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Case Number: 01-17-00418-CR
Judge: Terry Jennings
Court: Court of Appeals For The First District of Texas
Plaintiff's Attorney: Daniel C. McCrory
The Honorable Kim K Ogg
Melissa H. Stryker
Defendant's Attorney: Scott Christopher Pope
Description: M.P., the complainant, testified that appellant, who was dating her mother,
would watch her and her younger siblings while her mother worked at night. Over
the course of a year, when she was nine or ten years old, he, on numerous
occasions, made her “have sex with him,” penetrating her vagina with his penis.
Although the complainant could not remember the exact number of times that
appellant did this, she knew it was “definitely more” than five and “likely more”
than fifteen times. The complainant explained that she did not tell her mother
about the abuse until she was thirteen years old, at which point her mother took her
to file a report with law enforcement authorities and then for a physical exam by a
Anna Guerrero, the complainant’s mother, testified that the complainant was
born on May 13, 2000. She began a relationship with appellant several months
before her son was born on March 13, 2011, when the complainant was ten years
old. While she worked overnight at a “taco truck,” appellant would frequently stay
at her apartment to watch her children. When her son was a few months old,
2 See TEX. PENAL CODE ANN. § 21.021 (Vernon Supp. 2017).
Guerrero stopped asking appellant to watch her children at night because the
complainant told her that he “was knocking on the door” while Guerrero was gone
on occasions where she had not asked him to watch her children.
Guerrero further testified that, while she dated appellant, she noticed that the
complainant “became very reserved” and “isolated.” As time went on, she would
not let her mother hug her and did not “want anyone to get near her.” She refused
to bathe with her brothers as she had done in the past. And she “became
disobedient,” did not want to go to school, and would “leave with her friends”
When the complainant was thirteen years old, Guerrero asked her “if
something had happened to her.” The complainant told Guerrero that appellant,
between May 2010 and May 2011 “when she was ten years old,” had “sexually
abused her” “several times” while Guerrero was at work. After the complainant
told Guerrero about the abuse, they went to a police station to report appellant’s
conduct to law enforcement authorities.
Sergeant M. Suarez, a child abuse investigator with the Houston Police
Department, testified that, in March 2014, she was assigned to the complainant’s
case. The complainant, who was then thirteen years old, told Suarez that appellant
had sexually abused her. Suarez referred the complainant for a medical assessment
and continued to investigate the allegations against appellant. In October 2015,
Suarez interviewed appellant, and he admitted to having had “sexual relations”
with the complainant by penetrating her vagina with his penis on three separate
occasions while she was under the age of fourteen years.
Dr. Rohit Shenoi, an emergency medicine physician with Texas Children’s
Hospital, testified that, on June 17, 2014, he performed a sexual abuse assessment
examination of the complainant, who was fourteen years old at the time. As part of
his assessment, Shenoi asked the complainant a series of open-ended questions.
She answered “yes” when he asked her if anyone had touched “a part of [her] body
that [she] did not want to be touched.” She then said that appellant had touched
her “breast, . . . lips, . . . vagina, and . . . butt.” And she explained that he used his
“penis” to touch her “vagina” and his hands to touch her “breast and bottom.”
When Shenoi asked how often appellant had touched her, the complainant
responded that “he touched [her] every Saturday” for “one and a half years,” and
on “alternate weeks” thereafter. Shenoi further explained that although his
“physical exam and [an] ano-genital exam” of the complainant revealed “no
bod[il]y or genital injuries seen,” this was not inconsistent with her allegations
because the abuse had occurred several years before the exam. Thus, any injuries
that she may have suffered would likely have healed by the time of the exam.
Appellant testified that he met Guerrero through a mutual friend, and that
they were in an on-and-off relationship for approximately one year. During that
time, she asked him for financial assistance and to watch her children while she
worked. Appellant stated that he watched Guerrero’s children for her
approximately 15 times and never sexually abused the complainant. About four
years after appellant had stopped dating Guerrero, he received a telephone call
from Sergeant Suarez, who asked him to meet her at a police station for an
interview. During the interview, she asked about his relationships with Guerrero
and the complainant. Appellant explained that he initially denied engaging in
sexual relations with the complainant, but later admitted to doing so because he
“felt pressured.” He also testified that he was born in 1985; therefore, he was older
than seventeen years at the time of the abuse.
In his first issue, appellant argues that the trial court erred in denying his
request for the jury to be charged on the lesser-included offense of aggravated
sexual assault because “[a]t trial, there were various accounts of how many times
[he] and [the complainant] had sex.”
We review a trial court’s decision not to submit a lesser-included offense
instruction for an abuse of discretion. Jackson v. State, 160 S.W.3d 568, 574–75
(Tex. Crim. App. 2005); Threadgill v. State, 146 S.W.3d 654, 665–66 (Tex. Crim.
