FROM THE MISSISSIPPI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, CHICKASAWBA
DISTRICT [NO. 47BCR-16-281] HONORABLE RALPH WILSON, JR.,
Richard Rhodes, for appellant.
Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Michael L. Yarbrough, Ass't
Att'y Gen., for appellee.
F. VIRDEN, Judge
Mississippi County jury convicted appellant Willie Antone
Matlock of rape, and he was sentenced to twenty-five
years' imprisonment. Matlock raises three arguments on
appeal: (1) the trial court erred in admitting into evidence
the victim's prior written statement, (2) the trial court
erred in refusing to grant his motion for a continuance
because the victim's statement had not been provided to
the defense through discovery, and (3) the trial court erred
in rejecting a proffered jury instruction on first-degree
sexual assault as a lesser-included offense of rape. We
affirm Matlock's conviction.
Admission of Victim's Prior Written Statement
victim, S.S., is the daughter of Matlock's former
long-term live-in girlfriend. At trial, then twelve-year-old
S.S. testified that after Matlock had broken up with her
mother and moved out of the home, she wrote a letter to her
mother and left it on her mother's dresser. The note
simply read, "I was molested."
argues that the trial court erred in admitting S.S.'s
prior written statement into evidence. Trial courts are
afforded wide discretion in evidentiary rulings. Swanigan
v. State, 2019 Ark.App. 296, 577 S.W.3d 737. We will not
reverse an evidentiary ruling absent an abuse of discretion.
Id. Abuse of discretion is a high threshold that
does not simply require error in the trial court's
decision but requires that the trial court act improvidently,
thoughtlessly, or without due consideration. Id. In
addition, we will not reverse absent a showing of prejudice,
as prejudice is not presumed. Id.
Matlock argues that the trial court erred in admitting
S.S.'s statement because the State failed to establish
the chain of custody. The purpose of establishing a chain of
custody is to prevent the introduction of evidence that is
not authentic. Harris v. State, 322 Ark. 167, 907
S.W.2d 729 (1995). To prove authenticity, the State must
demonstrate a reasonable probability that the evidence has
not been altered in any significant manner. Wilson v.
State, 277 Ark. 43, 639 S.W.2d 45 (1982) (per curiam).
It is not necessary that the State eliminate every
possibility of tampering. Harris, supra.
Minor uncertainties in the proof of chain of custody are
matters to be weighed by the jury and do not render evidence
inadmissible as a matter of law. Id.
to Matlock, there was absolutely no testimony presented as to
what had happened to the note between the time it was
allegedly given to police and when it was admitted into
evidence at trial. He also points out that no law enforcement
officer testified regarding its receipt, review, and storage.
To allow introduction of physical evidence, it is not
necessary that every moment from the time the evidence comes
into the possession of a law enforcement agency until it is
introduced at trial be accounted for by every person who
could have conceivably come in contact with the evidence
during that period. Garner v. State, 355 Ark. 82,
131 S.W.3d 734 (2003). The proof of the chain of custody for
interchangeable items like drugs or blood needs to be more
conclusive. Laswell v. State, 2012 Ark. 201, 404
the note was not an interchangeable item requiring more
conclusive proof. S.S., the author of the note, identified
her own handwriting and said that the State's exhibit
looked "exactly like the note I wrote my mother."
Sunshyne Clay, S.S.'s mother, also identified the note as
the one she had found on her dresser. We cannot say that the
trial court abused its discretion in admitting the note over
defense counsel's objection to lack of authentication and
lack of proof of chain of custody.
contends for the first time on appeal that the victim's
statement could have been manufactured after the allegations
in order to bolster the case given the lack of physical
evidence. He also suggests a motive for fabrication, stating
that Clay was angry at Matlock for breaking up with her and
seeing other women. Because these arguments were not raised
below in connection with the admissibility of the note, we
decline to address them. Threadgill v. State, 347
Ark. 986, 69 S.W.3d 423 (2002). Similarly, Matlock argues
that the trial court erred in admitting S.S.'s note
because it contained inadmissible hearsay. Matlock did not
raise an objection to hearsay below. In order to preserve a
hearsay objection, a defendant must make a timely, specific
objection stating that ground. Winkle v. State, 374
Ark. 128, 286 S.W.3d 147 (2008). Matlock's argument is
not preserved for review.
Denial of Motion for Continuance
standard of review for alleged error resulting from the
denial of a motion for continuance is abuse of discretion.
Green v. State, 2012 Ark. 19, 386 S.W.3d 413. When
evidence is not disclosed pursuant to pretrial discovery
procedures, the burden is on the appellant to establish that
the omission was sufficient to undermine confidence in the
outcome of the trial. Burton v. State, 314 Ark. 317,
862 S.W.2d 252 (1993). The key in determining if a reversible
discovery violation exists is whether ...