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Watson v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

October 22, 2019

Jessie L. Watson, Appellant-Defendant,
State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff.

          Appeal from the Allen Superior Court No. 02D05-1711-F1-19. The Honorable Frances C. Gull, Judge.

          Attorney for Appellant Randall J. Hammond Fort Wayne, Indiana

          Attorneys for Appellee Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana George P. Sherman Supervising Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana

          ALTICE, JUDGE.

         Case Summary

         [¶1] A jury found Jessie Watson guilty of Level 1 felony child molesting, Level 4 felony child molesting, and Level 4 felony incest, when the evidence established that he had committed various acts of child molesting against his eleven-year-old-daughter, T.R. Watson appeals his convictions, claiming that the trial court erred in excluding evidence of various internet searches, thus violating his right to cross-examine a witness. Watson also alleges that the trial court improperly permitted T.R. to testify that she was telling the truth about statements that she made to a forensic interviewer and an examining nurse after the incidents. As a result, Watson contends that the State improperly vouched for T.R.'s testimony and bolstered the testimony of the nurse and interviewer.

         [¶2] We affirm.

         Facts & Procedural History

         [¶3] Mary and Jessie Watson were married in 2001, and T.R. was born in 2005. Watson is T.R.'s biological father, but Mary not her biological mother. Watson and Mary separated in July of 2016, and T.R. continued to live with Watson in Allen County. T.R., however, still regularly visited and communicated with Mary. Sometime after Mary had moved from the residence, Watson told T.R. that some visitors would be stopping by in the evening. Watson told T.R. to undress, wrap herself in a towel, and place a white and blue sleeping mask over her eyes so she could not see the visitors.

         [¶4] Watson made T.R. wait in a back bedroom. At some point, T.R. felt hands touch her "[a]ll over," including her "private areas" and chest. Transcript Vol. II at 129. T.R. also felt something "kind of floppy" on her face that eventually entered her mouth. T.R. tried to resist but was unsuccessful. T.R. then felt "something come out" of the object in her mouth, and she spit out the substance. Id. at 129-30.

         [¶5] Shortly after this incident, Watson told T.R. to remove the mask because the visitor had left. Watson then directed T.R. to rinse her mouth and brush her teeth. Similar episodes occurred on other occasions. During the final incident, T.R. positioned the mask in such a way that she could see the "visitor." T.R. recognized Watson and his cologne, which T.R. identified as the same smell that was present when the "visitors" had previously been at the residence.

         [¶6] T.R. told Mary what had occurred and showed her the sleeping mask that Watson kept in his bedroom. Mary contacted the police and an officer stopped by the house. T.R., however, would not tell the officer what had occurred because Watson had told her not to, and T.R. was afraid that she would no longer be able to see Mary if she disobeyed Watson.

         [¶7] On October 27, 2016, Watson called T.R. and told her that another visitor would be arriving later that evening. In response, T.R. called Mary and arrangements were made for T.R.'s aunt to stop by the residence and pick up T.R. T.R. packed her belongings along with Watson's sleeping mask and waited outside for her aunt. T.R.'s aunt picked up T.R. and drove to T.R.'s grandparents' home where the police were contacted. T.R. had placed the sleeping mask on a table at her grandparents' house.

         [¶8] Watson appeared at the grandparents' home, saw the mask, and told them that they should have called him instead of the police. Watson then grabbed the mask and left. Thereafter, T.R. was transported to the Bill Lewis Center for Children (Lewis Center), where she spoke with Sara Drury, a forensic interviewer. T.R. admitted to Drury that Watson had sexually abused her and provided details about the incidents. T.R. was then examined by nurse Leslie Cook, where she also recounted to Cook what had occurred. T.R. told Cook that Watson was responsible for the molestations.

         [¶9] The State charged Watson with two counts of felony child molesting, and one count of incest, alleging that the offenses had occurred "[s]ometime during the period of time between the 20th day of July, 2016, and the 25th day of October, 2016[.]" Appellant's Appendix at 17. Watson requested a jury trial and the day before trial, Watson's defense counsel informed the trial court that Watson wished to offer evidence concerning various internet searches of a sexual nature that were made on a tablet between July 29, 2016, and October 12, 2016. These searches included "sex games," "daddy sleeping with daughter," and "f_ _ king games." Transcript Vol. III at 33-34. In response, the State argued that the evidence was inadmissible under Indiana Evid. Rule 412 because the evidence that Watson sought to admit involved T.R.'s prior sexual behavior and/or sexual predisposition. The State also asserted that Watson had failed to provide proper notice under Indiana Evid. Rule 403(c) that he intended to offer such evidence, and it was not established who had ...

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