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State v. Williams

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

May 9, 2019

STATE OF LOUISIANA
v.
DARYL WILLIAMS

          On Appeal from the Nineteenth Judicial District Court In and for the Parish of East Baton Rouge State of Louisiana Docket No. 06-14-1012 Honorable Richard Anderson, Judge Presiding

          Hillar C. Moore, III District Attorney Dylan C. Alge Assistant District Attorney Baton Rouge, Louisiana Counsel for Appellee State of Louisiana

          Lieu T. Vo Clark Mandeville, Louisiana Counsel for Defendant/ Appellant Daryl Williams

          Daryl Williams Angola, Louisiana In Proper Person

          BEFORE: WHIPPLE, C.J., McCLENDON, AND HIGGINBOTHAM, JJ.

          McCLENDON, J.

         Defendant, Daryl Williams, was charged by grand jury indictment with aggravated rape (victim under the age of thirteen years), a violation of LSA-R.S. 14:42 (redesignated as first degree rape) (count 1); molestation of a juvenile (victim under the age of thirteen years), a violation of LSA-R.S. 14:81.2D(1)[1] (count 2); and molestation of a juvenile (victim thirteen years of age or older), a violation of LSA-R.S. 14:81.2B(1) (count 3). Defendant entered a plea of not guilty to the charges and, following a jury trial, was found guilty as charged on all counts. For the aggravated rape conviction, defendant was sentenced to life imprisonment at hard labor without benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence; for the molestation of a juvenile (victim under the age of thirteen years) conviction, he was sentenced to twenty-five years imprisonment at hard labor without benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence; and for the molestation of a juvenile (victim thirteen years of age or older) conviction, he was sentenced to five years imprisonment at hard labor. Defendant now appeals, designating one counseled assignment of error and two pro se assignments of error. We affirm the convictions and sentences.

         FACTS

         Defendant and his wife lived alone in a subdivision in Baton Rouge. Defendant had several grandchildren, including a granddaughter, P.W.[2] P.W. was close to her grandparents and spent a lot of time at the home of defendant (her paternal grandfather). She also often slept over at defendant's home. According to P.W., she saw her grandparents at least three times a week. P.W. testified that defendant began molesting her at his home when she was eleven years old, which was in 2011. According to P.W., defendant, at first, just touched her breasts, buttocks, and vagina. Over time, the touching progressed to defendant inserting his fingers in P.W.'s vagina and performing oral sex on her. The sexual abuse continued until P.W. was fourteen years old (in 2014), at which time she told her mother what defendant had been doing to her. P.W. indicated that some form of sexual abuse occurred every time she went to defendant's home. P.W. testified that defendant told her that if she told anyone, it could really hurt their family and he (defendant) could get in a lot of trouble.

         Defendant did not testify at trial.

         COUNSELED AND PRO SE ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR

         In his sole counseled assignment of error and in his first pro se assignment of error, defendant argues the trial court erred in denying his motion to allow the jury to visit the alleged crime scene.

         Prior to trial, defendant filed a written motion to allow the jury to visit the alleged crime scene. In this motion, defendant sought an order by the trial court to allow the empaneled jury to leave the courtroom to physically view the scene of the alleged offenses, that is, defendant's house. At the hearing on this motion (over two years before trial), defense counsel argued that these alleged offenses occurred in "close proximity within a relatively small home." According to defense counsel, the jury should be allowed to visit the scene to determine who could hear what and whether or not defendant's wife "would have heard any screaming that may have occurred and that sort of thing during the course of these events." The trial court ruled that "at this time I'm going to grant this motion."

         At trial, after the State rested its case-in-chef, the trial court reversed its ruling and denied defendant's motion to allow the jury to visit the crime scene. According to the trial court, there had been no evidence of any screaming by P.W. One of defendant's attorneys insisted that "the question becomes" that if L.W. had screamed, whether or not it would have been heard. The trial court disagreed, explaining that the layout of the house could be described through testimony. Further, the State had a diagram of the house that the parties discussed and looked over at the hearing. In any event, the trial court reiterated that "last time," defense counsel had referred to screaming and whether or not it could be heard, yet there was no evidence of any screaming. Defense counsel replied: "I understand, Your Honor. But had there been, then there would have been a response. And that's the peculiar nature of the structure and why it's relevant." The trial court confirmed its denial of the motion.

