Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

State v. Shaw

Supreme Court of North Dakota

August 31, 2016

State of North Dakota, Plaintiff and Appellee
v.
Delvin Lamont Shaw, Defendant and Appellant

         Appeal from the District Court of Grand Forks County, Northeast Central Judicial District, the Honorable Jon J. Jensen, Judge.

          Carmell F. Mattison, Assistant State's Attorney, for plaintiff and appellee.

          Scott O. Diamond, for defendant and appellant.

          OPINION

          VandeWalle, Chief Justice.

         [¶ 1] Delvin Shaw appealed from a criminal judgment entered after a jury found him guilty of murder and burglary. We reverse and remand, concluding the district court misapplied the law regarding the admissibility of evidence of other crimes or bad acts.

         I

         [¶ 2] In June 2014, the State charged Shaw with murder and burglary for allegedly shooting and killing Jose Lopez after breaking into his apartment. At trial, Dametrian Welch testified he accompanied Shaw to Lopez's apartment. Welch testified Shaw kicked the door open, got into an altercation with Lopez, and then shot Lopez four times. Welch testified that after the shooting, he confessed to the police about what happened at the apartment.

         [¶ 3] Before trial, the State filed a notice indicating it intended to introduce testimony regarding Shaw's alleged involvement in an earlier burglary at the apartment one floor above Lopez's apartment four days before the murder. The State again stated at trial it intended to introduce testimony showing that, on the night of the murder, Shaw received a threat related to the earlier burglary and planned to return to the apartment to respond to the threat, but mistakenly went to Lopez's apartment. The State argued the evidence of the alleged earlier robbery was admissible to show Shaw had a plan, motive, and intent to return to the apartment building to respond to the threat. Over Shaw's hearsay objection, the district court allowed testimony from witnesses about the alleged earlier burglary. The court did not instruct the jury about the limited use of the evidence regarding the earlier burglary, and the jury found Shaw guilty of murder and burglary.

         II

         [¶ 4] Shaw argues the district court erred in allowing evidence of his alleged involvement in the earlier burglary at Lopez's apartment building. Shaw argues the court failed to apply the required three-step analysis for considering the admissibility of prior bad act evidence under N.D.R.Ev. 404(b) and failed to give a jury instruction regarding the limited purpose of that evidence. Shaw also argues the testimony about the alleged earlier burglary prejudiced him and the court failed to consider whether, under N.D.R.Ev. 403, the danger of unfair prejudice substantially outweighed the probative value of the evidence.

         [¶ 5] A district court's evidentiary ruling is reviewed under an abuse-of-discretion standard. State v. Roe, 2014 ND 104, ¶ 10, 846 N.W.2d 707. "A district court abuses its discretion in evidentiary rulings when it acts arbitrarily, capriciously, or unreasonably, or it misinterprets or misapplies the law." State v. Chisholm, 2012 ND 147, ¶ 10, 818 N.W.2d 707.

         [¶ 6] A district court's error in admitting evidence under N.D.R.Ev. 404(b) is subject to review under N.D.R.Crim.P. 52. State v. Thompson, 552 N.W.2d 386, 390 (N.D. 1996). Under N.D.R.Crim.P. 52, an error is harmless or obvious. A harmless error does not affect a defendant's substantial rights and must be disregarded. N.D.R.Crim.P. 52(a). An obvious error affects a defendant's substantial rights and is grounds for reversal. N.D.R.Crim.P. 52(b). To establish obvious error, a defendant must show error that is plain and affects substantial rights. State v. Steen, 2015 ND 66, ¶ 7, 860 N.W.2d 470. "In analyzing obvious error, our decisions require examination of the entire record and the probable effect of the alleged error in light of all the evidence." Id. (quoting State v. Olander, 1998 ND 50, ¶ 12, 575 N.W.2d 658).

