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GA Court of Appeals Finds Valid Waiver in Child Molestation Case

October 14, 2013

In Talton v. State, the Georgia Court of Appeals affirmed the defendant’s convictions for rape, child molestation, and aggravated child molestation holding that the defendant knowingly, voluntarily and intelligently waived his right to a jury trial.

The defendant was convicted after a bench trial. On the day of trial, Talton stated in response to questioning from the trial judge that he wanted the trial to go forward without a jury and that he was not threatened or coerced into his decision. He explained that his attorney advised him to have a jury trial, but he did not want to because he was afraid of “the reactions of a jury” and stated that he “would personally prefer a bench trial.”

The Court upheld the defendant’s waiver of his right to a jury trial, stating that he waived it voluntarily and intelligently. The court reasoned that testimony showed that the defendant voluntarily chose a jury trial after discussing a bench trial with counsel, and that the defendant was not coerced or under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The Court noted that it had upheld waivers in previous cases where these factors were present.

The defendant argued that his waiver was invalid because the trial court “heavily advocated in favor of proceeding without a jury.” After learning of the victim’s ages, the trial court asked the prosecutor if he wanted to “spare them a jury trial,” and pointed out that due to the large number of potential jurors who would be disqualified because of personal experiences with molestation, “[i]t may be more efficient to proceed without a jury if Mr. Talton is waiving his right to a jury.” The Court of Appeals emphasized that the trial court made these statements after the defendant had stated that he wanted a bench trial, and therefore did not participate in the decision-making process in such a way that it rendered Talton’s decision involuntary.

As a result, the defendant’s convictions for rape, child molestation, and aggravated child molestation were affirmed.

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