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State v. Chesteen

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

August 29, 2014

STATE OF TENNESSEE
v.
JAMES CHESTEEN

Assigned on Briefs October 1, 2013

Direct Appeal from the Criminal Court for Shelby County No. 11-01798 W. Mark Ward, Judge

Stephen Bush (at trial and on appeal), Harry E. Sayle, III (on appeal), and Brent Walker and Donna Armstard (at trial), Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, James Chesteen.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Jeffrey D. Zentner, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Terre Fratesi, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Norma McGee Ogle, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Joseph M. Tipton, P.J., and Jerry L. Smith, J., joined.

OPINION

NORMA McGEE OGLE, JUDGE

I. Factual Background

The appellant was charged with rape of a child, specifically B.J., who was his girlfriend's daughter.[1] At trial, the victim's stepfather, Eric Logan, testified that he lived in Horn Lake, Mississippi, with the victim and his two biological daughters, whose mother was the victim's mother. When the victim was one year old, Logan went on a date with the victim's mother. Upon hearing about the date, the victim's biological father called and told them "to come pick her up and she would be in her car seat on the side of the road." Logan did so, and since then, he had loved and cared for the victim as if she were his biological daughter and referred to her as his daughter. Logan and the victim's mother were married at the time of trial, but they did not reside together.

Logan said that in 2009, he pled guilty to misdemeanor theft and spent two weeks in jail. After his release, he returned to the residence he had shared with the victim's mother, the victim, and his two daughters; however, no one was in the residence, and all of the clothes and furniture were gone. Later, he learned that the three children and the victim's mother were living with the appellant on Morningside in the Frayser area of Memphis.

Logan stated that the three children spent Memorial Day 2010 with him. To celebrate, he cooked twenty pounds of chicken, pork, and beef. The children displayed an unusually large appetite and completely consumed the food within two days. Logan noticed that the victim seemed "like she had a lost soul" and that "[h]er eyes looked blank."

Logan stated that after Memorial Day, he visited the appellant's residence to get the children's clothes; however, he was unable to salvage any of the children's belongings because of the deplorable state of the home. He noticed that there was very little food in the house to feed the children. Thereafter, Logan filed a complaint with the Department of Children's Services (DCS) regarding the conditions of the home, and he obtained "physical and legal custody" of all three children.

Logan said that on June 27, 2010, he was outside smoking a cigarette when the victim approached him and said, "[D]addy, I have something to tell you." After that conversation, Logan filed a police report accusing the appellant of molesting the victim. Subsequently, Logan took the victim to the Child Advocacy Center for a medical examination and a forensic interview. The victim was also interviewed by the police and by DCS social workers.

Logan stated that the victim had to repeat the third grade because of poor attendance. At the time of trial, her school work and attendance had improved vastly. The victim was seeing a therapist and a psychiatrist, and she was taking Adderall to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). She was also prescribed "a nerve medication and a depression medication" but was able to stop taking those medications in June 2012.

Logan said that although he did not have "fond feelings" toward the appellant, he had not encouraged the victim to lie about anything the appellant did to her.

On cross-examination, Logan acknowledged that in October 2009, his arm was broken in an altercation with the appellant. Logan clarified that the children were in his physical custody in May 2010; he obtained legal custody in September 2010.

On redirect examination, Logan stated that neither the victim's mother nor biological father provided a home for the victim; therefore, he had no difficulty obtaining custody.

The victim testified that she was born on November 6, 2000, and that she was eleven years old at the time of trial. She said that she was living with her stepfather and that she rarely saw her mother or biological father.

The victim said that when she was living with her mother and two sisters in Frayser, the appellant occasionally would visit. One day, the appellant came to their home while her mother was working at a Sonic restaurant. The victim's sisters were in their bedroom, and the victim was sitting or lying on her mother's bedroom floor, wearing monkey pajamas and watching television. The appellant walked into her mother's bedroom. He was naked and told the victim to take off her clothes. After the victim complied, the appellant grabbed her hands and dragged her to the bed. The victim said that it hurt and that she was scared. The appellant put the victim on her back on the bed, then he got on top of her and penetrated her vagina. The victim referred to her vagina as her "booty" and to the appellant's penis as "his thing." The victim initially stated that she did not feel the victim's penis penetrate her, but she later stated that it hurt and made her feel "weird." The victim told the appellant to get off her, but he refused and held her down. The victim said that she could still feel the appellant's penis inside of her. Shortly thereafter, the victim managed to push the appellant away. She quickly redressed and went to her bedroom, where she remained until her mother returned home.

The victim said that during the rape, the appellant threatened to shoot her if she told anyone. His threat frightened her. She did not tell her sisters or mother what the appellant had done because she was concerned that her mother would not believe her. The victim was unable to remember the exact day the offense occurred; however, ...


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