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State v. Valentine Jaros

Supreme Court of Minnesota

August 21, 2019

State of Minnesota, Respondent,
v.
Michael Paul Valentine Jaros, Appellant.

          Court of Appeals, Office of Appellate Courts

          Keith Ellison, Attorney General, Michael Everson, Assistant Attorney General, Saint Paul, Minnesota; and Michelle Eldien, Otter Tail County Attorney, Fergus Falls, Minnesota, for respondent.

          Melissa Sheridan, Eagan, Minnesota; and Bradford Colbert, Legal Assistance to Minnesota Prisoners, Saint Paul, Minnesota, for appellant.

         SYLLABUS

         1. In the absence of constitutional error, the admission of prejudicial evidence does not impose on the State the burden to prove that the error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.

         2. The district court did not abuse its discretion by denying appellant's motion for a mistrial.

          OPINION

          THISSEN, JUSTICE.

         Appellant Michael Paul Valentine Jaros challenges his conviction of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and false imprisonment, arguing that he was deprived of a fair trial when a detective improperly testified about photographs that were found on Jaros's cellphone. The district court denied Jaros's motion for a mistrial after the detective's testimony. We affirm.

         FACTS

         On June 11, 2016, T.H. attended a street dance in Fergus Falls. T.H. was sitting at a picnic table with T.F., whom she had met the previous night, when appellant Michael Jaros and his girlfriend Stephanie Holding-Eagle came to sit by them. The four people talked and drank together.

         At about 10:45 p.m., the group drove to another bar. T.H. drank only water at the second bar because she had already had several drinks. Jaros and T.H. flirted with each other while at the bar. When Jaros and Holding-Eagle went outside to smoke, people at the bar told T.H. that Jaros and Holding-Eagle were married.

         T.H. went outside to ask Jaros and Holding-Eagle what was going on. Jaros and Holding-Eagle denied that they were a couple, but T.H. wanted to leave the bar, so she climbed over the deck. In doing so, she scraped her leg. She sat in the parking lot and began to cry.

         T.F. came outside. He told T.H. that he had "a weird vibe" from Jaros and Holding-Eagle.[1] Jaros and Holding-Eagle came over to T.H. and told her to come back to Jaros's house. T.H. agreed.

         T.H. and Jaros arrived at Jaros's house around 12:30 a.m. after picking up T.H.'s car from the first bar. Holding-Eagle arrived shortly after them. The three had drinks and played a game. After an hour and a half, T.H. began to get tired and said she wanted to go home. Jaros and Holding-Eagle told her that she had had too much to drink and should not drive.

         T.H. lay down on the couch. Holding-Eagle came over to her and started rubbing her crotch against T.H.'s leg. T.H. told her to stop, but Holding-Eagle did not listen and continued, trying to get under T.H.'s blanket. T.H. yelled out to Jaros, "Mike, come get her off of me." T.H. was facing toward the back of the couch on her side and Jaros, who had taken off all of his clothes except his boxers, lay behind her and started pushing up against her. T.H. told him to get off of her, saying that she did not like what he was doing and just wanted to sleep.

         Jaros sat up and Holding-Eagle pulled his penis out of his boxers. She tried to get T.H. to look, saying, "Look at it. Isn't it big?" T.H. told her she did not want to look at it and said, "Get off of me. I just want to leave." At that point, Holding-Eagle said to Jaros, "Okay, let's just leave her alone," and Jaros and Holding-Eagle went outside to smoke by the front door. While they were outside, T.H. went out the side door, got in her car, and left.

         T.H. went back, however, because she had forgotten her phone. When she arrived, she saw Holding-Eagle outside. Holding-Eagle told T.H. that T.H. had upset Jaros. T.H. went inside to get her phone and Jaros came to the room and sat on the couch. Holding-Eagle followed T.H. inside and stood by the door.

         T.H. told Jaros that she was sorry and did not mean to upset him but that she just wanted her phone and then wanted to go home. Jaros responded, "Well, now you've got to make it up to me." When T.H. moved to leave, Jaros grabbed her by the arm and "slammed" her onto the couch. T.H. told Jaros to get off of her and said she was going to call the police. Jaros slapped T.H. and told her not to talk to him like that. He began to pull off T.H.'s jeans and underwear as she tried to kick him and push him off of her. T.H. asked Holding-Eagle to get Jaros off of her. Holding-Eagle replied that T.H. should not have made Jaros angry.

         After pulling off T.H.'s jeans and underwear, Jaros raped her by penetrating her vagina. She repeatedly told him to stop and told him it hurt, but he just said, "[Y]ou shouldn't have pissed me off." Holding-Eagle watched Jaros rape T.H., and told him, "Don't choke her too much because we don't want her passing out." Whenever T.H. told Jaros that he was hurting her, he would reply, "After every sentence you say, you need to say 'sir.'" Then he told Holding-Eagle to give oral sex to T.H. After Holding-Eagle gave oral sex to T.H., Jaros penetrated T.H.'s vagina again. She began to bleed and Jaros asked if she was on her period. T.H. responded that she was not and that she was probably bleeding because he was hurting her. Jaros slapped her again, and said, "Don't lie to me." T.H. said Jaros raped her "again and again" and then pulled off the rest of her clothes and made her go to his bedroom. Jaros then put T.H. down onto the bed and got on top of her. He penetrated her vagina again. She told him again to stop and that he was hurting her.

         Jaros raped T.H. between 2 and 2½ hours. Eventually, Jaros stopped. He got up and told that her she could go. Before she left, T.H. grabbed a piece of his mail from a table.

         T.H. drove straight to the hospital. She spoke to Detective Shirkey of the Fergus Falls Police Department at the hospital and told him what had happened. Detective Shirkey took photographs of bruises on T.H.'s arms, legs, and neck. T.H. also identified pictures of Jaros and Holding-Eagle in photographic lineups.

         A doctor then examined T.H. As he did so, T.H. bled on her hospital gown and sheets. A nurse took additional pictures of T.H.'s injuries during the examination and took vaginal, rectal, and skin swabs to be sent to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA). The nurse testified that, during the intake process, T.H. provided specifics about the assault.

         The doctor and nurse observed bruising on T.H.'s outer thigh, arms and wrists, neck, and ankles. They also observed internal vaginal bleeding from a "fresh" vaginal tear and dried blood on her perineum area. The doctor further observed a fresh tear that was about one centimeter in length on the back wall of T.H.'s vagina and an abrasion on the side wall of T.H.'s vagina. He noted that it was uncommon to see injuries inside the vagina, so he took pictures to document those injuries.

         A witness from the BCA testified that the BCA serologist found seminal fluid on the swabs submitted by the hospital. The BCA witness took a sperm cell fraction of the perineal swabs that had a mixture of more than one person's DNA and found that, while Holding-Eagle's DNA could be excluded from the mixture, Jaros's and T.H.'s DNA could not be excluded as a source of the mixture.

         After speaking with T.H. at the hospital, Detective Shirkey obtained a search warrant for Jaros's home. Jaros and Holding-Eagle were in the residence at the time of the search and they were both arrested. On the same day, Detective Shirkey met with Jaros at the Otter Tail County Detention Facility. During the interview, Jaros ...


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