App. 2004). And courts use a two-step analysis to determine whether a defendant
is entitled to a lesser-included offense instruction. Hall v. State, 225 S.W.3d 524,
528, 535–36 (Tex. Crim. App. 2007); Rousseau v. State, 855 S.W.2d 666, 672–73
(Tex. Crim. App. 1993).
First, we determine whether the requested offense is a lesser-included
offense by comparing the elements of the two offenses. Hall, 225 S.W.3d at 535–
36; Young v. State, 428 S.W.3d 172, 175–76 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.]
2014, pet. ref’d). Second, we determine whether some evidence exists in the
record that would permit a rational jury to find that the defendant is guilty only of
the lesser offense, if he is guilty at all. Hall, 225 S.W.3d at 536; Salinas v. State,
163 S.W.3d 734, 741 (Tex. Crim. App. 2005); Rousseau, 855 S.W.2d at 672–73;
Young, 428 S.W.3d at 176. There must be some evidence from which a rational
jury could acquit the defendant of the greater offense, while convicting him of the
lesser-included offense. Salinas, 163 S.W.3d at 741; Moore v. State, 969 S.W.2d
4, 8 (Tex. Crim. App. 1998). We review all evidence presented at trial to make this
determination. Rousseau, 855 S.W.2d at 673. And we may not consider whether
the evidence is credible, controverted, or in conflict with other evidence. Moore,
969 S.W.2d at 8. Anything more than a scintilla of evidence entitles a defendant to
an instruction on the lesser-included offense. Hall, 225 S.W.3d at 536.
Because the State concedes that aggravated sexual assault is a lesser
included offense of continuous sexual abuse of a young child, as charged, we need
only determine whether the evidence would allow a rational jury to find that
appellant was guilty only of the lesser offense of aggravated sexual assault. See
TEX. CODE CRIM. PROC. ANN. art. 37.09 (Vernon 2006); see also TEX. PENAL CODE
ANN. §§ 21.02(b) (Vernon Supp. 2017) (continuous sexual abuse of a young child),
21.02(c)(4) (aggravated sexual assault is “sexual abuse” for purposes of
§21.02(b)), 22.021 (Vernon Supp. 2017) (aggravated sexual assault).
Appellant argues that “there was not necessarily sufficient credible evidence
that he assaulted [the complainant] multiple times,” and, therefore, the jury could
have believed that he committed the offense of aggravated sexual assault, but not
continuous sexual abuse of a minor. However, the State presented evidence that
appellant, over the course of a year, had several sexual encounters with the
complainant while she was under the age of fourteen. Although she was not able
to specifically recount each incident, she unequivocally stated that appellant had
forcefully used his penis to penetrate her vagina regularly over the course of a year
while her mother was at work. And although she could not remember the exact
number of times he had abused her, she knew he had done so “definitely more”
than five and “likely more” than fifteen times. Further, Sergeant Suarez testified
that appellant had admitted to her that he had penetrated the complainant’s vagina
with his penis on three separate occasions while she was younger than the age of
fourteen years. Appellant, on the other hand, maintained at trial that he was not
guilty and had never sexually abused the complainant. He testified that he only
admitted to having had sexual contact with the complainant during the interview
with Suarez because he felt pressured to do so.
We conclude that there is no evidence that appellant is guilty, if at all, only
of the offense of aggravated sexual assault. Appellant’s entire argument is based
on his assertion that the jury could have disbelieved the complainant’s testimony
that he assaulted her on more than one occasion. However, it “is not enough that
the jury may disbelieve crucial evidence pertaining to the greater offense. Rather,
there must be some evidence directly germane to a lesser-included offense for the
factfinder to consider before an instruction on a lesser-included offense is
warranted.” Skinner v. State, 956 S.W.2d 532, 543 (Tex. Crim. App. 1997). Here,
there is no evidence in the record that appellant sexually assaulted the complainant
only once. His own testimony at trial was that he had never sexually abused the
complainant, even though he previously admitted to Sargent Suarez that he had
sexual intercourse with the complainant three times. And a “defendant’s own
testimony that he committed no offense, or testimony which otherwise shows that
no offense occurred at all, is not adequate to raise the issue of a lesser-included
offense.” Lofton v. State, 45 S.W.3d 649, 652 (Tex. Crim. App. 2001).
Accordingly, we hold that the trial court did not err in denying appellant’s request
for a jury instruction on the lesser-included offense of aggravated sexual assault.
We overrule appellant’s first issue.
