Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:B.C., a 6-year-old girl, and her mother moved into her grandmother’s house. Leon David Lee was married to B.C.’s grandmother. Two months after moving in, B.C.’s mother began noticing behavioral changes in B.C. When she talked with B.C., B.C. said that Lee had rubbed and squeezed “her private area, her groin area.” A medical exam was performed on B.C., and an employee with the Texarkana Children’s Advocacy Center conducted a video interview with B.C. Lee was charged with indecency with a child. Lee posted bond but stopped contacting the bonding agency three days before his trial date, about which he knew. Lee was located more than three months later in Florida and extradited to Texas for trial. During voir dire, the state set up a scenario for the prospective jurors that included a minor under age 17 who was touched on her breasts or genitals by a stranger while she was out jogging. The prosecution then asked each witness, “Could you reach a guilty verdict based on the testimony of one witness who you believed beyond a reasonable doubt?” At trial, B.C. testified regarding several incidents where Lee touched her. B.C. testified that appellant “touched me where he is not supposed to.” Specifically, she testified that appellant had touched her on the “bottom private” part of her body, which she indicated was below her waist. However, she could not remember if it was her front or back “private.” B.C.’s mother stated that B.C. told her Lee touched her, and pointed to her “private area” in “the front.” The video interview was also introduced. It showed B.C. saying where Lee had touched her by circling the area below her waist and between her legs on an anatomically correct frontal drawing of a girl and calling it her “titi.” The nurse who examined B.C. said that B.C. told her, “Papa touched me in my privates. He touched my tootie. He touched me with his hands. He squeezed. He rubbed it.” Lee was convicted, and he now appeals. HOLDING:Affirmed. The court reviews the factual sufficiency of the evidence. Under Penal Code 21.11(a) the state was required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant, with intent to arouse or gratify his sexual desire, engaged in sexual contact with a child, and that the victim was then a child younger than 17 and not the defendant’s spouse. The court notes that courts liberally construe the testimony given by child victims of sexual abuse as not being as clear as similar testimony given by an adult. The court finds that the evidence was sufficient to show that the touching occurred in a place within the statutory definition of sexual contact. The court acknowledges that B.C.’s statements were somewhat contradictory, yet the court also states that the testimony or a child victim by itself is sufficient to support a conviction for indecency with a child. The jury could have found B.C.’s testimony credible, despite those contradictions. The court then reviews a question the state asked prospective jurors, which Lee insists required jurors to commit to the outcome. Commitment questions that attempt to bind prospective jurors to a position, using a hypothetical or otherwise, are improper and serve no purpose other than to commit the jury to a specific set of facts before the presentation of any evidence at trial. The question was a commitment question because it required prospective jurors to commit to convict a defendant or to resolve issues concerning witness credibility under a particular set of facts: the testimony of only one witness. Furthermore, the state was entitled to inquire about whether a prospective juror could abide by the standard of proof set by the law or if the juror would hold the state to a higher standard. A negative response to the state’s question in this case would properly give rise to a valid challenge for cause. Finally, the state’s question did not attempt to commit the prospective jurors in conjunction with specific facts of the case. The state’s hypothetical scenario contained two facts similar to this case, but both these facts, the offense alleged and the approximate age of the victim, were necessary for the hypothetical question to be useful in ascertaining the views of the prospective jurors on an issue pertinent to a fair determination of the case: the issue of whether jurors could convict based on the testimony of one witness they believed beyond a reasonable doubt. The court concludes the trial court did not abuse its discretion by allowing the state to ask its question. Finally, the court finds it was not error for the trial court to allow into evidence the fact of Lee’s bail jumping. The court finds the evidence was relevant to Lee’s guilt of the crime charged, as he left town only three days before trial. OPINION:Radack, C.J.; Radack, C.J., Keyes and Alcala.

Want to continue reading?
Become a Free ALM Digital Reader.

Benefits of a Digital Membership:

  • Free access to 1 article* every 30 days
  • Access to the entire ALM network of websites
  • Unlimited access to the ALM suite of newsletters
  • Build custom alerts on any search topic of your choosing
  • Search by a wide range of topics

*May exclude premium content
Already have an account?

Reprints & Licensing
Mentioned in a Law.com story?

License our industry-leading legal content to extend your thought leadership and build your brand.


ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2021 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.