We were retained to handle the motion for new trial for a client who was convicted of child molestation in Columbia County. After reviewing the evidence and the trial transcripts, we were able to identify several issues concerning errors made by the trial judge as well as issues concerning ineffective assistance of trial counsel.
One of the most glaring issues dealt with a series of improper comments made by the judge in the presence of the jury in violation of O.C.G.A. § 17-8-57. These comments by the judge clearly sent the message to the jury that he was in disagreement with the defense on several disputed issues that were critical to the case. Moreover, the judge made comments at trial that indicated that he was in agreement with the testimony of the State’s forensic interviewer. This served to not only bolster her credibility, but it also bolstered the credibility of the alleged victim. Lastly, the judge also explained to the jury that he had reviewed school records, medical records, and DFCS records pertaining to the case and that the records did not reveal any exculpatory evidence. This comment to the jury was a direct violation of O.C.G.A. § 17-8-57’s prohibition against making any statements to the jury about “what has or has not been proved.”
These issues were raised at the hearing on the Motion for New Trial where a complete record was made concerning all of the legal errors that were committed at the client’s trial. While the motion was denied, the case was then taken up to the Georgia Court of Appeals where the Court unanimously reversed the client’s conviction as a result of the judge’s repeated improper comments at trial. The case was then remanded back to Columbia County Superior Court for a new trial.