The trial was one of the first to take place in Richmond County Superior Court after a Georgia Supreme Court ruling in February changed the procedure for putting child victims on the witness stand. Under Georgia’s child hearsay laws, the recorded statements of young victims are allowed as evidence in court proceedings to avoid having children revisit the trauma of a crime.
But justices said in the of Hatley v. State decision that defendants have the right to confront their witnesses on the stand if they raise an objection to the recorded statement. In the two-day trial of Powell, Judge James Blanchard allowed the jurors to hear the recorded statement the now 14-year-old victim made to a forensic interviewer after she was cross-examined. In a previous hearing, Assistant Public Defender Lyndsey Hix said that following normal procedure of just bringing the victim to court would essentially make Hatley a “meaningless ruling.”