Appealed from the Fourth Judicial District Court for the Parish of Morehouse, Louisiana Trial Court No. 12-1299 F Honorable Daniel J. Ellender, Judge
LOUISIANA APPELLATE PROJECT By: Douglas Lee Harville Counsel for Appellant
CARL E. COOPER JERRY L. JONES District Attorney DEVIN T. JONES JOHN G. SPIRES STEPHEN SYLVESTER Assistant District Attorneys Counsel for Appellee
Before BROWN, STEWART and MOORE, JJ.
The defendant, Wesley Ricks, was convicted by a jury on five counts of aggravated rape, in violation of La. R.S. 14:42, and four counts of cruelty to a juvenile, in violation of La. R.S. 14:93. He was sentenced to serve life imprisonment at hard labor on counts one through five of aggravated rape, with counts two through five to be served concurrently with each other and consecutive to count one, and ten years imprisonment at hard labor on counts six through nine of cruelty to a juvenile, with counts six and seven to be served concurrently with each other and consecutive to counts one through five, and with counts eight and nine to be served concurrently with each other and consecutive to all other counts. The defendant appealed, urging four assignments of error. For the following reasons, we affirm the convictions and sentences.
Ricks was indicted by a grand jury on January 24, 2013, on five counts of aggravated rape, in violation of La. R.S. 14:42, and four counts of cruelty to a juvenile, in violation of La. R.S. 14:93. The victims of the crimes were two children, A.C. (DOB 5/5/99) and S.J. (DOB 4/5/98), of Twhyler Coutee, a woman with whom Ricks had a live-in relationship. The juveniles said Ricks forced them to perform sexual intercourse and/or oral sex with him, and, among other things, he beat them with an extension cord after they reported it to their mother. These acts of aggravated rape and cruelty to a juvenile took place between 2009 and December 2012. Upon learning that a warrant was issued for his arrest, Ricks fled to Miami, Florida, where he was apprehended by federal marshals. He was arrested on April 13, 2013.
Ricks declined the assistance of a court-appointed attorney, choosing instead to represent himself, contrary to the court's advice. At the arraignment, the trial court set a hearing to determine whether Ricks was capable of representing himself. During that hearing, the victims' mother claimed the charges were a lie and wished to have the charges against Ricks dropped. The court advised her to speak with the district attorney. On June 20, 2013, the court appointed Carl Cooper as standby counsel for Ricks. The court advised Ricks that Cooper was there merely to answer questions, but would not provide strategy.
Ricks filed numerous pretrial motions, including motions for discovery and a bill of particulars, a motion for speedy trial, a motion to quash the bill of information, and requests for sanctions. On September 10, 2013, he filed a motion to suppress statements of the victims and photographic evidence. These motions were taken up by the court on December 12, 2013. The court granted the request for a bill of particulars, ordering the state to provide Ricks with the bill of particulars by December 27. The court denied the motion to suppress, request for sanctions, and motion for discovery. The court passed the motion for speedy trial pending the resolution of the request for bill of particulars.
Jury trial commenced on January 28, 2014. Bastrop Police Department Sergeant Marvin Holmes testified he was the detective who received a report that A.C. and S.J. had been sexually abused by Wesley Ricks, who was identified in open court as the defendant. Ricks questioned Sgt. Holmes at length regarding the fact that the warrant, obtained by Sgt. Holmes and introduced as Exhibit S1, states that Ricks cut the victims' hair with trimmers, while the indictment alleges that scissors were used. Sgt. Holmes identified five photographs of A.C. showing welts on her legs and clipped hair.
Shauntee Slack, supervisor of the Morehouse Parish Department of Children and Family Services, testified that she was an investigator for the department in December 2012. On December 2, 2012, she was called to interview A.C. and S.J. regarding allegations of sexual abuse. Slack asked Dr. Meade O'Boyle, a physician board certified in pediatric child abuse, to examine both A.C. and S.J. Ms. Slack's reports were admitted into evidence.
Testimony of A.C.
A.C. was born on May 5, 1999. A.C. testified that she was thirteen years old in the eighth grade at Morehouse Junior High when the first incident occurred. While the other family members were away picking pecans, Ricks made her take off her clothes and took photos of her. She stated that when she initially resisted, Ricks hit her until she complied. A.C. told her sister, S.J., about the incident. The two girls decided to report this incident as well as S.J.'s experiences to their mother. Her mother told Ricks, who then beat both girls with an extension cord and cut off A.C.'s ponytail with a pair of scissors.
Another incident occurred a short time later during the Thanksgiving holidays in 2012, most likely on the Friday after Thanksgiving. A.C. said that she was asleep on the couch when Ricks awoke her and pointed for her to go to a room in the back of the house trailer. Once in the room, he blindfolded her with a bandana and tied her hands. Then he told her to perform oral sex on him. She complied. At trial she testified that it was hopeless to cry for help. The whole family feared him. Ricks threatened to kill her and hurt her grandmother and all her family if she told anyone.
A.C. held firm to her account of the two incidents when Ricks cross-examined her, confirming that there were two incidents of sexual abuse: "Once you made me take off my clothes and oral sex once." When Ricks asked her why she did not call for help from her mother and sister who were asleep in the living room during the forced oral sex incident, A.C. responded: "Because everyone in the house is scared of you. Who was gonna help me?" When he asked why she did not tell her mother after the episode, A.C. said, "[b]ecause the first time I told mama[, ]she told you[, ] and ya'll beat me." She then clairified, "You beat me. She didn't. She just sat there and watched you beaten'me."
A.C. also identified the pictures of her legs showing injuries. She testified that the injuries were caused by an extension cord that Ricks used when he beat her after she told her mother about the first incident. She also identified photographs of her hair showing that her ponytail had been cut off by Ricks. She said he used a pair of scissors to cut off her hair. She said that he called her a "bitch."
A.C. witnessed Ricks beat her sister, S.J., with the extension cord and hit her in the face with his hands. He also cut S.J.'s hair using clippers. These were punishments for them telling their mother what Ricks had done to them.
Testimony of S.J.
S.J. was born on April 5, 1998. S.J. stated that in 2009, the family lived on Hoover Street. She was 11 years old when Ricks took her into the washroom and made her take off her clothes. He made her drink vodka and forced her to have vaginal sexual intercourse with him. When she was 12 years old and the family was living on Harrington Street in Bastrop, Ricks again forced her to have intercourse with him. Afterwards, when the family lived on Parkhurst, Ricks continued to force S.J. to have vaginal sexual intercourse with him on several occasions. Ricks also forced her to perform oral sex on him, once while the family lived on Harrington Street and once while they lived on Parkhurst.
S.J. said that Ricks threatened to hurt her family if she ever told what happened, particularly to their grandmother with whom the girls went to live. When A.C. told S.J. about the first incident, when the rest of the family was picking pecans, S.J. decided it was time to tell their mother. Up to that point, she had kept silent because she was afraid of Ricks. She testified that after she told her mother, Ricks beat her, kicked her and whipped her and A.C. with an extension cord for allegedly lying about him. He also shaved part of her head with clippers.
S.J. further testified that Ricks took photos of her naked with his cell phone and threatened to post them on the Internet if she exposed him. She recalled one incident in which he checked her out of school. She said that Ricks thought she was pregnant, so he put ...