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Court Rejects Claims of Error in Child Molestation Appeal

April 10, 2017

In Lawton v. State, the Georgia Court of Appeals affirmed the defendant’s convictions for rape and child molestation, rejecting the defendant’s claims that his trial counsel was ineffective and that the State made an improper comment on his pre-arrest silence.

Addressing the ineffective assistance of counsel claim, the defendant argued that counsel was ineffective in failing to have the child’s forensic interviews evaluated by an expert to combat the testimony of the State’s expert. The Court held that the lawyer’s decision, after reviewing the interviews, to not retain an expert was part of a reasonable trial strategy because the lawyer determined that an expert was unnecessary based upon his experience in similar cases.

Addressing the State’s comment on the defendant’s pre-arrest failure to come forward, the Court held that the trial court properly admitted the statements because the Mallory rule (which prohibits comments on pre-arrest silence) did not apply in this case.

Here, the defendant spoke with the officer and agreed to meet with her before he was ever charged. However, he then failed to show up to the meetings on multiple occasions. The officer’s testimony was offered for the limited purpose of showing the inconsistency between the defendant’s statements and conduct. The Court held that the trial court did not err in admitting this testimony.

As a result, the Court affirmed the defendant’s rape and molestation convictions.

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