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Vaughn v. State

Court of Appeals of Georgia, Fifth Division

September 24, 2019

VAUGHN
v.
THE STATE.

          MCFADDEN, C. J., HODGES, J. and SENIOR APPELLATE JUDGE PHIPPS

          Hodges, Judge.

         Stephen Vaughn, III was convicted by a jury of seven counts of child molestation and two counts of aggravated child molestation against the daughters of his live-in girlfriend. The trial court denied Vaughn's motion for new trial, and Vaughn now appeals, contending that (1) the trial court erred in improperly admitting evidence of his molestation of another victim on the grounds that it was intrinsic evidence; and (2) OCGA § 24-4-414 is unconstitutional because it impermissibly shifted the burden to him to prove his innocence on the separate pending allegations of molestation against him. For the reasons that follow, we find no error and affirm.

         "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 omitted.) Walker v. State, 349 Ga.App. 188 (825 S.E.2d 578) (2019).

         So viewed, the evidence shows that Vaughn had a romantic relationship and moved in with a woman who had three underage daughters. Vaughn abused the oldest of the three victims (the "First Victim") in numerous ways. Vaughn threatened the First Victim with harm to her family if she told anyone, so she did not immediately report the abuse. She also believed she was protecting her younger siblings from Vaughn's abuse by going along with it.

         Unbeknownst to the First Victim, Vaughn was also abusing her younger siblings (the "Second Victim" and the "Third Victim") . These victims also did not immediately report Vaughn's abuse. Eventually, the victims disclosed their abuse to each other. All three girls told their mother about the abuse, but the First Victim recanted because she was scared of getting in trouble. The other two victims did not recant, but their outcry was ignored. The victims tried to protect each other from Vaughn by sleeping in the same room or the same bed and locking doors, but Vaughn was not deterred.

         The abuse of all three girls continued, but eventually the First Victim confided to a pastor who was a friend of the family. On the advice of that pastor, the First Victim recorded a conversation between herself and Vaughn wherein their relationship was discussed as the First Victim informed Vaughn that she no longer wanted the relationship to be sexual.

         Subsequently, Vaughn and the mother of the victims engaged in a marriage counseling conference call during which time the First Victim got on the phone. She begged her mother not to be mad at her and started vomiting. At that point, the Second Victim, who was standing next to the First Victim, grabbed the phone and disclosed the abuse again to her mother.

         Vaughn was indicted in Gwinnett County for the crimes committed against the Second Victim and Third Victim.[1] Specifically, he was indicted for seven counts of child molestation and two counts of aggravated child molestation. The State filed a notice of intent to introduce evidence of the acts of molestation committed against the First Victim. The trial court permitted the introduction of such evidence on the grounds that it was intrinsic evidence and that it was admissible under OCGA § 24-4-414. Vaughn was tried by a jury and convicted on all counts. He moved for a new trial, which the trial court denied. Vaughn now appeals.

         1. Vaughn alleges that the trial court erred in admitting evidence related to the First Victim as intrinsic evidence. We find this enumeration has been waived.

         Prior to the trial of this case, the State sought a ruling from the trial court that the First Victim could testify on the grounds that her testimony was admissible both as intrinsic evidence and under OCGA § 24-4-414.[2] In response, Vaughn argued that the evidence was more prejudicial than it was probative because the case for the crimes committed against the First Victim was stronger than the cases for the crimes committed against the other victims. Vaughn did not respond to the State's contention that the testimony of the First Victim was admissible as intrinsic evidence.

         Georgia law is clear, however, that "in order to raise on appeal an impropriety regarding the admissibility of evidence, the specific ground of objection must be made at the time the evidence is offered, and the failure to do so amounts to a waiver of that specific ground." (Citation and punctuation omitted.) Hurt v. State, 298 Ga. 51, 53-54 (2) (779 S.E.2d 313) (2015). Consequently, this issue has been waived and presents nothing for our review. See Williams v. State, 277 Ga.App. 106, 108 (2) (625 S.E.2d 509) (2005) ("We are a court for the correction of errors of law committed by the trial court where proper exception is taken, and we will not consider issues and grounds for objection, even of a constitutional magnitude, which were not raised and determined in the trial court.") (citation omitted).

         2. Vaughn also alleges that OCGA § 24-4-414 is unconstitutional because it shifts the burden to him to prove his innocence in separate pending allegations. This enumeration provides nothing for us to review.

         Vaughn initially filed this appeal in the Supreme Court of Georgia. See Ga. Const. of 1983, Art. VI, Sec. VI, Par. II (1). However, our Supreme Court ...


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