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GA Court of Appeals Revisits Child Molestation Case and Affirms Convictions

April 5, 2013

In Wilder v. State, the Georgia Court of Appeals took a second look at a child molestation case that was remanded back to the trial court last year by the Georgia Supreme Court.

James Wilder was convicted at trial of statutory rape, aggravated child molestation, child molestation, and sexual exploitation of a child when the State alleged he both engaged in and filmed his inappropriate sexual contact with a 15 year-old girl.

The State obtained DVDs and videotapes that were discovered in a briefcase that Wilder left at his friend’s house. The friend gave the briefcase to the police despite Wilder’s instructions that he would be returning for it and that she should not show it to anyone. The Supreme Court held that his actions created a reasonable expectation of privacy in the briefcase which prohibited the officers from taking it from the friend. The Court remanded the case to the trial court for a determination as to whether the evidence would have been admissible anyway under the inevitable discovery rule since the officers did later obtain a search warrant.

The Court of Appeals held that even if the warrantless seizure of Wilder’s briefcase was unlawful, the contents of the briefcase would have been inevitably discovered by lawful means as officers were in the process of obtaining a search warrant, and could have obtained it even before discovering the evidence in the briefcase. Thus, the Court affirmed his convictions and held that the evidence was properly admitted at trial.

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