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State v. Lang

Supreme Court of North Dakota

July 1, 2015

State of North Dakota, Plaintiff and Appellee
v.
Dallas Pius Lang, Defendant and Appellant

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

Dawn M. Deitz, Assistant State's Attorney, Bismarck, N.D., for plaintiff and appellee; submitted on brief.

Benjamin C. Pulkrabek, Mandan, N.D., for defendant and appellant.

Dale V. Sandstrom, Daniel J. Crothers, Lisa Fair McEvers, Carol Ronning Kapsner, Gerald W. VandeWalle, C.J.

OPINION

Page 402

Sandstrom, Justice.

[¶1] Dallas Lang appeals after a jury found him guilty of felonious restraint. He argues that because a juror allegedly made inappropriate comments during jury selection, the district court should not have denied his motion, made later, for a mistrial. He also argues the district court should have given a curative instruction to the jury to disregard the statements made during jury selection. Because the district court neither abused its discretion in denying Lang's motion for mistrial nor committed obvious error by not giving a curative instruction to the jury, we affirm the district court judgment.

I

[¶2] In April 2014, Lang was charged with felonious restraint, a class C felony.

Page 403

After a jury trial, he was found guilty of felonious restraint and was sentenced to thirty months' imprisonment, with twelve months suspended and three years' probation. Lang appealed.

[¶3] The central issue of this appeal stems from comments of a prospective juror made during jury selection and the alleged prejudicial effect of those comments. During the questioning of prospective jurors, the State asked one of the panel about his experience working with the state's attorney's offices in Burleigh and Grand Forks Counties and his experience with domestic violence cases. The text of this exchange, to which Lang objected, was as follows:

MS. DEITZ: Do you feel that you possess maybe some specific knowledge with regard to domestic cases?
[PROSPECTIVE JUROR]: Probably, yes, because I've had -- in one particular case I had to argue -- I wrote some briefs to try to introduce some expert testimony. I won't go into more detail than that, but I had to do some research involved with that.
MS. DEITZ: In all those cases that you worked on, do all the victims act the same?
[PROSPECTIVE JUROR]: No.
MS. DEITZ: Do they all stick to their story the ...

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