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Appeals court orders retrial on sodomy count

Appeals court orders retrial on sodomy count

December 6th, 2018 by Bob Watson in Local News

James Kevin Adams, 52, of Holts Summit, is entitled to a re-trial on his conviction of one count of statutory sodomy, the state appeals court in Kansas City ruled Tuesday.

But, the three-judge panel upheld Adams' other convictions for statutory sodomy, child molestation and witness tampering.

A Callaway County jury convicted Adams in 2017 of three counts of statutory sodomy and one count each of child molestation and witness tampering.

Circuit Judge Christine Carpenter sentenced him to 20 years on each of the sodomy convictions, to be served at the same time — plus 10 years for the child molestation conviction and seven years for the witness tampering, with those last two sentences to be served together, but to begin after he completed serving the 20-year sentences.

Corrections Department records show Adams currently is serving his total, 30-year sentences at the Jefferson City Correctional Center.

All the charges involved Adams' contact with a then-8 year-old girl who lived in the same house he lived in, between April and August 2015.

In some of the counts, he was charged with touching the girl inappropriately. In one count, he was charged with having her touch him. The girl's mother moved out of the home in August 2015, shortly after the girl told about Adams' sex-related contacts with her.

Adams' appeal argued the verdict directors — the instructions given to jurors as they deliberate the evidence at the end of a trial — violated his constitutional right to a unanimous jury verdict on three of the counts he was convicted on.

As the appeals court noted, Adams' attorneys argued "the verdict directors failed to identify a single criminal act in a manner sufficient to differentiate it from multiple similar acts described in the evidence."

In its 20-page opinion, the appeals court rejected that argument on two of the three counts, ruling the jury instructions in those two parts of the case "did not evidently, obviously or clearly affect Adams' right to a unanimous verdict."

The court agreed Missouri's Constitution "guarantees the right to a unanimous jury verdict in a criminal trial."

Writing for the three-judge panel, Judge Cynthia L. Martin added: "In multiple acts cases, special attention to the verdict director is required to avoid asking the jury to consider evidence of several, distinct criminal acts to determine whether to convict on a single, generally submitted charge."

In his first count of the appeal, Adams argued that Callaway County Prosecutor Chris Wilson presented evidence that "described multiple acts where Adams directed (the girl) to" touch him inappropriately.

Martin wrote: "The evidence established multiple, distinct criminal acts, each of which could have served as the basis for finding Adams's guilty pursuant to Instruction No. 5."

But, the court ruled, "Instruction No. 5 did not require the jury to find that Adams committed sodomy on each occasion described in the evidence. .

"Because the evidence described multiple, distinct acts of forced (contact), and because Instruction No. 5 did not specifically describe which incident was being submitted, the jury could have convicted Adams based on the incident that occurred on Adams' bed, or the incident that occurred on Adams' couch.

"The verdict director evidently, obviously and clearly affected Adams's substantial right to a unanimous verdict."

Ordering a new trial on the one count doesn't affect Adams' sentences on the other counts.