Appeal from the 22nd Judicial District Court In and for the
Parish of St. Tammany State of Louisiana Trial Court No.
579751 Honorable Richard A. Swartz, Judge Presiding
L. Montgomery District Attorney Matthew Caplan Assistant
District Attorney Covington, LA Attorneys for Plaintiff
-Appellee, State of Louisiana
Gwendolyn Brown Louisiana Appellate Project Baton Rouge, LA
Attorney for Defendant -Appellant, Christopher Wayne Mullen
BEFORE: WHIPPLE, C.J., McCLENDON, AND HIGGINBOTHAM, JJ.
Christopher Mullen, was charged by bill of information with
molestation of a juvenile, a violation of La. R.S.
14:81.2(B). He pled not guilty. Subsequently, the State filed
a superseding bill of indictment charging defendant with one
count of aggravated rape (count one), a violation of La. R.S.
14:42,  and one count of molestation of a juvenile
(count two). Defendant pled not guilty. Defendant filed a
motion to suppress, which the trial court denied following a
hearing. Immediately prior to trial, the indictment was
amended to change the initials of the alleged victim from
A.L. to A.S. During trial, defendant sought mistrial twice,
but was denied by the trial court. After a trial by jury,
defendant was found guilty as charged on both counts. The
trial court imposed concurrent terms of life and twenty-five
years imprisonment at hard labor, both to be served without
the benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of sentence.
Defendant now appeals, raising four assignments of error. For
the following reasons, we affirm the convictions and
August 6, 2016, victim A.S. disclosed ongoing abuse suffered
at the hands of her father, defendant, to her boyfriend over
Snapchat. At about 11:00 p.m., her boyfriend and his mother,
Elizabeth Lashua, drove to A.S.'s home, picked her up,
and brought her to their house. On the way back to her house,
Lashua called the police to report what A.S. had told her.
Carley Messina, a sex crimes investigator for the St. Tammany
Parish Sheriffs Office ("STSO"), testified at
trial. Det. Messina said she met with A.S. at Lashua's
home on August 8, 2016, and that A.S. disclosed a long
history of abuse by her biological father, defendant. Det.
Messina arranged for A.S. to call her father to discuss the
abuse, while Det. Messina recorded it. A.S. did so, and the
recording was played for the jury. Det. Messina explained
during her initial testimony, and again on rebuttal, that she
did nothing to edit the phone call. Det. Messina explained
the phone call was in two segments because the call was
disconnected and defendant called back. During the first
phone call, the following exchange occurred.
A.S.: Uh, I think I might be pregnant.
Defendant: What, having sex with [your boyfriend]?
Defendant: Who'd you have sex with?
A.S.: I haven't had sex with [my boyfriend].
Defendant: Who'd you have sex with?
A.S.: Real funny, dad.
Defendant: [A.S.], it has been ab- forever.
A.S.: It hasn't been that long.
Defendant: Yes it has.
A.S.: No, it really hasn't.
Defendant: Yeah, it has.
A.S.: No, it actually hasn't.
Defendant: [A.S.], you're not pregnant.
A.S.: Yes, I think I am, dad.
Defendant: How do you say that?
A.S.: Because I've been having morning sicknesses.
Defendant: You're full of shit. Where are you fucking at?
A.S.: I'm not kidding, dad.
Defendant: Where the fuck are you at?
A.S.: Dad, why are you being like this?
Defendant: 'Cause I want to know where you're at, and
why you left my house at eleven o'clock in the morning
and have had me worried for fucking three days.
A.S.: I need to know when the last time was because I think I
might be pregnant.
Defendant: [A.S.], I want to know where you're at.
A.S.: I need to know when the last time was. I think I might
Defendant: [A.S.], who's around?
A.S.: Nobody. I'm by myself right now.
Defendant: Where are you!
A.S.: Dad, I need to know when the last time was.
Defendant: [A.S.], I need to know where you're at.
A.S.: I need to know when the last time was, dad.
Defendant: I don't know. I don't remember.
repeatedly telling A.S. to shut up and that he did not know
what she was talking about, defendant asked, "Where you
at? At a police station trying to get me put in jail?"
the phone call, Det. Messina set up an interview that day at
the Children's Advocacy Center ("CAC") to be
conducted with A.S. by a staff member there, while Det.