In his second issue, appellant argues that the trial court erred in instructing
the jury about the date of the offense because the jurors in “their deliberations were
not bound to any specific time period”; in defining the word “child” as a person
under seventeen years of age because the statute required the complainant to be
under the age of fourteen years; and in not requiring the jury to unanimously agree
that the complainant was under the age of fourteen years when at least two of the
alleged incidents of sexual conduct occurred because this lessened the State’s
burden of proof and deprived him of his right to a unanimous jury finding.
We review complaints of jury-charge error under a two-step process,
considering first whether error exists. Wooten v. State, 400 S.W.3d 601, 606 (Tex.
Crim. App. 2013); Ngo v. State, 175 S.W.3d 738, 743–44 (Tex. Crim. App. 2005).
If error does exist, we then review the record to determine whether the error caused
sufficient harm to require reversal. Wooten, 400 S.W.3d at 606. If the defendant
preserved error by timely objecting to the charge, an appellate court will reverse if
the defendant demonstrates that he suffered some harm as a result of the error.
Sakil v. State, 287 S.W.3d 23, 25–26 (Tex. Crim. App. 2009). If the defendant did
not object at trial, we will reverse only if the error was so egregious and created
such harm that the defendant did not receive a fair and impartial trial. Id. at 26.
Appellant first complains about the following jury instruction:
You are further instructed that the State is not bound by the specific date which the offense, if any, is alleged in the indictment to have been committed, but that a conviction may be had upon proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the offense, if any, was committed at any time within the period of limitations. There is no limitation period applicable to the offense of continuous sexual abuse of a young child.
You are further instructed that in deciding whether the defendant is guilty of the offense of continuous sexual abuse of a young child, you are not to consider any conduct that occurred before September 1, 2007.
Appellant argues that the above jury instruction is erroneous because it did not
“bind” the jurors to “any specific time period” so that they were allowed to
consider a “broader chronological perimeter” than is permissible by the statute
under which he was convicted. In support of his argument, appellant relies on
Mendoza v. State, No. 14-15-00537-CR, 2016 WL 3341107, at *5 (Tex. App.—
Houston [14th Dist.] June 14, 2016, no pet.) (mem. op., not designated for
publication). However, the court’s holding in Mendoza was based on the fact that
the complained-of jury instruction authorized the jury to convict the defendant for
conduct occurring before the effective date of the statute, which was September 1,
2007. 2016 WL 3341107, at *1 (explaining abuse alleged in indictment occurred
between June 2, 2007 and March 2, 2008, but defendant could only be convicted
for abuse occurring after September 1, 2007).
Here, appellant was convicted for abuse that occurred after he began dating
Guerrero in 2011. None of the abuse alleged in the indictment occurred before
September 1, 2007, the effective date of the statute. Further, the instruction about
which appellant complains explicitly prohibited the jury from considering conduct
before September 1, 2007. The charge also did not permit the jury to consider acts
that had occurred after the complainant’s fourteenth birthday. The trial court
specifically instructed the jury that the offense of sexual abuse of a young child
requires that the complainant be younger than fourteen years of age. Additionally,
the evidence established that the complainant in this case was younger than
fourteen years old during the timeframe of the abuse. Accordingly, we hold that
the trial court did not err in instructing the jury about the dates of the offense.
Appellant next complains that the trial court included in its charge a
definition of “child” as “a person younger than seventeen years of age.” However,
this instruction tracks the statutory language for the offense of continuous sexual
abuse of a young child, which contains both the statutory definition of “child” and
the requirement that the complainant be a “child younger than 14 years of age” for
conviction. See TEX. PENAL CODE ANN. § 21.02(a) (“child” has the same meaning
as set forth in section 22.011(c)), (b)(2) (requiring complainant to be younger than
fourteen years of age for conviction under statute). And, as appellant admits, the
instruction does specifically state that the complainant had to be younger than
fourteen years old for conviction. Accordingly, we hold that the trial court did not
err in including in its charge a definition of “child” as “a person younger than
seventeen years of age.”
Finally, appellant complains that the “application paragraph” of the trial
court’s charge “did not instruct jurors that they must find beyond a reasonable
doubt” that the complainant was under fourteen years of age. However, the trial
court, in several places in its charge, did instruct the jury that the offense of
continuous sexual abuse of a young child requires proof of “two or more acts of
sexual abuse” committed against a “child younger than 14 years of age.” It further
instructed the jury that to convict appellant of the offense, the jury had to
“unanimously” agree upon a verdict. Moreover, it instructed the jury that the
State had to prove “each and every element of the offense charged beyond a
reasonable doubt” and if the State failed to do so, then the jury had to elect to
“acquit” appellant of the offense. Accordingly, we hold that the trial court did not
err in instructing the jury as it did in the application paragraph of its charge.
We overrule appellant’s second issue.
Outcome: We affirm the judgment of the trial court.