Wilkerson v. GeorgiaAnnotate this Case
After he was tried by jury and found guilty of ten aggravated assaults, Jason Wilkerson moved for new trial. The trial court granted his motion as to three of the assaults, concluding that the evidence was legally insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Wilkerson was guilty of those assaults, and concluding as well that a new trial was warranted upon the “general grounds.” The State appealed, and in Georgia v. Wilkerson, 820 SE2d 60 (2018), the Court of Appeals reversed the determination that the evidence was legally insufficient, and vacated the grant of a new trial on the general grounds. With respect to the general grounds, the Court of Appeals acknowledged that a trial court has substantial discretion to award a new trial under the general grounds, but it concluded that the trial court abused its discretion by improperly conflating the standard for the general grounds and the distinct standard by which the legal sufficiency of the evidence is assessed. The Georgia Supreme Court issued a writ of certiorari to review the decision of the Court of Appeals as to the general grounds, and reversed. The Supreme Court noted the Court of Appeals was right to note that the general grounds and a challenge to the legal sufficiency of the evidence presented distinct issues. But absent some indication in the record to the contrary, "we generally presume that trial judges understand this distinction, and here, the record gives us no reason to conclude that the trial court erroneously conflated the general grounds and the legal sufficiency of the evidence."