We granted certiorari to determine whether the evidence was sufficient to support defendant's conviction of attempted molestation of a juvenile. The critical issue is whether defendant's lewd act upon the juvenile's person was committed "by use of force", as contemplated by La.R.S. 14:81.2, the statute which defines the crime of molestation of a juvenile.
The victim, a fourteen-year old boy, was jogging on the road when defendant, a sixty-one year old man, drove his truck alongside the boy and began talking to him. After asking the boy if he "had been getting any from [his] girlfriend", defendant offered to masturbate the boy for money. When the boy declined, defendant placed his thumb into the boy's short pants and his fingers on the outside of the pants over the boy's genitals. The boy punched defendant in the face and ran away.
The bill of information charged that defendant:
Following the trial, the jury unanimously found defendant guilty of the responsive offense of attempted molestation of a juvenile. In denying the post-verdict motion for acquittal based on the alleged insufficiency of evidence of use of force, the trial judge observed that there was evidence of an "unauthorized touching with some force". The judge analogized the touching in this case to the mere rubbing of a sleeping child's genitals which was held to be sufficient evidence of "use of force" for the crime of battery under La.R.S. 14:33 in State v. Mitchell, 466 So.2d 514 (La.App. 3rd Cir.1985), cert. denied, 467 So.2d 1121.
The court of appeal affirmed. 497 So.2d 387. The intermediate court concluded that the evidence was sufficient for a rational juror to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant had the specific intent to commit a lewd act upon the person of the boy by use of force, the force being defendant's grabbing the boy's genitals.
The due process clause of the fourteenth amendment to the United States Constitution requires that the prosecution prove beyond a reasonable doubt every essential element of the crime of which the accused is convicted. In re Winship, 397 U.S. 358, 90 S.Ct. 1068, 25 L.Ed.2d 368 (1970). On an appeal in which the sufficiency of the evidence has been challenged, the reviewing court must determine whether the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the prosecution, was sufficient for a rational trier of fact to conclude that every essential element of the crime had been proved beyond a reasonable doubt. Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560 (1979); State v. Byrd, 385 So.2d 248 (La.1980).
La.R.S. 14:81.2, added by Acts 1984, No. 220, defines the crime of molestation of a juvenile in pertinent part as follows:
Thus, the essential elements of the crime of molestation of a juvenile, each of which the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt, are that the accused:
The definition of the new crime of molestation of a juvenile was a verbatim repetition of the definition of the crime of indecent behavior with a juvenile, with the addition of the essential element of the use of force (or use of some other enumerated behavior of the accused).
The only question in the present case as to the sufficiency of the evidence is whether the defendant committed the lewd act by use of force.
Furthermore, the trial court's analogy of the force necessary for molestation of a juvenile to the force required for a battery is inappropriate. The "use of force" requirement in the crime of molestation of a juvenile is much more comparable to the "use of force" requirement in simple robbery, as defined in La.R.S. 14:65, than to the element of the crime of battery defined in La.R.S. 14:33.
In the present case, defendant exerted a minimal amount of physical effort when he grabbed the boy's genitals. That lewd act upon the boy's person constituted the crime of indecent behavior with a juvenile. Some additional force designed to overcome the boy's will or his resistance to participation in the lewd act was required to constitute the crime of molestation of a juvenile. Proof of defendant's holding the boy's arm, for example, while he grabbed the genitals might have been sufficient to fulfill the "use of force" requirement of the greater crime. However, there was no
Nevertheless, the jury, by returning a verdict of guilty of the greater offense of attempted molestation of a juvenile, necessarily found the existence of every essential element of the lesser and included offense of attempted indecent behavior with a juvenile, and the evidence fully supports the finding of every essential element of that lesser and included crime. See La.R.S. 14:5 pertaining to lesser and included offenses. Under such circumstances, a reviewing court, pursuant to La.C.Cr.P. art. 821 C, may modify the jury's verdict and enter a judgment of conviction of the lesser and included offense. State v. Lombard, 486 So.2d 106 (La.1986).
Defense counsel points out, however, that the jury did not have the option to return the lesser verdict because the trial judge failed to include an instruction that indecent behavior with a juvenile was a lesser and included offense. Accordingly, counsel argues that this court should order a new trial rather than modifying the verdict.
Counsel's argument falls short of justifying the granting of a new trial. First, counsel did not request an instruction on the lesser and included offense and did not object to the judge's failure to include the offense in the instruction or the verdict sheet. The lack of a contemporaneous objection precludes the defense from asserting the error on appeal.
As the court of appeal correctly observed in this case, indecent behavior with a juvenile is clearly a lesser and included offense because it does not require proof of any element that is not required in the charged offense of molestation of a juvenile. Therefore, the jury, by finding every essential element of the greater offense, necessarily found every essential element of the lesser and included offense. State v. Byrd, 385 So.2d 248 (La.1980).
Accordingly, the judgment of conviction of attempted molestation of a juvenile is modified to a judgment of conviction of the lesser and included offense of attempted indecent behavior with a juvenile. The case is remanded to the trial court for sentencing on the modified judgment of conviction.
DENNIS, J., concurs with reasons.
MARCUS, J., dissents.
WATSON, J., dissents being of the opinion that the circumstances here constitute sufficient proof of attempted molestation especially considering the victim's rejection of the advances and the subsequent grabbing.