GREGORY D. PALMER, APPELLANT
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI, APPELLEE
COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. CHRISTOPHER A. COLLINS, JUDGE
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: OFFICE OF STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER BY:
GEORGE T. HOLMES
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF ATTORNEY GENERAL BY: ALICIA
LEE, C.J., FAIR AND WESTBROOKS, JJ.
Gregory Palmer was convicted of gratification of lust in the
Newton County Circuit Court in violation of Mississippi Code
Annotated section 97-5-23 (1) (Rev. 2014). Palmer was
sentenced to fifteen years with three years suspended,
leaving twelve years to serve in the custody of the
Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC). Additionally,
Palmer was ordered to serve three years of supervised
probation under the supervision of MDOC, as well as register
as a sex offender with the Mississippi Department of Public
Safety in accordance with Mississippi Code Annotated section
45-33-25 (Rev. 2015). Aggrieved, Palmer appeals. Finding no
error, we affirm.
Gregory Palmer was indicted and convicted of gratification of
lust by a jury on August 7, 2017. Palmer resided at the
Hidden Springs Arabian Horse Farm, along with Tricia McGehee,
Betty Skinner, and K.S. Skinner was the great aunt and legal
guardian of K.S., and K.S. referred to her as her mother.
McGehee was Skinner's best friend who had Parkinson's
disease and required constant care by others. Skinner and
Palmer met at church sometime between 2014 and 2015, and
subsequently Palmer asked for work. Skinner hired him as a
farmhand and a caregiver for McGehee. Palmer lived on the
farm in a house about 200 yards away from the main structure
where Skinner, K.S., and McGehee all resided. During the 2016
school year, K.S. was home-schooled by Palmer's ex-wife
Jennifer Palmer, but she quit. Skinner asked Palmer if he
would serve as K.S.'s teacher, and he agreed.
Palmer and Jennifer had a fourteen-year-old daughter, K.P.,
who K.S. became friends with. Palmer would often take the
girls to the fair, to other events, and places around town.
On December 9, 2016, K.S., her brother, E.S., K.P., and
another friend, H.H., went to Palmer's house for a sleep
over. The goal of the sleep over was to prepare clothes and
jewelry to sell at the flea market that Palmer had agreed to
take them to the next day. In anticipation for the market,
Skinner loaned Palmer her truck. K.S. testified that shortly
after arriving she watched a movie with Palmer and E.S.,
while K.P. and H.H. were in the bedroom "having
fun." K.P. and H.H. testified that they were in the
other room but not for the entire time. K.P. stated that the
bedroom door was always open because she was not allowed to
close it and that she was in and out of the living room
watching the movie, sometimes staying in the living room for
ten minutes at a time. H.H. stated that she was in the room
with K.P. sorting items but still watched the movie. Both
K.P. and H.H. claimed that K.S. was never alone with Palmer.
K.S. stated that initially she was on the same couch as E.S.,
but Palmer called her to sit in the recliner chair with him
on his lap. K.P. and H.H. testified differently. They claimed
that K.S. was sitting on the arm of the recliner, not on
Palmer's lap, and that her legs faced away from Palmer.
H.H. claimed that K.S. only sat on the arm of the chair for
fifteen or twenty minutes. K.S. stated that E.S. and Palmer
had fallen asleep at the same point during the movie. She
alleged that Palmer awoke, began to rub her shoulders, and
touched her chest over and under her shirt thinking she was
asleep. K.S. also asserted that Palmer touched her skin under
her bra and inside of her underwear on her "private
areas" without penetration.
After the alleged incident, K.S. stated that she went into
the room with K.P. and H.H. to separate the clothes and
jewelry. Shortly after, Palmer came in the room and told the
girls to calm down and go to bed. About twenty minutes later,
K.S. testified that she snuck out of Palmer's house after
sending a text message to Skinner asking her to come get her.
Skinner said that she could not leave McGehee unattended and
told K.S. to go back to sleep. K.S. replied that she was
already coming through the woods, which was not her usual
route because she was afraid of spiders and would normally
walk the paved way. When K.S. got home, she told Skinner
about what happened, and Skinner asked Steve Diamond, a long
time employee who also lived on the farm, to go get E.S. and
her truck from Palmer's house. Diamond testified that
K.S. came to his door "hysterical, terrified, shaking,
and crying" to alert him to what was going on. After
returning from Diamond's door, K.S. requested Skinner to
call Jennifer so that she could protect K.P. from Palmer.
Jennifer immediately came to the main structure on the farm.
About thirty minutes after K.S. arrived back at her home,
Skinner called the police.
Police captain Johnny Martin was dispatched to the farm
around 3 a.m. and was told that Palmer touched K.S.'s
breast and inside her underwear. Martin stated that K.S. was
crying but was not hesitant to tell him the allegations.
Martin testified that he did not go to Palmer's house but
did speak to Palmer on the phone about the allegations and
the possibility of an arrest warrant. There was no inquiry
about K.S.'s clothes or seizure of clothes for forensic
analysis, no photos were taken, and none of the other people
present in Palmer's house at the time were spoken to.
The following Monday, December 12, 2016, K.S. spoke with
Newton Police Investigator Bruce McCraw and wrote a
statement. McCraw testified that K.S. was "very
reluctant to tell the story" and that she seemed
embarrassed or withdrawn about speaking to a stranger about
the incident. McCraw stated that he did not go to
Palmer's house, but he did talk to K.S. on the phone.
About five days later, Palmer turned himself in to
authorities. During the trial, K.S. testified that she was
fifteen years old, K.P. testified that she was fourteen years
old, and H.H. testified that she was twelve years old. Palmer
was convicted by a jury of gratification of lust. Aggrieved,