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Court Excludes Evidence of Accuser’s Prior Molestation Allegation

July 13, 2016

In Morgan v. State, the Georgia Court of Appeals affirmed the defendant’s child molestation conviction and held that it was not error for the trial court to exclude evidence that the alleged victim had made a prior allegation of molestation against someone else.

On appeal, the defendant contended that the girl’s prior allegation against her stepfather—that he had put his hand down the back of her pants in an effort to retrieve a cigarette he had dropped, and that he would often touch or rub his private area in front of her—were never prosecuted because they were false.

Under Georgia’s Rape Shield Statute, evidence related to an accuser’s past sexual behavior is generally inadmissible. One of the exceptions to this rule is for evidence that shows “the victim’s lack of credibility where the victim has made prior false allegations of child molestation.” Berry v. State, 235 Ga. App. 35 (1998).

The State argued that the stepfather was not prosecuted because it was determined that the conduct did not constitute child molestation, not because the allegations against him were untrue. The trial court found that since there was not a reasonable probability that the prior allegations were false, it did not fall under the exception to the Rape Shield Statute.

The defendant also argued that the trial court should have denied the State’s motion to exclude any reference to prescription drugs that the girl was taking. The defendant argued that he planned to cross-examine one of the State’s witnesses, a doctor, about the side effects of one of the girl’s medications. The State decided not to call the doctor, and because the defense had no witness who could testify on the matter, the trial court granted the State’s motion.

As a result, the Court upheld the trial court’s rulings and affirmed the defendant’s child molestation conviction.

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