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State v. Dieterle

Supreme Court of North Dakota

July 18, 2013

State of North Dakota, Plaintiff and Appellee
v.
Angela Louise Dieterle, Defendant and Appellant

Appeal from the District Court of Sheridan County, South Central Judicial District, the Honorable Sonna M. Anderson, Judge.

Ladd Ronald Erickson, State's Attorney, for plaintiff and appellee; submitted on brief.

Jesse Nathan Lange, for defendant and appellant.

OPINION

CROTHERS, Justice.

[¶ 1] Angela L. Dieterle appeals a district court judgment after a bench trial found her guilty of simple assault. She argues the district court abused its discretion by admitting evidence of prior bad acts. We affirm.

I

[¶ 2] On July 23, 2011, Dieterle was arrested for simple assault. The State alleged she willfully caused bodily injury to another person by biting and striking her husband. On November 16, 2011, Dieterle gave notice of intent to claim self-defense at trial by requesting self-defense jury instructions. Eric Hetland was prosecuting the case and responded to the self-defense claim by giving notice of a number of witnesses who would testify to prior bad acts under N.D.R.Ev. 404(b). The case was set for trial on December 1, 2011, but was continued due to the timing of the 404(b) notice. Dieterle subsequently filed a motion requesting that Hetland be replaced as prosecutor due to a potential conflict of interest and asking the court to consider the admissibility of the State's proposed 404(b) evidence.

[¶ 3] Hetland did not object to being replaced as the prosecutor, and the court granted the motion to assign a new prosecutor. Trial was continued again because Hetland's successor was not known. Regarding the motion on the State's 404(b) evidence, Dieterle agreed the motion would be denied without prejudice and that the motion could be renewed if the new prosecutor wanted to introduce evidence under N.D.R.Ev. 404(b). Dieterle waived her right to a jury trial, and the evidentiary issue was not revisited prior to the bench trial. The district court found Dieterle guilty of simple assault and sentenced her to ten days in jail, six days suspended, with credit earned for four days served and to one year of unsupervised probation.

II

[¶ 4] Dieterle argues the district court erred by overruling her objections to evidence regarding prior requests for protection orders against her male partners and prior instances of her coaching her children to falsely testify. The grounds for Dieterle's objections were that the evidence violated N.D.R.Ev. 404(b). The State now argues N.D.R.Ev. 404(b) does not apply because the State's cross-examination was intended to impeach Dieterle. At trial, the State argued and the district court agreed that the objected to evidence was admissible to show motive.

[¶ 5] The State's questions regarding her prior requests for protection orders against previous male partners and prior instances of coaching her children to falsely testify included the following:

"Q. MR. ERICKSON: You've had 15 years more life experience basically than Shannon when he met you?
A. Yes.
Q. And Shannon is in fact about the 6th guy in a row according ...

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