State v. Crims

Decision Date28 November 1995
Docket NumberNos. C6-95-41,C1-95-304,s. C6-95-41
PartiesSTATE of Minnesota, Respondent, v. Raymond Timothy CRIMS, Appellant.
CourtMinnesota Court of Appeals

Syllabus by the Court

Rape includes a situation in which one person forcibly continues initially-consensual sexual relations. A trial court does not abuse its discretion by excluding a rape victim's sexual history with third parties when that history fails to establish modus operandi, is remote in time, or includes events occurring after the attack, and adds nothing to the evidence of record.

Hubert H. Humphrey, III, Attorney General, St. Paul, Michael O. Freeman, Hennepin County Attorney, and Gayle C. Hendley, Assistant County Attorney, Minneapolis, for Respondent.

John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Thomas R. Ragatz, Special Assistant State Public Defender, and Faegre & Benson, Professional Limited Liability Partnership, Minneapolis, for Appellant.

Considered and decided by SHORT, P.J., and PARKER and KLAPHAKE, JJ.


SHORT, Judge.

A jury convicted Raymond Crims of third-degree criminal sexual conduct in violation of Minn.Stat. § 609.344, subd. 1(c). On appeal, Crims argues he is entitled to a new trial because the trial court committed plain error when instructing the jury, violated his constitutional rights by excluding evidence of the victim's history as a prostitute, and abused its discretion by refusing to grant a new trial due to juror misconduct.


On December 2, 1993, Raymond Crims met T.K. at Danny's Bar. For three to four hours, the two played pool, danced, hugged, and kissed. Shortly after midnight, they left the bar arm-in-arm. Before long, several residents of a Minneapolis apartment building heard T.K. cry for help and scream she was being raped. Peering out a window, a resident saw two figures in the snow and noticed one was struggling to remove the other's pants.

When the police arrived a few minutes later, they found Crims engaging in sexual intercourse with T.K. His hand covered her mouth. Nearby, a utility knife lay in the snow, its blade extended. Also strewn about the scene were T.K.'s lip balm, medication, cigarettes, and other personal effects. Leading to the scene, the police observed marks consistent with the dragging of a body through the snow. The officers identified themselves. Four times, they ordered Crims to stop. When Crims failed to do so, the officers physically removed him from T.K.

When questioned by police and at trial, Crims and T.K. gave conflicting accounts of the night's events. Crims stated T.K. consented to have sex with him as compensation for $20 in drug money, but she began screaming before he penetrated her. By contrast, T.K. asserted Crims offered to walk her to a friend's house, then pushed her to the ground and raped her.

The state charged Crims with first-degree criminal sexual conduct in violation of Minn.Stat. § 609.342, subd. 1(d) (dangerous weapon). At his first trial, in May 1994, Crims sought to prove T.K. consented to sex as compensation for drug money. To support his theory, Crims proposed to introduce evidence of T.K.'s 1991 arrest for prostitution. Crims argued he required this evidence to develop his consent/prostitution defense, as well as the theory that T.K. fabricated the incident after a dispute arose over her fee. Crims claimed that if the trial court refused to admit T.K.'s arrest record, it would violate his constitutional rights to present a defense and confront his accusers.

Initially, the trial court barred the evidence. However, at trial, the prosecution opened the door by suggesting T.K. would never prostitute herself. Because of the prosecution's questions, the trial court allowed Crims to introduce evidence of T.K.'s prostitution in 1991. That trial ended in a hung jury. After the trial court declared a mistrial, the state added two counts to its complaint: first-degree criminal sexual conduct in violation of Minn.Stat. § 609.342, subd. 1(c) (fear of imminent great bodily harm), and third-degree criminal sexual conduct in violation of Minn.Stat. § 609.344, subd. 1(c) (force or coercion).

At his second trial, Crims again moved to introduce evidence of T.K.'s past sexual behavior. This time, the defense proposed to introduce the testimony of T.K.'s apartment manager, who also worked at Danny's Bar. The witness offered to testify: (1) at the end of January or the beginning of February 1994, T.K. exchanged sex for cocaine at a party; (2) in May 1994, she asked the witness for condoms so she could earn money to pay bills; (3) also in May, in exchange for a small package, she performed fellatio on a man outside her apartment building; and (4) during the same period, she once offered to perform fellatio on the witness if he repaired her electricity. Because these events took place after the December 1993 incident, the trial court refused to admit them.

