State v. Sweeney, No. 99-068.

Docket NºNo. 99-068.
Citation299 Mont. 111, 2000 MT 74, 999 P.2d 296
Case DateMarch 23, 2000
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Montana

999 P.2d 296
2000 MT 74
299 Mont. 111

STATE of Montana, Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
Robert SWEENEY, Defendant and Appellant

No. 99-068.

Supreme Court of Montana.

Submitted on Briefs October 28, 1999.

Decided March 23, 2000.


999 P.2d 297
William F. Hooks, Appellate Defender's Office, Helena, Montana, For Appellant

Hon. Joseph P. Mazurek, Attorney General; John Paulson, Assistant Attorney General, Helena, Montana, Robert McCarthy, Silver Bow County Attorney; Ann M. Shea and Eileen Joyce, Deputy County Attorneys, Butte, Montana, For Respondent.

Justice JIM REGNIER delivered the Opinion of the Court.

¶ 1 Robert Sweeney appeals from the Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, Judgment and Order entered by the Second Judicial District Court, Silver Bow County. We reverse and remand.

¶ 2 We restate the issues presented on appeal as follows:

¶ 3 1. Whether the District Court erred in admitting evidence of Sweeney's prior conviction for sexual assault?

¶ 4 2. Whether Sweeney was denied his constitutional right to a unanimous jury verdict, requiring the reversal of his conviction?

BACKGROUND

¶ 5 On December 30, 1997, Robert Sweeney was charged by Information with one count of sexual intercourse without consent in violation of § 45-5-503(1) and (3)(a), MCA. At arraignment, Sweeney entered a plea of not guilty with regard to the charge. On January 22, 1998, the District Court, upon motion of defense counsel, ordered a psychiatric evaluation of Sweeney to determine whether Sweeney was suffering from a mental

999 P.2d 298
disease or defect affecting his ability to assist in his defense and whether Sweeney was able to form the requisite mental state for the crime with which he had been charged

¶ 6 At the omnibus hearing conducted on February 17, 1998, the State indicated that it intended to present evidence of prior acts or convictions and Sweeney indicated that he would rely on the defenses of mental disease or defect, alibi, and mistaken identity and introduce evidence of his good character. On that same date, the State provided Sweeney with written notice of its intent to introduce evidence of Sweeney's prior sexual assault conviction in Wisconsin to prove knowledge, motive, and lack of mistaken identity.

¶ 7 On February 18, 1998, the State was granted leave to file an Amended Information. The Amended Information charged Sweeney with one count of sexual intercourse without consent in violation of § 45-5-503(1) and (3)(a), MCA, or, in the alternative, with one count of sexual assault in violation of § 45-5-502(1) and (3), MCA. The State specifically alleged that Sweeney either knowingly had sexual intercourse without consent with his nine year old niece or knowingly subjected her to sexual contact without consent on two occasions between April and June 1996.

¶ 8 Prior to Sweeney's arraignment on the charges contained in the Amended Information, Sweeney filed a brief opposing the introduction of evidence of other crimes or wrongs. Sweeney alleged that the proposed evidence did not meet the criteria set forth in the Modified Just Rule. The State responded by asserting that the proposed evidence meets the first three criteria of the Modified Just Rule and thus, its probative value outweighs any prejudice to Sweeney. The District Court agreed with the State's analysis and denied Sweeney's motion to suppress the evidence of other crimes or wrongs.

¶ 9 On August 17, 1998, Sweeney filed a trial brief abandoning his prior reliance on the defenses of mental disease or defect and mistaken identity, denying the allegations made against him, and stating his intent to present an alibi defense, a general denial, and evidence discrediting the police investigation. In addition, Sweeney stated that while he may have suffered from a disassociative personality disorder at the time of the sexual assault that occurred in Wisconsin, there is no evidence that he suffered from the disorder at the time of the alleged offense in this case. Moreover, Sweeney indicated his intent to object to the introduction of any evidence regarding this disorder.

¶ 10 In its trial brief, the State reiterated its position regarding the introduction of evidence of other crimes or wrongs, inter alia. In addition, the State declared that it intended to introduce this evidence to prove Sweeney's motive and identity and to prove that Sweeney acted with knowledge.

