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A.O. v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Oklahoma

August 8, 2019

A.O., Appellant
v.
THE STATE OF OKLAHOMA, Appellee.

          AN APPEAL FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF MCINTOSH COUNTY, THE HONORABLE DAVID MARTIN, SPECIAL JUDGE

          APPEARANCES AT TRIAL CINDY M. DAWSON ATTORNEY AT LAW, COUNSEL FOR A.O. R. SCOTT FERGUSON ATTORNEY AT LAW COUNSEL FOR A.O. DAVID K. PIERCE MCINTOSH COUNTY ASST. DISTRICT ATTORNEY COUNSEL FOR THE STATE

          APPEARANCES ON APPEAL DANNY JOSEPH APPELLATE DEFENSE COUNSEL, COUNSEL FOR A.O. DAVID K. PIERCE MCINTOSH COUNTY ASST. DISTRICT ATTORNEY COUNSEL FOR THE STATE

          OPINION

          LEWIS, PRESIDING JUDGE

         ¶1 On December 7, 2017, Appellant, A.O., was charged as a juvenile with Sexual Battery, in violation of 21 O.S.Supp.2017, § 1123 (B), in McIntosh County District Court Case No. JDL-2017-29. [1] On February 26, 2018, an Amended Delinquent Petition was filed charging A.O. as a juvenile with Child Sexual Abuse, in violation of 21 O.S.Supp.2014, § 843.5 (E). A non-jury trial was completed on September 25, 2018, and the Honorable David Martin, Special Judge, entered an order adjudicating A.O. a delinquent child pursuant to 10A O.S.Supp.2014, § 2-2-402. A.O. appeals from this order pursuant to 10A O.S.2011, § 2-2-601. On appeal, A.O. raises the following issues:

1. A.O. WAS NEVER INFORMED OF HIS STATUTORY RIGHT TO A JURY TRIAL. THEREFORE, HIS DUE PROCESS RIGHTS WERE VIOLATED WHEN HE WAS ADJUDICATED AT A BENCH TRIAL.
2. THE TEXT, STRUCTURE, AND PURPOSE OF 21 O.S.SUPP.2014, § 843.5 (E) INDICATES THAT ONE CHILD TOUCHING ANOTHER CHILD'S BUTTOCKS OVER HER JEANS IS NOT THE TYPE OF CONDUCT THAT THE LEGISLATURE INTENDED TO CRIMINALIZE AS "CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE."
3. A PROSECUTOR CANNOT GIVE HIS OPINION AS TO THE GUILT OF THE ACCUSED. THEREFORE, A.O.'S DUE PROCESS RIGHTS WERE VIOLATED WHEN THE PROSECUTOR EXPRESSED HIS OPINION AS TO ONE OF THE ELEMENTS OF THE OFFENSE.

         ¶2 Pursuant to Rule 11.2(A) , Rules of the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, Title 22, Ch.18, App. (2019), this appeal was automatically assigned to the Accelerated Docket of this Court. Oral argument was held January 17, 2019, pursuant to Rule 11.2(E). At the conclusion of oral argument, the Court took its decision under advisement. After a review of the record before this Court and hearing oral argument, we find the record does not support A.O.'s Propositions I and III but pursuant to Proposition II, A.O. is entitled to relief.

         ¶3 The District Court order adjudicating A.O. delinquent for Child Sexual Abuse, in violation of 21 O.S.Supp.2014, § 843.5 (E), is REVERSED. This matter is REMANDED to the District Court of McIntosh County for entry of an order MODIFYING A.O.'s adjudication order to reflect that A.O. is adjudicated delinquent for one count of Assault and Battery, in violation of 21 O.S.Supp.2014, § 644, and as so modified, the adjudication is AFFIRMED.

         ¶4 In his first proposition, A.O. argues reversal of his adjudication is required because the record is silent regarding whether he was informed of, or waived, his right to a jury trial. See 10A O.S.2011, § 2-2-401. This Court recently addressed this issue in G.W. v. State and eliminated the requirement that a waiver of the right to a jury trial be made affirmatively in the record. 2018 OK CR 36, ¶ 9, 433 P.3d 1283, 1286. Regardless, the record in this case is clear that A.O. and his guardian were both informed of his right to a jury trial and the right was waived. [2] Proposition I is without merit.

         ¶5 A.O. maintains in Proposition III that he is entitled to relief because the prosecutor allegedly stated his opinion during the non-jury trial that A.O. was guilty. The prosecutor's comment A.O. complains of in this proposition occurred during the State's argument in response to A.O.'s demur to the evidence. [3] A.O. complains of the State's following statement: "And, I mean, again I'm from the Country, but to me that's expressing lust or lewdness." (emphasis added).

