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State v. White

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Second Division

April 24, 2018

STATE OF MISSOURI, Respondent,
v.
MICHAEL A. WHITE, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of Perry County 16PR-CR00227 Honorable Craig D. Brewer

          OPINION

          Lisa P. Page, Presiding Judge.

         Michael A. White ("White") appeals the trial court's judgment entered following a bench trial convicting him of one count of third-degree domestic assault pursuant to Section 565.074 RSMo (2016). We affirm.

         BACKGROUND

         Quaya White ("Mother") and White had two children together. On March 11, 2016 Mother and White were married, but separated, when Mother dropped the children at White's house for the evening so she could go to work. She picked the children up around 10 p.m., after her first shift, and brought the children to her parents' house so she could work a second shift. Mother picked the children up the next day around 7 or 8 a.m. When she bathed M.W. she noticed bruises on M.W.'s bottom and a cut on M.W.'s lower back. The injuries were not there when Mother dropped the children off at White's residence the prior day. Mother called White and asked him if anything happened while M.W. was with him, and White said "absolutely nothing had happened." Mother ultimately went to the authorities because she became suspicious about how M.W. was injured. M.W. was examined by a nurse practitioner. Following an investigation, White was ultimately charged with domestic assault in the third degree. The cause was tried to the court. White was convicted of domestic assault in the third degree and sentenced to ninety days, with the execution of his sentence suspended. He was placed on probation. The present appeal follows.

         DISCUSSION

         White's two points on appeal both assert allegations of plain error related to the trial court's admission of evidence because White did not object to the testimony at trial. In point one he claims the court plainly erred in allowing improper testimony concerning his character at trial. In point two he contends the court plainly erred in allowing evidence of specific instances of White's inappropriate conduct as a parent because it constituted improper evidence of prior bad acts.

         Standard of Review

         During trial, the State questioned Mother; Wendi McLeary, White's sister; and Angela Faulkner, with whom White lived at the time of the alleged incident. The State elicited testimony from the witnesses about White's parenting, as well as the fact White had anger issues due to post traumatic stress disorder ("PTSD") from serving in the Army. White did not object to the questioning; therefore, we review only for plain error. See Missouri Supreme Court Rule 30.20. Plain error should be used sparingly. State v. Mayes, 63 S.W.3d 615, 633 (Mo. banc 2001) (internal citations omitted). It does not justify review of every error not properly preserved. Id. Instead, we review for plain error to determine only whether manifest injustice or a miscarriage of justice would result if the error is left uncorrected. State v. Chism, 252 S.W.3d 178, 183 (Mo. App. W.D. 2008). "Plain error is that which is evident, obvious, and affects substantial rights of the defendant." Id.

         Parties challenging evidentiary rulings, under plain error review, must demonstrate the trial court committed an error which was (1) "evident, obvious and clear" and (2) that such error resulted in prejudice to the party, i.e. the "claimed error did in fact cause manifest injustice or a miscarriage of justice." State v. Howery, 427 S.W.3d 236, 248 (Mo. App. E.D. 2014) (internal citation omitted).

         Analysis

         Point I - Character Evidence

         In his first point on appeal, White claims the court plainly erred in allowing testimony concerning his skills as a parent, his anger issues, and his PTSD because he did not place his character at issue. White argues he was prejudiced by the admission of such evidence because the trial court relied on the evidence to convict him.

         Under plain error review, even assuming, without deciding, the evidence was improperly admitted, we do not believe a manifest injustice or miscarriage of justice occurred from its admission. To find a manifest injustice, we must conclude the trial court's alleged error in admitting evidence was outcome determinative. Howery, 427 S.W.3d at 248. Outcome determinative prejudice occurs where the erroneously admitted evidence so influenced the trier of fact that when considered with and balanced against all properly admitted evidence, there is a reasonable probability the fact finder would have come to a different ...


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