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State v. Jones

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Third Circuit

September 26, 2018

STATE OF LOUISIANA
v.
JEFFERY LYNN JONES

          APPEAL FROM THE NINTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF RAPIDES, NO. 330, 873 HONORABLE THOMAS M. YEAGER, DISTRICT JUDGE

          J. Phillip Terrell, Jr. District Attorney Catherine L. Davidson Assistant District Attorney COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE: State of Louisiana

          Douglas Lee Harville Louisiana Appellate Project COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT: Jeffery Lynn Jones

          Court composed of Marc T. Amy, John E. Conery, and Van H. Kyzar, Judges.

          MARC T. AMY JUDGE

         The defendant's niece alleged that the defendant committed various acts of sexual touching and vaginal intercourse against her while she was six to nine years of age. Although the State charged the defendant with first degree rape, a jury ultimately found the defendant guilty of third degree rape. The trial court thereafter imposed a sentence of twenty years at hard labor, doing so without benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of sentence. The defendant appeals. For the following reasons, we affirm.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         The present matter arose after D.C.[1] (born in 2001) reported in March 2016, that when she was ages six to nine years of age, her uncle, Jeffrey[2] Lynn Jones, repeatedly touched her inappropriately. The record demonstrates that the defendant was born in 1968. After D.C.'s initial report to her older brother and, in turn, her mother, an official complaint was made with the Alexandria Police Department. Following a forensic interview at The Advocacy Center, the defendant was arrested.

         By bill of indictment filed on September 29, 2016, the State charged the defendant with one count of first degree rape, a violation of La.R.S. 14:42, and one count of aggravated crime against nature, a violation of La.R.S. 14:89.1. The matter proceeded to a jury trial in October 2017. At the proceedings, and in addition to D.C.'s testimony regarding the alleged offenses, the State presented the testimony of a friend and schoolmate of D.C., who testified that D.C. confided in her that she had been "touched" when she was younger. The friend explained that the conversation occurred when she and D.C. were in the seventh grade. The defendant lodged a hearsay challenge to the friend's testimony which the trial court denied. Further, the State presented the testimony of D.C.'s twenty-eight year old brother, who explained that D.C. informed him of the alleged inappropriate touching a year earlier. The brother testified that D.C. informed her mother of the allegation.[3] As with D.C.'s friend, the defendant challenged D.C.'s brother's statement as hearsay, which the trial court again denied.

         Finally, the State presented the testimony of two investigating officers from the Alexandria Police Department, Corporal Matthew Cross and Detective Matthew Harrison. The trial court again overruled hearsay objections to each officer's testimony, which related to their roles in the investigation. Upon resting its case, the State dismissed the charge of aggravated crime against nature.

         In his own case, the defendant presented various witnesses, including D.C.'s mother and numerous family members. The latter denied having witnessed the defendant act inappropriately. Additionally, the defendant testified on his own behalf, denying the allegations.

         Following deliberations, the jury returned a responsive verdict of guilty of third degree rape. In subsequent proceedings, the trial court denied the defendant's motion for new trial in which the defendant, in part, challenged the trial court's rulings on his hearsay objections. Afterwards, the trial court turned to sentencing and ordered the defendant to serve twenty years imprisonment at hard labor, with credit for time served. The trial court ordered that the sentence be served without benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of sentence. The trial court subsequently denied both the defendant's motion for new trial as well as his motion to reconsider sentence.

         The defendant appeals, assigning the following as error: "The Trial Court erred when it allowed, over defense objection, inadmissible hearsay testimony from three witnesses that D.C. had reported to them that Mr. Jones molested her."

         Discussion

         Errors Patent

         Pursuant to La.Code Crim.P. art. 920, we have reviewed this matter for errors patent on the face of the record. Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure Article 920(2) defines such an error as one "that is discoverable by a mere inspection of the pleadings and proceedings and without inspection of the evidence." Following such review, we find no errors patent.

         Hearsay

         In his only assignment of error, the defendant observes that the State offered testimony from four witnesses who "related to the jury D.C.'s reporting of allegations of abuse." Reference to the transcript indicates that, in this regard, the defendant lodged hearsay objections to the testimony of D.C's friend, D.C.'s older brother, and Corporal Cross. With regard to Detective Harrison, the defendant lodged a hearsay objection to Detective Harrison's testimony regarding D.C.'s mother's complaint to him, not an objection to D.C.'s relating of details to him. The trial court overruled each of those objections.

         Friend's Testimony

         Notwithstanding the defendant's assertion at trial that D.C.'s friend's testimony was hearsay, the defendant suggests in his brief to this court that the trial court "was correct when it allowed testimony that D.C. first reported the alleged molestation to [her] best friend." By this now differing construct, the defendant argues that such a report constituted D.C.'s initial complaint of sexually assaultive behavior pursuant to La.Code Evid. ...


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