Assigned on Briefs October 2, 2019
Appeal from the Circuit Court for Henderson County No.
16133-3. Kyle C. Atkins, Judge
Henderson County jury convicted the Defendant, Jonathan Blake
Hart, of rape of a child and aggravated sexual battery, and
the trial court sentenced him to fifty-five years in the
Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the Defendant
asserts that the trial court erred when it: (1) barred his
father from testifying; (2) denied his motion to exclude the
medical expert's conclusion that child sexual abuse had
occurred; (3) admitted drawings from the forensic interview;
and (4) limited his cross-examination of an investigator. The
Defendant also contends that the evidence is insufficient to
support his convictions and that his motion for new trial
should have been granted on these same grounds. After a
thorough review of the record and the applicable law, we
affirm the trial court's judgments.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgments of the Circuit
W. Hinson, Lexington, Tennessee, for the appellant, Jonathan
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter;
Katharine K. Decker, Assistant Attorney General; Jody S.
Pickens, District Attorney General; and Chadwick R. Wood,
Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State
W. Wedemeyer, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in
which Thomas T. Woodall and Norma McGee Ogle, JJ., joined.
W. WEDEMEYER, JUDGE.
case arises from the Defendant's rape of the victim, a
nine-year-old girl who was his girlfriend's daughter and
with whom he lived. Based on this conduct, a Henderson County
grand jury indicted the Defendant for two counts of rape of a
child. Prior to trial, the Defendant filed a motion in
limine seeking to exclude testimony by the
State's medical expert regarding her diagnosis of
"child sexual abuse." The trial court denied the
Defendant's motion on the grounds that the expert's
medical diagnosis of "child sexual abuse"
encompassed a larger definition than the elements of rape of
a child, the ultimate issue in the case.
following evidence was presented at the Defendant's
trial: Kim Gibson testified that she worked at the Carl
Perkins Center for Child Abuse in 2016 as a forensic
interviewer. Ms. Gibson stated that she interviewed the
victim in this case, S.C.L.,  at the child abuse center in
January of 2016. Ms. Gibson and the victim were alone in the
interview room, and the interview was video recorded. The
hour-long recording was played for the jury. In the
interview, the victim told Ms. Gibson that she was
"great" except that her "dad" had done
things to her that were not supposed to happen to a child.
She identified her dad as the Defendant and said that he had
"raped" her. The victim said that the Defendant put
his "thing" in her bottom and made her bottom
bleed. The victim said it happened more than once; the first
time was in an apartment she referred to as
"McKenzie." The victim told Ms. Gibson details
about how the Defendant initiated the rape. The victim said
that the rape hurt and that the Defendant raped her in her
"private spot." The Defendant told the victim not
to tell her mother, who was out getting groceries. The victim
recalled that she was going to a swimming party that day and
that she was wearing a swimsuit when he raped her. She stated
that it was a pink one-piece swimsuit and that she was
wearing blue shorts. The victim described being in the
Defendant's bedroom and him bending her over and
"humping" her, and the Defendant saying how good it
felt. The victim described the Defendant's penis for Ms.
Gibson and drew a picture of it. She stated that the
Defendant put lotion on his penis. She described the noises
the Defendant made.
the interview, the victim drew pictures of the Defendant
being hanged and wrote, "Die. Die. Die." The victim
described the Defendant making her perform oral sex on him
and said that she tasted blood while she did so. She
described his penis as feeling squishy and said the
"stuff" that came out of his penis was white and
looked like "milk." The victim described wiping the
"stuff" off of her with a towel after it splattered
"all over [her] face." After moving from the
McKenzie apartment, the victim recalled moving several times.
In "Lexington," the victim stated that the
Defendant took his pants off and almost raped her, but she
asked to go to the bathroom. The Defendant then asked her to
massage his back. The victim denied anything had happened
except at the apartment in McKenzie. The victim described
hearing the Defendant and her mother "humping"
loudly in the apartment.
victim described touching the Defendant's penis and him
making her go "slow" so "stuff" would not
come out of it. The victim recalled a trailer in the Pin Oak
neighborhood where the victim said the Defendant raped her in
the back room of the trailer. The victim said the Defendant
used lotion on himself and told her to bend over. She said
the Defendant was drunk and that he put his penis in her
"private spot" and that it hurt. She stated that
her bottom was bleeding.
Gibson testified that, during her interview with the victim,
the child was "responsive," but Ms. Gibson did not
ask the victim leading questions, only follow- up questions.
cross-examination, Ms. Gibson stated that it was not unusual
for child victims to recant their claim of sexual abuse,
simply because they wanted their lives to return to normal.
When asked if the victim appeared to be traumatized when
discussing the events, Ms. Gibson stated that the victim drew
some pictures during the interview that indicated her
negative feelings toward the Defendant. Ms. Gibson agreed
that the victim was not upset, crying, or screaming during
the interview and that she seemed comfortable. Ms. Gibson
agreed that, during the interview, the victim referred to
another man touching her but did not provide any details so
Ms. Gibson did not ask any follow-up questions about the
second man. Ms. Gibson stated that if a victim has been
"coached" into making his or her accusations, the
victim often cannot provide sensory details or answer
additional questions. Ms. Gibson confirmed that the victim
identified several other family members who were present
during these incidents but stated it was not her job to
follow-up with those individuals.
redirect examination, the State sought to publish the
victim's drawings from her interview to the jury, and the
Defendant objected on the grounds that they had no probative
value. The trial court overruled the objection, concluding
that the drawings were probative to the issue of the
victim's state of mind, which had been raised during
cross-examination of Ms. Gibson. The pictures, drawn by the
victim, showed the Defendant and the victim's writing,
"You shouldn't be my dad anymore;" "You
are the worst dad ever;" "Die, Dad. I hate
you;" and "Hate you." In Ms. Gibson's
opinion, the drawings were indicative of the victim's
trauma. She reiterated that she did not see any evidence of
"coaching" when she met with the victim.
the victim in this case, testified that she was twelve years
old at the time of trial. She recalled her interview with Ms.
Gibson, which occurred when she was nine years old, almost
ten. The victim stated that she had watched the video
recording of the interview and that she had been truthful in
it. She stated that the "Daddy" she referred to in
the video was the Defendant.
cross-examination, the victim testified that she lived with
her mom who was not present at the trial.
David Dowdy testified that he was a criminal investigator for
the Henderson County Sheriff's Office. He stated that
multiple investigations in other jurisdictions were being
conducted on this case during his own investigation due to
the fact that the victim had made statements about the abuse
occurring in multiple locations in different counties.
Investigator Dowdy testified that he observed the
victim's forensic interview with Ms. Gibson, at the
request of the Lexington Police Department. Investigator
Dowdy stated that, during the interview, the victim described
incidents with the Defendant in the city of Lexington as well
as in the town of McKenzie. He contacted the McKenzie Police
Department based on the victim's report of an incident
occurring there. In keeping with his jurisdictional
authority, Investigator Dowdy was "tasked" with
investigating an alleged incident in the Pin Oak area, an
area of Henderson County not located within any incorporated
on his observations of the victim's statements,
Investigator Dowdy was able to corroborate some of the facts
provided by searching through old police records,
specifically a prior instance when the victim's mother
called the police regarding a domestic disturbance with the
Defendant at a certain address in the Pin Oak area.
Investigator Dowdy sought the warrant for the Defendant's
arrest in this case, using the date of that incident, October
29, 2012, when the victim claimed the Defendant had sexually
assaulted her. Investigator Dowdy stated ...