Court of Appeals of Missouri, Southern District, Second Division
FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF TANEY COUNTY Honorable Tony W.
Williams, Circuit Judge
JEFFREY W. BATES, C.J.
jury trial, Vernon Christian (Defendant) was convicted of the
class C felony of forgery involving a warranty deed.
See § 570.090. Defendant appealed and presents
one point for plain error review. He contends the trial court
plainly erred in allowing testimony about the victim's
civil suit to recover title to the property at issue. Finding
no merit in this contention, we affirm.
was charged by information with forgery for events that
occurred in November 2006. He was convicted of this offense
by a jury after a first trial in 2010. That conviction was
subsequently vacated due to ineffective assistance of
counsel, and the case was remanded for a new trial.
Christian v. State, 502 S.W.3d 702, 714 (Mo. App.
2016). After a second trial held in February 2017, a jury
again found Defendant guilty as charged. He was sentenced to
serve six years in prison.
appeal, we view the evidence and all reasonable inferences
derived therefrom in the light most favorable to the verdict;
all contrary evidence and inferences are disregarded.
State v. Belton, 153 S.W.3d 307, 309 (Mo. banc
2005). We defer to the fact-finder's "superior
position to weigh and value the evidence, determine the
witnesses' credibility and resolve any inconsistencies in
their testimony." State v. Lopez-McCurdy, 266
S.W.3d 874, 876 (Mo. App. 2008). Viewed from this
perspective, the following evidence was adduced at trial.
2004, James King (King) and his brother bought real estate in
Taney County, Missouri. There was an old rock cabin on the
property, and King worked on it in his spare time to make it
livable. King had an $80, 000 mortgage on the property, and
he made payments through an automatic withdrawal. In 2006,
King bought his brother's share of the property. King
started living on the property in 2007.
November 23, 2006 (the Wednesday before Thanksgiving),
Defendant brought a warranty deed to the recorder's
office. The warranty deed purported to convey property rights
of King to Defendant and Michael Olson (Olson) as joint
tenants. Because the warranty deed had only a partial notary
seal, however, the recorder refused to accept it. Defendant
then brought the warranty deed back with a completed notary
seal on the following Monday, November 27, 2006, and the
warranty deed was recorded (hereinafter referred to as the
November 2007, King did not receive a notification about the
property taxes due on his property. Upon calling the
collector's office, King learned that the collector's
records showed he no longer owned the property. King sent a
signature page to the collector's office so that his
signature could be compared with the signature on the Deed.
King also went to the police and wrote a statement that he
testified that he did not sell his property to Defendant.
According to King: (1) he did not sign the Deed, entered into
evidence as State's Exhibit 5; (2) he did not know the
notary, Edmund E. Barker (Barker); (3) he did not sign the
Deed in Barker's presence; and (4) he did not know
Defendant or Olson. King continued to pay taxes on his
property and received his title back only after hiring an
attorney and going "[t]hrough a civil bench trial."
Defense counsel did not object to this testimony.
Gary Hazell investigated the crime and obtained a written
statement from Defendant. Another detective, David Rozell,
compared Defendant's writing on the statement he gave to
the police with the signature on the Deed. Detective Rozell
determined that the Deed was not signed by King, but that
Defendant wrote King's name on the Deed.
Lock, a forensic consultant, testified that "the
evidence point[ed] toward [Defendant] as the writer of the
questioned 'James King' signature" on the Deed.
Barker testified that he notarized the warranty deed in
King's absence and that he should not have done so.
Fielder (Fielder), an attorney, testified that he represented
King in a civil lawsuit between November of 2007 and February
of 2009. King paid $7, 724 for the representation. Defense
counsel did not object to this testimony.
State read Defendant's sworn testimony from a deposition
taken by Fielder in 2008. According to Defendant, he purchased
King's property at a tax sale in 1987 and lived on the
property for 20 years. Defendant stated that in 2007, he
moved out of the property and rented it to King, who was
"supposed to make improvements." Defendant stated
that Olson was his grandson, who was going to inherit the
property when Defendant died. Defendant claimed that he paid
the property taxes in cash.
did not testify at trial and did not present any evidence.
During the State's closing argument, the prosecutor
discussed Defendant's credibility and ...