State v. Mangrum

Decision Date22 February 2021
Docket Number2020 KA 0243
Citation321 So.3d 986
CourtCourt of Appeal of Louisiana — District of US
Parties STATE of Louisiana v. Frederick C. MANGRUM

David F. Gremillion, Ravi G. Shah, Covington, Louisiana, Attorneys for Appellant DefendantFrederick Mangrum

Warren L. Montgomery, District Attorney, J. Bryant Clark, Jr., Matthew Caplan, Assistant District Attorneys, Covington, Louisiana, Attorneys for Appellee State of Louisiana

Before: Whipple, C.J., Welch, and Chutz, JJ.

WELCH, J.

The State of Louisiana charged the defendant, Frederick Curtis Mangrum, by bill of information with sexual battery on a victim under the age of thirteen years, a violation of La. R.S. 14:43.1(C)(2). The defendant pled not guilty. After a trial by jury, the jury found the defendant guilty as charged. The trial court denied the defendant's motion for post-verdict judgment of acquittal and motion for new trial. The trial court sentenced the defendant to forty years imprisonment at hard labor without the benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of sentence. The trial court denied the defendant's motion to reconsider sentence. The defendant now appeals, assigning error to the admission of hearsay testimony, the sufficiency of the evidence submitted to support the jury's verdict, and the constitutionality of his sentence. For the following reasons, we affirm the defendant's conviction, but we vacate the defendant's sentence and remand for resentencing.

FACTS

B.J.,1 who was eight years old at the time the defendant's trial began on July 8, 2019, testified that her father, the defendant, "digged my private part." The victim identified "tuiee" as her front private part, and again, in regard to that part of her body, stated, "He digged it." When asked what the defendant used to dig in her private part, she stated, "His hand, I think." The victim testified that she lived with her mother, but that the incident occurred during an overnight stay at a family member's home,2 and that her mother was not present when the incident occurred. The victim testified that the next day, when she returned home, she told her mother what happened, but that her mother did nothing in response. The victim also told her grandmother. The victim did not know how many times the abuse occurred, though she believed it only happened once. The victim was unaware of how long before the trial the incident occurred or what grade she was in at the time of the incident and could only say, "But I know I was very tiny and cute."

The victim's grandmother, A.J., testified that she learned of the incident when the victim came to stay with her in the summer of 2016. A.J. testified that the victim objected when she tried to clean the victim's private area while giving her a bath, noting the victim stated, "I want to do it myself." A.J. initially believed that the victim just wanted to be an independent "big girl." However, after the victim left for a couple of days with her mother and then returned, she exhibited the same reluctance to allow her grandmother to clean her private area during baths. A.J. stated that she began feeling "kind of bad" because she was accustomed to bathing the victim during her stay overs. She ultimately asked the victim, "Has anybody ever, you know, touched you there?" The victim did not initially reply and only looked at A.J., so she added, "Don't, just tell me the truth ...I ain't going to get mad." The victim then replied, "Yes, ma'am." When A.J. asked who, the victim replied, "My daddy" and began to cry.

A.J. testified that the victim told her that she was watching television before the incident occurred. As A.J. further testified, the victim told her that the defendant took her into a room, pulled down her lower clothing, laid her back, and "had his fingers down there." A.J. attempted to console the victim, who was crying, and decided to take the victim into her physical custody without her mother's consent. A.J. called the Office of Child Protective Services ("OCS") in Bogalusa and reported B.J.'s disclosure. On August 1, 2016, A.J. brought the victim with her as she moved to Texas.

In August 2016, Captain David Miller of the Bogalusa Police Department received a referral for this case from the OCS in Bogalusa. Captain Miller learned that the victim disclosed to her grandmother that while she was in Bogalusa, in his jurisdiction, she was inappropriately touched by the defendant. After learning that the victim's grandmother had also reported the victim's disclosure to child protective services in Texas, Captain Miller went outside of his jurisdiction to contact Lori Hix, a special investigator of the Department of Family and Protective Services ("DFPS") in Texas.

The victim participated in two recorded interviews in Texas, one on August 5, 2016, by Investigator Hix at the home of one of the victim's relatives, and one on August 11, 2015, by Susan Knobloch at the Children's Advocacy Center ("CAC") in Belton, Texas. On August 18, 2016, Gessica Finley, a pediatric forensic nurse coordinator at the McLane Children's Hospital in Temple, Texas, conducted a medical evaluation and an unrecorded interview of the victim. During the three interviews, the victim identified her father, the defendant, as "Bullet." The victim did not disclose any abuse or inappropriate behavior during the interview with Investigator Hix. However, during the CAC interview, the victim described an incident in which her father digitally penetrated her "tuiee" and her "butt." As indicated in Nurse Finley's notes, the victim made a similar claim during the interview at the McLane Children's Hospital.

