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Whaley v. Commonwealth - 567 S.W.3d 576 (Ky. 2019)

Rule:

Offenses closely related in character, circumstance, and time need not be severed. If evidence from one of the offenses joined in an indictment is admissible in a separate trial of the other offenses, the joinder of offenses generally is not prejudicial. Additionally, considerations of judicial economy and the efficiency of avoiding multiple trials are reasons for joint trials. 

Facts:

Whaley, a mixed-martial-arts trainer who held classes at his residence, was indicted for offenses committed against 4 boys below 16 years old in 2015 and 2016. All the incidents happened in different occasions in his home. Whaley requested to sever the indictments into four separate trials, with a separate trial for the events surrounding each of his alleged victims. The Kenton Circuit Court denied this motion and the jury convicted him of seventeen counts: six counts of third-degree sodomy; criminal attempt to commit third-degree sodomy; six counts of first-degree sexual abuse; three counts of first-degree sodomy; and, in the final count, found him to be a first-degree persistent felony offender. In accordance with the jury's recommendation, the trial court fixed sentences totaling life without the possibility of parole for 25 years. Whaley appealed as a matter of right, alleging that the trial court erred by: (1) failing to sever the counts of the indictments, (2) allowing evidence of other crimes, wrongs or acts, (3) disallowing cross-examination regarding pornographic images, (4) allowing expert testimony regarding anal sodomy, (5) allowing the complaining witnesses to be referred to as victims, and (6) denying Whaley's motion for mistrial.

Issue:

Was the conviction proper?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The Supreme Court of Kentucky affirmed the conviction and sentences. The court held that the lower courts did not commit any error for the following reasons: (1) Ky. R. Crim. P. 8.31 did not require crime severance because each victim's evidence was separately admissible under Ky. R. Evid. 404(b), and, under Ky. R. Crim. P. 6.18, the crimes were alike; (2) Admitting other acts evidence was not a reversible error because drugs or alcohol victims received fully presented the case, admitting pornography not linked to sexual contact was harmless, as testimony was similar, and a victim's uncharged and uncorroborated sodomy was admissible under Ky. R. Evid. 404(b); (3) The court did not abuse its discretion to bar asking if victims' father told defendant not to let victims see pornography because no exposure to prior knowledge about charged sex acts was shown, and the acts were not asked about; and (4) An expert could state she would not expect injury after sodomy because she was qualified under Ky. R. Evid. 702, and this explained a fact in issue.

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