APPEAL FROM THE PULASKI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, FOURTH DIVISION [NO. 60 CR-2014-1732] HONORABLE HERBERT THOMAS WRIGHT, JUDGE
James Law Firm, by: William O. "Bill" James, Jr., for appellant.
Leslie Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Ashley Priest, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.
ROBERT J. GLADWIN, Chief Judge
James England appeals his conviction of rape and incest, arguing that the Pulaski County Circuit Court committed reversible error by permitting the State to introduce testimony and evidence of his alleged suicide attempt. We affirm.
England was charged by felony information on December 19, 2012, with rape and two counts of incest based on the allegations of his two stepdaughters. It was alleged that these acts occurred between January 1, 2009, and August 31, 2011, during which time one stepdaughter was under the age of eighteen. On May 4, 2015, England filed a motion-in-limine seeking, among other things, a prohibition on the State from introducing any testimony regarding a photograph of him with what appeared to be a noose around his neck, the photograph itself, and any evidence of suicidal ideations or attempts by him.
In response to the motion, the State argued that it expected to present testimony that England was manipulative and controlling. England's stepdaughter, Samantha Barnes, was expected to testify that England had texted her the picture of himself with a noose around his neck and that England said that he intended to kill himself after she moved out of his residence. The State argued that this was relevant because each victim had delayed in reporting the sexual activities that took place because of the threats, manipulation, and intimidation by England.
At the pretrial hearing on England's motion, the trial court ruled that the photograph of England with the noose around his neck was inadmissible unless the defense "opens the door." However, any of the statements that England had made to the victims were "fair game."
Lindsay Bean, born January 4, 1992, testified at trial that England was her stepfather, her mother, Peggy Stane, married England when she was six years old, and they had divorced in January 2015. She said that during the time her mother was married to England, he was like a father to her and her siblings Kelly Lovell, Samantha Barnes, and Brent England, who was the only biological child of England and Peggy. She said that England was the disciplinarian and controlled what she did at school and on weekends. She said that when she turned seventeen, she traveled with him in his semi-trailer to haul cows out of town. She testified as follows:
At that time we were in the sleeper and he got on top of me, and he tried to do things with me and I said no. I asked him to get off me, and he stopped. We got in the cab of the truck. We started driving again, I don't know how long after that but we stopped again on the same day and he laid down. We laid down again and he got on top of me. And that's when he pushed my panties aside and he penetrated me. It wasn't very long, and he got up, and I didn't really realize what was happening until I felt blood putting my clothes back on.
Lindsay testified that she had sexual intercourse with England about 400 times. She said that if she did not do what he asked, he would be in a bad mood. She stated that there were a lot of times "we didn't say no, " so she did not know what he would have done if she had refused him, but she claimed that it was just the thought of what he would do or how he would act that propelled her to allow it.
Peggy Stane testified that she had been married to England, and her daughters were his victims. She testified about England's work history and said that the girls "went on the road with him" when he drove his truck, sometimes together and sometimes individually. Peggy said that Lindsay told her that England had been having sex with her but that she did not want to believe it. She asked Samantha if anything ever happened between her and England, and Samantha denied it at first, but she later told Peggy that it had happened. Peggy said that, at the girls' request, she did not contact police. She said that when she finally confronted England, he denied it, but then said, "It wasn't my fault. They initiated it." She stated that England had a temper and that he became very controlling and then fervently abusive during their marriage. She claimed that he had threatened to commit suicide more than once.
Samantha testified that she was born on August 22, 1985, and that her mother Peggy had been married to England. She said that England was the disciplinarian and had set the rules. She said that England treated her as a wife, and the sexual relationship between them started in 2001 just after she turned sixteen, and that it continued until August 2011. She said that she was the caretaker for England's mother, who moved in with them in 2007 and died in 2010. Therefore, during 2009 and 2010, Samantha primarily took care ...