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State v. Washington

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

April 11, 2018

STATE OF LOUISIANA Appellee
v.
TYRONE WASHINGTON Appellant

          Appealed from the First Judicial District Court for the Parish of Caddo, Louisiana Trial Court No. 327544 Honorable Ramona Emanuel, Judge

          LOUISIANA APPELLATE PROJECT Counsel for Appellant By: Douglas Lee Harville

          TYRONE WASHINGTON Pro Se

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

          EDWIN L. BLEWER, III REBECCA A. EDWARDS Assistant District Attorneys

          Before WILLIAMS, MOORE, and STEPHENS, JJ.

          MOORE, J.

         Following a jury trial, Tyrone Washington was convicted as charged of molestation of a juvenile. The trial court sentenced him to 60 years at hard labor, with the first 25 years to be served without the benefit of probation, parole or suspension of sentence. He now appeals his conviction and sentence. For the following reasons, we affirm.

         FACTS

         A few days after M.B. confided to her friend, Jazzmine Nunn, that Washington, M.B.'s former stepfather, had sexually abused her when he lived in their home, she saw his car parked outside her school. Afraid that Washington might be looking for her, M.B. called Jazzmine on her cell phone. As she told Jazzmine about the defendant's car parked at her school, she lost her connection due to a weak battery in her phone. Jazzmine panicked when the call was suddenly cut off and M.B. did not immediately call her back or answer when Jazzmine called her. Worried for M.B.'s safety, she called M.B.'s mother, S.K., and told her of the situation, including the sexual abuse.

         When S.K. learned that her former husband had molested her daughter, she called the Shreveport police. Shreveport Police Cpl. Lonnie Haskins interviewed S.K. and M.B. that evening. At first, M.B. denied that Washington touched her inappropriately, just as she had done a few years earlier when S.K. became suspicious that something might be happening. M.B. then spoke on the phone with Jazzmine, who apparently persuaded M.B. to tell Cpl. Haskins about the incidents in which Washington performed sexual acts with her when he was living with the family.

          On October 24, 2014, Washington was arrested. He made two statements to Shreveport Police Detective De'andre Belle. In his first statement, he denied any wrongdoing. However, in his second statement, he admitted to having sexual intercourse with M.B. four times when she was 11 years old and he was 28. Subsequently, he filed a motion to suppress the self-incriminating statement; the court denied this after a hearing.

         Washington was charged by amended bill of information for molestation of a juvenile under the age of 13. A unanimous jury convicted him of the charge. He filed a motion for post-verdict judgment of acquittal arguing that the evidence adduced at trial was insufficient to convict him; this was also denied.

         Following a hearing, the trial court sentenced Washington to serve 60 years at hard labor, with the first 25 years to be served without the benefit of parole, probation or suspension of sentence.[1]

         The defendant filed a motion to reconsider sentence arguing that the trial court failed to consider the applicable mitigating factors when sentencing him to 60 years imprisonment. The motion was denied, and this appeal followed.

         DISCUSSION

         By his first assignment of error, Washington argues that the trial court erred when it admitted his incriminating statements into evidence. Those statements, he alleges, were the product of duress, inducements or promises; specifically, he cites Det. Belle's threats of a lengthy prison sentence, and his erroneous accusation that he had previously committed a sex crime and a kidnapping. The defendant argues that he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder ("PTSD") at the time of his confession, and he was also under the influence of marijuana.

         Additionally, although not raised as a specifically assigned error, Washington maintains that there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction. He argues that M.B. delayed reporting the molestation, and he testified at trial denying any inappropriate behavior with her.

         The state maintains that Washington's statement to police confessing to the molestation was freely and voluntarily given, and the evidence against him was sufficient to support the conviction.

         The Motion to Suppress

         Detective Belle testified at the suppression hearing that he arrested Washington and advised him of his Miranda[2] rights, which he waived. Det. Belle said Washington did not appear to be under the influence of alcohol or narcotics, and he understood the questions asked of him. He testified that police did not make any promises to Washington; nor did they threaten him in any way to obtain his statement.

         Washington's statement, which was divided into two recordings, was played during the motion to suppress hearing.[3] At the beginning of the first recording, he was advised of his Miranda rights, [4] which he waived, explaining that he wanted to talk about the allegations against him. He confirmed that he was previously married to S.K., and he watched (babysat) M.B. and A.B. when S.K. was at work.

         Washington denied that he ever touched M.B. inappropriately. He said that there was a "lot of confusion" in the home. M.B. and A.B. competed for his affection, and would come into his room to get food or movies. When asked why M.B. would tell police that he had sex with her, Washington replied that M.B. was upset with him because he had caught her with a boy.

         During the interview, Det. Belle accused Washington of having previously been investigated for a sexual offense, but he denied this, explaining that he was stationed in South Carolina at the time the alleged prior offense occurred. Detective Belle dropped the matter.[5] Det. Belle also asked Washington if he gave S.K. and M.B. a sexually transmitted disease, which he denied. This interview occurred after the defendant repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

         In the second recorded statement, Washington once again waived his Miranda rights. He admitted that he had sex with M.B., but claimed that she "forced herself on me." He said that the sexual encounters, four in all, took place when the family lived at the South Pointe Apartments in Shreveport. M.B. would come to his room wearing only a white T-shirt and underwear when he was changing clothes. Washington denied that he threatened M.B., but he admitted that he told her that their sexual relationship was "our little secret." He claimed that M.B. first initiated the sexual relationship by stopping him as he walked down the hallway. He said she pulled down his pants and performed oral sex on him.

         Detective Belle testified that there was only about a one- or-two-minute break between Washington's first and second recorded statements. He explained that after he turned off the recording equipment, Washington began making ...


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