FROM THE MISSISSIPPI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, CHICKASAWBA
DISTRICT [NO. 47BCR-17-64] HONORABLE CHARLES BRENT DAVIS,
Dunagin, for appellant.
Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Pamela Rumpz, Ass't
Att'y Gen., for appellee.
J. GLADWIN, JUDGE
Duan Jamal Harris appeals his convictions of attempted rape
and second-degree battery, for which he received consecutive
sentences totaling 744 months in the Arkansas Department of
Correction (ADC). He argues that evidence of swabs contained
in a sexual-assault kit were admitted improperly at trial
both (1) in violation of the Confrontation Clause and (2)
without a proper chain of custody. We affirm.
January 8, 2018, appellant was charged with rape in violation
of Arkansas Code Annotated section 5-14-103 (Supp. 2017) and
battery in the second degree in violation of Arkansas Code
Annotated section 5-13-202 (Supp. 2017). The State also
alleged that appellant was subject to an enhanced punishment
pursuant to Arkansas Code Annotated section 5-4-501(c)(2)
(Supp. 2017). He was accused of striking Kenneshia Wilson,
then choking and attempting to rape her.
trial, Wilson testified that other than a brief conversation
with appellant at the library and seeing him walk down the
street, she had no relationship with him. She testified that
on October 1, 2016, appellant entered her home and began
physically assaulting her, including smashing her head into
the refrigerator and repeatedly punching her in the face.
Wilson stated that she tried to escape but that appellant
prohibited her from leaving, dragging her away from the
window by her hair. She testified that he attempted to have
sex with her but was unable to obtain an erection. Wilson
testified that she received a final blow to her forehead from
appellant and lost consciousness.
of a sexual-assault kit taken in this case, Amanda Frost took
rectal, vaginal, and oral swabs from Wilson. Frost allegedly
labeled the swabs and placed them in the sexual-assault kit,
and the swabs subsequently were tested by the Arkansas State
Crime Lab. Ultimately, the DNA on the rectal swab taken from
the victim was matched to appellant within scientific
State attempted to introduce the swabs without calling Frost
to testify, and appellant objected. Appellant asserted that
the swab labels were hearsay and testimonial in nature, which
entitled him to confront the witness who had taken and
labeled the swabs before they could be admitted into
evidence. He also objected on chain-of-custody grounds. The
circuit court denied the motion, stating that it would permit
testimony on the items in question and that "their
admissibility would be determined later." When appellant
renewed his motion, the circuit court ruled that the labels
were not testimonial in nature and allowed admission of the
swabs contained in the sexual-assault kit without testimony
evidence in question was introduced, and the jury found
appellant guilty of attempted rape and battery in the second
degree. Appellant was sentenced pursuant to a sentencing
order filed on January 22, 2018, to fifty years for attempted
rape and twelve years for battery in the second degree, all
time to be served consecutively, along with fines. He timely
filed a notice of appeal on February 12, 2018.
Standard of Review
courts have broad discretion in deciding evidentiary issues,
and their rulings on the admissibility of evidence are not
reversed on appeal absent an abuse of discretion.
Brigance v. State, 2018 Ark.App. 213, 548 S.W.3d
147. A de novo standard of review is applied to questions of