In Ray v. State, the Georgia Court of Appeals vacated the denial of the defendant’s motion for new trial and remanded the case back to the trial court to determine whether the defendant was entitled to a new trial due to ineffective assistance of counsel and the exclusion of evidence of prior false allegations made by the alleged victim’s aunt.
The defendant was convicted of one count of rape and two counts of sexual battery. The alleged victim was a mentally challenged adult who lived with her aunt and cousins. The defendant was a relative who visited the aunt’s house on occasion. The alleged victim accused the defendant of multiple instances of sexual abuse that she claimed occurred while he was visiting there.
On appeal, the defendant asserted multiple claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. One of these claims concerned the trial attorney’s failure to assert a constitutional speedy trial violation for the State’s five-year delay in indicting the case. The trial court’s order did not mention whether it properly weighed the Barker v. Wingo factors in finding that the defendant’s speedy trial rights had not been violated. Nor did the trial court assess whether the defendant had been prejudiced by the lengthy pre-indictment delay.
The Court remanded the case back to the trial court instructing it to issue a new order expressly setting out its findings and conclusions with regards to the Barker v. Wingo factors.
The defendant also argued that the trial court erred in excluding evidence that the alleged victim’s aunt had falsely accused others of sexual misconduct in the past. Even though the aunt was deceased by the time of trial and could not testify, the Court of Appeals held that the trial court erred, noting that the defendant contended that the alleged victim’s family had convinced her to fabricate the allegations against him, so evidence that the aunt had made previous false allegations was relevant.
The Court held that on remand the trial court must make the threshold determination regarding the falsity of the previous allegations made by the aunt. If a reasonable likelihood of falsity exists, then the aunt’s prior false allegations are admissible, and the defendant is entitled to a new trial.