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State v. Farr

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

September 26, 2017

STATE OF TENNESSEE
v.
WILLIAM "BILL" DOUGLAS FARR, SR.

          Assigned on Briefs Date: May 10, 2017

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Lawrence County No. 32589 Stella L. Hargrove, Judge

         The Defendant, William "Bill" Douglas Farr, Sr., was convicted by a Lawrence County Circuit Court jury of rape of a child, a Class A felony, and was sentenced to forty years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the Defendant argues that: (1) the State committed prosecutorial misconduct during closing argument by vouching for the credibility of a witness and repeatedly referring to the Defendant as a "monster"; (2) the trial court erred in failing to give specific unanimity and election of offenses jury instructions; (3) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his conviction; and (4) the trial court applied the incorrect law in determining his sentence. After review, we affirm the Defendant's conviction but modify his sentence to twenty-five years and remand for entry of an amended judgment.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit Court Affirmed as Modified and Remanded for Amended Judgment

          William Joshua Morrow, Lawrenceburg, Tennessee (on appeal); and Kevin Latta, Columbia, Tennessee (at trial), for the appellant, William "Bill" Douglas Farr, Sr.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Brent C. Cherry, Senior Counsel; Brent A. Cooper, District Attorney General; and Gary M. Howell and Christi L. Thompson, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Alan E. Glenn, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Norma McGee Ogle and Robert H. Montgomery, Jr., JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          ALAN E. GLENN, JUDGE

         FACTS

         The Defendant was indicted for two counts of rape of a child based on allegations that he sexually penetrated his two young granddaughters between the dates of July 2011 and August 2012. The count relative to one of the girls was nolle prosequied, and the State proceeded to trial on the count relative to the victim, who was ten years old at the time of trial in September 2015.

         At trial, the victim testified that she and her mother, father, and sister moved to Tennessee from Wisconsin when she was going into the first grade. Her family lived with her grandparents at first, but they later moved into their own home "[n]ot far" from her grandparents. Her grandmother passed away sometime after they moved to

         Tennessee.

         The victim testified that the parts of her body that others are not supposed to touch are her "private part and . . . butt." She said that her "private part" is "in the middle of [her] body" and is covered by "underwear and . . . pants." The victim recounted that the Defendant touched her in her "private area" on occasions when her mother dropped her and her older sister off at his house. She said that the three of them would go into the Defendant's bedroom, take their clothes off, and "[h]e would start licking [their] private parts." The victim stated that there were also times when she touched the Defendant's private part with her hands. She said, "He had this pow[d]er, I guess, and I would just rub it on there." The victim described that the Defendant's private part was located in the same part of the body as hers but "was bigger." She recalled that on one occasion "[p]ee, I think" came out of the Defendant's private part when she "was shaking it . . . [u]p-and-down." When that happened, she was sitting up and the Defendant was lying down.

         In response to questioning, the victim said that she thought the Defendant licked her private part on the "outside" of it, on the skin. The victim recalled a time when the Defendant "tr[ied] to fit his private in [hers] and then he said, 'When I would get older, it would fit.'" When that happened, she was sitting in the Defendant's bedroom and their clothes were off. The victim stated that, when the Defendant licked her private part, she was sitting on "[h]is face, " but she could not recall how it came about for her to be in such a position. The victim said that the things that happened with the Defendant occurred on different days, but all during the time when she was going into first grade.

         On cross-examination, the victim recalled that the Defendant touched her private part with his tongue on "[a] few" different occasions. She said that when he licked her private area, he licked "[o]n top, " and his tongue did not go inside of her private part. On redirect examination, the victim said that she did not think "girls have a hole in their privates."

