During Appellant’s jury trial for third-degree sale of a controlled substance, held during the second wave of high COVID infection rates, the lead investigator was permitted to testify via Zoom after the witness was forced to quarantine following a COVID exposure. Appellant was convicted and argues on appeal her right to confrontation was violated when Zoom testimony was permitted. The Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s decision to allow the testimony.
The Supreme Court holds that the proper test here for whether a confrontation clause violation has occurred is that set forth in Maryland v. Craig, 497 U.S. 836 (1990). In Craig, the issue was whether a statute allowing a child abuse victim to testify via one-way, closed-circuit television violated the defendant’s confrontation rights. The U.S. Supreme Court found a defendant’s right to confront witnesses may be satisfied without “a physical, face-to-face confrontation only where denial of such confrontation is necessary to further an important public policy and only where the reliability of the testimony is otherwise assured.” Id. at 850. Here, a valid public policy interest was furthered by using remote technology for this one witness, given the “extraordinary context of courts trying to administer justice safely during a” pandemic. This was the only way to allow the trial to proceed while protecting the health and safety of those in the courtroom. This remote testimony was also reliable, because the witness was under oath and subject to cross-examination, and the jury was able to observe the witness’ demeanor during the testimony by watching the testimony on a large screen TV. Under the Craig test, Appellant’s right to confrontation was not violated by allowing the lead investigator to testify via Zoom. Appellant’s conviction is affirmed. State v. Tate, 985 N.W.2d 291 (Minn. Feb. 8, 2023).
Appellant was on probation after receiving stayed sentences for fifth-degree controlled substance convictions. During the stays, several probation violation reports were filed, and the district court issued warrants for Appellant’s arrest. Before being arrested, Appellant’s stays expired. More than six months later, Appellant’s probation was revoked after a hearing. The Court of Appeals holds the district court did not have authority to revoke Appellant’s probation, because the court did not initiate revocation proceedings within six months after the stays expired.
Under Minn. Stat. § 609.14, subd. 1, the district court may revoke a stayed sentence if probation conditions are violated. If the stay has expired since the time of the alleged violation, subdivision 1(b) provides that the district court must initiate probation revocation proceedings within six months after the expiration of the stay. Subdivision 1(a) provides how the court is to initiate the proceedings – the court must issue an order revoking the stay and direct that the defendant be taken into custody. Here, the district court issued warrants within six months of the expiration of Appellant’s stayed sentence, but it did not issue a revocation order during the required time period. The district court’s probation revocation order is reversed. State v. Redford, A22-0696, 2023 WL 1948645 (Minn. Ct. App. Feb. 13, 2023).
Respondent was accused of criminal sexual conduct against a teenage boy. The district court granted Respondent’s motion for an in camera review of the victim’s medical and mental health records. The State seeks a writ of prohibition to prohibit enforcement of the subpoena to obtain the records, which the State argues are privileged.
The Court of Appeals holds that the district court should have quashed the subpoena, as the records are statutorily privileged and may not be disclosed even for in camera review. A writ of prohibition may be issued where a district court “has ordered production of information clearly not discoverable and there is no adequate remedy at law.” In re Paul W. Abbott Co., 767 N.W.2d 14, 17 (Minn. 2009). The subpoenaed medical and mental health records in this case are protected by Minn. Stat. § 595.02, subd. 1(d) and (g), which provides that medical and mental health records may not be disclosed without the patient’s consent.
In In re Hope Coalition, 977 N.W.2d 651 (Minn. 2022), the Supreme Court considered a similar privilege for sexual assault counselor records (Minn. Stat. § 595.02, subd. 1(k)) and held that the statute plainly prohibits any disclosure of such records without the patient’s consent. While Hope Coalition interpreted only paragraph (k), the Court of Appeals applies the same analysis to paragraphs (d) and (g), because the privileges were designed in a substantively similar manner. Thus, because the victim here did not consent to disclosure of his medical or mental health records, the district court did not have authority to compel disclosure of the records.
These privileges do not violate the defendant’s rights to confrontation and due process. The court finds that these rights are outweighed by the State’s compelling interest in protecting patient privacy and preserving patient-provider relationships. Lack of access to these records also does not prevent Respondent from confronting and cross-examining witnesses against him, the records are maintained by a private nonparty, and the records are protected by a statutory privilege subject only to narrow exceptions not relevant in this case. In re State, A22-1490, 2023 WL 1945629 (Minn. Ct. App. Feb. 13, 2023).
Appellant was found guilty by a jury of first-degree and third-degree criminal sexual conduct. The State argued the defendant should receive one custody status point in his criminal history score because he committed the criminal sexual conduct offenses while on probation after he pleaded guilty to a felony theft charge. Appellant argued he should not receive the custody status point, because the felony theft plea resulted in a stay of adjudication. The district court agreed with the state and imposed an executed 156-month sentence on the first-degree conviction.
In relevant portion, the sentencing guidelines direct the court to assign one custody status point if, at the time the current offense was committed, the offender was on probation after entry of a guilty plea for a felony offense. Minn. Sent. Guidelines 2.B.2.a. Here, Appellant was on probation for a felony offense to which he pleaded guilty when he committed the criminal sexual conduct offenses. An actual conviction for that prior felony offense is not required under the guidelines. The conditions for the application for one custody status point are satisfied even if the prior guilty plea resulted in a stay of adjudication. The district court’s sentence is affirmed. State v. Woolridge Carter, A22-0164, 2023 WL 1945674 (Minn. Ct. App. Feb. 13, 2023).