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Harris v. State

Court of Appeals of Georgia

October 2, 2014

HARRIS
v.
THE STATE

Reconsideration denied December 4, 2014.

Effective assistance of counsel. Gwinnett Superior Court. Before Judge Head, pro hac vice.

Clark & Towne, Jessica R. Towne, for appellant.

Daniel J. Porter, District Attorney, Samantha Routh, Assistant District Attorney, for appellee.

RAY, Judge. Andrews, P. J., and McFadden, J., concur.

OPINION

Ray, Judge.

Following a jury trial, Michael Orlando Harris was convicted of child molestation (OCGA § 16-6-4 (a)). On appeal, Harris contends that his trial counsel was ineffective in failing to render informed advice as to whether he should accept the State's offer of a negotiated guilty plea. For the reasons set forth below, we disagree and affirm.

Viewed in the light most favorable to the jury's verdict, see Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307 (99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560) (1979), the evidence shows that in April 2011, Harris lived with his wife, Quianna Harris, their two young children, and twelve-year-old P. D., Quianna Harris's daughter from a previous

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relationship. P. D. testified that while she and Harris were alone in the house, they played the game of " truth or dare." During the course of the game, Harris dared P. D. to take off her clothes, which she did. After P. D. put her clothes back on, she noticed that Harris, who was clothed, had an erection. P. D. further testified that Quianna Harris became angry after she found out what P. D. and Harris had done, and that she came into P. D.'s room, scratched her, and pulled her out of the bed.

A police officer interviewed P. D. at her school, and P. D. told the officer that Harris dared her to undress and that she got naked. When the officer spoke with Quianna Harris, she informed him that Harris told her that he played " truth or dare" with P. D. and that he had [330 Ga.App. 166] asked P. D. to get nude. The officer also testified that Harris told the officer that he had played " truth or dare" with P. D. and that he had dared P. D. to get naked.

A grand jury issued a bill of indictment accusing Harris of one count of child molestation and one count of enticing a child for indecent purposes. Before trial, the State extended a plea offer to Harris consisting of ten years probation, along with conditions including that he register as a sex offender. Harris rejected the offer. At trial, before joining issue, the State gave Harris an opportunity to reconsider whether he wanted to pursue a negotiated plea. After consultation with Harris, defense counsel informed the trial court that Harris had chosen to go forward. The case proceeded to trial, and after the trial court granted Harris's motion for a directed verdict on the charge of enticing a child for indecent purposes, the jury found Harris guilty of child molestation. The trial court then sentenced Harris to twelve years, with the first five years to be served in confinement and the remainder to be served on probation. Following a hearing, the trial court denied Harris's motion for new trial. Harris appeals.

Harris contends that his conviction should be reversed because he did not receive informed advice during pre-trial discussions with his trial counsel and that, but for trial counsel's deficiencies, there is a reasonable probability that he would have accepted the State's plea offer. We disagree.

To show ineffective assistance of trial counsel, Harris is required to establish that his " attorney's performance was deficient, and that the deficiency caused such prejudice that there is a reasonable likelihood that, but for the attorney's error, the outcome at trial would have been different." Dulcio v. State, 292 Ga. 645, 650 (3) (740 S.E.2d 574) (2013). He must also " overcome the strong presumption that counsel's conduct fell within the range of reasonable professional conduct, which is broad." Id. In our appellate review, we defer " to the trial court's factual ...


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