from Madison Circuit Court (CC-16-2782)
Courtney Habel was convicted of first-degree perjury,
see § 13A-10-101, Ala. Code 1975, and was
sentenced to seven years' imprisonment. Habel's
sentence was split, and she was ordered to serve 30 days
followed by 5 years' supervised probation. Habel was
ordered to pay a $100 fine, a $100 crime-victims-compensation
assessment, a $150 bail-bond fee, court costs, and
and Procedural History
State's evidence at trial tended to show the following:
In February 2015, Habel alleged that her husband, Matthew,
had sexually abused their two children, M.H. and S.H. Habel
and Matthew were involved in divorce proceedings when she
made the allegations. Deputy Eugene Nash of the Madison
County Sheriff's Department, who was assigned to the
National Children's Advocacy Center ("NCAC"),
initiated a criminal investigation. Because the allegations
involved possession and production of child pornography,
Deputy Nash informed Special Agent Troy McCarter of the
United States Department of Homeland Security about the
March 16, 2015, Agent McCarter searched Matthew's house
and seized several electronic devices. Agent McCarter
testified that Matthew was distraught but extremely
cooperative and that the search failed to uncover any
evidence of child pornography. On April 6, 2015, Agent
McCarter interviewed Habel; during the interview, he informed
her that it was a crime to lie to law-enforcement officials.
Habel then provided a sworn affidavit detailing her
allegations against Matthew and signed the affidavit in the
presence of Agent McCarter and Special Agent Derrick
affidavit, which the State introduced as an exhibit, had a
heading stating "Department of Homeland Security, U.S.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement, State of Alabama, County
of Madison" and began with the statement, "I, Sara
Courtney Habel, being duly sworn, state the following."
(C. 108.) The affidavit was four pages in length. Habel
initialed the first page and signed each subsequent page
under a statement that read: "The contents of this
statement are true and correct to the best of my knowledge
and belief. I have provided the above statement freely and
voluntarily without any threats or coercion." (C.
109-11.) Agent McCarter signed each page; his signature on
the second, third, and fourth pages appeared under a
statement that read: "Subscribed and sworn to me on 6 in
the month of April in the year of 2015." (C. 109-11.)
Pages two, three, and four were signed by the witness, Agent
Guzzo, a child-forensic-interview specialist with the NCAC,
interviewed M.H. on February 9, 2015. Guzzo testified that,
during that interview, M.H. did not "make any specific
allegations about sexual abuse ... committed by her
father." (R. 99.) Guzzo stated that during a second
interview conducted on February 23, 2015, M.H. "pretty
much disclose[d] almost right away." (R. 103.)
Jackson, a therapist and program manager at the NCAC, treated
M.H. from May 2015 through February 2016. Jackson testified:
"[M.H.] told me that her mom made her feel uncomfortable
by asking her to lie about what daddy did. And I asked her
what that lie was and she said, 'To say that he touched
me.' I asked her, 'Where did you, did you say that he
had to touch you?' And she said, 'On my privates and
on my bottom.'"
who was eight years old at the time of trial, testified that
her father never touched her or S.H. inappropriately; that
her father never touched himself inappropriately in front of
her or S.H.; and that her father never showed her any
"naked people" on his cellular telephone. M.H.
stated that she had made up those allegations on her own and
that Habel had not pressured her to lie about her father.
When asked why she said her "dad had done that stuff,
" M.H. shrugged her shoulders and responded that she did
not know. M.H. testified that she did not want anyone to get
testified that he never touched M.H. inappropriately; that he
never touched himself in front of her in an inappropriate
manner; that he never discussed "masturbation, male or
female, child porn, anything like that" with M.H. (R.
78); that he never viewed child pornography; and that he
never viewed adult pornography in the presence of his
children. Matthew testified that, during M.H.'s last
visit with Habel, which occurred two days before the trial,
"[M.H.] stated that her mother asked her about the case
and with, um, what she had talked about, uh, with the D.A.
And [M.H.] said that she refused. She was asked again. And
Sara [Habel] stated that--per [M.H.], Sara stated that, um,
she wouldn't talk to her again if she did not tell her
what she had talked about with the lawyers.
"[M.H.] told me that she stomped her foot and said,
'No, I'm not going to tell you and you will talk to
me again.' And five or 10 minutes later [M.H.] said her
mother talked to her again and she said, 'See, I told you
you would talk to me again.'"
the State rested, Habel moved for a judgment of acquittal,
and the circuit court denied her motion.
testified in her own behalf and stated that she believed the
allegations of abuse. On direct examination by the defense,
Habel testified as follows:
"Q. Let me ask you did you, did you, in fact, ask your
daughter to lie about her father?
"A. I did not.
"Q. Did you give her information to say when she went in
to talk to Ms. Guzzo or the second interview?
"Q. Did you threaten your daughter in any way if she
didn't tell something in your behalf?
"Q. Or if she didn't tell something on her father?
"Q. Okay. And we've heard some testimony today. Did
you, in fact, talk to your daughter Sunday about her
testimony here today?
"Q. Did you bring it up?
"Q. Did you ask her what [the prosecutor] said to her?
"Q. Did you have any intent to mislead [Agent] McCarter
about what you wrote in ...