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Stodghill v. State

Court of Appeals of Georgia, Fifth Division

September 6, 2019

STODGHILL
v.
THE STATE.

          McFADDEN, C. J., McMILLIAN, P. J., and SENIOR APPELLATE JUDGE PHIPPS

          McFadden, Chief Judge.

         After a jury trial, Zane Stodghill was convicted of five counts of aggravated child molestation, five counts of aggravated sodomy, and three counts of enticing a child for indecent purposes. The trial court denied Stodghill's motion for new trial, and he appeals. Stodghill argues that the evidence does not support the convictions, that the trial court erred by denying a competency evaluation, and that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to ask for a continuance. We hold that the evidence was sufficient to support the convictions, that the trial court did not err by denying a competency evaluation, and that trial counsel was not ineffective. So we affirm.

         1. Facts.

         "On appeal from a criminal conviction, we view the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict, with the defendant no longer enjoying a presumption of innocence." Garza v. State, 347 Ga.App. 335 (819 S.E.2d 497) (2018) (citation omitted). We do not weigh the evidence or judge the credibility of witnesses, but determine only 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." Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 319 (III) (B) (99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560) (1979) (emphasis omitted).

         So viewed, the evidence showed that the victims were three brothers, twins who were nine years old at the time of their outcries and their younger brother, who was eight years old at the time of his outcry. Stodghill's mother occasionally watched the boys while their father was at work, sometimes over night. Stodghill would bring the boys into his bedroom, where he would force them to perform oral sex upon him and anally penetrate them with his penis. Stodghill threatened to hurt them if they told anyone about the abuse.

         The boys disclosed the abuse to a neighbor couple who watched them. The couple notified the boys' father, who took them to a child advocacy center where they were interviewed. Recordings of their interviews were played for the jury and the boys testified at trial.

         Stodghill argues that the evidence was insufficient to support the convictions because it consisted exclusively of the victims' testimony, which was not credible given certain discrepancies. We disagree because

the testimony of a single witness is generally sufficient to establish a fact. And, to the extent that any witness' testimony was inconsistent or contradicted, we note that it is the function of the jury - not this [c]ourt - to resolve such conflicts in the evidence. The jury clearly resolved the conflicts against [Stodghill] and we will not disturb the jury's findings on appeal.

McGhee v. State, 263 Ga.App. 762, 763 (1) (589 S.E.2d 333) (2003) (citations and punctuation omitted). See OCGA §§ 16-6-2 (a) (2) (defining aggravated sodomy), 16-6-4 (c) (defining aggravated child molestation), 16-6-5 (a) (defining enticing a child for indecent purposes).

         2. Competency evaluation.

         Stodghill argues that the trial court erred in denying his counsel's pretrial request for a competency evaluation of Stodghill. We disagree.

         The record shows that the week before the trial, defense counsel made an oral request for a continuance and for a mental health evaluation of Stodghill's competency. Counsel explained that Stodghill was low functioning and that he had been completely uncommunicative at a meeting the week before. The trial judge began questioning Stodghill, asking if he knew the charges against him; if he understood the purpose of a jury trial, the role of the district attorney, and the trial procedure; if he knew his attorney; if he knew the role of the judge; and whether he would be able to participate in the trial by communicating with his attorney. Stodghill answered the trial court's questions. The judge then gave defense counsel an opportunity to discuss the case with Stodghill and his family members.

         Afterwards, defense counsel informed the court that Stodghill seemed to comprehend their discussion and that "based on his demeanor and communication [that she observed that day, she] would not have requested the mental health evaluation. . . ." The trial judge stated that "based on everything ...


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