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Masters v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

November 19, 2019

TROY LEE MASTERS APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 04/02/2018

          UNION COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. JOHN KELLY LUTHER TRIAL JUDGE

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: OFFICE OF STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER BY: HUNTER NOLAN AIKENS

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY: ALICIA MARIE AINSWORTH

          DISTRICT ATTORNEY: BENJAMIN F. CREEKMORE

          BEFORE J. WILSON, P.J., WESTBROOKS AND LAWRENCE, JJ.

          WESTBROOKS, J.

         ¶1. Troy Lee Masters was charged and convicted of three counts of sexual battery and one count of touching a child for lustful purposes in the Circuit Court of Union County. Masters was sentenced to 40 years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) on Count I, with 16 years suspended and 24 years to serve; to serve 15 years on Count II; to serve 24 years on Count III; and to serve 24 years on Count IV. The trial court set each of Masters's sentences to run concurrently and placed Masters on five years' post- release supervision. Masters filed a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV) or, alternatively, for a new trial, which the trial court denied. Aggrieved, Masters appeals. After review of the record, we affirm the judgment on the convictions of the charges in Counts I and II, but we reverse and remand for re-sentencing on these counts; further, we reverse and render judgment on the convictions of the charges in Counts III and IV.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. In the 1980s, Troy Lee Masters and his wife adopted Cara and her brother, Adam, [1] when Cara was five years old. The Masters family lived in a trailer home in Union County, Mississippi. In 2012, Cara began working as an ER housekeeper at Baptist Memorial Hospital in New Albany, Mississippi. Cara did not drive, so Masters would drop her off and pick her up from work. While working at Baptist Memorial Hospital, Cara became friends with head-nurse Cindy Adkins. Adkins helped Cara advance from working as a part-time employee to working as a full-time employee, which entitled her to benefits; took her grocery shopping; and helped organize her finances and obtain housing. Adkins noticed that Cara would become especially anxious when it was time for Masters to pick Cara up from work, so Adkins began staying one hour longer on her shift so she could give Cara rides home from work. Adkins would then stay on the phone with Cara from the time she dropped Cara off until Cara would fall asleep. Cara eventually moved in with Adkins for about 10 to 12 months before finally moving into her own place.

         ¶3. At some point between October and November 2016, Cara disclosed to Adkins that Masters had sexually abused her, beginning when she was a minor and continuing into adulthood. On November 15, 2016, Adkins took Cara to the Union County Sheriff's Office to file a report regarding Masters's abuse of Cara.

         ¶4. Investigator Baron Baker took Cara's statement. Baker had Cara return on November 30, 2016, to give a more detailed report. In these reports, Cara alleged the abuse began at age 13 and continued until only a few months prior to her making the report. Baker went to Baptist Memorial Hospital on December 1 and 5, 2016, to record telephone conversations between Cara and Masters. On a call made on December 5, Masters asked Cara about her counseling sessions she had attended, and Cara expressed that she was nervous during them because the doctors were asking her about her past. Masters then replied, "Well, tell them about it. Don't tell them about me, but tell them about what happened to you. Tell them your aunt sexually abused you." Masters went on to ask, "Did you tell your girls that you're living with about what happened between me and you? Is that why they're not wanting you to be around me?" Cara returned to the sheriff's office on December 12, 2016, to give a third, even more detailed statement to Baker.

         ¶5. On December 13, 2016, the police stopped Masters while he was driving a car and took him to the sheriff's office. Baker advised Masters of his Miranda rights, [2] and Masters signed a waiver of those rights. Baker played the recording of the December 5, 2016 telephone conversation for Masters. Masters acknowledged that the recording was a conversation between Cara and himself. Baker asked Masters if Masters wanted to make a statement. Masters responded with the statement, "I have seen [Cara] naked before. I've done some things in the past that I know I shouldn't have done. I guess I need a lawyer." Baker then stopped questioning Master and later that day charged Masters with four counts of sexual abuse.

         ¶6. The grand jury indicted Masters on March 30, 2017. Count I alleged Masters committed sexual battery of a child under 14 years of age, pursuant to Mississippi Code Annotated section "97-3-95 (1)(d)," between January 1, 1992, and December 31, 1992, by inserting his finger into Cara's vagina.[3] The indictment stated Count I imposed a minimum sentence of 20 years and a maximum sentence of life in prison.

         ¶7. Count II alleged Masters committed the crime of touching a child for lustful purposes, under Mississippi Code Annotated section 97-5-23 (Supp. 1991), between the same dates as Count I, by fondling Cara's breasts and vagina. The indictment stated Count II's maximum sentence for imprisonment was 15 years. Counts III and IV alleged that on two separate occasions between January 17, 1993, and January 17, 1994, Masters committed sexual battery of a child between 14 and16 years of age, under Mississippi Code Annotated section "97-3-95(c)," by inserting his penis into Cara's mouth when Cara was 15 years old.[4]¶8. At the pre-trial conference, the prosecution moved for the allowance of Rule 404(b) evidence. The prosecution sought to introduce evidence of touching and other sexual activity between Masters and Cara that occurred after Cara reached adulthood. The trial court found that the potential probative value of Cara's testimony of her continued abuse during adulthood outweighed the potential prejudice to Masters; that if the defense wanted to limit such testimony, it would have to make contemporaneous objections; and, that if the defense wanted to give a limiting jury instruction, it would have to renew its request for it at the time the jury would be given instructions.

         ¶9. At trial, Cara testified that the sexual abuse began when she was 13 years old. When Cara had her first menstrual cycle, Masters said, "You ain't my baby girl anymore." Cara testified that Masters would come into her room in the early morning and "finger" her. Cara also testified that Masters would rub lotion on her from her breasts to her vagina, and that he would make her rub lotion onto his penis. Cara stated that on two occasions Masters made her put her mouth on his penis. Cara testified that Masters taught her how to masturbate when she was 15. As explanation, Masters told Cara that all fathers and daughters have such a relationship; that he was ...


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