White v. GeorgiaAnnotate this Case
In 2014, Charles White was found guilty of three counts of rape, one count of statutory rape, ten counts of child molestation, three counts of aggravated sodomy, three counts of incest, and one count of enticing a child for indecent purposes in connection with incidents involving three victims, including S.M., who was a member of White’s extended family. During the course of being questioned about her own sexual misconduct, S.M. disclosed that she had been sexually abused by White since she was five years old and that White had done things to her that were similar to the things that she had done to her stepsisters. Prior to White’s trial, S.M. was adjudicated delinquent in juvenile court for having committed sexual batteries against her two stepsisters. White filed a pretrial motion in limine to have evidence of S.M.’s prior sexual acts excluded from his trial, arguing that the admission of the evidence would have been more prejudicial to White than probative of any issue at trial. The trial court denied White’s motion, and, without further objection from White’s counsel, the State briefly elicited testimony from S.M. regarding her prior sexual misconduct and her delinquency adjudication. Subsequent to his convictions, White moved for a new trial, arguing for the first time that the trial court erred by admitting S.M.'s trial testimony in violation of Georgia's Rape Shield Statute. The trial court denied the motion, and the Court of Appeals did too, reasoning that the Rape Shield Statute could not be invoked by a defendant to prevent a victim from offering evidence that was otherwise relevant to the case. The Georgia Supreme Court determined: (1) a defendant can
invoke the Rape Shield Statute to prohibit the admission of evidence of a witness’s past sexual behavior offered by the State where such offered evidence is inadmissible pursuant to the terms of the Rape Shield Statute; (2) evidence of a complaining witness’s past sexual behavior is only admissible under the Rape Shield Statute if that evidence is relevant to the issue of consent; and (3) the trial court did improperly admit evidence of the complaining witness’s past sexual behavior in this case, but the admission of this evidence did not amount to plain error requiring reversal of White’s convictions. Accordingly, the Supreme Court ultimately affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeals, though on different grounds.