         Amy Moore, a criminal investigator with the Lawrence County Sheriff's Office, testified that she was contacted by the Department of Children's Services on May 22, 2014, regarding the allegations of sexual abuse against the Defendant. A forensic interview with the victim and her sister was arranged, and Investigator Moore observed the interviews. Afterwards, Investigator Moore "tried to make contact with [the Defendant] by phone a couple of times and traveled to his house." On June 23, 2014, Investigator Moore and Lieutenant Nathan Neese met with the Defendant at the sheriff's office. After being advised of his rights, the Defendant indicated that he was willing to talk to the investigators. They informed the Defendant of the allegations against him, and the Defendant "was appalled that his daughter[, the victim's mother, ] wouldn't come to him first about it instead of us talking to him." He told the investigators that "there is more to this than what meets the eye." When asked to elaborate, the Defendant "said that he wasn't going to discuss it with us." He then told the investigators that the victim and the victim's older sister "knew more about sex than he did at that age." The Defendant talked about his granddaughter's stepbrother who used to live with them and suggested that "maybe somebody else was responsible for teaching them kind of what they had known." He told the investigators "that he wasn't going to admit to something he didn't do."

         Investigator Moore testified that, after taking a break, the interview resumed with the Defendant telling the investigators "how he loved the girls and that he didn't know what was going on, but that they knew too much. . . . [H]e said that it's from what he had seen and what they have shown him." When asked to elaborate on what he meant by "[w]hat they've shown him, " the Defendant "said that he couldn't discuss that." However, he then asserted that the victim's sister was "the instigator and that she would whisper into [the victim]'s ear and that [the victim] would do whatever, that things would happen." The Defendant refused to discuss exactly "what things would happen, " maintaining that he needed to talk to his daughter, the victim's mother, because "'[i]t's between a father and daughter.'" Asked if he would be willing to talk to the investigators if his daughter was in the room, the Defendant "said that he didn't know, that he would have to think about it."

         Investigator Moore testified that, after the interview, they contacted the Defendant's daughter to see if she would be willing to talk to the Defendant while they recorded the conversation. After taking some time to consider the request, she agreed to make the call and did so from the sheriff's office on July 18, 2014. Investigator Moore was in the room during the conversation, but Investigator Moore only heard "bits and pieces" of what the Defendant said. However, a recording was made, and Investigator Moore later listened to the recording to hear both sides of the conversation.

         The victim's mother testified that her family moved to Tennessee from Wisconsin in July 2011, where the Defendant, her father, lived. The victim's mother and her family lived with the Defendant for a year, while the house they had bought was being repaired. The victim's mother and her husband both worked during that time, so the Defendant babysat the victim and her sister. At some point in time, the victim's mother became aware of possible inappropriate behavior between the Defendant and her daughters and spoke with investigators about it. The investigators asked her to call the Defendant, while they recorded the conversation. The recording of that phone call was played for the jury.

         During the phone call, the Defendant told the victim's mother that someone was not telling the truth. He explained that the victim and her sister asked him to watch television with them in the bedroom. When he got into the bedroom, the girls told him to take his shorts off because they "want[ed] to see something." The Defendant said that he obliged, thinking that he would "see what's going on here." He said that the girls took off his shorts and one girl got on his chest and the other on his feet, holding him down. The Defendant explained that he thought he would "just see how much they know." The victim's mother replied to the Defendant that he was the adult, "why would he let them do that?" The Defendant answered, "I wanted to see how much they knew and where they learned it from. What's gonna happen? I'm seventy years old."

         After the victim's mother challenged him again, the Defendant told her of a second time when the victim and her sister "ripped [his] shorts off." He said that he asked them where they were learning such behavior, and they told him to "shut up and lay still." He refused and claimed that, thereafter, the victim and her sister vandalized the house.

         The victim's mother asked whether anything happened on a day he said he had taken a bath with the girls, and the Defendant said that nothing happened. When the victim's mother explained that she was upset that the Defendant would engage in inappropriate behavior with her daughters, the Defendant maintained that he was trying to find out where they learned what they were doing. The Defendant attempted to deflect the victim's mother's outrage by suggesting that the girls' stepbrother might have been responsible for their aggressive ...


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