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Mother’s Statements to Doctors Inadmissible at Molestation Trial

December 17, 2017

In State v. Almanza, the Georgia Court of Appeals held that a doctor was not permitted to testify to statements made by a child’s mother in which she told the doctor that the defendant molested her child.

The record reflected that the alleged victim reported to her mother that the defendant, her stepfather, had molested her a year prior. The defendant was subsequently indicted for child molestation, incest, aggravated sexual battery, statutory rape, and aggravated child molestation. The alleged victim and her mother then left the county and were unable to be located prior to trial.

The State sought to introduce statements that the mother made to the girl’s treating physicians which specifically identified the defendant as having performed sexual acts with the girl. Both physicians testified that the information identifying the defendant as the perpetrator came only from the mother. The trial court held that the fact that the girl was reportedly abused was admissible, but that any statement by the mother identifying the defendant as the perpetrator would be inadmissible.

On appeal, the State argued that the statements made by the mother to the physicians fell under the hearsay exception for statements made for the purpose of medical diagnosis or treatment. The State urged the Court to follow federal precedent which has held that these statements would all fall under the hearsay exception.

The Court of Appeals disagreed, determining that where there was no substantive change from the old Georgia rule of evidence to the new one, Georgia case law was controlling. Georgia cases have held that the perpetrator’s identity was not relevant to the medical diagnosis and treatment of the alleged victim. The Court even cited a Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals case which followed the same reasoning, that statements that assign fault or identify the perpetrator are inadmissible under the hearsay exception at issue.

The State urged the Court to permit such statements in child molestation cases, however, the Court reasoned that the incentives for veracity inherent in statements to physicians for the purpose of diagnosis or treatment were not found in statements to physicians regarding the identity of an abuser.

Therefore, the Court affirmed the trial court’s ruling that the statements made by the mother to the physician, identifying the defendant as the abuser, would not be admissible at trial.

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