Case Results

Appeal Win: Reversal of Gwinnett County child molestation conviction

State of Georgia v. H.A.

We were able to obtain a reversal of our client's molestation conviction as a result of several errors made by both the trial court and his trial attorney.

We were retained to handle the appeal for a client who was convicted of aggravated child molestation in Gwinnett County Superior Court. The client was a tutor at a respected private learning center in Lilburn where an allegation was made that he molested a young female student there.

Before we got involved, our client had already been convicted at a bench trial and was sentenced to serve 20 years in prison. After reviewing the case file and trial transcripts, we discovered several errors that were made at his trial. These errors were set out in our motion for a new trial.

One issue concerned the viewing of evidence by the judge outside of everyone’s presence. At trial, the State introduced a video recording of the forensic interview that was conducted with the girl shortly after the allegation was made. This video, like all evidence, is required to be viewed in court in the presence of the defendant.

However, when the State attempted to play the video, there were technical difficulties. The prosecutor made the suggestion that the judge “can review it in [her] own time.” After speaking with the trial attorney and our client, it became clear that our client had never even viewed this interview – he wasn’t even aware that it existed.

The State tried to argue that trial counsel waived the defendant’s right to the viewing of the interview in court by not objecting when the suggestion was made by the prosecutor. But the court found that the defendant’s silence in this case was not sufficient to show that he acquiesced to the viewing of the video outside of his presence. At the hearing on our motion for new trial, his trial attorney testified that she did not have any discussions with our client about his right to have the evidence viewed in open court.

We also argued that our client was denied his right to effective assistance of counsel because his trial attorney failed to present evidence that was readily available that would have cast serious doubt as to the girl’s identification of him as the perpetrator of this alleged crime.

During our investigation, we learned that the tutors at the learning center were required to wear pants and dress shirts to work. This was very significant because the girl stated in her forensic interview that “the boy” who did this to her was wearing shorts. There was also evidence that our client never even wore shorts in public due to a large scar on his leg.

We presented all of this evidence at the hearing on our motion for new trial and we were able to prove that had the trial attorney presented this evidence, the outcome of the trial would have likely been different.

As a result of these errors, the judge granted our motion for new trial and vacated our client’s conviction.

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