LATOYA ATKINS RICHARDS A/K/A LATOYA ATKINS RICHARD AND FLOYD RICHARDS A/K/A FLOYD LEE RICHARDS APPELLANTS
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE
OF JUDGMENT: 05/26/2017
BOLIVAR COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, SECOND JUDICIAL DISTRICT HON.
ALBERT B. SMITH III TRIAL JUDGE
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANTS: OFFICE OF STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER BY:
W. DANIEL HINCHCLIFF NICK CRAWFORD
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY:
LAURA HOGAN TEDDER
DISTRICT ATTORNEY: BRENDA FAY MITCHELL
BARNES, C.J., WESTBROOKS AND LAWRENCE, JJ.
Floyd Richards (Floyd) was indicted for attempted sexual
battery of his stepdaughter, M.A., who was fourteen at the
time of the disclosure of the allegations. M.A.'s
mother, Latoya Richards (Latoya), was jointly indicted with
Floyd on a separate charge of contributing to the neglect and
delinquency of a child. After a joint trial, Floyd was
convicted of the lesser offense of touching a child for
lustful purposes, and Latoya was convicted of the crime
charged. Both Defendants, each represented by separate
counsel, appeal, raising numerous issues. For the reasons
discussed below, we affirm both convictions and sentences.
In the fall of 2015, Willie Joe McCall taught a "Healthy
Relationships" class at Shaw High School in Shaw,
Mississippi. McCall and the students discussed several
topics, such as dating violence, sexual assault, and
stalking. M.A. was fourteen years old at the time and a
student in McCall's class. On December 11, 2015, McCall
gave the students a test containing several "yes"
or "no" questions. One question asked if the
student had witnessed or experienced child abuse or sexual
abuse, and, if so, by whom. M.A. marked "yes" and
wrote "my stepdad."
McCall informed the principal, Daphne Young, of M.A.'s
answers and gave Young M.A.'s test. Young and the school
counselor met with M.A. immediately. During the meeting, they
noticed M.A.'s legs were bruised. After speaking with
M.A., Young reported the incident to the Department of Human
DHS assigned Bertina White as M.A.'s caseworker. Based on
the allegations of sexual abuse, White scheduled a forensic
interview for M.A. at The Family Resource Center of Northeast
Mississippi Children's Advocacy Center in Tupelo,
Mississippi. Officer Ray Morris of the Bolivar County
Sheriff's Department was contacted about the allegations.
On December 29, 2015, Officer Morris and White both observed
M.A.'s interview with Marie Frison, the facility's
forensic interviewer. After the interview, Frison generated a
three-page forensic interview summary detailing M.A.'s
intake information and a summary of her statements.
M.A. testified at trial. She began her testimony with the
incident that led to Floyd's indictment. M.A. testified
that sometime after entering ninth grade but before
Thanksgiving in 2015,  she rode with Floyd to the Dollar General
to get medicine. According to M.A., after leaving the store,
Floyd "pretended" like something was wrong with his
Jeep. Floyd stopped the Jeep, turned it off, and asked M.A.
to touch his penis. M.A. testified that she touched his
penis. Floyd then made M.A. get in the back seat and take off
her clothes. Floyd and M.A. both crawled into the back seat,
and M.A. removed her clothing. Floyd remained clothed but had
his penis out of his pants. M.A. testified that Floyd was
trying to get on top of her, but she kept pushing him away.
She also testified that she tried to open the door. M.A.
testified that Floyd's penis touched the top of her
vagina but that there was no penetration. Eventually, Floyd
ejaculated. He then turned the Jeep back on and drove home.
M.A. testified to several incidents before the "Jeep
incident" that caused her to be afraid of what Floyd may
do to physically or sexually abuse her. One time, M.A. and
her brother, K.A., came home from school, and Floyd sent K.A.
to his room. Floyd then ordered M.A. to walk around the
living room naked and then lie on the couch, where he tried
to have sex with her. M.A. testified she pushed him off of
her. She also testified that her mother was out of town that
day. On another occasion, Floyd touched M.A.'s chest area
while she was "picking his face." M.A. also
testified that Floyd had shown her pornography in the past
(before the "Jeep incident"). M.A. testified that
she told Latoya "three or four" times about the
abuse. Each time, Latoya would tell Floyd what M.A. said, and
Floyd would "beat up" M.A. M.A. further testified
that she and K.A. witnessed Floyd abuse their mother.
M.A.'s brother K.A. was the only defense witness. He
testified that nothing ever happened between M.A. and Floyd
and that M.A. and Floyd were never alone together. K.A. also
testified that Floyd never harmed him or his mother.
The jury found Floyd guilty of the lesser offense of touching
a child for lustful purposes. The circuit court sentenced
Floyd to serve fifteen years in the custody of the
Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC). The jury also
found Latoya guilty of contributing to the neglect and
delinquency of a child. Latoya was sentenced to serve ten
years in the custody of the MDOC. Latoya and Floyd each filed
a motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV)
or, in the alternative, a new trial, which were denied.
Latoya and Floyd raise one issue together and several other
separate issues on appeal. In the interest of simplicity,
their shared issue will be discussed first, and then their
separate issues will be addressed below.
Latoya and Floyd both argue that the circuit court erred in
allowing Frison to testify to M.A.'s reported time frame
of the "Jeep incident." Specifically, both
Defendants argue that the testimony was hearsay.
On cross-examination, Floyd's attorney attempted to use
the first page of Frison's forensic-interview summary to
impeach M.A. with an allegedly inconsistent statement-that
M.A. said that the "Jeep incident" occurred on
December 12, 2015, and not between August 1, 2015, and
November 25, 2015, as alleged in the indictment. The first
page of the summary document contained DHS's referral
information, which stated that the sexual-abuse allegation
stemmed from an incident occurring on December 12, 2015. The
State objected to the use of the document as improper
impeachment since M.A. did not provide the information on the
first page of the forensic-interview summary nor was the
document prepared by her. The trial court overruled the
State's objection and allowed M.A. to answer questions
concerning the information on the first page of the summary.
When asked if she told Frison that she was sexually assaulted
on December 12, M.A. responded, "Yes." But on
redirect examination, the State asked M.A. if December 12,
2015, was the date of the "Jeep incident." M.A.
testified that it was not. She clarified the "Jeep
incident" happened before December.
After the jury heard the apparent confusion from the
impeachment of M.A., the State called Frison to testify in an
effort to clarify what M.A. actually said in the forensic
interview since Floyd's attorney had "opened the
door" as to the summary. Latoya's attorney objected
at first but eventually agreed that the witness could testify
"if it's only to clarify the statement as to the
date of the incident." Floyd's attorney followed
with, "I don't have an objection to putting the
child forensic interviewer on the stand to clarify the
information that she received from the [DHS] as to the date
that the minor child was sexually assaulted." Oddly,
when Frison began testifying to clarify the date of the