench. Once seated, she recalled that,
[a] black man approached [her] and he said, what is your name? I said, my name is [M.L.] He told me to lick his dick . . . And so he put his hand on my head and pushed me to lick his dick. And then . . . he just threw a punch at me and I fell down to the ground. He took my clothes off and raped me.
M.L. alleged that the man took off her pants, removed her shoes, punched her in the eye, and then vaginally penetrated her without a condom. After the attack, M.L. ran into a nearby street. She was nude from the waist down and not wearing shoes. A car stopped and, after M.L. insisted that she did not want to go to a hospital, took her to a Plymouth police precinct. Investigators at the scene of the alleged attack discovered M.L.'s pants, shoes, underwear, and a bag containing her identification.
Despite initial reluctance, M.L. consented to a sexual-assault examination. M.L. provided a narrative version of the attack and noted that the assailant had "started by kissing her" and "told [her] that he loved [her] and wanted to be with [her]." M.L. indicated she was unfamiliar with the assailant. She described him as tall with a medium build, short curly hair, and indicated that he wore glasses. The sexual-assault examination revealed vaginal tearing and exterior abrasions consistent with a sexual assault. The nurse also collected DNA samples. Thereafter, the case apparently went cold.
In 2009, as part of a cold-case initiative, the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office (HCSO) reopened the 2004 assault case and compared the DNA of M.L.'s sexual-assault examination against a DNA database. The comparison matched the DNA between M.L.'s assailant and appellant Charles Lewis. Investigators obtained a new DNA sample from Lewis, which verified the match. On February 19, 2010, the Hennepin County Attorney's Office charged Lewis with two counts of first-degree criminal sexual assault. Lewis was also notified that, if convicted, the state intended to seek an upward departure due to M.L.'s vulnerability and because the attack allegedly included multiple penetrations.
Lewis moved to suppress the DNA evidence, arguing that it was unreliable and that in its absence the state's criminal complaint would fail. Lewis suggested that M.L.'s listed date of birth was inconsistent, contending that three different individuals could have provided the alleged victim's DNA sample. Lewis argued that failing to suppress the evidence would violate his Sixth Amendment right of confrontation because the true identity of the victim was unknown. As a result, Lewis argued that the district court must dismiss the complaint because, without the DNA sample, the state lacked the probable cause to support his arrest. The district court denied Lewis's motion. The district court concluded that the inconsistencies regarding M.L.'s date of birth stemmed from a typographical error combined with the fact that M.L. spoke with an accent and was interviewed close in time to the alleged 2004 assault.
On September 3, 2010, the state notified Lewis of its intent to introduce Spreigl evidence at trial. The state sought to introduce evidence that on or about October 2, 2007, Lewis allegedly committed first degree sexual assault against another individual. The state argued that the 2007 incident demonstrated a common scheme that corroborated the facts of the 2004 rape. Lewis contended that the evidence was inadmissible prior act evidence, arguing that it was irrelevant and prejudicial. The district court ultimately concluded that:
Any time you leave in Spreigl evidence, I think, there is a tendency to have prejudice against the defendant, and I think that the writers who wrote the decision in the Spreigl case and their offspring subsequent, I think, realized that. I'm going [to] let it in. I think it shows common plan, ...