         [¶ 7] We have "warned of the dangers inherent in allowing evidence of other acts to show propensity and of tempting a jury to convict a defendant for actions other than the charged misconduct." State v. Aabrekke, 2011 ND 131, ¶ 8, 800 N.W.2d 284 (quoting State v. Schmeets, 2009 ND 163, ¶ 15, 772 N.W.2d 623). Rule 404(b), N.D.R.Ev., governs the admissibility of evidence of a prior crime, wrong, or other act, and provides:

(1) Prohibited Uses. Evidence of a crime, wrong, or other act is not admissible to prove a person's character in order to show that on a particular occasion the person acted in accordance with the character.
(2) Permitted Uses; Notice in a Criminal Case. This evidence may be admissible for another purpose, such as proving motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, absence of mistake, or lack of accident. The prosecutor must:
(A) provide reasonable notice of the general nature of any such evidence that the prosecutor intends to offer at trial; and
(B) do so before trial or during trial if the court, for good cause, excuses lack of pretrial notice.

         The rule excludes admission of evidence of other crimes or bad acts unless the evidence is substantially relevant for some purpose other than to show a defendant's criminal character and that the defendant's acts conformed with that character. Aabrekke, at ¶ 8. "The rule recognizes the inherent prejudicial effect prior bad-act evidence may have on the trier of fact and limits the admissibility of that evidence to specifically recognized exceptions." Id.

         [¶ 8] To decide whether evidence of other crimes or bad acts is admissible, the district court must apply a three-step analysis:

1) the court must look to the purpose for which the evidence is introduced; 2) the evidence of the prior act or acts must be substantially reliable or clear and convincing; and 3) in criminal cases, there must be proof of the crime charged which permits the trier of fact to establish the defendant's guilt or innocence independently on the evidence presented, without consideration of the evidence of the prior acts.

Aabrekke, 2011 ND 131, ¶ 9, 800 N.W.2d 284 (quoting State v. Paul, 2009 ND 120, ¶ 18, 769 N.W.2d 416). Generally, the third step is satisfied with a cautionary jury instruction about the admissibility of the evidence and its use for a limited purpose. Aabrekke, at ¶ 10; Paul, at ¶ 27; State v. Micko, 393 N.W.2d 741, 744 (N.D. 1986).

         [¶ 9] If a district court concludes the three-part test has been satisfied, the evidence of other crimes or bad acts may still be excluded "if its probative value is substantially outweighed by a danger of... unfair prejudice." N.D.R.Ev. 403(a). Thus, the court must "balance the probative value of the evidence against its prejudicial effect in determining whether to admit evidence of a defendant's past crimes." Schmeets, 2009 ND 163, ¶ 10, 772 N.W.2d 623 (quoting State v. Raywalt, 436 N.W.2d 234, 238 (N.D. 1989)). Furthermore, if the State provides notice of its intent to introduce evidence of other crimes or bad acts under N.D.R.Ev. 404(b)(2)(A), "it provides an alert to the district [court] judge that the N.D.R.Ev. 403 balancing test must be done." Schmeets, at ¶ 16.

         [¶ 10] Approximately three months before trial, the State provided notice under N.D.R.Ev. 404(b)(2)(A) of its intent to introduce evidence of Shaw's alleged involvement in an earlier burglary at the same apartment building. At trial the State explained some of its witnesses' testimony would include information about the earlier burglary:

The other issue I wanted to bring up was the State filed a [ N.D.R.Ev.] 404(b) notice back in March of [2015] and I anticipate some of the testimony today to include that 404(b) testimony, specifically the State is anticipating that there will be testimony about a threat that was coming in from the residence in the floor above the victim and that Defendant and the co-defendant [Dametrian Welch] were responding to this threat. It's offered under 404(b) to show proof of intent plan and motive for going over there that night.
THE COURT: And I have looked at that notice. As long as it is going to be--I am going to allow it as long as--my question is whether or not we want to instruct the Jury of its limited ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.