Ramsey County District Court File No. 62CR117535
Lori Swanson, Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and John J. Choi, Ramsey County Attorney, Kaarin Long, Assistant County Attorney, St. Paul, Minnesota (for respondent)
David Merchant, Chief Appellate Public Defender, Richard Schmitz, Assistant Appellate Public Defender, St. Paul, Minnesota (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Schellhas, Presiding Judge; Stauber, Judge; and Bjorkman, Judge.
On appeal from his conviction of third-degree assault, appellant argues that he did not receive a fair trial because out-of-court statements made by the complainant identifying her attacker were erroneously admitted by the district court. We affirm.
On September 12, 2011, a witness, S.P., called the police when she saw her neighbor, A.C., being attacked by an unknown assailant. When the police arrived they saw that A.C. was bleeding from a laceration above her right eye and her eye was very swollen. A.C. reported that she was outside her apartment when an unknown "guy" approached. She ran, but he caught her, punched her in the face, and then fled. A.C. was taken to Regions Hospital to receive treatment for her injuries, and she allegedly told hospital staff that appellant Steven Moua, the father of A.C.'s two young children, attacked her following an argument. In a follow-up interview with police, A.C. again identified appellant as her attacker. Appellant was arrested and admitted to arguing with A.C. prior to the incident, but denied hitting her. Appellant was charged with third-degree assault under Minn. Stat. § 609.223, subd. 1 (2010).
In the spring of 2012, A.C. recanted and told a police officer that the person who actually attacked her was her then boyfriend, Y.L. At trial, numerous hearsay statements were admitted to show that A.C.'s initial identification of appellant as her attacker was accurate. A.C.'s neighbor, S.P., testified that immediately following the incident A.C. said that her "baby dad" hit her. Officer Michael Dollerschell, who interviewed A.C. three days after the incident, testified that A.C. told him that appellant was the person who hit her. Dr. Eric Dahl, who treated A.C.'s injuries at Regions Hospital, stated that she would not tell him who hit her, but she did say that it was someone she knew. Social worker Rosanne Kassekert who interviewed A.C. at Regions Hospital could not remember speaking with A.C., but was allowed to read from her notes, which stated that A.C. told her that appellant struck her. A.C. testified that her boyfriend, Y.L., was the person who attacked her, and that she previously identified appellant as the assailant because she was pressured to do so by the police. Appellant objected to the admission of the statements from Officer Dollerschell, Dr. Dahl, and Kassekert, but the district court overruled the objection, concluding that the hearsay statements were admissible under various hearsay exceptions.
At the conclusion of trial, the jury found appellant guilty. Appellant was sentenced to 21 months in prison, stayed, and 180 days in the county jail. This appeal followed.
Evidentiary rulings rest within the sound discretion of the district court and will not be reversed absent a clear abuse of that discretion. State v. Amos, 658 N.W.2d 201, 203 (Minn. 2003). "On appeal, the appellant has the burden of establishing that the [district] court abused its discretion and that appellant was thereby prejudiced." Id. Evidentiary errors warrant a new trial "only when the error substantially influences the jury's decision." State v. Valtierra, 718 N.W.2d 425, 435 (Minn. 2006) (quotation omitted).
Hearsay is defined as "a statement, other than one made by the declarant while testifying at the trial or hearing, offered in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted." Minn. R. Evid. 801(c). As a general ...