CASE LAW UPDATE:  Whether evidence of defendant’s alcohol consumption in assault case was relevant as to his judgment?

Defendant was convicted of 1st degree assault, the infliction of great bodily harm upon his 5 month old son.  Great bodily harm means injury which creates a high probability of death, or which causes serious permanent disfigurement, or which causes a permanent or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ or other serious bodily injury.  There are five (5) degrees of assault in Minnesota, and 1st is the worst.  The evidence showed that the injuries occurred while defendant was home alone with his 2 infant children.  Medical evidence also showed that the injuries resulted from non-accidental, abusive, physical trauma.  Defendant appealed.  On appeal, defendant argued that the trial court erred in admitting evidence:  (1) of his alcohol consumption, and (2) his prior domestic abuse of his girlfriend.  The Minnesota Court of Appeals concluded the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting evidence of alcohol consumption on the grounds that it was relevant to defendant’s judgment, conduct, and credibility of details of incident; and (2) that defendant was not unfairly prejudiced by evidence that he previously assaulted his ex-girlfriend.  Typically, other misconduct evidence, also called Spriegl evidence, is not admissible to prove the crime charged.  In this case, the Minnesota Court of Appeals, impliedly recognizing that the evidence of defendant’s prior domestic abuse of his girlfriend should not have been admitted, found that it did not prejudice defedant’s right to a fair trial.  Affirmed.

State v. Damian, A20-0450, Meeker County.

Minnesota Criminal Defense Lawyer Lynne Torgerson was not attorney of record in this case.

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