Court of Appeals of Missouri, Southern District, Second Division
FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF CAMDEN COUNTY Honorable Kenneth M.
Hayden, Circuit Judge
WILLIAM W. FRANCIS, JR., P.J.
Morton ("Morton") was convicted, after a bench
trial, of the class A felony of child molestation (Count 2),
pursuant to section 566.067. In his point on appeal, Morton
asserts the trial court erred in overruling his motions for
judgment of acquittal because there was no substantial
evidence that "two or more persons" committed the
acts charged as required by section
556.061(26). Finding merit to Morton's point, we
reverse the judgment of the trial court as to the conviction
and sentence in Count 2, and remand with directions.
and Procedural Background
sexually abused a 13-year-old child ("Victim") for
almost a year. Morton would come into Victim's bedroom
"every morning" before school, and make Victim come
to his bedroom almost every afternoon after school, whereupon
he would abuse Victim.
February 9, 2015, Victim reported the sexual abuse. Morton
was charged by information with the class A felony of child
molestation in the first degree (Count 2), pursuant to
section 566.067, in that Morton "knowingly subjected
[Victim, ] who was less than fourteen years old to sexual
contact by touching her breasts with his hand, and [Morton]
committed this offense as a part of a ritual or ceremony in
that it was part of an established or prescribed pattern or
waived his right to a jury trial, and a bench trial was held
on December 19, 2017. Victim and Morton both testified.
the State rested, Morton filed a motion for judgment of
acquittal. In opposition to the motion, the prosecutor argued
that Morton touched Victim in a sexual manner "every
day, waking her up in such [sic] that it was an established
pattern or routine as required by the statutory
language[.]" The trial court subsequently denied the
motion for judgment of acquittal.
close of all evidence, Morton again filed a motion for
judgment of acquittal. The trial court stated that it would
take the motion "with the case." The trial court
later denied Morton's motion for judgment of acquittal at
the close of all the evidence and specifically found that
with regard to Count 2 that that conduct committed by the
defendant was a part of a ritual or ceremony . . . in that it
was part of an established or described pattern of activity.
The evidence was that this was something that happened on a
regular basis, basically at the same time of day, and it
clearly was a pattern of conduct, it was a habit, a routine
of the defendant to engage in that sexual contact with
[Victim] on a regular and routine basis[.]
trial court found Morton guilty as charged. The trial court
subsequently sentenced Morton to 20 years in prison for the
class A felony of child molestation in the first degree
Morton's motion for a new trial, he asserted that there
was "insufficient evidence to convict [him] on Count
," including the element "that [he] committed
this offense as part of a ritual or ceremony[.]" The
trial court denied the motion. This appeal followed.
single point on appeal, Morton asserts that the trial court
erred in overruling his motions for judgment of acquittal
because there was insufficient evidence that he exposed
Victim to sexual contact "as part of a ritual or
ceremony" as "there was no evidence that this act
was performed by anyone other than [himself, ] . . . and the
statutory definition of 'ritual or ceremony' requires
the act in question to be performed by 'two or more
The standard of review in a court-tried case is the same as
in a jury-tried case. In determining whether there is
sufficient evidence to support the conviction, this court
accepts as true all evidence tending to prove guilt together
with all reasonable inferences that ...