Georgia v. BurnsAnnotate this Case
Appellee James Burns was charged with aggravated sexual battery, aggravated sodomy, and incest. The charges followed the discovery of a social-media message written by Burns’ step-daughter, K.R., detailing an alleged July 2015 sexual encounter with Burns. The message also included the following statement: “And my brother’s best friend tried to rape me.” K.R. later acknowledged that the attempted-rape statement was “made up,” and the State moved in limine to prevent Burns from mentioning it at trial. The trial court granted the State’s motion, concluding “that the probative value of the statement in question is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice and confusion of the issues and is inadmissible under OCGA 24-4-403.” The trial court certified the issue for immediate review, and the Court of Appeals granted Burns’s application for interlocutory appeal. The Court of Appeals followed Smith v. Georgia, 377 SE2d 158 (1989) to reverse the trial court, which had excluded certain evidence of prior false accusations of sexual misconduct from being presented during trial under OCGA 24-4-403. Smith held that such evidence was admissible to attack the credibility of the victim and as substantive evidence tending to prove the conduct underlying the charges did not occur. The Georgia Supreme Court granted certiorari review to reconsider Smith, and though the Court concluded Smith was wrongly decided, it affirmed the ultimate judgment of the appeals court.