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Sampson v. State

Supreme Court of Indiana

July 30, 2015

CRAIG SAMPSON, Appellant (Defendant below),
STATE OF INDIANA, Appellee (Plaintiff below)

Appeal from the Warrick Superior Court No. 2, No. 87D02-1201-FC-30. The Honorable Robert R. Aylsworth, Judge. On Petition To Transfer from the Indiana Court of Appeals, No. 87A01-1312-CR-534.

ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: Michael C. Keating, Keating & LaPlante, LLP, Evansville, Indiana.

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: Gregory F. Zoeller, Attorney General of Indiana; Ryan D. Johanningsmeier, Deputy Attorney General; Eric P. Babbs, Deputy Attorney General, Indianapolis, Indiana.

Rush, C.J., Dickson, David and Massa, JJ., concur.


Rucker, Justice.

Craig Sampson appeals his conviction for child molesting contending it must be vacated and this cause remanded for a new trial because, among other things, improper vouching testimony was allowed into evidence. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Facts and Procedural History

S.B. and her family were members of the Tennyson Free Methodist Church in Warrick County where S.B.'s father served as pastor. Craig Sampson--a family friend--was also a member of the church. Over the years that Sampson attended the church, it was not uncommon for S.B. to sit near him during church services, " [s]ometimes next to him and sometimes on his lap." Tr. at 35. S.B.'s entire family sometimes visited the Sampson home and there were also times on the weekends when S.B. visited the home with only Sampson and his wife present. S.B. considered Sampson a " friend" and they would do " a lot of things together." Tr. at 35.

In the spring or summer of 2008 or 2009, when S.B. would have been nine or ten years of age, she visited Sampson's home after church. While Sampson's wife took a nap, fifty-two to fifty-three-year-old Sampson watched television and S.B. sat at a computer playing games. At some point Sampson asked S.B. to get up from the computer so that he could sit down. S.B. then sat on Sampson's lap and asked Sampson to scratch her back in a spot that itched. According to S.B., Sampson began rubbing her back under her shirt and then " slowly moved to the front of [her] body, into [her] pants." Tr. at 49. S.B. testified that Sampson rubbed her stomach and then moved his hands inside her pants and under her underwear. When Sampson touched S.B. in her vaginal area she felt a " tingling sensation." Tr. at 54. At that point S.B. asked Sampson to stop, and " [h]e slowly took his hand out." Tr. at 54. Sampson told S.B. not to tell her parents or he would be in trouble.

S.B. did not tell anyone about the incident until two or three years later. Specifically, during the summer of 2011 S.B. attended a week-long church camp during which she was in a group that discussed sexual purity. Among other things attendees were advised " [i]f someone were to touch you that doesn't make you feel comfortable then you need to tell someone because it's illegal." Tr. at 56. S.B. then told her parents about the incident involving Sampson who in turn contacted the authorities. An investigation ensued. After obtaining preliminary information an officer from the Warrick County Sheriff's Office referred S.B. and her parents to " Holly's House" in Evansville, which was described as a " child and adult advocacy center . . . an interview location and a resource location for alleged victims and of [sic] victims of intimate crimes." Tr. at 111. Jenny Wood, the former associate director and child forensic interviewer at Holly's House conducted a forensic interview[1] of S.B., during which S.B. recounted the incident with Sampson.

On January 21, 2012 the State charged Sampson with child molesting as a class C felony. A jury trial began on November 26, 2012 but ended when the trial court declared a mistrial after the jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict. A second jury trial began on October 21, 2013. Over Sampson's objection Wood was allowed to provide testimony concerning Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation Syndrome.[2] Without objection, Wood also testified she was trained to detect signs of coaching during a forensic interview and that she did not observe any signs that S.B. had been coached. S.B. also testified; and over Sampson's objection she responded to the State's inquiry of how the incident with Sampson affected her, which Sampson characterized as impermissible victim impact testimony. The jury returned a verdict against Sampson of guilty as charged. The trial court thereafter sentenced him to four years imprisonment, with one year executed at the Warrick County Security Center and three years suspended to probation.

Sampson appealed contending: (1) the trial court erred in admitting evidence concerning Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation Syndrome; (2) admission of testimony that the interviewer did not observe signs of coaching was fundamental error; and (3) the trial court erred in allowing alleged victim impact testimony. In a memorandum decision the Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the trial court concluding that with respect to issues one and three error if any was harmless. And as for issue two there was no error, let alone fundamental error. See Sampson v. State, No. 87A01-1312-CR-354, (Ind.Ct.App. Aug. 18, 2014), vacated. We previously granted transfer to explore issue number two. In all other respects we summarily affirm the decision of the Court of Appeals. See Ind.App. R. 58(A)(2). Additional facts are set forth below.


During direct examination the exchange between the State and witness ...

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