The state Supreme Court’s heard a case involving a Southeast Missouri man accused of sexually assaulting his daughter who was under the age of 12.
Attorney’s representing Kendrick Tipler are asking the justices to block a lower court’s decision to allow evidence from a prior crime to be heard. A change to the state constitution permitted such evidence to be admissible in 2014 when prosecuting sex crimes against victims under 18.
Attorney Leslie Hazel, a Public Defender from Kennett who is representing Tipler, claimed the evidence can’t be admitted because the constitutional amendment went into effect after the alleged crime took place. “I’m not here today to argue that the amendment is unconstitutional or was invalidly enacted” said Hazel. “I’m simply arguing that it doesn’t apply to a case where the crime is alleged to have been committed prior to the passage of the amendment.”
The state argued the “triggering” event for the case in the trial, not when the incident took place. Assistant state Attorney General Gregg Goodwin claimed the evidence allowed by the new constitutional amendment is only relevant at the time of the trial, and is therefore admissible. “This is a rule of evidence. The trial has not yet occurred. And so it cannot be retroactive to apply a rule of evidence to a trial that has not yet occurred.”
Tipler’s initial case ended in a mistrial in late 2015, more than a year after the amendment went into effect. A new trial’s been set for this year in Cape Girardeau, pending the Supreme Court’s ruling.
The prior crime the state wants to introduce is Tipler’s 2005 conviction of endangering a child through sexual conduct. In that trial, the original charge of first degree statutory rape was reduced, and he was given a shorter prison term, in exchange for his guilty plea.
According to briefs filed by the state, Tipler’s attorney described the reduced charge as a “sweetheart deal”. In the upcoming trial, he’s alleged to have committed attempted first-degree sodomy against his daughter in the fall of 2013.
The original trial pertaining to the incident took place in December of last year. After six-and-a-half hours, the jury announced it was unable to reach a verdict, and a mistrial was declared.
When the new trial was set, the state announced to would seek to admit Tipler’s previous conviction as evidence. After the judge found the evidence to be admissible, Tipler’s attorney filed a motion to reconsider. When the judge denied the motion, the attorney sought relief from the Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern Division, which was also denied.
It‘s not known when the Supreme Court will render a decision in the case.