Messina observed outside of the room. The interview was
played for the jury.
interview, A.S. described how when she was between six and
eight years old, defendant grabbed her "girl
areas," and briefly engaged in anal intercourse.
Further, she explained that the abuse began "when [she]
was very, very little," and continued until about a
month prior to the outcry to her boyfriend. A.S. detailed the
last incident in which she told defendant to stop, and how
defendant had said he would, but that he never did. She said
on that occasion, defendant inserted his penis into her
vagina, that it hurt, and that he did not stop. She claimed
defendant wanted to put her on birth control "for a long
time" before, but could not because he did not have
primary custody. She said he started vaginally raping her
when she was around eleven years old while she lived with
defendant in New York State. Defendant continued the vaginal
and occasional oral intercourse after they moved back to
Louisiana when she was around the age of thirteen. A.S. told
the interviewer how defendant thought what he was doing was
ok and that he told her he wanted her to experience
everything with him first. She explained how defendant would
have inappropriate contact with her "every two
days" before she stopped it for good about a month
before the outcry to her boyfriend. Defendant would ground
A.S. and "be really mean to [her]" if she told him
no. A.S. described how when she was "a little
girl," defendant would cover his penis with syrup or
"a liquid that would taste good" and force her to
perform oral sex.
explained that she did not reveal the continuing abuse to her
mom because she did not want to "break" her mom,
who was "so in love" with defendant. She further
revealed that her mother has multiple sclerosis. While A.S.
had told her mother of the abuse before, she wasn't
believed because A.S.'s older half-sister, A.L.S.,
made a similar outcry when A.S. was very young, but also was
not believed. She also explained that her paternal
grandmother had once walked in on defendant raping A.S., but
did nothing after defendant insisted nothing was happening.
Det. Messina obtained an arrest warrant for defendant. During
defendant's arrest on August 8th, unsolicited, he told
his mother, "I think she told somebody I raped
her." Defendant had not been informed why he was being
arrested at the time he made the declaration. After being
brought to Det. Messina's office, defendant executed a
waiver of rights form. A video interview was then conducted,
and the recording was played for the jury. During the
interview, the following exchange occurred:
Det. Messina: So, look. And look. I know y'all had sex.
Okay. Was this something that was okay with her? You know,
was this something along the lines of, basically, like,
I'm okay with it-
Defendant: I'm not saying I did it, so if it were okay
with her, and she was of age when we did it, if we supposedly
did it, so why would I go to jail over it? Why would I get
arrested over someone being consensual over it?
Messina also interviewed A.S.'s boyfriend, his mother
Elizabeth Lashua, A.S.'s half-sister A.L.S., and Helene
Parra, A.S.'s mother.
two months later, Det. Messina brought A.S. to the Audrey
Hepburn Care Center at Children's Hospital in New
Orleans. There, A.S. was interviewed by forensic nurse
practitioner Anne Troy. Troy provided substantial background
as to her training and experience as a long-time forensic
examiner, having interviewed thousands of children, and was
qualified as an expert by the trial court as a forensic nurse
practitioner. Through Troy, and after a lengthy description
of how the records came to exist and be identified, who had
created them, and their authenticity, the State introduced
into evidence A.S.'s medical records generated from the
forensic interview. After providing her background and
training in delayed reporting of abuse, and over
defendant's objection, Troy ultimately provided a
diagnosis that A.S. was a victim of child sex abuse.
State provided testimony from a St. Tammany Parish school
administrator establishing that A.S. attended school in the
parish from August 14, 2003 until August 26, 2005, and again
from January 16, 2013 until the time of trial. A.S.'s
maternal aunt, Sarah Giangrosso, testified and confirmed
those dates relative to where A.S. and defendant lived prior
to and after moving to New York. In 2014, A.S. and her mother
moved in with Giangrosso so that Giangrosso could help take
care of A.S.'s mother. Giangrosso testified that during
that time, A.S. would "cry and ask not to go" when
being "forced" to return to her father's house
by her mother.
