APPEAL FROM THE FRANKLIN COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. NO. CR-13-81. HONORABLE WILLIAM PEARSON, JUDGE.
James Law Firm, by: William O. " Bill" James, Jr., for appellant.
Dustin McDaniel, Att'y Gen., by: Rachel Kemp, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.
RHONDA K. WOOD, Associate Justice.
Samuel Hartman appeals his convictions for rape and tampering with physical evidence. He argues that substantial evidence does not support the convictions. He also contends that the circuit court erred when it failed to remove a juror with ties to the rape victim's family and failed to give a lesser-included-offense jury instruction for the rape charge. We affirm on all points except for the tampering-with-physical-evidence conviction, which we reverse and dismiss.
I. Background Facts
Samuel Hartman's stepdaughter, E.R., told her mother that Hartman had touched her genitals. E.R. was nine-years old at the time. Her mother decided to take E.R. to a forensic psychologist for an interview. Hartman found out about the interview and became upset. A fight ensued. E.R. ran to a neighbor's house for help, and the neighbor called the police.
After the police arrived, Hartman agreed to go to the police station for an interview. At the station, Officer Jonathan Little began questioning Hartman and recorded the interview with a small digital-recording device. Hartman eventually admitted that he had touched E.R.'s genitals. Officer Little ended the interview, stopped recording, and stepped out of the room, taking the device with him to allow Hartman to make a phone call in private.
While Hartman was on the phone, Officer Little reentered the room, placed the recording device down, and exited. Officer Little could see Hartman through partially open mini-blinds and observed Hartman standing up near the device's location. After Hartman finished his call, Officer Little came back into his office, turned the recording device off, and took Hartman to jail.
Officer Little later noticed there were too many files on the recording device. Before he interviewed Hartman, there were five files on the device. The interview should have been file six, and Hartman's phone call should have been file seven. Instead, nine files were on the device. After further investigation, Officer Little discovered that his original interview with Hartman was not one of the nine extant files.
The case proceeded to a jury trial. There, E.R. testified that Hartman had penetrated her. Further, Officer Little recounted both Hartman's confession and the events following, including his discovery of the missing and added files to the recording device. At the end of the trial, the jury convicted Hartman of rape and tampering with physical evidence. Hartman was sentenced to life in prison for the rape conviction and six years in prison for the tampering-with-physical-evidence conviction. The court ruled that the sentences would run concurrently.
II. The Rape Conviction
Hartman argues that his rape conviction is not supported by substantial evidence and ...