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State v. Robertson

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

August 16, 2017


         Appealed from the First Judicial District Court for the Parish of Caddo, Louisiana Trial Court No. 335740 Honorable Katherine Clark Dorroh, Judge

          LOUISIANA APPELLATE PROJECT By: Peggy J. Sullivan Counsel for Appellant.

          JAMES E. STEWART, SR. District Attorney Counsel for Appellee.


          Before WILLIAMS, PITMAN, and STONE, JJ.

          STONE, J.

         The defendant, Roy Leon Robertson, was charged by grand jury indictment with aggravated rape of a person under the age of 12, in violation of La. R.S. 14:42. Following a jury trial, Robertson was found guilty as charged, and sentenced to life imprisonment at hard labor without benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence. For the following reasons, we affirm Robertson's conviction. We vacate Robertson's life sentence and sentence him to 20 years without restriction on parole, probation, or suspension of sentence.


         On November 17, 2015, a grand jury indicted the defendant, Roy Lee Robertson ("Robertson"), for the aggravated rape of his daughter, T.N., [1]occurring between February 12, 1972, and February 12, 1976.[2] Robertson waived arraignment and pled not guilty.

         During a jury trial, the state presented testimony from T.N. and other victims whom Robertson molested and raped during their childhood. Robertson did not testify at trial nor did he present any witnesses. After deliberation, the jury unanimously found Robertson guilty as charged. The trial court denied Robertson's motion for post-verdict judgment acquittal, noting that it had listened carefully to the testimony and was satisfied that the evidence was sufficient to prove Robertson was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the aggravated rape of T.N. This appeal ensued.


         Prior to trial, the state filed a notice of intent to use the following evidence of other similar sexual assaults committed by Robertson, pursuant to La. C.E. art. 412.2:

• Robertson repeatedly raped and molested his juvenile granddaughter, R.S., whose date of birth is 12/01/2000, from the time she was approximately six years old until she was 14 years of age.
• Robertson repeatedly raped and molested his juvenile daughter, D.J., whose date of birth is 01/27/1963, from the time she was approximately six years old until she was 14 years of age.

         Robertson contends the evidence, along with T.N.'s testimony, was insufficient to sustain his conviction for aggravated rape of T.N. Robertson argues T.N.'s and D.J.'s testimony lacked credibility because: 1) they did not provide a reasonable explanation for waiting almost 40 years to report the alleged sexual abuse; and, 2) they have mental health issues. When viewed in the light most favorable to the prosecution, this Court finds that the state presented sufficient evidence to prove Robertson committed aggravated rape of T.N.

         The standard of appellate review for a sufficiency of the evidence claim is whether, after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560 (1979); State v. Tate, 2001-1658 (La. 05/20/03), 851 So.2d 921, cert. denied, 541 U.S. 905, 124 S.Ct. 1604, 158 L.Ed.2d 248 (2004); State v. Carter, 42, 894 (La.App. 2 Cir. 01/09/08), 974 So.2d 181, writ denied, 2008-0499 (La. 11/14/08), 996 So.2d 1086; State v. Crossley, 48, 149 (La.App. 2 Cir. 06/26/13), 117 So.3d 585, writ denied, 2013-1798 (La. 02/14/14), 132 So.3d 410. This standard, now legislatively embodied in La.C.Cr.P. art. 821, does not provide the appellate court with a vehicle to substitute its own appreciation of the evidence for that of the fact finder. State v. Pigford, 2005-0477 (La. 02/22/06), 922 So.2d 517; State v. Dotie, 43, 819 (La.App. 2 Cir. 01/14/09), 1 So.3d 833, writ denied, 2009-0310 (La. 11/06/09), 21 So.3d 297; State v. Crossley, supra.

         In the absence of internal contradiction or irreconcilable conflict with physical evidence, one witness' testimony, if believed by the trier of fact, is sufficient support for a requisite factual conclusion. State v. Wiltcher, 41, 981 (La.App. 2 Cir. 05/09/07), 956 So.2d 769; State v. Burd, 40, 480 (La.App. 2 Cir. 01/27/06), 921 So.2d 219, writ denied, 2006-1083 (La. 11/09/06), 941 So.2d 35. Likewise, the sole testimony of a sexual assault victim is sufficient to support a requisite factual finding. State v. Lewis, 50, 546 (La.App. 2 Cir. 05/04/16), 195 So.3d 495, writ denied, 2016-1052 (La. 05/01/17), 219 So.3d 330; State v. Demery, 49, 732 (La.App. 2 Cir. 05/20/15), 165 So.3d 1175, writ denied, 2015-1072 (La. 10/17/16), 207 So.3d 1067. Such testimony alone is sufficient even where the state does not introduce medical, scientific, or physical evidence to prove the commission of the offense by the defendant. State v. Ponsell, 33, 543 (La.App. 2 Cir. 08/23/00), 766 So.2d 678, writ denied, 2000-2726 (La. 10/12/01), 799 So.2d 490.

         Where there is conflicting testimony about factual matters, the resolution of which depends upon a determination of the credibility of the witnesses, the matter is one of the weight of the evidence, not its sufficiency. State v. Allen, 36, 180 (La.App. 2 Cir. 09/18/02), 828 So.2d 622, writs denied, 2002-2595 (La. 03/28/03), 840 So.2d 566, 2002-2997 (La. 06/27/03), 847 So.2d 1255, cert. denied, 540 U.S. 1185, 124 S.Ct. 1404, 158 L.Ed.2d 90 (2004). The appellate court neither assesses the credibility of witnesses nor reweighs evidence. State v. Smith, 94-3116 (La. 10/16/95), 661 So.2d 442. A reviewing court accords great deference to a jury's decision to accept or reject the testimony of a witness in whole or in part. State v. Gilliam, 36, 118 (La.App. 2 Cir. 08/30/02), 827 So.2d 508, writ denied, 2002-3090 (La. 11/14/03), 858 So.2d 422.

         Generally, evidence of other acts of misconduct is not admissible due to the risk that the defendant will be convicted of the present offense on the basis that the unrelated evidence establishes him or her as a "bad person." La. C.E. art. 404(B)(1); State v. Jackson, 625 So.2d 146 (La. 1993). This exclusionary rule stems from the "substantial risk of grave prejudice to the defendant" from the introduction of evidence regarding his unrelated criminal acts. State v. Prieur, 277 So.2d 126 (La. 1973). However, statutory and jurisprudential exceptions exist when the "evidence of other acts tends to prove a material issue and has independent relevance other than showing that the defendant is a man of bad character." State v. Silguero, 608 So.2d 627 (La. 1992). In that regard, when a defendant is charged with acts that constitute a sex offense involving a victim who was under the age of 17 at the time of the offense, evidence of his other acts which involve sexually assaultive behavior or acts which indicate his lustful disposition toward children is admissible if the court determines that, pursuant to La. C.E. art. 403, its probative value outweighs its prejudicial effect. La. C.E. art. 412.2; See State v. Wright, 11-0141 (La. 12/06/11), 79 So.3d 309; State v. Williams, 02-0898, 02-1030 (La. 10/15/02), 830 So.2d 984. In determining whether such evidence will be admitted at trial, La. C.E. art. 403 states, "Although relevant, evidence may be excluded if its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of the issues, or misleading the jury, or by considerations of undue delay, or waste of time."[3]

         A trial court's ruling on the admissibility of other crimes evidence will not be overturned absent an abuse of discretion. This same standard is applied to rulings on the admission of other crimes evidence and evidence under La. C.E. art. 412.2. State v. Wright, supra; State v. Bell, 50, 092 (La.App. 2 ...

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