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In re J. E.

March 26, 1998

IN THE INTEREST OF J. E., A MINOR CHILD: M. D. H.
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI



DATE OF JUDGMENT: 09/26/96 TRIAL JUDGE: HON. MICHAEL H. WARD COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: HARRISON COUNTY FAMILY COURT

Before Prather, C.j., Smith And Waller, JJ.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Waller, Justice, For The Court:

BY: PAT S. FLYNN

NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - OTHER

MOTION FOR REHEARING FILED:

MANDATE ISSUED:

SUMMARY

¶1. This case arises on interlocutory appeal from an order of the Harrison County Family Court denying a motion by Michael D. Harrison seeking a transcript of the testimony in the family court adjudicatory hearing in which J.E., a minor, was found to be an abused child. Michael also requested additional records from the family court pertaining to the case. Michael, indicted by the Harrison County Grand Jury for the sexual battery of J.E., contends that he needs the transcript and the records in order to fully prepare his defense. Aggrieved by the decision of the family court, Michael assigns the following as error:

WHETHER MICHAEL HARRISON, AS A DEFENDANT IN A SEXUAL BATTERY CASE PENDING IN THE CIRCUIT COURT OF HARRISON COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI CAN COMPEL THE PRODUCTION OF DOCUMENTS AND TRANSCRIPTS OF THE TESTIMONY GIVEN BY THE PROSECUTRIX AND OTHER WITNESSES AT HEARINGS IN THE FAMILY COURT OF HARRISON COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI

After a careful review of the briefs and record in this matter, we reverse and remand the decision of the lower court.

STATEMENT OF THE FACTS

¶2. On April 8, 1992, a petition for abuse and/or neglect of J.E., C.E., S.E., (all female), and M.E., (male), all minor children of Dawn Evans ("Dawn") was filed in the Family Court of Harrison County. J.E. was six years old at the time the first petition was filed. The children have been under the jurisdiction of the family court since that date and under the on-going supervision of the Harrison County Department of Human Services (DHS) since August, 1992. The children were placed in foster and/or relative care at different times, but for the most part they remained in the custody of Dawn and Michael. Because Michael Harrison (Michael) was alleged to be the father of M.E., the investigation naturally included Michael *fn1 .

¶3. On August 29, 1995, petitions were filed in the family court alleging that J. E. and C.E. were sexually abused by Michael and alleging that M.E. was neglected because of the abuse sustained by his sisters. In September, 1995, the DHS, by amended petition, alleged that J.E. was sexually abused by Michael and that C.E. was neglected because she had frequently visited in the same environment in which J.E. was abused. At the March 19, 1996, hearing, J.E. testified along with other witnesses. Certain medical records and matters contained in the family court file were accepted into evidence. The family court adjudicated J.E. to be an abused child, at the hands of Michael, and adjudicated C.E. and M.E. as neglected. According to the State's brief, the attorney now representing Michael represented him at this youth court hearing.

¶4. On March 27, 1996, Michael was indicted by the Harrison County Grand Jury on one count of sexual battery allegedly committed against J.E. The case bears cause number B 2401 96 00353 on the docket of the First Judicial District of Harrison County. The indictment alleges that the acts occurred on or about November, 1992.

ΒΆ5. Michael petitioned the family court for release of "all records regarding the above minor and in support of said petition." Evidently, Michael had sought these records from the circuit court through discovery. According to Michael, the circuit court believed the matters to be discoverable, but that the request should properly be made to the family court. At the September 18, 1996, hearing on this request, Michael requested, through counsel, that all the records concerning J.E., as well as those records concerning C.E., be released to the circuit court and made available to him for trial preparation. Additionally, Michael sought a transcript of the March 19, 1996, adjudication hearing. Argument before the family court indicated that Michael had reason to believe that J.E.'s statements to various individuals regarding the alleged sexual battery were inconsistent and that the child's grandmother was the driving force pushing J.E.'s accusations. The family court denied Michael's request, by Order, on September 24, 1996. The accompanying Opinion stated that "the records of the Youth Court are disclosable for only extremely limited ...


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