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Ex parte State

Supreme Court of Alabama

July 10, 2015

Ex parte State of Alabama
v.
State of Alabama In re: Eric Lemont Higdon

Jefferson Circuit Court, CC-13-365; Court of Criminal Appeals, CR-13-1305

PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF CRIMINAL APPEALS

STUART, Justice.

This Court issued a writ of certiorari to address the State's request that this Court overrule Ex parte J.A.P., 853 So.2d 280 (Ala. 2002), the controlling precedent applied by the Court of Criminal Appeals in reversing Eric Lemont Higdon's conviction for first-degree sodomy by forcible compulsion, see § 13A-6-63(a)(1), Ala. Code 1975. We overrule Ex parte J.A.P., reverse the judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeals, and remand.

Facts and Procedural History

The Court of Criminal Appeals, in its opinion, summarized the pertinent facts surrounding the offense:

"In the summer of 2012, Higdon, who was 17 years old, worked as an intern at Momma's Place Christian Academy, a day-care facility. Higdon's duties primarily consisted of cleaning the day-care facility and supervising children, either alone or in conjunction with an adult. During that summer, K.S., who was then four years old, was enrolled as a student at Momma's Place.
"During August 2012, Higdon accompanied K.S. to the bathroom on multiple occasions. While in the bathroom, Higdon pulled down K.S.'s pants, touched K.S.'s penis, and performed oral sex on K.S. K.S. did not report Higdon's actions because Higdon told K.S. not to tell anyone.
"On August 23, 2012, A.D., the parent of another child enrolled in the day-care facility, filed a police report alleging that Higdon had performed similar acts on her son. A.D. contacted K.S.'s mother, K.W., to alert her to the allegations against Higdon. K.W. asked K.S. if anyone at the day-care facility had touched him inappropriately. K.S. replied that Higdon had touched him and had 'put his mouth on his wee-wee.' During an interview with the clinical director of the Prescott House, a child-advocacy center, K.S. stated that Higdon had touched him and had performed oral sex on him on several occasions in the bathroom at Momma's Place."

Higdon v. State, [Ms. CR-13-1305, December 19, 2014] ___ So.3d ___, ___ (Ala.Crim.App.2014).

A jury convicted Higdon of first-degree sodomy of K.S., a child less than 12 years old, § 13A-6-63(a)(3), Ala. Code 1975, and of first-degree sodomy by forcible compulsion of K.S., § 13A-6-63(a)(1), Ala. Code 1975. Higdon appealed his convictions to the Court of Criminal Appeals. The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed Higdon's conviction for first-degree sodomy of a child less than 12 years old and reversed Higdon's conviction for first-degree sodomy by forcible compulsion, holding that the State had failed to present sufficient evidence of the element of forcible compulsion, and rendered a judgment in Higdon's favor on that charge. Higdon v. State, __ So.3d at ___. The State petitioned this Court for a review of the Court of Criminal Appeals' reversal of Higdon's conviction for first-degree sodomy by forcible compulsion, [1]requesting that this Court overrule Ex parte J.A.P., which holds that, in a case in which the State must prove forcible compulsion and the offender is a juvenile in a relationship of trust with a child victim, evidence of the element of forcible compulsion cannot be established by an implied threat.

Standard of Review

The State's request that this Court overrule Ex parte J.A.P. requires this Court to reconsider our determination that, as a matter of law, the element of forcible compulsion cannot be established by evidence of an implied threat when the defendant is a juvenile in a relationship of trust with the child victim. Because the State's request presents a pure question of law, our review is de novo. Ex parte Morrow, 915 So.2d 539, 541 (Ala. 2004)("'This Court reviews pure questions of law in criminal cases de novo.'"(quoting Ex parte Key, 890 So.2d 1056, 1059 (Ala. 2003))).

Discussion

The State contends that this Court should overrule Ex parte J.A.P. because, it says, Ex parte J.A.P. prohibits the State from proving the element of forcible compulsion through evidence of an implied threat, as defined in ยง 13A-6-60(8), Ala. Code 1975, in cases in which ...


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