The defendant testified at trial and confirmed that in 2014 (while he and the victim's mother, D.J., were still together) there was a time period during which he and the victim spent one or two nights at the home of C.M., the victim's adult sister. However, the defendant repeatedly denied ever sexually abusing or touching the victim inappropriately.

SUFFICIENCY OF THE EVIDENCE

In his second assignment of error, the defendant argues that the State failed to present sufficient evidence to support the jury's verdict. The defendant concedes that the victim was under the age of thirteen at the time of the alleged incident, but argues the State failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he touched the victim in an inappropriate manner. He contends that although the victim testified, she did not remember details or the statements she gave to interviewers, including Ms. Knobloch and Nurse Finley. The defendant notes that there was no physical evidence to prove any form of sexual battery. He further notes that Investigator Hix testified that the victim did not say in her initial interview that the defendant touched her private parts and that the victim's mother denied the victim ever told her the defendant touched her private parts. The defendant contends the victim gave conflicting accounts as to what happened after she told her mother about the allegations. Specifically, the defendant contends the victim testified that her mother did nothing about the allegations, but told interviewers that her mother stabbed the defendant when she found out. The defendant argues that due to the victim's admitted untruths and her grandmother's ability to influence her, the victim's credibility is questionable. Reiterating that the victim made inconsistent statements and the lack of physical evidence in this case, the defendant argues that hearsay testimony was the only evidence that could have convinced the jury beyond a reasonable doubt.

When issues are raised on appeal both as to the sufficiency of the evidence and as to one or more trial errors, the reviewing court should first determine the sufficiency of the evidence. The sufficiency claim is reviewed first because the accused may be entitled to an acquittal under Hudson v. Louisiana, 450 U.S. 40, 101 S. Ct. 970, 67 L.Ed.. 2d 30 (1981), if a rational trier of fact, viewing the evidence in accordance with Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 99 S. Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.. 2d 560 (1979), in the light most favorable to the prosecution, could not reasonably conclude that all of the elements of the offense have been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. State v. Hearold, 603 So. 2d 731, 734 (La. 1992). See also La. C.Cr.P. art. 821(B) ; State v. Ordodi, 2006-0207 (La. 11/29/06), 946 So. 2d 654, 660. When the entirety of the evidence, including inadmissible evidence that was erroneously admitted, is insufficient to support the conviction, the accused must be discharged as to that crime, and any discussion by the court of the trial error issues as to that crime would be pure dicta, since those issues are moot. Hearold, 603 So. 2d at 734.

On the other hand, when the entirety of the evidence, both admissible and inadmissible, is sufficient to support the conviction, the accused is not entitled to an acquittal, and the reviewing court must then consider the assignments of trial error to determine whether the accused is entitled to a new trial. If the reviewing court determines there has been trial error (which was not harmless) in cases in which the entirety of the evidence was sufficient to support the conviction, the accused must receive a new trial but is not entitled to an acquittal even though the admissible evidence, considered alone, was insufficient. Hearold, 603 So. 2d at 734 ; State v. Major, 2019-0621 (La. App. 1st Cir. 11/15/19), 290 So. 3d 1205, 1209, writ denied, 2020-00286 (La. 7/31/20), 300 So. 3d 398.

The Jackson standard of review, incorporated in Article 821, is an objective standard for testing the overall evidence, both direct and circumstantial, for reasonable doubt. State v. Legaux, 2019-0075 (La. App. 1st Cir. 9/27/19), 288 So. 3d 791, 794. When analyzing circumstantial evidence, La. R.S. 15:438 provides that the fact finder, in order to convict, must be satisfied the overall evidence excludes every reasonable hypothesis of innocence. When a case involves...

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  • State v. Cousin
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Louisiana — District of US
    • June 15, 2023
    ... ... [ 9 ] ...          In the ... absence of internal contradiction or irreconcilable conflict ... with the physical evidence, one witness's testimony, if ... believed by the trier of fact, is sufficient to support a ... factual conclusion. State v. Mangrum, 2020-0243 ... (La.App. 1 Cir. 2/22/21), 321 So.3d 986, 992, writ ... denied, 2021-00401 (La. 10/1/21), 324 So.3d 1050 ... Further, if believed, the testimony of the victim alone, with ... no other evidence, is sufficient to prove the elements of the ... offense ... ...
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    ...and their immediate family members by their initials only. See La. R.S. 46:1844(W); State v. Mangrum, 20-0243, p. 2 n.l (La.App. 1st Cir. 2/22/21), 321 So.3d 986, 989 n.l, denied, 21-00401 (La. 10/1/21), 324 So.3d 1050. The defendant was convicted of eight offenses that involve four differe......
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