Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

State v. Morton

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Southern District, Second Division

May 10, 2019

STATE OF MISSOURI, Respondent,
v.
GARY D. MORTON, Appellant.

          APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF CAMDEN COUNTY Honorable Kenneth M. Hayden, Circuit Judge

          OPINION

          WILLIAM W. FRANCIS, JR., P.J.

         Gary D. Morton ("Morton") was convicted, after a bench trial, of the class A felony of child molestation (Count 2), [1] pursuant to section 566.067.[2] 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).[3] 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.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         Morton 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.

         On 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 activity."

         Morton waived his right to a jury trial, and a bench trial was held on December 19, 2017. Victim and Morton both testified.

         After 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.

         At the 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[.]

         The 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 (Count 2).[4]

         In Morton's motion for a new trial, he asserted that there was "insufficient evidence to convict [him] on Count [2]," including the element "that [he] committed this offense as part of a ritual or ceremony[.]" The trial court denied the motion. This appeal followed.

         In a 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 persons."'

         Standard of Review

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 ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.