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State v. Scott

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Southern District, First Division

October 19, 2017

STATE OF MISSOURI, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
JIMMY ROSS SCOTT, Defendant-Appellant.

         APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF GREENE COUNTY Honorable Calvin R. Holden AFFIRMED

          GARY W. LYNCH, J.]

         Following a bench trial, the trial court found Jimmy Ross Scott ("Defendant") guilty of the statutory rape and statutory sodomy of G.P. ("Victim"), see sections 566.034 and 566.064, respectively.[1] The trial court sentenced Defendant to five years' imprisonment in the Department of Corrections on each offense with the sentences to run concurrently. On appeal, Defendant argues in his sole point that the trial court abused its discretion in admitting State's Exhibit 4, a bed sheet, "because there was an insufficient foundation for the admission of this exhibit[.]" Finding no merit in Defendant's point, we affirm his convictions.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         Defendant does not challenge the sufficiency of the evidence to support his convictions. We, therefore, limit our recitation of the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the finding of guilt, State v. Taylor, 298 S.W.3d 482, 491 (Mo. banc 2009), only to those facts necessary to resolve Defendant's point.

         Defendant was the live-in boyfriend of Victim's mother. At night, Victim would awaken to Defendant sexually assaulting her. Victim reported the assaults on August 19, 2011. Lieutenant Eric Reece with the Springfield Police Department testified that he was assigned the case on August 19, 2011, and immediately responded to Victim's home address in order to avoid losing potential evidence. Lieutenant Reece collected a sheet, pillowcases, clothing, a tissue, a cigarette butt, and a towel from Victim's bedroom in the home. Lieutenant Reece did not collect anything from any other room in the home. He placed the sheet in a bag and sealed it. The sheet was tested for DNA and then admitted into evidence as State's Exhibit 4 over Defendant's objection. Allison Unthank, a forensic scientist, tested the sheet's stains for bodily fluids, and one stain's test was consistent with semen. The DNA profile concluded that the source of that stain was "consistent with the profile developed from [Defendant.]" The report of the laboratory test results for the sheet was admitted into evidence as State's Exhibit 9 after Defendant's counsel announced "[n]o objection."

         The trial court found Defendant guilty on each count and sentenced Defendant as set forth above. Defendant timely appeals.

         Standard of Review

         "The admission of evidence is reviewed for abuse of discretion and disturbed only when the decision is 'clearly against the logic of the circumstances.'" State v. Taylor, 298 S.W.3d 482, 491 (Mo. banc 2009) (quoting State v. Reed, 282 S.W.3d 835, 837 (Mo. banc 2009)). "Reversal due to an evidentiary error requires a showing of prejudice." Taylor, 298 S.W.3d at 492. "Prejudice exists when 'there is a reasonable probability that the trial court's error affected the outcome of the trial.'" Id. (quoting State v. Forrest, 183 S.W.3d 218, 224 (Mo. banc 2006)).

         Discussion

         Defendant's point relied on states:

The trial court abused its discretion in admitting over [Defendant's] objection state's exhibits [sic] four, a bed sheet, because there was an insufficient foundation for the admission of this exhibit and its admission violated [Defendant's] rights to due process and a fair trial guaranteed by the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, § 10 of the Missouri Constitution, in that Lieutenant Reece's testimony did not establish the source of the exhibit or whether it was the same item that he believed he collected from [Victim's] bed, which called into question whether it was [Victim's] sheet, and the evidence that [Defendant's] DNA was found on the sheet was extremely prejudicial.[[2]

         To admit an exhibit, the trial court must be satisfied as to the identity of the exhibit. State v. Bowman, 337 S.W.3d 679, 689 (Mo. banc 2011). This may be proven by evidence establishing a chain of custody. Id. "However, when an exhibit is identified positively at trial, chain of custody evidence no longer is required to prove that an item produced at trial is the item taken into custody as evidence." Id. Moreover, "[a]ny weaknesses in a witness's visual identification is a proper subject of cross-examination and may be considered by the [finder of fact] in assessing the weight of the evidence." Id.

         Here, Lieutenant Reece testified on direct examination that

[w]e went into [Victim's] bedroom, which was described where it was at in the house. I collected a sheet that was on the bed, a towel, a tissue from the trash can, a cigarette butt, the pillowcases, and then some kind of miscellaneous clothing of hers that was laying on or around the bed.

         He further testified he did not collect anything from any other room in the home and he bagged the sheet from the bed in Victim's bedroom ...


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