         ¶6 A.O. relies on Evans v. State and United States v. Young to support his argument that a prosecutor expressing his opinion that the evidence presented established an element of the crime in this case is plain error and requires reversal. See United States v. Young, 470 U.S. 1, 18--19, 105 S.Ct 1038, 1048, 84 L.Ed.2d 1, 14 (1985); Evans v. State, 1976 OK CR 38, ¶ 3, 546 P.2d 284, 285. The objectionable comments made in both Evans and Young were made by prosecutors to a jury during closing remarks. In this case the comments were made by the State in a non-jury trial during its response to A.O.'s demur. Both Evans and Young indicate that the effect of a prosecutor's allegedly prejudicial comment may be outweighed by the sufficiency of the evidence. Young, 470 U.S. at 18--19; Evans, 1976 OK CR 38, ¶ 3. The evidence in this case was more than sufficient to overcome any concern that Judge Martin's ruling was prejudiced by this remark. It is also important, according to both cases, that the State's comment" but to me that's expressing lust or lewdness" is clearly relying and commenting on the evidence (victim's testimony) presented at this non-jury trial. This comment did not deprive A.O. of a fair trial. See Patton v. State, 1998 OK CR 66, ¶ 126, 973 P.2d 270, 302. A.O.'s third proposition is without merit.

         ¶7 In Proposition II, A.O. objects to the trial court's failure to require the State to prove the elements of the underlying acts constituting Child Sexual Abuse. Appellant argues the State was not required to prove the correct elements. [4] A.O. was tried for one count of Child Sexual Abuse, in violation of 21 O.S.Supp.2014, § 843.5 (E). Section 843.5(E) defines "Child Sexual Abuse" as "willful or malicious sexual abuse, which includes but is not limited to rape, incest, and lewd or indecent acts or proposals, of a child under eighteen (18) years of age by another." Appellee acknowledges that A.O.'s crimes in this case are lewd acts that would normally be prosecuted pursuant to 21 O.S.Supp.2017, § 1123, but for the age limitations found in Section 1123. Section 1123(A) requires an accused to be three years older than the victim of the lewd acts and Section 1123(B) only applies to victims of sexual battery that are sixteen years or older. 21 O.S.Supp.2017, § 1123 (A), (B). According to A.O., the Oklahoma Legislature did not intend Section 843.5(E) to allow prosecutors to circumvent the age restrictions found in Section 1123. We agree.

         ¶8 Judge Martin erred when he did not require the State to prove each element of the underlying crime, including the age requirements, in addition to the elements of 21 O.S.Supp.2014, § 843.5 (E). As a result, the trial court was able to find A.O. guilty of Child Sexual Abuse without properly considering the elements of the underlying lewd acts. A.O. was originally charged with Sexual Battery pursuant to Section 1123(B). By its own admission, the State only pursued adjudication pursuant to Section 843.5(E) after determining it was unable to prove the necessary elements of Subsections A or B of Section 1123 due to A.O.'s and the victim's ages.

         ¶9 We find that in order to convict an individual pursuant to 21 O.S.Supp.2014, § 843.5 (E) the State must prove the elements of the underlying crime beyond a reasonable doubt. To find otherwise would chance rendering Section 843.5(E) unconstitutional for over-breadth and vagueness. Papachristou v. City of Jacksonville, 405 U.S. 156, 162, 92 S.Ct. 839, 843, 31 L.Ed.2d 110 (1972) (a person of ordinary intelligence must have fair notice what conduct is forbidden by a statute); Switzer v. City of Tulsa, 1979 OK CR 73, ¶ 4, 598 P.2d 247, 248.

         ¶10 In Huskey v. State, 1999 OK CR 3, 989 P.2d 1, this Court considered whether the trial court erred by failing to instruct on all of the elements of the underlying sexual abuse crime of Lewd Molestation. [5] The trial court created its own jury instruction in Huskey. It gave an instruction that included the standard OUJI instruction elements for Child Sexual Abuse and for Lewd Molestation, except that the elements of Lewd Molestation were modified by removing one element. [6] On appeal Huskey argued that the trial court erred when it did not instruct on each element of the underlying crime of Lewd Molestation pursuant to 21 O.S.1991, § 1123 (A). This Court denied Huskey's claim determining it was not necessary in a Child Sexual Abuse case to give an instruction including, nor to prove, every element of the underlying crime of Lewd Molestation. Huskey, 1999 OK CR 3, ¶¶ 8--10. To the extent it is inconsistent with this opinion, Huskey is overruled.

         ¶11 The evidence in this case is uncontroverted that A.O. touched the victim without permission. "A battery is any willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon the person of another." 21 O.S.2011, § 642. While the evidence is insufficient to support an adjudication for Child Sexual Abuse, the evidence is more than sufficient to support an adjudication for simple battery. Id.

          DECISION

         ¶12 It is therefore the order of this Court that the McIntosh County District Court order adjudicating A.O. delinquent for Child Sexual Abuse, in violation of 21 O.S.Supp.2014, § 843.5 (E), is REVERSED. This matter is REMANDED to the District Court of McIntosh County for entry of an order modifying A.O.'s adjudication order. The adjudication order shall be MODIFIED to reflect that A.O. is adjudicated delinquent for one count of Assault and Battery, in violation of 21 O.S.2011, § 644. As so modified, the adjudication is AFFIRMED. The child is REMANDED to the jurisdiction of the District Court of McIntosh County for the entry of a disposition order. 10A O.S.Supp.2018, § 2-2-501; 10A O.S.2011, § 2-2-601. Pursuant to Rule 3.15, Rules of the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, Title 22, Ch.18, App. (2019), the MANDATE is ORDERED issued upon the filing of this decision.

          LUMPKIN, J.: ...


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