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Perplexing Decision Regarding Georgia’s Child Hearsay Statute

April 15, 2013

In Maurer v. State, the Georgia Court of Appeals affirmed the defendant’s child molestation conviction despite his claim that his right to confrontation was violated when the alleged victim was not compelled to answer questions concerning the actual molestation allegations.

The Court rejected Maurer’s argument that his Sixth Amendment right to confrontation was violated when the alleged victim was not compelled to answer the questions posed to her at trial about the alleged incident. The alleged victim refused to answer questions relating to what occurred on the night she alleged that Maurer molested her. She merely testified that what she stated to the forensic interviewer was the truth, and that she had also told one of her siblings about the incident.

The Court of Appeals noted that the right to confrontation may be waived by the defendant’s failure to object. Maurer made no objection at trial to the alleged victim’s failure to answer questions concerning the alleged abuse. More importantly, the Court pointed out that while Georgia’s child hearsay statute requires that the alleged victim be called by the State to testify at trial, there was no authority in Georgia that required the alleged victim to actually testify about the incident in question.

Since no Petition for Certiorari was filed in the Georgia Supreme Court, this decision will control the application of our child hearsay statute. It is a perplexing irony in our law that the State is required to call the child to testify at trial but is not required to ask the child any questions relating to the alleged abuse. This begs the question: What is the point of requiring the child to testify if there is no requirement that the child actually say anything?

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