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Matthews v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

February 11, 2014

JUSTIN MATTHEWS A/K/A JUSTIN D. MATTHEWS A/K/A JUSTIN DEWAYNE MATTHEWS, APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI, APPELLEE

Page 647

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: LINCOLN COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. DATE OF JUDGMENT: 10/08/2012. TRIAL JUDGE: HON. DAVID H. STRONG JR. TRIAL COURT CONVICTED OF SEXUAL BATTERY AND SENTENCED TO TEN YEARS IN THE CUSTODY OF THE MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, WITH SIX YEARS SUSPENDED AND FOUR YEARS TO SERVE, FOLLOWED bye FIVE YEARS OF POST-RELEASE SUPERVISION, AND TO PAY A FINE OF $2,500 AND RESTITUTION OF $500 TO THE MISSISSIPPI CRIME VICTIMS' COMPENSATION FUND.

FOR APPELLANT: WAYNE DOWDY, DUNBAR DOWDY WATT.

FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL, BY: LISA L. BLOUNT.

BEFORE IRVING, P.J., CARLTON AND MAXWELL, JJ. LEE, C.J., IRVING AND GRIFFIS, P.JJ., ISHEE, ROBERTS, CARLTON, FAIR AND JAMES, JJ., CONCUR. BARNES, J., CONCURS IN PART AND IN THE RESULT WITHOUT SEPARATE WRITTEN OPINION.

OPINION

NATURE OF THE CASE: CRIMINAL - FELONY

Page 648

MAXWELL, J.

¶1. Justin Matthews was convicted of sexual battery of a sixteen-year-old girl. While the State offered no physical evidence of the rape, the jury heard testimony from the victim and witnesses who corroborated her version of events leading up to and following the sexual encounter.

¶2. On appeal, Matthews claims the jury's verdict was against the overwhelming weight of the evidence. He primarily argues the jury should have been instructed on an evidentiary inference that, had the State conducted forensic testing on the victim's clothing, the test results would have been exculpatory. But Matthews did not request a jury instruction on a spoliation inference, and our review shows no inference instruction was warranted. To receive a spoliation-of-evidence inference, the defendant must show the State intentionally and in bad faith destroyed potentially exculpatory evidence. And here, Matthews concedes the State did nothing wrong regarding the physical evidence. With no required inference, the jury was free to weigh the evidence concerning the victim's clothing as it saw fit.

¶3. After viewing all evidence in the light most favorable to the jury's verdict, we find no evidentiary reason to disturb the jury's decision. And because Matthews did not object and thus waived his remaining argument--that the prosecution made an improper comment during closing argument--we affirm his conviction.

Background Facts and Procedural History

I. Sexual Battery

¶4. In July 2011, sixteen-year-old Angela [1] was visiting her cousin Kimberly for a few days. Kimberly, her husband, and their young children lived in a mobile home directly behind Matthews's brother's house. One night during Angela's visit, Matthews, his brother, and his brother's girlfriend stopped by to socialize. As the night wore on, the gathering dwindled to Kimberly, Angela, and Matthews. Kimberly testified that Angela asked permission to go next door with Matthews to get a cold Dr. Pepper. Kimberly told Angela

Page 649

not to be gone long because it was time for bed.

¶5. According to Angela, when she and Matthews returned to the mobile home, they found Kimberly asleep on the couch. So they went outside on the porch to smoke a cigarette. After about ten minutes, Matthews grabbed Angela by the wrist and pulled her around the side of the mobile home where there were no lights. Angela claimed that he then pushed her to the ground, pulled down her shorts, and put his penis in her vagina. While Angela testified she did not scream because she " was too nervous," she did tell Matthews " no." And this " no" was loud enough for Matthews to hear because " she wanted to get rid of him."

¶6. Afterwards, Matthews left, and Angela lay on the ground for a few minutes. She eventually got up and went back inside her cousin's house, where she crawled into a broken baby crib and curled up in the fetal position. She then texted her best friend, saying, " I don't know what to do."

¶7. Angela testified Matthews raped her around six in the morning, just as it was getting light. And her friend testified she received the first text message from Angela at 6:20 a.m. that morning. The friend immediately called Angela, who was sobbing and barely comprehensible. Through her tears, Angela told her friend that she had " kinda" had sex. When the friend asked what Angela meant by " kinda," Angela explained that even though she had said " no," Matthews did not stop.

¶8. Angela remained at her cousin's house several more days but did not tell Kimberly what had happened. According to Kimberly, she did not see Matthews at his brother's house after that night. Finally, Angela texted her mother's live-in boyfriend, J.C., to come pick her up. When J.C. arrived, he noticed Angela was acting differently. He asked her what had happened, and she told him about what Matthews had done. After briefly stopping at their home, J.C. took Angela to his mother's house, while he went to get ...


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