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Court of Appeals Affirms Exclusion of Child Hearsay Statements

October 10, 2017

In State v. Walker, the Georgia Court of Appeals held that the trial court properly granted the defendant’s motion in limine to exclude child hearsay statements since the alleged victim was 14 years old when she made the purported statements.

The evidence showed that in 2015 the alleged victim told her aunt that the defendant, her father, had molested her in 2011. The defendant was then indicted. The girl gave a statement in a forensic interview while she was 14 years old.

At the hearing on the defendant’s motion in limine, the trial court noted that the current Georgia statute on child hearsay applies to statements made by “a child younger than 16 years of age.” The statute was not retroactive and became effective in 2013, two years after the alleged offense was committed. The statute in effect in 2011 applied only to statements made by a child “under the age of 14.”

On appeal, the State argued that the former statute did not apply and that the date of the trial should determine the applicability of the new or old statute. Further, the State asserted that because the rule is procedural in nature, it should be applied retroactively.

The Court of Appeals held that the trial court did not err in granting the defendant’s motion because the legislature explicitly included language in the statute providing that the statute became “effective on July 1, 2013, and shall apply to offenses which occur on or after that date.” Further, the Court noted that the statute provided that “[a]ny offense occurring before July 1, 2013 shall be governed by the statute in effect at the time of such offense.”

As a result, the Court affirmed the trial court’s exclusion of the alleged victim’s forensic interview.

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