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Robinson v. State

Court of Appeals of Georgia, First Division

August 23, 2017

ROBINSON
v.
THE STATE.

          BARNES, P. J., MCMILLIAN and MERCIER, JJ.

          Barnes, Presiding Judge.

         A jury found Johnny Ray Robinson guilty of aggravated child molestation, and the trial court denied his amended motion for new trial. On appeal, Robinson challenges the sufficiency of the evidence, and he contends that the trial court erred by permitting the introduction of multiple photographs of the victim's injuries, testimony regarding the victim's need for therapy after the sexual encounter, and evidence of his prior bad acts. For the reasons discussed below, we affirm.[1]

         "Following a criminal conviction, the defendant is no longer presumed innocent, and we view the evidence in the light most favorable to sustain the verdict." Anthony v. State, 317 Ga.App. 807, 807 (732 S.E.2d 845) (2012). So viewed, the evidence showed that the 13-year-old victim lived in an apartment complex in Newton County with her mother and siblings. The victim suffered from weakness in her left side, short-term memory problems, and comprehension difficulties caused by a prior traumatic brain injury.

         On July 1, 2013, the victim was walking through the apartment complex when two 16-year-olds, Robinson and Joshua Harris, began following her. Robinson lived at the apartment complex, while Harris often visited the complex but did not live there.

         Robinson and Harris approached the victim and asked her to go with them to the woods behind one of the apartment buildings. Once in the woods with the victim, Robinson and Harris had sexual intercourse with her, causing her pain and injury in her vaginal area.

         Because of the victim's cognitive impairments, her nine-year-old brother often would look after her when she left the apartment. On the day in question, the brother was outside looking for the victim when he heard her screaming and found Robinson and Harris "messing with her" in the woods. According to the brother, Robinson, Harris, and the victim did not have on their pants, and Robinson was on top of the victim while Harris was holding her by the arms. The brother told the two juveniles to leave his sister alone, threw a stick at them in an effort to stop them, and ran and told his mother what he had seen. The mother ran to the woods, where she saw Harris with his pants down on top of the victim with her pants down while Robinson stood to the side. The mother jumped on Harris and struck him, after which Harris and Robinson fled from the scene.

         An officer with the Covington Police Department was dispatched to the apartment complex, where he spoke with the victim and her mother, both of whom were distraught and crying. The mother told the officer what she had seen in the woods, and she identified Robinson and Harris as the two juveniles and informed the officer that Robinson lived at the apartment complex. The officer asked the victim if she had been vaginally penetrated and if she was hurt, and she nodded her head yes.

         The officer transported the victim to the hospital, where her clothing, including bloody underwear, was collected as evidence, and a police investigator assigned to the case interviewed the victim and her mother. During the interview, the victim told the investigator that Robinson had pushed her to the ground and forced her to take down her pants, after which Robinson had attempted to penetrate her vagina with his penis even though she told him to stop. The victim told the investigator that she believed that the bleeding in her vaginal area had been caused by Robinson trying to penetrate her. The victim denied that Harris forced her to have sexual intercourse with him.

         Later that night, the victim was transferred to Scottish Rite Hospital. A sexual assault kit was performed on the victim, and photographs were take of an abrasion, a laceration, and bruising sustained by the victim in her vaginal area.

         Robinson and Harris were located and transported to the police department. After interviewing the victim and her mother, the police investigator interviewed Robinson later that night once Robinson was advised of and waived his Miranda rights.[2] Robinson told the investigator that he thought Harris had sexual intercourse with the victim. Robinson also told the investigator that he had tried to fully penetrate the victim, but had only been able to get the head of his penis inside of her vagina before he quit. Robinson denied that the victim had been raped, but he admitted that the victim had appeared scared and had tried to pull her pants back up during the encounter.

         On July 16, 2013, a follow-up physical examination of the victim was conducted and additional photographs were taken of her injuries, which had not fully healed. Forensic interviews of the victim and her brother were conducted at a child advocacy center on that same date. During her forensic interview, the victim told the interviewer that Robinson took off her pants even though she said no, forced her to the ground, and forced his penis into her vagina while holding her down, causing her pain. She initially denied to the forensic interviewer that she had sexual intercourse with Harris, but later in the interview, she stated that Harris had forced her to have intercourse with him.

         Robinson was indicted on charges of rape and aggravated child molestation.[3]During the jury trial, the victim testified that she did not want to answer questions about what had happened in the woods, and that she had blocked out the bad things that had happened to her that involved Robinson and Harris. The victim did testify that she remembered going to the hospital after the incident and having pain in her vaginal area. The victim also testified, without any objection from the defense, that she had been seeing a therapist since the time of the incident.

         The victim's mother and brother testified and described what that they had seen in the woods. The mother also testified about the victim's impairments resulting from her prior traumatic brain injury, as did a school psychologist who had evaluated the victim in March 2013. T8. 183-185; T9. 349-353 Additionally, the officer who first responded to the scene testified to his interactions with the victim and her mother, and the investigator who initially interviewed the victim and Robinson testified about those interviews. The State also introduced recordings of the forensic interviews of the victim and her brother and of the police interview with Robinson.

         With respect to physical evidence, a forensic biologist from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation testified on behalf of the State that there was male DNA found in the cervical swabs from the victim's sexual assault kit, although there was insufficient DNA present on the swabs to match it to the DNA profile of any particular male. The State also introduced, without objection from the defense, multiple photographs of the victim's injuries to her vaginal area taken during her initial examination at Scottish Rite Hospital on July 1, 2013 and during her follow-up examination on July 16, 2013, as well as testimony describing those injuries from the pediatric nurse practitioner and physician who conducted those examinations. The pediatric nurse practitioner and physician described an actively bleeding abrasion, a laceration, and bruising to the victim's vaginal area, which they testified was consistent with vaginal penetration and with blunt force trauma caused by a penis. The physician further testified that there was residual bruising still visible at the victim's follow-up examination conducted on July 16, 2013.

         The State also introduced evidence of prior bad acts committed by Robinson in 2009 and 2012. Following a limiting instruction from the trial court, the State presented evidence that in 2009, Robinson fondled himself and exposed his penis to several young female students at their middle school. Later in the trial, after an additional limiting instruction from the trial court, the State presented evidence that in 2012, Robinson helped a female neighbor at the same apartment complex carry groceries into her apartment unit, but then locked the door and tried to get her to have sexual intercourse with him. The neighbor testified that when she refused Robinson's overtures, he chased her around her apartment and held her down on the sofa before she was able to successfully fight him off. Robinson admitted in a police interview that he had chased the neighbor around her apartment unit and had wrestled with her on the couch while on top of her, but he denied that he had been forceful with the neighbor.

         After the State rested, the defense called two witnesses who had been friends with the victim and Robinson. They testified that after the sexual incident in the woods, the victim had acted "regular, like nothing had happened" when they saw her again, had laughed and joked about the incident, and had described how she had acted in a sexually suggestive manner towards Robinson and Harris. The defense also recalled the victim and played for the jury the recording of the police investigator's initial interview of her on July 1, 2013 in an effort to show inconsistencies in her account of the incident. Additionally, the defense called a special education expert, who testified that the victim appeared to be high functioning, despite her previous traumatic brain injury. Robinson himself elected not to testify.

         Upon reviewing all the evidence, the jury was unable to reach a verdict on the rape count of the indictment, and the trial court declared a mistrial on that count due to a hung jury. The jury found Robinson guilty of aggravated child molestation, and the trial court sentenced him to life with the first 30 years in confinement. Robinson ...


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