         In his counseled brief, defendant notes that P.W. had lied before, and that she admitted herself at trial that she had a habit of lying. Despite issues with P.W.'s credibility, defendant suggests, the jury overlooked this and found him guilty as charged. The trial court's reversal of its pretrial ruling, according to defendant, was unexpected and left him at "a disadvantage of not even having a sub-par option available to present to the jury in terms of a logical layout of the alleged crime scene in the form of photographs or a scaled diagram." Defendant asserts that the trial court's denial of his motion was an abuse of discretion and a denial of the right to a fair trial, since a jury visit to the alleged crime scene was relevant to the jury's consideration of the credibility of P.W.'s allegations.

         Under LSA-C.Cr.P. art. 762(2), sessions of court may be held at places within the parish other than the courthouse at the discretion of the court to "allow the jury or judge to view the place where the crime or any material part thereof is alleged to have occurred, or to view an object which is admissible in evidence but which is difficult to produce in court." It is well settled that the decision regarding whether to grant or deny a motion to have a jury view the scene of a crime is within the sound discretion of the trial court, and such a ruling will not be disturbed on appeal absent an abuse of that discretion. State v. Duvall, 97-2173 (La.App. 1 Cir. 12/28/99), 747 So.2d 793, 801, writ denied, 00-1362 (La. 2/16/01), 785 So.2d 838. See State v. Lavy, 13-1025 (La.App. 1 Cir. 3/11/14), 142 So.3d 1000, 1008-09, writ denied. 14-0644 (La. 10/31/14), 152 So.3d 150.

         We see no reason to disturb the trial court's denial of defendant's motion to allow the jury to visit the crime scene. On the one incident described with any particularity, P.W. testified that her first memory of sexual abuse was when she was eleven years old in middle school and staying the night at defendant's house. She was in the back bedroom, where she slept. Defendant went into the bedroom, and P.W. asked him to rub her back because she was sore from gymnastics practice. Defendant began rubbing P.W.'s back, but then slowly moved his hands lower down her back. He put his hands inside her pants and began touching her buttocks. He then moved his hands around to the front and began touching her vagina. P.W. testified that she got scared and ran out of the bedroom to the other side of the house toward her grandmother's bedroom, where she got "close" to the bedroom door.[3] Defendant followed her and stopped her before she went into her grandmother's bedroom. Defendant apologized and said that it was a mistake and would not happen again. P.W. believed defendant and, as such, did not tell her grandmother or anyone else about what defendant had done to her. P.W. was asked on cross-examination if she was screaming or upset when she ran toward the bedroom. She testified she was not screaming, but was probably out of breath. P.W.'s grandmother did not come out of her bedroom. She was asked on cross-examination if she had any reason to believe that her grandmother had heard what was going on. P.W. replied, "I feel like if she heard something, that something was wrong, that something was happening, her immediate response would have been to check on me."

         The foregoing was the only incident described by P.W. as her having gone toward her grandmother's bedroom after being sexually abused by defendant. P.W. testified there were many other incidents of sexual abuse in that same back bedroom where she slept. Defendant's touching had progressed to inserting his fingers into her vagina and performing oral sex on her. On these other occasions, however, P.W. did not leave the room. Defendant also at times perpetrated these acts on P.W. in his own bedroom.

         Defendant adds in his pro se brief that P.W.'s testimony suggested that his home was very large. Defendant points out that P.W. used phrases like "the very back of the house," "the very end of the hallway," "to the other side of the house," and that she was "out of breath." These descriptions, according to defendant, suggested a large home, when in fact the home was very small, or less than thirty-five feet from the bedroom of the alleged incident to P.W.'s grandmother's bedroom. Thus, according to defendant, there would have been no ...


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