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State v. Van Chase

Supreme Court of North Dakota

September 17, 2015

State of North Dakota, Plaintiff and Appellee
v.
Lorry Van Chase, Defendant and Appellant

Appeal from the District Court of Rolette County, Northeast Judicial District, the Honorable Michael G. Sturdevant, Judge.

Ryan J. Thompson, Rolla, ND, for plaintiff and appellee.

Lynn M. Boughey, Bismarck, ND, for defendant and appellant.

Daniel J. Crothers, Lisa Fair McEvers, Carol Ronning Kapsner, Dale V. Sandstrom, Gerald W. VandeWalle, C.J. Opinion of the Court by Crothers, Justice.

OPINION

Page 734

Daniel J. Crothers, Justice.

[¶1] Lorry Van Chase appeals from a criminal judgment entered after a jury found him guilty of gross sexual imposition. Chase argues the district court erred when it failed to declare a mistrial after witness testimony referenced prior bad acts and when it disallowed evidence of prior consensual sexual acts with the victim. We affirm.

I

[¶2] In 2013 Chase was charged with one count of gross sexual imposition against Jane Doe in violation of N.D.C.C. § 12.1-20-03(1)(a) for an assault that occurred in 2007. At trial Jane Doe testified she knew Chase had been in jail. A medical professional's testimony referenced other victims. Chase moved for a mistrial after both instances. The district court denied both motions for mistrial and issued a curative instruction to the jury. Chase sought to offer evidence of prior consensual sexual conduct with Jane Doe. The district court held that the testimony Chase intended to offer was prohibited by N.D.R.Ev. 412. Chase appeals.

II

[¶3] Chase argues the district court erred by denying his motions for mistrial because testimony referencing his time in jail and the existence of other victims is more prejudicial than probative. The State argues any prejudice from the testimony was properly remedied by the court's curative instruction to the jury.

" Motions for mistrial are within the broad discretion of the district court, and we will not reverse the court's decision on the motion unless there was a clear abuse of that discretion or a manifest injustice that would result. A district court abuses its discretion when it misinterprets or misapplies the law, or when it acts in an arbitrary, unreasonable, or capricious manner."

Page 735

State v. Skarsgard, 2007 ND 160, ¶ 16, 739 N.W.2d 786. (Citations omitted). " If independent evidence exists which could lead the trier of fact to the same result, we consider the admission of prior bad acts to be harmless error." State ...


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