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Appeal in Georgia Molestation Case Remanded Back to the Trial Court

November 12, 2017

In Atkins v. State, the Georgia Court of Appeals vacated the denial of the defendant’s motion for new trial following her convictions for child molestation and aggravated child molestation.

The Court held that the trial court applied the wrong standard when reviewing the motion on the general grounds.

The alleged victim, a 13-year-old girl who discovered she was pregnant, accused the defendant’s husband of engaging in sexual intercourse with her. In addition, the girl alleged that the defendant also engaged in sexual acts with her. However, she testified at trial that the defendant only touched her thighs and breasts. To counter this, the State presented the alleged victim’s prior statement from a forensic interview where she described the defendant performing oral sex on her.

At the time of this appeal, the husband’s case was currently on certiorari in the Georgia Supreme Court.

The defendant argued that the girl’s in-court testimony was insufficient to sustain a conviction. The Court of Appeals disagreed and found that the conviction was supported by the statements made in the forensic interview which were legally sufficient to uphold the verdict.

The defendant also asserted that the trial court applied the wrong standard in denying her motion for new trial. The Court agreed.

In denying the defendant’s motion for new trial, the trial court applied the sufficiency of the evidence standard from Jackson v. Virginia. However, the correct standard for deciding a motion for new trial on the general grounds is determining whether the verdict is supported by the weight (not the sufficiency) of the evidence.

The Court noted that nothing in the trial court’s ruling suggested that it had exercised its discretion to weigh the evidence. As a result, the Court vacated the denial of the defendant’s motion for new trial and remanded the case.

In a concurrence, Justice McFadden noted that the defendant will be entitled to amend her motion for new trial to include any issues that were raised by her husband in his appeal.

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