Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Second Division
from the Circuit Court of Lincoln County Honorable Chris
B., SULLIVAN, P.J.
R. Hobbs (Appellant) appeals from the trial court's
judgment entered upon a jury verdict finding him guilty of
first-degree child molestation, punishable by a sentence of
five to fifteen years. In accordance with the jury's
recommendation after a bifurcated penalty phase of trial, the
trial court sentenced Appellant to ten years in prison. We
affirm the judgment, reverse the sentence, and remand for a
new penalty phase.
and Procedural Background
was five years old at the time of the events at issue in this
case and lived with his father and L.H., to whom his father
was engaged. Appellant was the cousin of L.H.'s sister,
S.H. On May 31, 2013, J.C. told S.H., his aunt, he had seen
Appellant and Victim in bed together and Appellant had his
pants unzipped. S.H. told her husband, who told Victim's
father. Victim's father asked Victim about this, and
Victim told his father Appellant touched his penis twice.
Victim's father contacted the police. Upon being
interviewed, Appellant admitted to Detective James Patton
(Det. Patton) orally and in writing he had touched
Victim's penis. Appellant was indicted, tried and
convicted of one count of first-degree child molestation.
Prior to trial, Appellant filed a motion in limine
prior to trial to exclude evidence he had been indicted on
two additional sexual abuse charges following the indictment
in this case. The trial court granted the motion, and during
the guilt phase of his trial, no evidence of such was
during the sentencing phase of trial, Det. Patton testified
about the current charges pending against Appellant for child
molestation and sexual exploitation of a minor. The defense
objected to the State presenting evidence of the new charges,
which had not yet been adjudicated. The State replied the
incidents leading to the new charges occurred prior to the
charges in the instant case, and did not have to have been
adjudicated to be admissible.
trial court overruled Appellant's objection, relying upon
State v. Thurman, 272 S.W.3d 489 (Mo.App. E.D.
2008). Det. Patton was allowed to testify during the penalty
phase that during his continued investigation of Appellant
after being apprised of the incidents leading to the instant
case, he developed information regarding another incident of
child molestation and discovered photographs which could
constitute sexual exploitation of a minor. The State asked
the jurors to impose the maximum sentence of fifteen years.
father also testified during the penalty phase as to how the
crime had affected his family and asked for the maximum
sentence, fifteen years. L.H., Victim's stepmother,
testified how Appellant had violated her trust and betrayed
her. Appellant's father asked for leniency because this
crime was a one-time event.
conclusion of the penalty phase, the jury recommended
Appellant be sentenced to ten years in prison, which the
trial court imposed. This appeal follows.
point on appeal, Appellant claims the trial court abused its
discretion in allowing the State to introduce evidence of
additional charges filed against him in the punishment phase
of the trial, because this violated his rights to due process
of law and a fair trial guaranteed by the Fourteenth
Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I,
Section 10 of the Missouri Constitution, in that the evidence
was not legally relevant to the issue of punishment because
the State failed to prove the existence of these additional
charges by a preponderance of the evidence.
general rule, the trial court has discretion during the
punishment phase of trial to admit whatever evidence it deems
helpful to the jury in assessing punishment. State v.
Johns, 34 S.W.3d 93, 112 (Mo.banc 2000). When a
challenge to the trial court's admission of evidence
during the penalty phase is preserved for appeal, we review
the trial court's ruling for an abuse of discretion.
State v. Voss, 2016 WL 145727 *9 (Mo.App. E.D.
2016). An abuse of discretion occurs if the trial court's
ruling as to the admission of evidence is clearly against the
logic of the circumstances and is so unreasonable as to
indicate a lack of careful ...