Jeffers v. State, 49A04-1104-CR-165

Decision Date07 December 2011
Docket NumberNo. 49A04-1104-CR-165,49A04-1104-CR-165
PartiesNATHANIEL JEFFERS, Appellant-Defendant, v. STATE OF INDIANA, Appellee-Plaintiff.
CourtIndiana Appellate Court

NATHANIEL JEFFERS, Appellant-Defendant,
STATE OF INDIANA, Appellee-Plaintiff.

No. 49A04-1104-CR-165


December 7, 2011

Pursuant to Ind. Appellate Rule 65(D), this
Memorandum Decision shall not be
regarded as precedent or cited before any
court except for the purpose of establishing
the defense of res judicata, collateral
estoppel, or the law of the case.


Marion County Public Defender Agency
Indianapolis, Indiana


Attorney General of Indiana

Deputy Attorney General
Indianapolis, Indiana

The Honorable Kurt M. Eisgruber, Judge
Cause No. 49G01-1001-FA-2438



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Nathaniel Jeffers ("Jeffers") appeals after a jury trial from his convictions of and sentences for six counts of child molesting,1 each as a Class A felony, one count of child molesting2 as a Class C felony, and one count of battery3 as a Class D felony. Jeffers presents the following restated issues for our review:

I. Whether the trial court's application of Indiana's Rape Shield Rule to this case violated Jeffers' right to confront the victim about other possible causes of her pregnancy and contraction of chlamydia;
II. Whether the trial court committed reversible error by denying Jeffers' motion for a mistrial after comments made by the State during closing argument;
III. Whether Jeffers' convictions for two counts of Class A felony child molesting by sexual intercourse violate double jeopardy principles; and
IV. Whether the trial court abused its discretion by imposing consecutive sentences.

We affirm.


In 2005, when A.P. was eight years old, she and her mother ("Mother"), a brother, and a sister, moved from East Chicago, Indiana, to Indianapolis. They first lived with Mother's brother, Terry Essex ("Essex"), and other family members in Essex's apartment at the Port-O-Call Apartments. By late 2005 to early 2006, Mother became romantically involved with Jeffers, who was at that time twenty-three years old. Jeffers also expressed a sexual interest

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in A.P. by winking at her and making "nasty" faces at her. Tr. at 87. During the winter of 2006, Jeffers told A.P., who at that time was nine years old, that he had heard that she liked him, and he kissed her. The next night at a party at Essex's apartment, Jeffers and A.P. went outdoors on an outside patio where Jeffers subjected A.P. to her first experience of sexual intercourse. Jeffers also directed A.P. to perform oral sex on him. A.P., who was bleeding from that first sexual encounter, returned to Mother's apartment at that complex and cleaned herself up. Jeffers came over to Mother's apartment later that evening with food, flowers, and a card for Mother, which he gave to her in front of A.P.

Jeffers and A.P. did not have contact with each other for approximately one year after that. During the summer of A.P.'s fourth grade school year, A.P. and Jeffers continued to have sexual intercourse until she went to East Chicago to spend the remainder of the summer with her father ("Father"). While living with Father in East Chicago, A.P. reported the inappropriate physical contact she had had with Jeffers, and A.P. was interviewed by police officers there. Mother drove to East Chicago, where she spoke with authorities about A.P.'s claims. While in the police station parking lot with A.P., Mother, who was very angry with A.P., smacked A.P. in the face. The investigation did not proceed any further at that time.

When A.P. returned home, Jeffers was living in Mother's home in a different apartment complex. Jeffers and A.P. continued to have a sexual intercourse from the fall of 2007 through the summer of 2008. Jeffers and A.P. had sexual intercourse so frequently that A.P. lost count of the actual number of times. Ultimately, Jeffers impregnated A.P. In November 2008, Mother took A.P. to an abortion clinic to terminate A.P.'s pregnancy. Mother instructed A.P. to tell the authorities that someone else, a teenager, was responsible

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for the pregnancy. Although A.P. had been instructed not to have sexual relations for two weeks after her abortion, Jeffers engaged in sexual relations with A.P. during that time period.

