Sherburne County District Court File No. 71-CR-l 1-1509
Lori Swanson, Attorney General, Matthew Frank, Assistant Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and Kathleen A. Heaney, Sherburne County Attorney, Suzanne Bollman, Assistant County Attorney, Elk River, Minnesota (for respondent)
David W. Merchant, Chief Appellate Public Defender, Tania K. M. Lex, Special Assistant Public Defender, St. Paul, Minnesota (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Connolly, Presiding Judge; Larkin, Judge; and Cleary, Judge.
Appellant challenges his conviction of second-degree criminal sexual conduct, arguing that the district court abused its discretion in admitting two prior convictions for impeachment purposes. We affirm.
On October 18, 2011, respondent State of Minnesota charged appellant Fitzgerald Calvin Stewart with first-degree criminal sexual conduct and second-degree criminal sexual conduct. The state alleged that Stewart touched an 11-year-old boy's penis and "put his mouth on [the boy's] penis for approximately five seconds."
Prior to trial, the state filed a motion in limine requesting the district court to "[allow] the [s]tate to use the defendant's prior convictions for purposes of attacking the credibility of the witness" under Minnesota Rule of Evidence 609. Specifically, the state requested to impeach Stewart with an aggravated-battery conviction and an armed-robbery conviction. Both convictions occurred in Cook County, Illinois in 2005.
The district court heard oral arguments on the motion at a pretrial hearing. In opposing the state's motion, Stewart argued that the convictions did not "do anything to impugn his credibility" and did nothing "more than to show . . . or suggest . . . a propensity toward violation and criminal activity." Stewart further argued that his "testimony is important" because "there's only two folks that were even alleged to have been in the room . . . [he] and the complaining victim." Stewart informed the court that "it is his intention to definitely not testify, if the court allows impeachment with his prior convictions."
The district court ruled "that it's appropriate to permit the state to impeach [Stewart] with his prior convictions for aggravated battery from 2005." The court reasoned as follows:
Minnesota operates under the rule of allowing impeachment for the jury to assess the whole person, and to know enough of that person's history, if not outweighed by prejudicial effect so that the jury can assess credibility within the terms of that whole history.
The impeachment value of the prior crime therefore falls within the whole person exception. While they are not crimes of dishonesty or false statement, I do think that they have impeachment value as defined by the rules. The ...