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State v. Thompson

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Southern District, First Division

May 21, 2019

STATE OF MISSOURI, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
SERENO BRUCE THOMPSON, Defendant-Appellant.

          APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF CRAWFORD COUNTY HONORABLE KELLY W. PARKER, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

          Nancy Steffen Rahmeyer, J.

         A jury convicted Sereno Bruce Thompson ("Defendant") of statutory sodomy in the first degree, and the trial court sentenced him to life in prison. Defendant appeals claiming in a single point relied on that the trial court erred in permitting, over Defendant's objection, the child victim to testify while wearing a jacket that defense counsel, in his objection, described as "a biker jacket from BACA [Bikers Against Child Abuse]." We deny Defendant's point because he fails to persuade us that the trial court abused its discretion in permitting the child victim to testify while wearing the jacket.

         Facts and Procedural Background

         A jury trial commenced on April 10, 2017. Before voir dire, Defendant waived arraignment on, and pled not guilty to, a second amended information that charged him with statutory sodomy in the first degree and alleged that he was a prior offender based on two, prior felony convictions. Based on exhibits that were admitted without objection by defense counsel, the trial court found "that Defendant is a prior and a persistent offender beyond a reasonable doubt."

In the course of voir dire, defense counsel asked the venire panel:
Is there anyone here that's part of the rape victim advocate group? I see no hands. What about the bikers, the Bikers Against Child Abuse, you guys know what I'm talking about, the ones that wear the leather jackets and they show up at trials. And is there anyone here that's a member of BACA? I see no hands.

         The State's first witness was the child victim who was ten at the time of the offense, and was eleven at the time of trial. Immediately after the child victim was placed under oath and before any testimony was elicited, the prosecutor asked to approach the bench and the following exchange occurred between the trial court, prosecutor and defense counsel:

[Prosecutor]: Judge I have a chair that's a little taller. In that chair he has trouble seeing over the stand is what he had indicated previously. I have a red chair here that sits a little higher and I'm requesting him be allowed to sit in it.
The Court: Any objection?
[Defense Counsel]: No but I'm going to object to what he's wearing. He's wearing a biker jacket from BACA on this witness stand. It is not his jacket and they are doing this to deliberately influence the jury.
The Court: Okay.
[Defense Counsel]: I did not know he was going to wear this judge so now the jury's already seen it. I don't know if we can remove that taint at this point, because now if the court rules in my favor we'll have him remove the jacket.
The Court: He's, I've allowed these jackets in the past. I've had witnesses testify with them on in the past. The objection to the jacket is overruled and denied. I'll ...

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