OF JUDGMENT: 09/07/2018
QUITMAN COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. LINDA F. COLEMAN JUDGE
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: OFFICE OF STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER BY:
JUSTIN TAYLOR COOK
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY:
ALICIA MARIE AINSWORTH
J. WILSON, P.J., McDONALD AND McCARTY, JJ.
After a trial in September 2018, a Quitman County,
Mississippi jury convicted Keith Crawford of one count of
fondling an eleven-year-old child in violation of Mississippi
Code Annotated section 97-5-23 (Rev. 2014). After denying
Crawford's motion for a new trial, the court sentenced
him to seven years in the custody of the Mississippi
Department of Corrections. Crawford appeals his conviction
and sentence, challenging the court's admission of the
child's hearsay statements made to others, as well as the
sufficiency and weight of the evidence against him. Having
considered the briefs of counsel and relevant law, we find no
error by the court and affirm.
On Saturday evening, August 19, 2017, eleven-year-old
decided to take a nap. Amy's mother had taken some flu
medication and was asleep in her own room. Besides her
mother, Amy's eighteen-year-old sister lived with them,
but she was not at home that evening. Twenty-two-year-old
Crawford, who was a frequent visitor, had come by to see
Amy's sister. When Amy went to lie down, Crawford was in
the living room watching television.
Amy was awakened to find Crawford on top of her. He had his
pants and underwear down to his ankles, and he had taken
Amy's pants and underwear down as well. Amy yelled at him
to get off of her. He did, pulled up his pants, and went back
into the living room. Nothing like this had ever happened to
Amy, and she was scared to tell her mother. Later that
evening, they all went to get something to eat. The next day,
when Crawford came by again, Amy uncharacteristically
insisted that Crawford go home.
The next week, Amy wrote a note to her mother but first
showed it to her friend "Bob," who was a year
younger than Amy. Amy's mother routinely dropped Amy off
at Bob's house in the morning on her way to work so Amy
could walk to school with him. Amy knew Bob's mother as
well and referred to her as her "godmom." The note
Amy had written and shown to Bob said:
Ma I am sorry I did not tell u this the same night it happen
becuz I was scared this happen before we went to K and J I
went in my room to get a lil sleep and wen I woke up Keith
was on top of me his pants was down and mines and I got real
mad thats y I kept on telling to go home last night.
["Sam"] the boy that like me told me to tell u.
told his mother that something was wrong with Amy. Bob's
mother spoke to Amy, heard the basic facts of what had
happened to her, and immediately called Amy's mother.
Amy's mother, who worked as a bus monitor, left work and
picked Amy up from school.
Amy showed her mother the note and told her the same
thing-that on Saturday she woke up to find Crawford lying on
top of her with his pants down and that her pants were down
as well. Her mother called Amy's father who called the
police. Although the incident had happened several days
before, Amy's mother took Amy to the hospital to be
checked. The police met them there and referred
them to a forensic interviewer who specialized in
interviewing and assessing minors who are victims of sex
A few weeks later, Amy and her mother traveled to Oxford to
meet with the forensic interviewer. During the interview, the
examiner used diagrams of the male and female body and asked
Amy to point to the body part of Crawford that had touched
her. Amy pointed to the penis on the male figure, which she
called a "cock." On the female figure Amy
identified the body part that Crawford's penis touched on
her as her vagina, which she called her "cat."
Amy's interview was videotaped and viewed via a one-way
mirror by law enforcement.
Based on Amy's interview and statements from Amy's
and Bob's mothers, a Quitman County grand jury indicted
Crawford on one count of fondling. Prior to trial, the State
filed a motion for the admission of the statements Amy made
to other witnesses (Bob's mother, Amy's mother, and
the forensic interviewer). On the first day of trial, outside
the presence of the jury, the court heard the State's
motion and testimony from these witnesses. The court noted
the hearsay exception found in Mississippi Rule of Evidence
803(25) for when a child of tender years describes sexual
The court found that Amy was of tender years since she was
under the age of twelve at the time of the incident. The
court had observed Amy's conduct when she was introduced
to the jury prior to voir dire and found it to be consistent
with the forensic interviewer's conclusion that Amy was
on the maturity level of the lower end of a child of eleven.
The court considered that the timing of Amy's statements
to Bob's mother and her own mother, being just a few days
after the incident, indicated reliability. Amy relayed
information to them in narrative form, and no manner of
suggestion or prompting was used to secure her statements.
Amy's statements to all were consistent. The court noted
that Amy's mother testified that Crawford was someone she
had trusted in their home, so there was no evidence of
animosity that Amy may have against him or a motive for her
to willfully fabricate a lie of this magnitude against him.
The court went on to detail the forensic interviewer's
qualifications and findings with which the court agreed from
its own observation of the child. Finding that the statements
met the requirements of Rule 803(25), the court held that it
would admit the hearsay testimony from these witnesses under
the tender-years exception to hearsay.
The trial then began, and Bob's mother testified first.
She told the jury that Amy had told her that Crawford was on
top of her when she awoke and both of their pants were down.
Amy's mother testified next and said that Amy told her
the same thing. Amy, who was twelve at the time of the trial,
then testified about what happened. When she was asked what
part of Crawford's body she could feel while lying in the
bed, she answered "his legs" and nothing more. When
the prosecutor asked again what parts of Crawford's body
were touching hers, Amy said she could not remember. She also
testified that she knew the places on a girl's body that
should not be touched, and she said that no ...