From November 2008 until May 2009, Jeffers had no physical contact with A.P., but would telephone her to confirm that she was not engaging in sexual intercourse with anyone else. Jeffers returned during the summer of 2009, and he and A.P. resumed their sexual relationship on a daily basis. On one occasion when A.P. and Jeffers were having sexual intercourse on Mother's couch, Jeffers criticized A.P.'s sexual performance and compared her to Mother. A.P., who was upset, got up to leave, but Jeffers ordered her to return and continue engaging in sexual intercourse with him. A.P. and Jeffers argued, and then Jeffers struck A.P. with his closed fist with such force that she "saw stars." A.P.'s brother, who was home on that occasion, came downstairs after hearing A.P.'s screams and witnessed Jeffers striking A.P. A.P.'s brother attempted to stop the fight, but Jeffers struck him as well.

A.P. continued to have sexual intercourse with Jeffers until her fall break from school in 2009, when she was thirteen years old. The environment in Mother's home was turbulent. On October 25, 2009, Mother and A.P. became involved in an altercation, and law enforcement officers were called to the scene. A.P. spoke with a female officer who had formerly been a forensic child interviewer. A.P. told the officer that Jeffers had been engaging in sexual relations with her since she was nine years old, that she had had an abortion, and that Mother had directed her to lie about who had impregnated her. When Mother was informed that her children were going to be removed from her care, she became demonstrably angry with A.P. A.P. was forensically interviewed and examined at a hospital

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where it was determined that she had contracted chlamydia. An investigating officer confirmed that A.P. had had an abortion in November 2008.

The State charged Jeffers with six counts of Class A felony child molesting, one count of Class C felony child molesting, three counts of Class D felony battery, and one count of Class D felony strangulation. Jeffers' jury trial was held on December 6-7, 2010, at the conclusion of which, the jury found Jeffers guilty of six counts of child molesting as Class A felonies, one count of child molesting as a Class C felony, and one count of battery as a Class D felony. The trial court sentenced Jeffers to an aggregate sentence of one hundred years executed. Jeffers now appeals. Additional facts will be supplied as necessary.


I. Indiana's Rape Shield Rule

Jeffers argues that the trial court improperly excluded evidence that A.P.'s pregnancy and her contraction of chlamydia could have been caused by someone else. In particular, Jeffers argues that he was denied his right to confront A.P. on those possible other causes, a right guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Jeffers contends that the trial court's application of Indiana's Rape Shield Law, incorporated in Indiana Rule of Evidence 412, denied him the opportunity to cross-examine A.P. about whether Essex had molested her.

"The purpose of cross-examination is to expose possible biases, prejudices, or ulterior motives related to the case." Morrison v. State, 613 N.E.2d 865, 867 (Ind. Ct. App. 1993), trans. denied. But, as with the admission or exclusion of all evidence, a trial court's limitation on the scope of cross-examination is reviewable only for an abuse of discretion.

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See id.; Zemco Mfg., Inc. v. Pecoraro, 703 N.E.2d 1064, 1069 (Ind. Ct. App. 1998), trans. denied. A trial court abuses its discretion when it takes action that is clearly erroneous or against the logic and effect of the facts and circumstances before it. Zemco, 703 N.E.2d at 1069.

Our Supreme Court has explained that Indiana Evidence Rule 412, commonly referred to as the Rape Shield Rule, is the embodiment of the following basic principles of Indiana's Rape Shield Statute, Indiana Code section 35-37-4-4:

[I]nquiry into a victim's prior sexual activity is sufficiently problematic that it should not be permitted to become the focus of the defense. Rule 412 is intended to prevent the victim from being put on trial, to protect the victim against surprise, harassment, and unnecessary invasion of privacy, and, importantly, to remove obstacles to reporting sex crimes. Consequently, "[t]he Rule does not permit the trial to stray from the central issue of guilt or innocence of the defendant into a full-scale investigation of charges made by the prosecutrix against other persons."

State v. Walton, 715 N.E.2d 824, 826 (Ind. 1999) (alteration in original, internal citations omitted). In particular, Evidence Rule 412 prohibits the introduction of evidence of the past sexual conduct of a victim or witness in a prosecution for a sex crime, with certain exceptions. The exception at issue here allows "evidence...

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