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State v. Peltier

Supreme Court of North Dakota

April 12, 2016

State of North Dakota, Plaintiff and Appellee
v.
Cameron Lee Peltier, Defendant and Appellant

          Appeal from the District Court of Ward County, North Central Judicial District, the Honorable Richard L. Hagar, Judge.

         Kelly A. Dillon, Assistant State's Attorney, Minot, ND, for plaintiff and appellee.

         Samuel A. Gereszek, East Grand Forks, MN, 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 of the Court by Crothers, Justice.

          OPINION

Page 69

          Daniel J. Crothers, Justice.

          [¶1] Cameron Lee Peltier appeals after a jury found him guilty of gross sexual imposition. Peltier argues the district court abused its discretion in excluding evidence of prior sexual abuse. We affirm the criminal judgment.

         I

          [¶2] Peltier was charged with gross sexual imposition for alleged sexual contact with a minor less than fifteen years of age. Peltier alleges the minor's mother told law enforcement that the minor may have been touched inappropriately by a cousin five years earlier. A forensic interviewer allegedly asked the minor whether she had ever been touched in a manner that made her feel unsafe and she said she had not. Before trial Peltier moved, under N.D.R.Ev. 412, to admit evidence the minor had been sexually assaulted by her cousin. Peltier alleged the minor's failure to disclose a prior incident of abuse during the forensic interview was a prior inconsistent statement and therefore admissible under N.D.R.Ev. 613 for impeachment. The district court found Peltier failed to establish that the minor made inconsistent statements or that his constitutional rights would be violated by the exclusion of such evidence. The district court denied Peltier's motion and he appeals.

Page 70

          II

          [¶3] Peltier argues the district court abused its discretion excluding evidence of previous sexual abuse. In our review, we recognize:

" A trial court has broad discretion on evidentiary matters, and we will not overturn its admission or exclusion of evidence on appeal unless that discretion has been abused. A trial court abuses its discretion when it acts arbitrarily, unconscionably, or unreasonably, or when its decision is not the product of a rational mental process. Even if the trial court commits an error on an evidentiary matter, N.D.R.Civ.P. 61 provides that '[n]o error in either the admission or the exclusion of evidence . . . is ground for granting a new trial or for setting aside a verdict or for vacating, modifying or ...

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