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Minnesota v. Rhodes

627 N.W.2d 74 (2001)

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Minnesota v. Rhodes

Minnesota Supreme Court

627 N.W.2d 74 (2001)

Facts

Thomas Rhodes (defendant) was charged with murdering his wife, who disappeared overboard during a late-night outing on the couple’s boat. A woman testified that Rhodes began an extramarital affair with her the previous year but ended the relationship, claiming he wanted to work on his marriage. However, during approximately the same time frame, attorney C. Andrew Johnson met with Rhodes and his wife to discuss a possible divorce. After Johnson testified that his client was Rhodes alone, not both spouses, the trial judge found Rhodes and his wife were not joint clients. That meant Johnson could testify about the discussions he had with Rhodes when his wife was present, which would otherwise have been privileged. Johnson testified that he had calculated the amount of child support each spouse would have to pay the other if only one had custody of their two children and told Rhodes he would have to pay $650 or $742 of his $2,400 monthly income in child support. After that meeting, the couple never met with Johnson again and evidently did not pursue divorce. Rhodes was convicted of murder and appealed on multiple grounds, including that the court erroneously determined that he and his wife were not Johnson’s joint clients and allowed Johnson to violate attorney-client privilege.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Blatz, C.J.)

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