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Johnson v. State

Court of Appeals of Georgia, Third Division

August 23, 2019

JOHNSON
v.
THE STATE.

          DILLARD, P. J., GOBEIL and HODGES, JJ.

          DILLARD, PRESIDING JUDGE.

         Following a trial by jury, John Thomas Johnson was convicted of aggravated sexual battery. Johnson appeals from this conviction, arguing only that the evidence was insufficient to sustain his conviction. For the reasons set forth infra, we affirm.

         Viewed in the light most favorable to the verdict, [1] the record shows that the victim was friends with Johnson's adult son and, on the afternoon of May 31, 2016, went to the house where Johnson's son and ex-wife lived. The victim occasionally socialized with Johnson's ex-wife and was doing so on the day in question when Johnson invited his ex-wife over for a beer at his house about two blocks away. The victim went along too, and the three then drank alcohol and smoked marijuana. But after consuming half a bottle of Jack Daniels and some Wild Turkey, the victim began to feel sick. Johnson's ex-wife was "scared for her" and "majorly worried" that the victim might become "deathly ill." As a result, Johnson and his ex-wife helped the victim to the bathroom, where she vomited. They then led the victim to the guest bedroom to lay down, where she lost consciousness shortly thereafter. Johnson's ex-wife stayed for a while, continuing to talk with Johnson in the other room. Eventually, Johnson's ex-wife left to go home and fix dinner; but before doing so, she warned Johnson not to bother the victim, [2] stating, "don't touch her."

         The victim regained consciousness when she felt someone-who she later realized was Johnson-lie down beside her on the waterbed and begin rubbing her back. She then felt a hand rubbing her bottom and unbuttoning her pants before digitally penetrating her vagina. At that point, the disoriented victim said "no" and grabbed Johnson's hand. Johnson said "ok, ok," and rubbed the victim's back again, before repeatedly telling her that he was going to perform oral sex on her. The victim then became fully aware of who was touching her and, when he again attempted to touch her vagina, she moved his hand and got up from the bed.

         As the victim went to find her phone, Johnson followed along and attempted to calm her down. Understandably, she was afraid to call the police in front of him, so she instead texted Johnson's son, pleading with him to come get her. Eventually, she walked away from the home on her own and called Johnson's ex-wife. Johnson's ex-wife and his son then picked the victim up in front of a church, and immediately noticed that her pants were still unbuttoned, she was not wearing shoes, she was "genuinely distressed," and she was still intoxicated to the point of slurring words.

         Johnson was later tried for and convicted of aggravated sexual battery, and the trial court denied his motion for new trial. Now, he challenges only the sufficiency of the evidence.

         On appeal from a criminal conviction, we view the evidence in "the light most favorable to the jury's verdict, and the defendant is no longer presumed innocent."[3]Thus, in evaluating the sufficiency of the evidence, we do not assess witness credibility or weigh the evidence, but only determine "if the evidence was sufficient for a rational trier of fact to find the defendant guilty of the charged offenses beyond a reasonable doubt."[4] And the verdict will be upheld so long as there is "some competent evidence, even though contradicted, to support each fact necessary to make out the State's case."[5] With these guiding principles in mind, we turn to Johnson's sole enumeration of error.

         Johnson argues that the evidence was insufficient to prove him guilty of the offense of aggravated sexual battery, which is perpetrated when a person "intentionally penetrates with a foreign object the sexual organ or anus of another person without the consent of that person."[6] Specifically, Johnson claims that when he inserted his finger into the victim's vagina, the encounter was consensual because she was conscious and responded positively to his earlier advances by arching her back to make herself more accessible. But the victim definitively testified that, although her initial instinct was that Johnson's touches felt good, she was "so out of it," she "didn't know what was going on at first," she only became fully conscious and "realized something was wrong" when "he went in," and she did not enjoy it when he made contact with her vagina.

         As we have previously explained, whether a victim consents to sex is "a matter solely within the province of the jury."[7] And while a defendant

is not required to 'read the victim's mind' or understand her internal thought processes; he is . . . required not to impose sex upon her without her free consent. Whether he did so is a question of intent, which the jury determines according to the reasonableness of her testimony as to lack of consent, not the reasonableness of her fear.[8]

         In the context of forcible rape, the Supreme Court of Georgia has held that when the State has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the victim is "physically or mentally unable to give consent to the act, as when she is intoxicated, drugged, or mentally incompetent, the requirement of force is found in constructive force, that is, in the use of such force as is necessary to effect the penetration made by the defendant."[9] Thus, sexual intercourse with a woman whose "will is temporarily lost from intoxication or unconsciousness arising from the use of drugs or other cause or sleep is rape."[10]

Although a majority of states do not criminalize conduct when a victim has become voluntarily intoxicated by drugs or alcohol, [11] Georgia is not such a state.[12] Indeed, under our well-established case law, when a victim is "intoxicated, drugged, or mentally incompetent" and her "will is temporarily lost from intoxication or unconsciousness arising from the use of drugs or other cause," she is "physically or mentally unable to give consent to the act" of sexual intercourse.[13] We see no reason why this same logic should not apply to sexual battery. And here, the State presented sufficient evidence by which the jury was authorized to conclude that the victim was intoxicated to the point her will was temporarily lost. Indeed, the victim vomited, required assistance to walk, and lost consciousness.[14]

         Thus, in light of the victim's level of intoxication in this case, the jury was presented with evidence by which it could determine that she was unable to consent to Johnson's act of penetrating her vagina with his finger-i.e., that he did so w ...


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