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Georgia Supreme Court ruling putting children on witness stand argued in Augusta Circuit Superior Court

Monday, Feb. 27, 2012 2:49 PM
Last updated 10:03 PM
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A Feb. 6 decision by the Georgia Supreme Court that changes procedure for putting children on the witness stand is already being argued in Superior Court.

Justices affirmed the 2010 conviction of Johnny Hatley on child molestation charges, but agreed with Hatley’s argument that he has a constitutional right to confront his witnesses. In this case, it was a 3-year-old girl who said Hatley committed sex acts with her.

Georgia’s Child Hearsay Statute allows the recorded interview of a child or the testimony of forensic investigators as trial evidence to avoid putting a small child on the witness stand and subjecting her to cross-examination. Past cases further clarify the evidentiary rules, but the Hatley case says the state has to produce the child witness at trial.

It does not, however, specifically say whether the child has to testify, and that point came up Monday in Superior Court during a Jackson-Denno hearing in the case of David Powell. A Richmond County indictment accuses Powell of two counts of child molestation. The hearing was to decide whether statements Powell made to sheriff’s investigators could be used during trial, but it also addressed the child’s testimony.

Assistant District Attorney Parks White filed notice Feb. 21 that he intended to use child hearsay, pursuant to Georgia law and under the new Hatley case law. He said in court Monday that gives the defense a reasonable period of time to prepare and make an objection under the Confrontation Clause. That clause, part of the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, says anyone accused of a crime “shall enjoy the right ... to be confronted with the witnesses against him.”

But Assistant Public Defender Lyndsey Hix said just bringing the child witness to court as required and playing the recorded tape is no longer sufficient. If the old procedure is followed, then Hatley “would essentially be a meaningless ruling,” Hix said.

“We follow that under the Sixth Amendment confrontation clause, (the child) should be presented as any other witness,” Hix said.

Superior Court Judge James Blanchard did not make a ruling Monday.

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Craig Spinks
Craig Spinks 02/28/12 - 04:44 am
What parent worthy of the

What parent worthy of the name would agree to allow their child-victim of sexual abuse to testify in open court?

Do we intend to allow the GSC to give a get-out-of-jail-free card to very child molester in Georgia?

urright 02/28/12 - 10:43 am
Craig--any parent who loves

Craig--any parent who loves and believes their child would allow them to be put on the stand. Yes, it would be scary, but if the child says that what they said during the forensic interview was true, the tape should be allowed to be used. Defense attorney's know not to make the kid cry on the stand. It does not look good in front of a jury. I've personally seen 5 and 6-year-olds testify beautifully in such cases.
The court's decision needs to be overturned, but it's not a get-out-of-jail-free card.

TruthJusticeFaithHope 02/29/12 - 10:36 pm
You are correct Craig Spinks,

You are correct Craig Spinks, and although you too are right .. you are also wrong, urright ! Yes, theoretically, children testifying would bring perpetrators to justice, and ultimately free the child victim from the trauma... by having done something to remedy the abuse. Yet, the fear or re-living the trauma... in front of the abuser, in a very intimidating environment... all are deterrents to getting the child to testify. Craig is right... when the victim is very young or if she or he has special needs... the perp gets a pass. Sad, sad day... the Georgia Supreme Court justices must not remember what a child is like ... so they undid what the Georgia Legislature thought was an appropriate measure in 1999, to both protect child witnesses and uphold defendants rights. Hard to believe. Fewer cases will make it to court.

frogloveraugusta 03/05/12 - 10:24 pm


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