testified at trial. She said her first memory is of living in
Pearl River, Louisiana in a trailer at the age of four, and
that defendant would make her perform oral sex on him. She
specified that he would use "something sweet like syrup
or jelly so it wouldn't taste bad." A.S. explained
she attempted to tell her mother and aunt about the forced
oral sex, but her mother's reaction scared her, so she
said that her sister told her to say it. She said defendant
"did anal" shortly thereafter with her. Later,
while still in New York, when she was about ten or eleven she
said defendant first began to vaginally penetrate her and
perform oral sex on her. After another move in New York, her
mother walked in on defendant vaginally penetrating A.S., but
ultimately did nothing about it. A.S. related a similar
circumstance regarding defendant's mother walking in on
defendant penetrating her. Around the age of thirteen, the
family moved back to Louisiana to live with defendant's
mother. Defendant would vaginally penetrate A.S. there as
well. A.S. detailed how defendant would get upset if she told
him no, and would prevent her from visiting her boyfriend or
friends. Specifically, A.S. testified that she would have to
have sex with defendant in order to be allowed to visit her
A.S.'s half-sister, testified about her experiences being
raped by defendant when she was around four or five.
Specifically, she testified about defendant using strawberry
"lube" on his penis when he forced her to perform
oral sex, and to being anally raped by defendant. She also
described how A.S. indicated to her that defendant had
touched her inappropriately when A.S. was about four years
old. A.L.S. also explained how her other sister told her that
"what happened to [A.L.S.] also happened to her" at
the hands of defendant.
testified. Defendant denied any inappropriate relationship
with A.L.S., but did say he had heard she had previously
claimed three different men, including defendant, had raped
her. Defendant denied having sex with A.S., or ever using any
substance on his penis while forcing A.S. to perform oral sex
on him. Defendant speculated that A.S. accused him of the
offenses only after "she started dating that boy."
Defendant denied that his mother had ever seen him having sex
with A.S. Defendant explained he said what he said to Det.
Messina about arresting someone for consensual sex because he
was "tired and wore out" after having been in
custody for several hours. The prosecutor conducted an
extensive, and sometimes contentious, cross-examination
discussed in detail below. However, defendant ultimately
claimed, without evidence, that there was more to his
recorded phone call with A.S. that was somehow missing. On
rebuttal, Det. Messina denied editing the recording in any
way, and confirmed the recording played for the jury was the
entirety of the phone call.
OF ERROR # 1: ERRONEOUS DENIAL OF CAUSE CHALLENGE
first assignment of error, defendant contends that the trial
court erroneously denied his challenge for cause of Juror
Specifically, defendant argues that after Juror 244 disclosed
that she had been a victim of childhood sexual abuse, the
trial court "pressed" her into telling the court
what it "needed" to hear. In response, the State
argues that Juror 244 only told the trial court that despite
her prior history she could be impartial.
initial matter, there is no indication in the record that
defense counsel objected to the trial court's denial of
his challenge for cause. As La. Code Crim. P. art. 800(A)
A defendant may not assign as error a ruling refusing to
sustain a challenge for cause made by him, unless an
objection thereto is made at the time of the ruling. The
nature of the objection and grounds therefor shall be stated
at the time of objection.
any claim on appeal is waived. State v. Odenbaugh,
2010-0268 (La. 12/6/11), 82 So.3d 215, 237, cert,
denied,568 U.S. 829, 133 S.Ct. 410, 184 L.Ed.2d 51
(2012) (a defendant must object at the time of the ruling on
the refusal to sustain a challenge for cause of a prospective
juror); State v. Campbell, 2006-0286 (La. 5/21/08),
983 So.2d 810, 864, cert, denied, 555 U.S. 1040, 129
S.Ct. 607, 172 L.Ed.2d 471 (2008) (failure of defense counsel
to object to the court's granting of the State's
challenges for cause waived any complaint in this regard on
appeal); State v. Cole,161 La. 827, 835, 109 So.
505, 508 (1926) (defendant voluntarily accepting jurors after
challenge for cause was overruled, held to indicate waiver of
complaint that name was not drawn before exhaustion of venire
was announced); State v. Mills, 2013-0573 (La.App.
1st Cir. 8/27/14), 153 So.3d 481, 486 writ denied.
2014-2027 (La. 5/22/15), 170 So.3d 982, writ denied sub
nom, State ex rel. Mills v. ...