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Daniels v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

August 15, 2017

DEZJON DANIELS A/K/A NOOKIE APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 03/21/2016

         PIKE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, HON. DAVID H. STRONG JR., TRIAL JUDGE.

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: OFFICE OF STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER BY: HUNTER NOLAN AIKENS

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY: JOSEPH SCOTT HEMLEBEN

          DISTRICT ATTORNEY: DEE BATES

          BEFORE LEE, C.J., BARNES AND WESTBROOKS, JJ.

          WESTBROOKS, J.

         ¶1. After a two-day trial, Dezjon Daniels was convicted of sexual battery in the Circuit Court of Pike County. Daniels was sentenced to thirty-five years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC), with twenty-five years to serve, ten years suspended, and five years of postrelease supervision (PRS). Daniels was also ordered to pay $5000 in restitution to the Crime Victims' Compensation Fund. After the verdict, the trial court denied Daniels's motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV) or, in the alternative, a new trial. On direct appeal, Daniels raises three issues. After review of the record, we affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. On or about July 23, 2014, Pamela Ard reported an incident of sexual battery to Detective Todd Dillon, an investigator with the Pike County Sheriff's Department. Ard reported her son, H.A., [1] had been sexually molested or raped by Daniels or "Nookie."[2]Daniels and H.A. are cousins, and Ard regularly took her children, H.A. and P.A., to stay with Daniels and his mother, Linda Stalling. At the time of this incident, H.A. was either nine or ten years old, and Daniels was at least twenty-four months older than H.A. Daniels was nineteen years old.

         ¶3. H.A. was interviewed at the Children's Advocacy Center by forensic interviewer Jade Douglas. H.A. informed Douglas that Daniels's "front went inside of his back." H.A. and Daniels were left alone one day while Stalling, P.A., and other cousins went to the store. H.A. asked Daniels if he could play the video game that Daniels was playing. H.A. stated Daniels told him that in order to play the game, H.A. had to give him "some booty" or have sex. H.A. stated he went into the bathroom, pulled down his pants, put his hands on the toilet, then Daniels "put his thing in his thing." It was during the interview that Douglas learned H.A. was referring to Daniels's penis entering H.A.'s anus.

         ¶4. At trial, Ard testified she frequently dropped off her children at Stalling's house, because Stalling babysat. Ard stated H.A. had been trying to tell her something, but she kept ignoring him. Finally, H.A. told her of the abuse that occurred at Stalling's house. Ard testified she called Stalling and threatened to tell police if Stalling and Daniels did not meet her at her house to discuss the incident in person. Upon arrival, Ard confronted Daniels. Ard further testified she asked Daniels if he had sex with H.A., and Daniels replied, "If he said I did it, then I did it." Ard notified police shortly after the exchange with Stalling and Daniels.

         ¶5. Detective Dillon, Douglas, P.A., and H.A. testified at trial for the State. Daniels testified at trial and vehemently denied abusing H.A. Following a two-day trial, Daniels was found guilty of sexual battery and later sentenced to thirty-five years in the custody of the MDOC, with ten years suspended and five years of PRS. Daniels filed a motion for a JNOV or, in the alternative, a new trial. After a hearing, the trial court denied Daniels's motion. Daniels now timely appeals.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Whether the trial court erred in admitting certain expert testimony.

         ¶6. This Court has previously held that "the admission of expert testimony is governed by Rule 702 of the Mississippi Rules of Evidence and caselaw, specifically Mississippi Transportation Commission v. McLemore, 863 So.2d 31 (Miss. 2003)." Carter v. State, 996 So.2d 112, 116 (¶13) (Miss. Ct. App. 2008). Rule 702 states:

If scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education, may testify thereto in the form of an opinion or otherwise, if (1) the testimony is based upon sufficient facts or data, (2) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and ...

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