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Wilson v. State

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division IV

June 20, 2018



          Robert M. "Robby" Golden, for appellant.

          Gladwin and Whiteaker, JJ., agree.


          DAVID M. GLOVER, Judge

         Fredrick Leon Wilson was convicted by a Pulaski County Circuit Court jury of one count of sexual assault in the second degree and sentenced to 144 months in the Arkansas Department of Correction. Pursuant to Anders v. California, 386 U.S. 738 (1967), and Rule 4-3(k) of the Rules of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals, Wilson's counsel has filed a motion to withdraw on the ground this appeal is wholly without merit.[1] The motion is accompanied by an abstract and addendum of the proceedings below, addressing all objections and motions decided adversely to Wilson, and a brief in which Wilson's counsel explains why there is nothing in the record that would support an appeal. The clerk of this court provided Wilson with a copy of his counsel's brief and notified him of his right to file a pro se statement of points for reversal. He has submitted no points. We affirm Wilson's conviction and grant his counsel's motion to withdraw.

         Sufficiency of the Evidence

         At the close of the State's case, Wilson moved for a directed verdict; he renewed the motion at the close of all the evidence. In his initial motion, Wilson argued the victim, M.L., was lying about what had occurred because she had told different stories about how the sexual contact occurred; the motion was denied. Wilson renewed his motion at the close of all the evidence; that motion was also denied.

         A directed-verdict motion is a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence. Holland v. State, 2017 Ark.App. 49, 510 S.W.3d 311. Our test for determining the sufficiency of the evidence is whether the verdict is supported by substantial evidence, direct or circumstantial. Wells v. State, 2017 Ark.App. 174, 518 S.W.3d 106. Evidence is substantial if it is of sufficient force and character to compel reasonable minds to reach a conclusion and pass beyond suspicion and conjecture. Id. Circumstantial evidence may constitute substantial evidence to support a conviction if it excludes every other reasonable hypothesis other than the guilt of the accused; that determination is a question of fact for the finder of fact. Holland, supra. On appeal, the evidence is viewed in the light most favorable to the State, and only the evidence supporting the verdict is considered. Wells, supra. Weighing the evidence, reconciling conflicts in testimony, and assessing credibility are all matters exclusively for the trier of fact. Holland, supra.

         A person commits sexual assault in the second degree if the person, being eighteen years of age or older, engages in sexual contact with another person who is less than fourteen years old and not the person's spouse. Ark. Code Ann. § 5-14-125(a)(3) (Repl. 2013). "Sexual contact" is defined as any act of sexual gratification involving the touching, directly or through clothing, of the sex organs, buttocks, or anus of a person or the breast of a female. Ark. Code Ann. § 5-14-101(10). "Sexual gratification" is not defined in the statute, but our appellate courts have construed the words in accordance with their reasonable and commonly accepted meanings. Chawangkul v. State, 2016 Ark.App. 599, 509 S.W.3d 10. A sexual-assault victim's testimony may constitute substantial evidence to sustain a conviction for sexual assault. Id. The victim's testimony need not be corroborated; the victim's testimony alone, describing the sexual contact, is enough for a conviction. Id.

         Thirteen-year-old M.L. testified that on the day of the incident, Wilson, M.L.'s mother's cousin, was babysitting M.L. and her siblings. She, her brother, her sisters, and Wilson were wrestling and playing the "wedgie" game; Wilson asked her brother and sisters to leave the room; he turned the lights off; and he tried to put his penis in her butt. M.L. stated she was clothed but Wilson pulled her pants and underwear down; his penis was on the outside of his clothes and it was "standing up"; and he put his "wiener" in her butt. On cross-examination, M.L. said she told the prosecutor Wilson had put his penis in her vagina but earlier told the police detective Wilson had put his penis in her butt, not her vagina. M.L. also testified she told her father that Wilson had put his penis inside her, removed it, and rubbed it on her vagina.

         Thus, M.L. testified to several different ways the sexual contact had occurred, but they all involved sexual contact, and any discrepancies were to be resolved by the finder of fact. Because M.L.'s testimony, without more, is sufficient to sustain a conviction, the circuit court did not err in denying Wilson's directed-verdict motions.

         Other Adverse Rulings

         The State made three objections during Wilson's voir dire of potential jurors on the basis Wilson was attempting to "fact qualify" the jury. The circuit court sustained the State's objections. Rule 32.2 of the Arkansas Rules of Criminal Procedure provides that during voir dire, the circuit court may question prospective jurors regarding matters bearing on their qualifications to serve as jurors, as well as permit additional questions it deems reasonable and proper by the defendant or his attorney and the prosecuting attorney. The extent and scope of voir dire is within the sound discretion of the circuit court; any restriction of voir dire examination will not be reversed on appeal unless the circuit court abuses its discretion. Hughes v. State, 98 Ark.App. 375, 255 S.W.3d 891 (2007). With the wide discretion given to the circuit court in conducting voir dire, we cannot say the circuit court abused its discretion.

         There were numerous evidentiary rulings adverse to Wilson during the testimony of the witnesses that can be grouped into seven categories: speculation, hearsay, expert-witness testimony, asking leading questions of a young sex-abuse victim, attacking a witness's credibility with specific instances of conduct involving truthfulness, impeaching a witness's testimony with evidence of convictions of crimes, and the circuit court's control over interrogation of witnesses and presentation of evidence in its courtroom. ...

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