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GA Law: Act Committed at Age 14 can be Introduced in Molestation Case

May 30, 2013

In Dean v. State, the Georgia Court of Appeals affirmed a defendant’s child molestation conviction and held that the State was permitted to introduce as a “similar transaction” evidence that the defendant engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct with two 12 year-old girls when the defendant himself was only 14 years old.

Anthony Scott Dean was convicted of two counts of molesting his teenaged adopted daughter. At trial, the girl testified that Dean came into her room one night and touched her inappropriately. She also testified that Dean made inappropriate comments to her about his desire to have sex with her when he came into her bathroom wearing only a towel.

The trial court allowed the state to introduce evidence that Dean had acted inappropriately with two 12 year-old girls at a sleepover when he was just 14 years-old. Although no charges were filed related to this incident, the Court of Appeals found that the incident was sufficiently similar to be admissible. Surprisingly, the Court was not persuaded by the 20-plus year time gap and the fact that Dean was just a juvenile—stating that the commission of sexual crimes at any age demonstrates a relevant “bent of mind” to offend not seen in others with no such criminal history.

With the new evidence code, Georgia criminal defense attorneys face an even greater uphill battle in sex offense cases as the new statutes permit the State to introduce almost any prior sexual act regardless of its similarity or relevance to the charges in the indictment. For instance, under O.C.G.A. § 24-4-414, in the prosecution of a child molestation case Georgia law now permits the introduction into evidence of any prior offense involving sexual contact with a child regardless of when it was committed or the circumstances under which it was committed. This puts a criminal defendant’s entire life, even his childhood, under a microscope and allows for evidence of any questionable sexual conduct committed at any time in his life to be presented to the jury.

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