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Ratliff v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

September 23, 2014

CERTIS RATLIFF, SR. A/K/A CERTIS RATLIFF, APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI, APPELLEE

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: PIKE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. DATE OF JUDGMENT: 10/17/2011. TRIAL JUDGE: HON. MICHAEL M. TAYLOR. TRIAL COURT DISPOSITION: CONVICTED OF SEXUAL BATTERY AND SENTENCED TO THIRTY YEARS IN THE CUSTODY OF THE MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS AND ORDERED TO PAY A FINE OF $5,000.

AFFIRMED.

FOR APPELLANT: OFFICE OF STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER, BY: HUNTER NOLAN AIKENS, GEORGE T. HOLMES.

FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL, BY: LAURA HOGAN TEDDER.

BEFORE LEE, C.J., ISHEE AND JAMES, JJ. LEE, C.J., IRVING AND GRIFFIS, P.JJ., BARNES, ISHEE, ROBERTS, CARLTON, MAXWELL AND FAIR, JJ., CONCUR.

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NATURE OF THE CASE: CRIMINAL - FELONY

JAMES, J.

¶1. Following a jury trial, Certis Ratliff Sr. was convicted of sexual battery, sentenced to thirty years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC), and fined $5,000. Ratliff's appellate counsel filed a Lindsey [1] brief certifying to this Court that there were no appealable issues in the record. Nonetheless, Ratliff has filed a pro se brief raising the following issues: (1) whether the State engaged in prosecutorial misconduct during the trial; (2) whether the trial court erred in failing to grant a continuance or a mistrial based on an amended DNA analysis that was excluded by the trial court; and (3) whether Ratliff received ineffective assistance of appellate counsel. Finding no error, we affirm.

FACTS

¶2. In March 2009, T.M.,[2] a sixteen-year-old female child, informed her aunt that she had been sexually assaulted by

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her uncle, Ratliff, in November 2008. According to T.M., she did not report the incident at the time because she was nervous and ashamed and because Ratliff threatened to kill her if she told anyone about the sexual assault. However, she decided to tell her aunt in March 2009, because T.M. believed she was pregnant as a result of the sexual assault. T.M.'s aunt administered a pregnancy test and confirmed that T.M. was pregnant; she then contacted the police.

¶3. The investigation was assigned to Detective Robert Holmes of the McComb Police Department. After meeting with T.M., Detective Holmes interviewed Ratliff on April 1, 2009. During the interview, Ratliff denied wrongdoing and consented to provide a DNA sample. Detective Holmes then obtained DNA from Ratliff by swabbing his mouth.

¶4. On June 9, 2009, T.M. underwent an emergency Caesarean section (" C-section" ) at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, Mississippi, and the child was delivered prematurely; as a result, the child expired at birth. Robin Russum, a labor and delivery nurse who participated in the C-section, obtained DNA blood samples from both T.M. and the deceased child. That same day, Detective Holmes retrieved the blood samples from Russum. Detective Holmes then gave the DNA sample obtained from Ratliff's mouth and the blood samples from T.M. and her child to Sergeant John Leuthauser, who transported the samples to Scales Biolabs (" Scales" ) for forensic testing.

¶5. Kathryn Rodgers, a forensic DNA analyst at Scales, performed a paternity analysis by comparing Ratliff's DNA profile from his sample with the blood samples from T.M. and the child. The results of the paternity analysis revealed a combined paternity index of 658,604 to 1, which equates to a 99.99 percent probability of paternity. The results of the DNA analysis were reflected in a DNA report prepared by Scales, dated June 17, 2009, and provided to Ratliff during discovery.

¶6. On July 2, 2009, Ratliff was indicted by a Pike County grand jury on one count of sexual battery of a child under the age of eighteen. Ratliff filed an affidavit of indigency and an application for appointment of counsel. On August 3, 2009, the trial court ordered that Ratliff be represented by appointed counsel.

¶7. On June 15, 2010, the trial court granted Ratliff's motion for funds to employ the services of a DNA expert. On October 4, 2011, the State sent Ratliff's counsel an amended DNA report. The October 4, 2011 report amended the spelling of the victim's last name, which was misspelled in the June 17, 2009 report due to a typographical error. On October 11, 2011, the day before trial, the State notified Ratliff's counsel that Scales had furnished the State with another amended DNA report (" second amended report" ). The second amended report sought to amend the combined paternity index from 658,604 to 1, which was reflected in both the June 17, 2009 and October 4, 2011 reports, to 1,422,586 to 1.

¶8. A jury trial was held on October 12-13, 2011. On the morning of trial, Ratliff filed a motion in limine, seeking to have the second amended report excluded from evidence. The trial court granted Ratliff's motion, ruling that the second amended report could not be used or referenced during the trial. Ratliff then requested a continuance, asserting that the second amended report contained errors that raised questions about the adequacy of the ...


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