OF JUDGMENT: 11/18/2016
COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT TRIAL JUDGE: HON. JOHN ANDREW GREGORY
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: OFFICE OF STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER BY:
MOLLIE MARIE McMILLIN
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY:
LAURA HOGAN TEDDER
DISTRICT ATTORNEY: BENJAMIN F. CREEKMORE
Robert Ellis was indicted on three counts of sexual battery
of his then-fourteen-year- old daughter. A Union County jury
found Ellis guilty on all three counts, and the court
sentenced him to three concurrent terms of thirty years in
the custody in the Department of Corrections. On appeal,
Ellis argues that his trial counsel provided ineffective
assistance by not objecting to the continued service of a
juror who realized and disclosed mid-trial that he had taught
the victim in school. In addition, Ellis raises a number of
other issues in his pro se supplemental brief. We find no
error and affirm.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
In 2015, Ellis lived in New Albany, Mississippi, with his
wife, Vicky, and their four children-three sons and a
daughter. The oldest son was Vicky's from a previous
marriage but was adopted by Ellis. Kelly was Ellis's
daughter from a previous relationship.
Kelly began living with Ellis and Vicky when she was eleven
or twelve years old. The Department of Human Services (DHS)
had removed her from her mother's home due to her
mother's habitual drug use. Before Kelly moved in with
Ellis and Vicky, she saw Ellis only occasionally on holidays.
Even after she moved in with Ellis, she did not have a close
relationship with him. However, at some point things between
them began to change. Ellis started to hug her more often,
and "when [they] would hug at night, sometimes he would
pull [her] into his lap and it would last longer than a
normal hug should."
Kelly testified that Ellis had sex with her on three
occasions. The first incident occurred on or about May 21,
2015. Ellis said that he needed to go buy cigarettes and told
Kelly to come with him. They drove to a secluded area in the
woods near their home. Ellis told Kelly to get in the
backseat. She testified that Ellis got in the backseat with
her, took off her clothes, took off his own clothes, put on a
condom, and had sex with her.
The second incident occurred in the family's home about
two days later. Kelly was in the living room reading a book,
while Vicky was out fishing with her sons. Ellis came home
and went to take a shower. When he returned to the living
room, they "had a normal conversation for a while,"
but then Ellis "took [her] book, took off [her] clothes,
took off his [own clothes], put a condom on," and had
sex with her.
The third incident occurred on or about June 2, 2015. Kelly
testified that this final incident happened much like the
first. Ellis took her to the same secluded area in the woods
near their home, undressed her, and had sex with her in the
backseat of his car.
When Ellis left the house with Kelly on June 2, Vicky and her
three children left the family's home. Vicky testified
that she had become suspicious of Ellis's relationship
with Kelly about a year after Kelly moved in with them. She
explained that "when she moved in, [Ellis] kind of
pushed me and the boys away." Vicky eventually
confronted Ellis about the nature of his relationship with
Kelly. Ellis told her that if anyone found out about his
relationship with Kelly, he "would kill the bitch and
the body would never be found." Vicky testified that she
also knew about Ellis's relationship with Kelly because
she had seen text messages that Ellis and Kelly had
exchanged. She testified that when Ellis admitted to having
sex with Kelly, she did not initially believe him.
When Kelly and Ellis returned home on June 2, Vicky and her
sons were gone. Vicky's grandfather was there and told
Ellis and Kelly that they needed to leave. Ellis and Kelly
quickly packed a few things and went to the home of Brad and
Melanie Lott. Brad was Ellis's employer at the time. When
they arrived at the Lotts' home, Ellis told Kelly to take
a shower. When Kelly came back downstairs, Brad Lott had
taken Ellis to a hotel. Kelly stayed at the Lotts' home
Vicky's grandfather reported to law enforcement that
Ellis was sexually abusing Kelly, and Detective David
Garrison of the Union County Sheriff's Department went to
the Ellises' home to investigate. When Garrison arrived
on the night of June 2, no one was there, but Vicky's
grandfather told Garrison that Ellis and Kelly were at the
Lotts' home. Later that night, Garrison contacted Brad
Lott. Garrison instructed Brad Lott to keep Ellis and Kelly
separated and to have them report to the sheriff's
department the next day.
The next morning, June 3, 2015, Melanie Lott took Kelly to
the sheriff's department. Initially, Kelly disclosed few
details to the investigators because "[she] was scared
that somehow it would get back to [her] dad and [she] would
get in trouble for it." However, she eventually told the
investigators where Ellis had sex with her.
After Kelly was interviewed, she was taken to the Rape Crisis
Center in Memphis, where she was examined by Phyllis Crump, a
forensic nurse practitioner who specializes in sexual assault
examinations. Crump testified that her examination of Kelly
indicated that penetration had occurred.
Ellis also reported to the sheriff's department on June
3. Garrison read Ellis his rights, and Ellis signed a
Miranda waiver. Garrison interviewed Ellis briefly.
Ellis stated that he would plead guilty and did not want to
"drag his daughter through the mud." Ellis also