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Crawford v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

October 8, 2019

KEITH CRAWFORD APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE

          DATE 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

          BEFORE J. WILSON, P.J., McDONALD AND McCARTY, JJ.

          McDONALD, J.

         ¶1. 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.

         FACTS

         ¶2. On Saturday evening, August 19, 2017, eleven-year-old Amy[1] 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.

         ¶3. 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.

         ¶4. 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.

         Bob 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.

         ¶5. 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.[2] The police met them there and referred them to a forensic interviewer who specialized in interviewing and assessing minors who are victims of sex crimes.

         ¶6. 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.

         ¶7. 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 contact.

         ¶8. 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.

         ¶9. 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 ...


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