In State v. Arline, the Georgia Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s grant of the defendant’s motion for new trial following his conviction for child molestation, aggravated child molestation and rape.
The new trial was granted on the grounds that critical evidence was discovered by the parties mid-trial that was never heard by the jury.
At trial, after the State’s case in chief, the alleged victim informed prosecutors that she had been sexually active with an adult male other than the defendant during the time period alleged in the indictment. This statement was at odds with the alleged victim’s prior testimony and could have significantly impeached her credibility.
Defense counsel chose not to call her as a witness, so the jury never learned of her new disclosure. The trial court granted the defendant’s motion for a new trial, noting that the disclosure presented the defendant with a tactical dilemma in that he could not know what the alleged victim would say on the stand.
On appeal, the State argued that the trial court erred by applying the wrong standard in granting the defendant a new trial on the general grounds. Without citing authority, it argued that the trial court had to find that the verdict was “contrary to the evidence and the principles of justice and equality.” The trial court found the verdict not to be against the weight of the evidence that the jury heard, but was specifically concerned with the disclosure that the jury did not hear.
The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court, noting its broad discretion as a “thirteenth juror” to consider things when determining whether the verdict is contrary to principles of justice and equality that cannot be considered when weighing the sufficiency of the evidence. Further, the Court noted that the trial court did not usurp the jury’s role but acted in accordance with the discretion it has when considering a motion for new trial.
As a result, the defendant’s convictions for child molestation, aggravated child molestation and rape were vacated and the case was remanded for a new trial.
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