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State v. Campbell

Supreme Court of North Dakota

October 17, 2017

State of North Dakota, Plaintiff and Appellee
v.
Anthony Leon Campbell, 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.

          Benjamin C. Pulkrabek, Mandan, ND, for defendant and appellant.

          OPINION

          VandeWalle, Chief Justice.

         [¶ 1] Anthony Campbell appealed a criminal judgment after a jury found him guilty of murder. We affirm, concluding the district court did not abuse its discretion in its evidentiary decisions relating to the testimony of Campbell's expert witness and the admission of evidence of prior bad acts.

         I

         [¶ 2] According to the trial testimony of Minot police officer David Goodman, in the morning hours of September 15, 2014, Shannon Brunelle was found dead inside a garage stall. The autopsy report stated Brunelle had seven lethal stab wounds in his back and neck and had been beaten with a golf club. Goodman testified Campbell was one of the last persons to be seen with Brunelle before he was murdered.

         [¶ 3] The Minot police arrested Campbell for the murder of Brunelle. At trial, the State submitted evidence showing Campbell's DNA was found inside a pair of bloody athletic shoes found inside the garage. Campbell's DNA was also found on a broken golf club used to strike Brunelle.

         [¶ 4] Campbell testified at trial he had no involvement in Brunelle's murder. Campbell also retained Ross Rolshoven, who was offered and accepted as an expert private investigator to testify at trial and provide his opinions of the case. Rolshoven testified that he believed at least two assailants were present when Brunelle was murdered. Rolshoven also provided his opinions about the State's investigation and a third-party's possible involvement in Brunelle's murder. The district court sustained the State's objections when Rolshoven testified about facts not in evidence. After a seven-day trial, the jury found Campbell guilty of Brunelle's murder.

         II

         [¶ 5] Campbell argues the district court should have allowed his expert to provide all of his opinions about Brunelle's murder.

         [¶ 6] We review a district court's decisions relating to expert witness testimony under an abuse of discretion standard. Matter of O.H.W., 2009 ND 194, ¶ 15, 775 N.W.2d 73. A court abuses its discretion when it acts in an arbitrary, unreasonable, or unconscionable manner, when it misinterprets or misapplies the law, or when its decision is not the product of a rational mental process leading to a reasoned decision. Larson v. Larson, 2016 ND 76, ¶ 32, 878 N.W.2d 54.

         [¶ 7] Rule 702, N.D.R.Ev., allows testimony from expert witnesses:

A witness who is qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education may testify in the form of an opinion or otherwise if the expert's scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will help the trier of fact ...

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