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Stratton v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

February 25, 2014

TIMOTHY STRATTON A/K/A TIMOTHY W. STRATTON, APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI, APPELLEE

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: LEE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. DATE OF JUDGMENT: 06/12/2012. TRIAL JUDGE: HON. PAUL S. FUNDERBURK. TRIAL COURT CONVICTED OF TWO COUNTS OF SEXUAL BATTERY AND SENTENCED ON EACH COUNT TO LIFE IN THE CUSTODY OF THE MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, WITH THE SENTENCES TO RUN CONCURRENTLY WITHOUT ELIGIBILITY FOR PAROLE OR PROBATION.

FOR APPELLANT: JUSTIN MICHAEL TAYLOR.

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

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

OPINION

Page 1075

NATURE OF THE CASE: CRIMINAL - FELONY

ROBERTS, J.

¶1. A jury sitting before the Lee County Circuit Court found Timothy Stratton guilty of two counts of sexual battery. The circuit court sentenced Stratton to two concurrent sentences of life in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC). Stratton appeals and claims that the circuit court erred when it denied his motion for a continuance. Stratton also claims the circuit court erred when it allowed the prosecution to make an improper closing argument. Finally, Stratton claims that this Court should reverse the circuit court's judgment and remand this matter for a new trial based on the cumulative effect of the alleged errors. Finding no error, we affirm.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

¶2. Between January and September 2010, Alison [1] and her two siblings lived in Tupelo, Mississippi, with Stratton and his wife, Shirley. Shirley is Alison's grandmother. Stratton is her step-grandfather. Although Alison was twelve years old when she and her siblings began living with Shirley and Stratton, she functioned at approximately a second- or third-grade level. Consequently, Alison was placed in special-education classes.[2]

¶3. Since 2008, Takisha McQueen, a support therapist employed by Region III Mental Health Center, had seen Alison once or twice a week during the school year. During early September 2010, Alison told McQueen that Stratton had rubbed her breasts and performed oral sex on her, and that she had performed oral sex on him at his direction. Alison's revelation was unsolicited. McQueen had Alison repeat her accusation for Alison's special-education teacher, Alecia Grissett. McQueen notified the Lee County Department of Human Services. Law enforcement was also notified. Ellen Steele, a forensic interviewer with the Family Resource Center in Tupelo, interviewed Alison.

¶4. Stratton was arrested and indicted for two counts of sexual battery. He pled " not guilty." On May 21, 2012, Stratton's two-day trial began. The prosecution called Investigator Donna Franks of the Lee County Sheriff's Department, who testified regarding her role in the investigation. The prosecution also called McQueen and Grissett. They testified that Alison was developmentally disabled, and she functioned at the approximate level of a child in elementary school. They further testified regarding Alison's accusation that Stratton had touched her inappropriately. According to Grissett, Alison said that Stratton had fondled her breasts and performed oral sex on her, and that Alison had performed oral sex on Stratton. Grissett testified that Alison had gestured to demonstrate the act of performing oral sex on Stratton. McQueen and Grissett also relayed the graphic and detailed descriptions that Alison had used to describe ejaculation.

¶5. Next, the prosecution called Steele, who had conducted the forensic interview of Alison. During Steele's testimony, the prosecution played the recording of Steele's forensic interview. Without belaboring

Page 1076

the graphic nature of Alison's description, it should suffice to say that Alison relayed that Stratton had touched her inappropriately, performed oral sex on her, and directed her to perform oral sex on him. Alison also indicated that Stratton had watched pornography with her. Alison testified after Steele. Alison reiterated her consistent version of events. She testified that Stratton had engaged in some form of inappropriate behavior with her approximately eight times.

¶6. Finally, the prosecution called Paul Howell, the chief investigator for the Lee County District Attorney's Office. Howell testified regarding Alison's revelation that Stratton had scars on his lower pelvis and the side of his penis. Howell also testified that he had photographed Stratton. Howell confirmed that Stratton bore two scars that matched Alison's description, and they were only visible if one was in very close proximity to Stratton. The inference was that Alison could have only identified Stratton's scars if she had been intimately close to ...


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