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State v. Sexton

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

November 5, 2019


          Assigned on Briefs July 16, 2019

          Appeal from the Circuit Court for Lawrence County No. 33355 Robert L. Jones, Judge

         A Lawrence County Circuit Court Jury convicted the Appellant, Larry Sexton, of aggravated statutory rape, a Class D felony, and the trial court sentenced him as a Range III, career offender to twelve years in confinement. On appeal, the Appellant contends that the trial court erred by allowing the State to reopen its proof after he moved for a judgment of acquittal and by sentencing him as a career offender. Based upon the record and the parties' briefs, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit Court Affirmed

          M. Wallace Coleman, Jr., Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, for the appellant, Larry Sexton.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Renee W. Turner, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Brent A. Cooper, District Attorney General; and Gary Howell and Christie Thompson, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Norma McGee Ogle, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Thomas T. Woodall and Alan E. Glenn, JJ., joined.



         I. Factual Background

         In July 2015, the Lawrence County Grand Jury filed a two-count indictment, charging the Appellant with rape and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. The State later indicted him for aggravated statutory rape and nolle prosequied the first two counts. The Appellant went to trial for aggravated statutory rape in November 2017.

         At trial, the victim's mother testified that in May 2015, she was living in Loretto with her son and two daughters, one of whom was the victim. The victim was born in April 1999 and was sixteen years old. On the night of May 9, the victim's mother and her children were at their home. Jimmy Joyner and his son, Bryce, also were there. At some point, the Appellant arrived in his new pickup truck. The victim's mother said that she had known the Appellant for two years, that he was a friend, and that his daughter was about one year older than the victim. The victim and the Appellant's daughter went to the same high school and spent the night at each other's houses from time to time.

         The victim's mother testified that the Appellant offered to take Bryce[1] and the victim for a ride in his truck. The three of them left in the truck and were gone fifteen to twenty minutes. When they returned, the victim's mother, Jimmy, and Bryce decided to go to The Cowpen in St. Joe's to play pool. The Appellant was still at the house when they left, but he was getting ready to leave.

         The victim's mother testified that she drove to The Cowpen. However, no one was there, so she drove across the street to Parker's bar. Only a few cars were in the bar's parking lot, so she decided to show Bryce some land she owned on Union Hill Road. The victim's mother and the Joyners left Parker's bar about 11:20 p.m., and the drive to the property took about twenty-five minutes. When they arrived at the property, the victim's mother drove toward a shed that she used as a cabin. The cabin had a deck on it. The victim's mother saw the front of the Appellant's truck turned toward the cabin, and the truck's headlights were shining on the deck. The victim was lying on her back on the deck, and the Appellant was on top of the victim. They were not wearing any clothes. The victim's mother said that the Appellant "spun off" the victim and headed toward his truck and that she assumed he was going to get some clothing. The victim's mother got out of her vehicle and "took off after him." She said that she hit him more than one time and that she "called him all kinds of names."

         The victim's mother testified that Bryce helped the victim get into her mother's vehicle. The victim's mother said that the victim was "somewhat incoherent" and that "[y]ou could tell she was intoxicated and she just wouldn't answer us." The victim was not intoxicated when her mother and the Joyners left to go to The Cowpen.

         The victim's mother testified that the Appellant got dressed and started saying he was sorry. He got into his truck, the victim's mother got into her vehicle, and the victim's mother called 911. The Appellant drove away, and the victim's mother drove back to Union Hill Road to wait for the police. She saw the Appellant's truck pull into a driveway on Union Hill Road, so she blocked his truck with her vehicle. She said she "tried to ...

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