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Washington v. State

Court of Appeals of Texas, Third District, Austin

January 30, 2014

Nnamdi Royce Washington, Appellant
The State of Texas, Appellee


Before Justices Puryear, Pemberton, and Rose


David Puryear, Justice

Appellant Nnamdi Royce Washington was convicted by a jury of two counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child younger than 14 years of age, a first-degree felony. See Tex. Penal Code § 22.021(a)(1)(B), (2)(B). After finding that Washington had previously been convicted of a felony, the court assessed punishment at 50 years' imprisonment for each count and ordered the sentences be served consecutively. See id. §§ 22.021(e), 12.42(c)(1). On appeal, Washington claims that the trial court erred in: (1) overruling his objections that the State asked two venire persons improper commitment questions, (2) overruling his hearsay objection to the testimony of a State's witness, (3) admitting evidence of an extraneous offense, (4) refusing his request to take an expert witness on voir dire, and (5) overruling his objection to the qualification of a police detective as an expert witness. We affirm the trial court's judgments of conviction.


The jury heard evidence that, on or about February 1, 2006, Patty Competello went to work an overnight shift, leaving her twelve-year-old daughter, S.R., at home with Washington, who was twenty-four years old. S.R. described him as being a friend of Competello's, but another witness said he was Competello's boyfriend. Washington was in the bedroom listening to music, and S.R. came in and laid down on the bed to listen. As S.R. was falling asleep, Washington started touching her on her buttocks, legs, and vagina. He then removed her clothes, took off his pants, and placed his penis inside her vagina. S.R. testified that she had never had sexual intercourse before and that "[i]t hurt a little bit." Later that night, Washington had anal intercourse with S.R. S.R. said she was "bleeding a little bit, " but she did not tell anyone what had happened because she "was scared."

Thus began a sexual relationship between S.R. and Washington that lasted for a year and one-half, until shortly before S.R.'s fourteenth birthday. They met at Competello's apartment or at various motels, and when S.R. was thirteen years old, Washington began giving her methamphetamine that they would smoke together when they had sex. S.R. said she cared for Washington, but as time went by, she grew ashamed, embarrassed, and frightened. She began to think Washington was just using her, and she started cutting herself and acting out sexually.

When S.R. was fourteen, she told Nicole Hollowell, a family friend, that Washington had raped her; Competello was present but took no immediate action. Competello said she delayed reporting the abuse because she was addicted to drugs, but several months later, she told S.R.'s principal and a school police officer what had happened. Washington was indicted on three counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child. See id. § 22.021(a)(1)(B)(2)(B).


Commitment questions

In his first two issues, Washington argues the trial court erred in overruling his objections to certain questions asked by the State of two prospective female jurors. He contends the State asked improper commitment questions about how the jurors thought a victim of sexual assault should behave and asked another prospective juror how that juror would expect a witness to act on the witness stand.

The trial court has broad discretion over the process of selecting a jury, and we will not reverse its decisions about the propriety of a particular question absent an abuse of discretion. Barajas v. State, 93 S.W.3d 36, 38 (Tex. Crim. App. 2002). A trial court abuses its discretion only if it prohibits a proper question about an appropriate area of inquiry. Id. A question is proper if it attempts to discover a juror's views on an issue applicable to the case. Id. A commitment question commits a "prospective juror to resolve, or to refrain from resolving, an issue a certain way after learning a particular fact." Standefer v. State, 59 S.W.3d 177, 179 (Tex. Crim. App. 2001). We first ask whether the question was a commitment question and, if so, then look to see whether it was limited to facts that might lead to a valid challenge for cause. Id. at 182-83.

None of the three questions propounded by the State to which Washington objected was a commitment question because none of them contained any facts. Because the objected-to questions were not commitment questions, we need not inquire further into whether they were improper ...

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