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Anderson v. State

Court of Appeals of Georgia, Fifth Division

December 27, 2018

ANDERSON
v.
STATE.

          MCFADDEN, P. J., RICKMAN and MARKLE, JJ.

          Markle, Judge.

         This case stems from a domestic dispute between a father and his adult children. Herbert Eugene Anderson, Jr. was convicted by a jury of three family violence charges - one charge of simple battery (OCGA § 16-5-23 (f)) and two charges of trespass (OCGA §§ 16-7-21 (b), 19-13-1). He appeals, contending that there was insufficient evidence to convict on any of the charges. We agree, and the State concedes, that there was insufficient evidence to convict Anderson of trespass arising from his initial presence on the property, and we reverse that conviction. The evidence was sufficient as to the remaining two charges, however, and we affirm those convictions.

         "On appeal from a criminal conviction, a defendant no longer enjoys the presumption of innocence, and the evidence is viewed in the light most favorable to the guilty verdict." (Citation and punctuation omitted.) Scarborough v. State, 317 Ga.App. 523, 523 (731 S.E.2d 396) (2012). "When an appellant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence, the relevant question is whether, after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt." (Citation and punctuation omitted; emphasis in original.) Jackson v. State, 309 Ga.App. 24, 24 (1) (709 S.E.2d 44) (2011).

         So viewed, the record shows that, on June 7, 2016, Anderson's sons were at the home they share with their mother and sister. The older son asked Anderson if he could borrow money, and Anderson became agitated. Anderson began to criticize his sons' grandfather, and the encounter escalated when Anderson's youngest son, who was 25 years old at the time of the trial, interjected. Although Anderson was himself screaming, he got mad when his youngest son raised his voice back and spoke to him in a manner Anderson felt was disrespectful. Anderson threw a glass he was holding against a wall and then charged at his youngest son and got in his face. Anderson's youngest son extended his arm to keep Anderson at arm's length. Anderson then shoved his youngest son and the two began pushing each other. Both of Anderson's sons told him to leave multiple times after he got violent, but Anderson did not leave. Anderson's oldest son called 911 when his father would not leave, and Anderson was still at the house when the police arrived.

         Anderson was charged with simple battery family violence for intentionally making contact in an insulting and provoking manner with his youngest son in violation of OCGA § 16-5-23 (f) (Accusation No. 418068), criminal trespass family violence for entering a premises after receiving prior notice from an authorized person that entry was forbidden in violation of OCGA § 16-7-21 (b) (2) and OCGA § 19-13-1 (Accusation No. 418069), and criminal trespass family violence for remaining on the premises after receiving notice to depart in violation of OCGA § 16-7-21 (b) (3) and OCGA § 19-13-1 (Accusation No. 418070). Anderson was convicted by a jury of all three charges, and he now appeals.

         1. Anderson contends the evidence was insufficient to convict him of simple battery (Accusation No. 418068). We disagree.

         A person commits the offense of simple battery when he intentionally makes physical contact of an insulting or provoking nature with the person of another. OCGA § 16-5-23 (a) (1). Anderson contends that the jury could not have convicted him of this offense because his youngest son was the aggressor, and because any contact with his adult son constituted legal parental discipline.

         Taking the arguments in turn, the jury heard conflicting evidence as to how the verbal altercation escalated to a physical one. Both of Anderson's sons testified that Anderson made the altercation physical when he shoved his youngest son after his youngest son defensively tried to put physical distance between himself and Anderson. Anderson, on the other hand, testified that his youngest son was the initial aggressor. The jury even received a charge on the affirmative defense of self-defense. However, "[i]t is the role of the jury to resolve conflicts in the evidence and to determine the credibility of witnesses, and the resolution of such conflicts adversely to the defendant does not render the evidence insufficient." (Citation omitted.) Brooks v. State, 281 Ga. 514, 516 (1) (640 S.E.2d 280) (2007). Here, the jury resolved the conflict against Anderson.

         Anderson's argument that he was engaged in an authorized form of parental discipline likewise lacks merit. Anderson is correct that Georgia law exempts "corporal punishment administered by a parent or guardian to a child" and "reasonable discipline administered by a parent to a child in the form of corporal punishment, restraint, or detention" from the definitions of simple battery and family violence, respectively. OCGA §§ 19-13-1, 16-5-23 (f).

         Neither of these statutes define "child" with regard to these exemptions, but "[t]he General Assembly need not define every word it uses in a statute, as a cardinal rule of statutory construction is [that] the ordinary signification shall be applied to all words, except words of art or words connected with a particular trade or subject matter[.]" (Citation and punctuation omitted.) Land v. State, 262 Ga. 898, 899 (1) (426 S.E.2d 370) (1993); see also OCGA § 1-3-1 (b). We find that the ordinary signification of "child," in the context of parental discipline, is a minor. Not only is this common sense, but it is also consistent with the treatment of the term in the similar context of the affirmative defense of justification. The defense of justification can be claimed "[w]hen the person's conduct is the reasonable discipline of a minor by his parent or a person in loco parentis[.]" (Emphasis supplied.) OCGA § 16-3-20 (3); see also Paul v. State, 274 Ga. 601, 603 (3) (a) (555 S.E.2d 716) (2001) ("The conduct of a parent or one standing in loco parentis in administering the reasonable discipline of a minor is justified and is a defense to prosecution for any crime based on that conduct.") (emphasis supplied); LaPann v. State, 191 Ga.App. 499, 500 (382 S.E.2d 200) (1989) ("[A]pplied force is legally justified only when a parent's conduct in disciplining a minor is reasonable.") (emphasis supplied).

         Anderson argues that if the parental discipline exemption does not extend to adult children, the family violence statute cannot be applied as between a parent and his adult child. This argument lacks merit. The fact that an exemption is available only to certain parents, those with minor children who the parents can properly and legally discipline, does not mean that the remainder of the statute cannot apply to all parents.

         Accordingly, we do not find that the battery or family violence statutes permit a parent to corporally punish an adult child, and thus the jury was authorized to convict Anderson for his contact with his adult son.

         2. Anderson contends that the evidence was insufficient to convict him of trespass for his initial presence on the property (Accusation No. 418069). The State concedes ...


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