¶ 11 A jury trial commenced on August 24, 1998. Prior to submission of this case to the jury for deliberation, the State dismissed the charge of sexual intercourse without consent. Following deliberations, the jury found Sweeney guilty of the charge of sexual assault.

¶ 12 On December 1, 1998, the District Court conducted a sentencing hearing. After review of the presentence investigation report, consideration of a statement made by Sweeney, and consideration of defense counsel and the prosecution's arguments regarding sentencing, the District Court entered findings of fact and conclusions of law. Based on these findings and conclusions, the District Court sentenced Sweeney to a term of 40 years for the sexual assault conviction and a term of 5 years based on Sweeney's status as a persistent felony offender, both sentences to run concurrently. The District Court suspended 15 years of the sentence imposed subject to specific terms and conditions. Sweeney appeals from the District Court's Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, Judgment, and Order.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

¶ 13 The standard of review for evidentiary rulings is whether the district court abused its discretion. See State v. Gollehon (1993), 262 Mont. 293, 301, 864 P.2d 1257, 1263 (citation omitted). Whether evidence is relevant and admissible is left to the sound discretion of the district court and will

999 P.2d 299
not be overturned on appeal absent an abuse of that discretion. See State v. Rogers, 1999 MT 305, ¶ 11, 297 Mont. 188, ¶ 11, 992 P.2d 229, ¶ 11, 56 St.Rep. 1228, ¶ 11 (citation omitted)

DISCUSSION

¶ 14 1. Whether the District Court erred in admitting evidence of Sweeney's prior conviction for sexual assault?

¶ 15 The District Court agreed with the State's analysis of the Modified Just Rule and admitted the State's evidence of other crimes or wrongs via testimony by the probation officer who supervised Sweeney's probation in Butte from November 16, 1992, until his probation expired on July 24, 1994. The probation officer testified that Sweeney had previously sexually assaulted his five year old stepdaughter while residing in Wisconsin and provided a brief description of Sweeney's sexual behavior during the assault. In addition, the State introduced into evidence certified copies of the Criminal Complaint, Information, and Judgment of Conviction relating to Sweeney's sexual assault conviction based on the entry of an Alford plea in the Wisconsin court in 1989.

¶ 16 The admissibility of evidence of other crimes is controlled by Rule 404(b), M.R.Evid., which states:

Evidence of other crimes, wrongs, or acts is not admissible to prove the character of a person in order to show action in conformity therewith. It may, however, be admissible for other purposes, such as proof of motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, or absence of mistake or accident.

We have previously stated that the general rule of Rule 404(b), M.R.Evid., must be strictly enforced except where a departure is clearly justified, and exceptions to the rule must be carefully limited. See State v. Keys (1993), 258 Mont. 311, 315, 852 P.2d 621, 623. To insure that evidence of prior crimes is not used as character evidence, we have developed four criteria, referred to as the Modified Just Rule, to be used in determining the admissibility of such evidence:

(1) The other crimes, wrongs or acts must be similar.
(2) The other crimes, wrongs or acts must not be remote in time.
(3) The evidence of other crimes, wrongs or acts is not admissible to prove the character of a person in order to show that he acted in conformity with such character; but may be admissible for other purposes, such as proof of motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, or absence of mistake or accident.
(4) Although relevant, evidence may be excluded if its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of the issues, misleading of the jury, considerations of undue delay, waste of time, or needless presentation of cumulative evidence.

State v. Matt (1991), 249 Mont. 136, 142, 814 P.2d 52, 56.

¶ 17 In Matt we stated that the procedural requirements set forth in State v. Just (1979), 184 Mont. 262, 274, 602 P.2d 957, 963-64, must also be satisfied by the party offering such evidence. 249 Mont. at 142-43, 814 P.2d at 56. In this case, the parties do not dispute that the procedural requirements were met. Sweeney received written notice of the State's intent to introduce evidence of his prior sexual assault conviction; the District Court advised the jury on the purpose of the evidence at the time of its introduction; and the...