At the close of Crims' second trial, the trial court instructed the jury. With regard to the third-degree criminal sexual conduct charge, the court defined the elements as: (1) penetration; (2) without consent; (3) by use of force or coercion. The court defined penetration as "sexual intercourse, fellatio or any intrusion however slight into the genital or anal openings * * *." It described consent as "a voluntary and uncoerced agreement to perform a particular sexual act at that time [it] takes place."

An hour after the jury retired, its foreperson passed a note to the court:

If someone says no during the act of sexual intercourse, under the law is it rape if the other person continues the act after the other person asks him to stop[?]

After securing the agreement of counsel, the trial court advised the jury to review its written instructions carefully. The jury then informed the court it found the answer in the written instructions. Shortly thereafter, the jury reached a verdict and found Crims not guilty on both counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct (dangerous weapon and fear of great bodily harm), but guilty of third-degree criminal sexual conduct (force or coercion).

Six days later, a police investigator saw T.K. by chance and informed her that the jury convicted Crims. T.K. asked the investigator what consequences could flow from a victim's perception, upon taking the stand, of a familiar face in the jury box. After questioning T.K. further, the investigator considered her inquiry purely hypothetical. Nonetheless, he reported the conversation.

On the basis of the investigator's report, Crims moved for a hearing on juror misconduct. The trial court granted his motion. Before the hearing, the trial court agreed with counsel on the questions it would propound to the jury. At the hearing, counsel received the opportunity to ask the jurors additional questions, but declined to do so. Each juror denied prior contact with any of the witnesses. T.K., having died in the interim, did not appear at the hearing. Without any further offer of proof, Crims requested the trial court to order a new trial. The trial court denied his motion and proceeded with sentencing.


I. Did the trial court commit plain error in instructing the jury?

II. Did the trial court violate Crims's constitutional rights by refusing to admit evidence of the victim's history of prostitution?

III. Did the trial court abuse its discretion by refusing to order a new trial due to juror misconduct?


In reviewing a trial court's jury instructions, evidentiary rulings, and denial of a motion for a new trial, we examine the record for abuse of discretion and errors of law. Uselman v. Uselman, 464 N.W.2d 130, 138 (Minn.1990) (evidentiary rulings); Halla Nursery v. Baumann-Furrie & Co., 454 N.W.2d 905, 910 (Minn.1990) (denial of motion for new trial); Alholm v. Wilt, 394 N.W.2d 488, 490 (Minn.1986) (jury instructions, abuse of discretion); Alevizos v. Metropolitan Airports Comm'n, 452 N.W.2d 492, 501 (Minn.App.1990) (jury instructions, error of law), review denied (Minn. May 11, 1990). We review questions of law de novo. Frost-Benco Elec. Ass'n v. Minnesota Pub. Utils. Comm'n, 358 N.W.2d 639, 642 (Minn.1984). In this case, we are asked to decide whether the Rape Shield Act infringes upon Crims's fundamental rights.


In response to a jury's request for supplemental instructions, a trial court enjoys the discretion to amplify previous instructions, reread previous instructions, or not respond. Minn.R.Crim.P. 26.03, subd. 19(3); State v. Murphy, 380 N.W.2d 766, 772 (Minn.1986). Failure to challenge an instruction at trial waives the right to appeal that issue unless the trial court committed plain error. State v. Shannon, 514 N.W.2d 790, 793 (Minn.1994); State v. Dolbeare, 511 N.W.2d 443, 446 (Minn.1994). On occasion, a trial court commits plain error by refusing to give supplemental instructions. For example, if the prosecutor, in closing arguments, misinterprets an ambiguous portion of the controlling statute, the trial court plainly errs by simply repeating the statute's language when the jury asks for clarification. Shannon, 514 N.W.2d at 791-93.

In the trial court proceedings, Crims never objected to the trial court's instructions. He now argues the trial court committed plain error by: (1) refusing to give supplemental instructions to dispel the jury's confusion about the significance of withdrawn consent; and (2) failing to inform the jury that rape is impossible upon forcible continuation of initially-consensual sexual relations.

While the interests of justice occasionally require a trial court to clarify its instructions, a trial court may properly refer to its initial charge when that charge provides the jury with the guidance necessary to resolve its confusion. State v. Harwell, 515 N.W.2d 105, 108-09 (Minn.App.1994), review denied (Minn. June 15, 1994); see also Minn.R.Crim.P. 26.03, subd. 19(3) (vesting trial courts with discretion to amplify previous instructions,...

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