Frink v. State

In Frink v. State, 597 P.2d 154 (Alaska 1979), the defendant was charged with murdering a man who was romantically involved with Frink's former girlfriend. At grand jury, and again at trial, the State presented evidence of instances in which the defendant attacked or threatened people whom he believed to be his rivals for this woman's affections. The supreme court ruled that this evidence could be admitted under Evidence Rule 404(b) -- what is now Rule 404(b)(1) -- because it tended to establish Frink's jealousy of people who were romantically involved with his former girlfriend, and thus Frink's motive to murder the victim: "We agree with the state that this evidence was relevant to the issue of the defendant's motive for ... taking the victim's life, and also was probative of the defendant's state of mind toward the victim. The man whom Frink assaulted in the prior episode was a member of the class of persons to which the murder victim belonged, that is, persons with whom the defendant's former girlfriend was romantically involved. ... We find no abuse in admission of evidence relating to the prior assault." (Frink, 597 P.2d at 170.) The Court interpreted the rule to mean that a prosecutor has a duty to apprise the grand jury of "evidence that will explain away the charge": "A requirement that the prosecutor present exculpatory evidence to the grand jury is implicit in the mandate of Criminal Rule 6(q). The grand jury cannot be expected to call for evidence of which it is kept ignorant. The vital function of the grand jury is protection of the innocent against oppression and unjust prosecution. The grand jury cannot fulfill this function unless it hears evidence tending to refute, as well as establish, guilt. It is the prosecutor who mainly presents evidence to the grand jury, and if the prosecutor does not present exculpatory evidence to the grand jury, it probably will not hear such evidence." Frink, 597 P.2d at 165. At the same time, however, the supreme court indicated that the prosecutor's duty to present exculpatory evidence to the grand jury did not encompass a duty to present all evidence tending to cast doubt on the government's case: The prosecutor's obligation to present exculpatory evidence does not turn the prosecutor into a defense attorney; the prosecutor does not have to develop evidence for the defendant or present every lead possibly favorable to the defendant. Id. at 166. In Frink, the Alaska Supreme Court construed Criminal Rules 6(p) and 6(q) as a complementary pair: together, the two rules mean that "the grand jury may hear evidence on behalf of the defendant, but the grand jury has no duty to do so, ... except to the extent required by Criminal Rule 6(q)." In Frink, the supreme court held that even though Criminal Rule 6(q) is worded so as to impose a duty on the grand jury to order the production of exculpatory evidence, that rule implicitly imposes a correlative duty on the prosecutor to present the exculpatory evidence to the grand jury, or at least to inform the grand jury of its existence and its nature -- for "the grand jury cannot be expected to call for evidence of which it is kept ignorant".