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14 practice notes
  • State v. Ayers, No. 01-423.
    • United States
    • Montana United States State Supreme Court of Montana
    • April 28, 2003
    ...258 Mont. at 318, 852 P.2d at 625. See also State v. Rogers, 1999 MT 305, ¶ 43, 297 Mont. 188, ¶ 43, 992 P.2d 229, ¶ 43; State v. Sweeney, 2000 MT 74, ¶ 35, 299 Mont. 111, ¶ 35, 999 P.2d 296, ¶ 35; and State v. Dobson, 2001 MT 167, ¶ 36, 306 Mont. 145, ¶ 36, 30 P.3d 1077, ¶ ¶ 76 We take thi......
  • Cousar v. State , No. 2683
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • April 28, 2011
    ...The lack of consent by other victims is not probative of lack of consent by the complainant of the charged offense.”); State v. Sweeney, 299 Mont. 111, 999 P.2d 296, 302 (2000) (The court found that evidence of other sexual assaults was improperly admitted as this evidence served only to pr......
  • State v. Lake, DA 19-0648
    • United States
    • Montana United States State Supreme Court of Montana
    • February 8, 2022
    ...act was the cause of the charged criminal act, rather than its effect. Salvagni , ¶ 59 (citation omitted). Accord State v. Sweeney , 2000 MT 74, ¶ 25, 299 Mont. 111, 999 P.2d 296 (internal citations omitted). See also, e.g. , State v. Ellison , 2018 MT 252, ¶ 13, 393 Mont. 90, 428 P.3d 826 ......
  • State v. Lake, DA 19-0648
    • United States
    • Montana United States State Supreme Court of Montana
    • February 8, 2022
    ...act was the cause of the charged criminal act, rather than its effect. Salvagni, ¶ 59 (citation omitted). Accord State v. Sweeney, 2000 MT 74, ¶ 25, 299 Mont. 111, 999 P.2d 296 (internal citations omitted). See also, e.g., State v. Ellison, 2018 MT 252, ¶ 13, 393 Mont. 90, 428 P.3d 826 (evi......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
14 cases
  • State v. Ayers, No. 01-423.
    • United States
    • Montana United States State Supreme Court of Montana
    • April 28, 2003
    ...258 Mont. at 318, 852 P.2d at 625. See also State v. Rogers, 1999 MT 305, ¶ 43, 297 Mont. 188, ¶ 43, 992 P.2d 229, ¶ 43; State v. Sweeney, 2000 MT 74, ¶ 35, 299 Mont. 111, ¶ 35, 999 P.2d 296, ¶ 35; and State v. Dobson, 2001 MT 167, ¶ 36, 306 Mont. 145, ¶ 36, 30 P.3d 1077, ¶ ¶ 76 We take thi......
  • Cousar v. State , No. 2683
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • April 28, 2011
    ...The lack of consent by other victims is not probative of lack of consent by the complainant of the charged offense.”); State v. Sweeney, 299 Mont. 111, 999 P.2d 296, 302 (2000) (The court found that evidence of other sexual assaults was improperly admitted as this evidence served only to pr......
  • State v. Lake, DA 19-0648
    • United States
    • Montana United States State Supreme Court of Montana
    • February 8, 2022
    ...act was the cause of the charged criminal act, rather than its effect. Salvagni , ¶ 59 (citation omitted). Accord State v. Sweeney , 2000 MT 74, ¶ 25, 299 Mont. 111, 999 P.2d 296 (internal citations omitted). See also, e.g. , State v. Ellison , 2018 MT 252, ¶ 13, 393 Mont. 90, 428 P.3d 826 ......
  • State v. Lake, DA 19-0648
    • United States
    • Montana United States State Supreme Court of Montana
    • February 8, 2022
    ...act was the cause of the charged criminal act, rather than its effect. Salvagni, ¶ 59 (citation omitted). Accord State v. Sweeney, 2000 MT 74, ¶ 25, 299 Mont. 111, 999 P.2d 296 (internal citations omitted). See also, e.g., State v. Ellison, 2018 MT 252, ¶ 13, 393 Mont. 90, 428 P.3d 826 (evi......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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