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Griffith v. Moore

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

August 12, 2014

ROBERT J. GRIFFITH, Petitioner,
v.
JIM MOORE, Respondent.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

CATHERINE D. PERRY, District Judge.

Robert Griffith was convicted by jury in a Missouri state court of one count of first-degree child molestation.[1] He received a sentence of five years imprisonment, which he has presumably served.[2] Griffith challenges his conviction by bringing a petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. ยง 2254. Griffith claims that his conviction violated due process in two ways: first, that the Missouri Court of Appeals applied the incorrect standard when reviewing the sufficiency of evidence, and second, that there is clear and convincing evidence that Griffith did not commit the crime. I find that the appellate court applied the correct standard when reviewing the evidence and further find that a rational trier of fact could have convicted Griffith on the evidence presented. Griffiths petition for a writ of habeas corpus relief will be denied.

I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

After deliberating from September 19-20, 2008, a jury convicted Robert Griffith of first-degree child molestation. One month later, he was sentenced to five years of incarceration with the Missouri Department of Corrections. On appeal, Griffith raised eight points of error, including juror misconduct, instructional error, and insufficiency of the evidence. The Court of Appeals for the Southern District of Missouri affirmed the conviction. State v. Griffith, 312 S.W.3d 413, 427 (Mo.Ct.App. 2010). Griffith was denied both rehearing and transfer to the Supreme Court of Missouri, and he brought no motion in state court for post-conviction relief.

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND APPELLATE COURT'S REVIEW OF EVIDENCE

In 2006, Robert Griffin was employed as a pre-kindergarten school bus driver in Doniphan, Missouri. One of his passengers included Child, a five-yearold girl who rode the bus home each morning.

Childs father ("Father") testified at trial. In September 2006, he began noticing that the bus, which until then had dropped Child off at regular times, began sporadically running late. In November 2006, Father saw Child exit the bus crying. She did not want Father to talk to her bus driver. The next day, she refused to go to school, which was abnormal. Child told Father that she was tired of being kissed and did not want to ride the bus. Child later told Father that her bus driver, "Bob, " had touched her on the "pee-pee" and had made her touch Bobs "pee-pee." Father testified further on the interactions reported to him by Child, including that she and Bob had gotten "sexy" - meaning that they had taken off their clothes. Father also recalled other changes in his daughters behavior, including incidents where she would hit herself in the head, saying "she had a lot of bad things in her head." Tr. 361, 364.

When deposed, Child corroborated that she had told her father that Bob had both touched and kissed her on the "pee-pee." ECF Doc. 1-19, Dep. Sept. 25, 2007 ("Sept. Dep."), at 23-24. Child said that the Bob she was talking about is the Bob that is her bus driver. Sept. Dep. at 25.

The Court of Appeals set forth some of the evidence supporting conviction:

Early in the case, the State successfully moved to have Child declared unavailable as a witness.... Her video depositions were shown to the jury at trial and included this testimony:
[State]: Did you ride the bus home when you went to school in Doniphan?
[Child]: Yes.
[State]: What was your bus drivers name?
[Child]: Bob.
[State]: Did Bob do something to you that you didnt like?
[Child]: Yes.
[State]: What did he do?
[Child]: He touched my pee-pee.
[State]: Do you want a tissue?
[Child]: No.
[State]: Did he do anything else that you remember?
[Child]: (Witness nodded head).
[State]: What else did he do?
[Child]: I dont want to tell.
[State]: [Child] can you say that again?
[Child]: I dont want to tell.
[State]: [Child], we need you to tell us what he did.
[Child]: Touched my titties.
Defendant acknowledged that he was Childs bus driver. Also, Childs father so testified and identified Defendant by pointing at him in court.

Griffith, 312 S.W.3d at 425-26 (internal citations omitted) (quoting Sept. Dep. at p. 18-19).

The Court of Appeals rejected Griffiths arguments that the evidence was insufficient to convict and that conflicts in Childs testimony required corroboration under Missouri Law:

The foregoing testimony, even if uncorroborated, ordinarily would support Defendants conviction. Generally, in sexual offense cases the victims testimony alone is sufficient to sustain a conviction, even if uncorroborated.

Defendant acknowledges this general rule, but asserts that corroboration ...

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