Georgia Criminal Defense Blog

Two Important Decisions Delivered by Georgia Courts

Posted by Richard Lawson | Nov 10, 2017 | 0 Comments

The Georgia Supreme Court and the Georgia Court of Appeals delivered two interesting decisions for Georgia criminal defense lawyers. 

On October 30, 2017 the Georgia Supreme Court unanimously declared part of Georgia’s gang statute unconstitutional. The current law reads as follows: 

“For the purpose of proving the existence of criminal gang activity, the commission, adjudication, or conviction of any offense enumerated by any member or associate of a criminal street gang shall be admissible in any trial or proceeding”. O.C.G.A. §16-15-9

During the trial, the prosecutors attempted to introduce four prior convictions of the gang members into evidence. A group of private attorneys and public defenders filed an appeal arguing that the statute violated the gang member's 6th amendment right to confront their accusers, also known as the confrontation clause. They stated, “The Legislature lowered the bar on what must be proven for gang cases while also increasing the evidentiary tools available to the state.” The Georgia Supreme Court agreed and declared the part of the law where the state was allowed to introduce into evidence the criminal convictions of nonparties who are not witnesses in the instant case unconstitutional.

Then the next day, November 1, 2017, the Georgia Court of Appeals refused to allow a prosecutor to use statements made to doctors that identified the man accused of child molestation. The case involved a Cobb County defendant who was accused of child molestation, aggravated child molestation, statutory rape, and aggravated sexual battery. The trial kept being delayed because efforts to find the victim and her mother were unsuccessful. Cobb County prosecutors sought to introduce the testimony of the child's doctors who identified Antonia Almanza as the abuser. The issue was the right of confrontation. The Prosecutors argued that there was precedent to support the doctors' statements being admissible. However, the Court followed the Confrontation Clause and declared the statements inadmissible. 

Cobb County District Attorney Vic Reynolds stated that they intend on taking the case to the Supreme Court because they believe it is that important.  This will be interesting to watch if they do decide to take it to the Supreme Court because it could have drastic ramifications for evidence in the future. 

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Richard Lawson

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