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Venue Issue Leads to Reversal in Clayton Co. Child Molestation Case

April 13, 2013

In Carter v. State, the defendant was convicted at trial of three counts of child molestation and two counts of aggravated sexual battery.

The State alleged that Carter had inappropriate sexual contact with his girlfriend’s 11 year-old daughter A.W. beginning in the summer of 2009. The contact allegedly occurred both at A.W.’s mother’s house and at Carter’s house.

On appeal, Carter argued that the State failed to establish appropriate venue in Clayton County for four of his five charges. Although the State showed that A.W.’s mother lived in Clayton County around the time of A.W.’s outcry, other evidence indicated that her mother moved around frequently. As the State did not provide details regarding the mother’s prior residences, it did not establish that all of the incidents of molestation occurred in Clayton County. Additionally, the only evidence relating to Carter’s residence was his statement to investigators that he lived in Jonesboro. As the State presented no evidence establishing that the entire city of Jonesboro lies within Clayton County, it also failed to establish proper venue for the alleged molestation at Carter’s residence.

The Court found that since the evidence was otherwise sufficient to convict Carter, he may be tried on these offenses.

Carter also contended that the witness who conducted the forensic interview of A.W. was improperly qualified as an expert. The Court, however, disagreed and held that even though the interviewer did not have a college degree, she had sufficient training and experience to qualify her as an expert as she had conducted almost 350 forensic interviews and underwent 40 hours of training.

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