ROBBIE L. WARD, APPELLANT
STATE OF ARKANSAS, APPELLEE
APPEAL FROM THE MISSISSIPPI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, CHICKASAWBA DISTRICT. No. CR-2013-8. HONORABLE BARBARA HALSEY, JUDGE.
Charles E. Ellis, for appellant.
Dustin McDaniel, Att'y Gen., by: Jake H. Jones, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.
GLADWIN, C.J., and BROWN, J., agree.
LARRY D. VAUGHT, Judge.
On August 15, 2013, a Mississippi County jury found appellant Robbie Ward guilty of raping a two-year-old girl (TG) and sexual indecency with a five-year-old boy (HB). Ward was sentenced to a total of thirty-six years' imprisonment in the Arkansas Department of Correction. He now appeals arguing that there was insufficient evidence to support his convictions; that all testimony from HB should have been excluded; and that certain statements made by a social worker who testified at trial were inadmissible hearsay. The State responds that the evidence was more than sufficient to support the convictions and that both questionable evidentiary rulings were harmless error, if error at all. We agree and affirm the convictions.
First, in consideration of whether there was substantial evidence to support the rape and sexual-indecency convictions, we view the evidence in the light most favorable to the State and consider only the evidence that supports the verdict. Beaver v. State, 2014 Ark.App. 188, at 1. We will affirm a conviction when there is substantial evidence to support it, and substantial evidence is that which is of sufficient force and character that it will, with reasonable certainty, compel a conclusion without resorting to speculation or conjecture. Id.
A person commits rape if he engages in deviate sexual activity with another person who is less than fourteen years of age. Ark. Code Ann. § 5-14-103(a)(3)(A) (Supp. 2011). " Deviate sexual activity" includes any act of sexual gratification involving the penetration, however slight, of the mouth of a person, by the penis of another person or the labia majora of a person by any body member of another person. Ark. Code Ann. § 5-14-101(1)(A), (B) (Supp. 2011). A jury need not lay aside its common sense in evaluating the ordinary affairs of life, and it may infer a defendant's guilt from improbable explanation of incriminating conduct. Green v. State, 2013 Ark. 497, 430 S.W.3d 729.
The evidence here shows that Mark Griffin, the father of TG, lived with his fiancee, Christie Owens, and her son, HB. Griffin testified on November 15, 2012, he and Owens went to Walmart to cash their paychecks and left their children with Owens's uncle, Donnie Adamson. It is unclear from the record when Adamson left and Ward (apparently a family acquaintance) arrived at the home; but when Griffin and Owens returned, they could locate neither Adamson nor the children. Griffin testified that on investigation, they discovered that the door to his and Owens's bedroom was locked but that he was able to push it open. Griffin testified that when he entered the room, he saw the children essentially naked and Ward " at the end of the bed with his [penis] in his
hand." HB testified that Ward " touched [TG's] privates" with his hands.
TG and HG were taken to the hospital and tested for evidence of rape. Heather Farrell, an expert in forensic serology from the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory (ASCL) testified that the test revealed the presence of semen on an oral swab taken from TG. Morgan Nixon, a DNA expert from the ASCL testified that a ...