[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
Steel, Atlanta, for Appellant.
T. Pattillo, Sharon Lee Hopkins ADA, Duluth, GA, for
P. J., COOMER and MARKLE, JJ.
Following a jury trial, Andrew Fordham was convicted of two
counts of aggravated battery and one count of aggravated
assault. Fordham appeals his conviction and from the trial
courts denial of his motion for new trial, as amended,
arguing, as is relevant here, that (1) he was denied his
constitutional right to be present at all critical stages of
the proceeding, (2) he was denied effective assistance of
counsel because his trial counsel failed to object when a
witness improperly expressed his opinion on the ultimate
issue in the case, and (3) the trial court erred by failing
to merge his aggravated battery and aggravated assault
convictions for purposes of sentencing. After a through
review of the record, we affirm the trial courts denial of
the motion for new trial, finding that Fordham was not
deprived of his right to be present at all critical stages of
the proceedings, nor was he denied effective assistance of
counsel. However, because the aggravated battery counts and
the aggravated assault count merged, we vacate the sentence
and remand for resentencing consistent with this opinion.
the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict,
Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 61
L.Ed.2d 560 (1979), the record shows that, in April 2013,
Fordham was in a six-year relationship with his then
girlfriend, C. S. On April 28, 2013, Fordham and C. S. were
spending the weekend together at her home when Fordham went
into the bathroom, presumably to take a shower. He called to
C. S. to bring him a towel because he had spilled water on
the floor. As C. S. approached the bathroom door, she noticed
Fordham was holding a bowl, and he splashed the contents,
later discovered to be sulfuric acid drain cleaner, onto C.
S.s face and upper body. C. S. begged Fordham to rinse her
off with water, but he refused. Fordham eventually
called 911. The 911 operator instructed Fordham to
rinse C. S. off and he replied that he had, but Fordham told
C. S. that he had been told not to rinse her off.
Medical Technicians ("EMTs") arrived at C. S.s
home, assessed her condition, and took her outside into the
rain to rinse the chemical off of her. C. S. was subsequently
taken to Grady Hospital, where she was placed in a
medically-induced coma for two months. C. S. suffered
chemical burns to 20 percent of her body, including her face
and upper chest; she is legally blind in her right eye; and
she has undergone at least 13 reconstructive surgeries. She
also had to learn to walk again.
day of the incident, detectives took pictures and
measurements of the chemical splash marks, and noticed large
burn patterns on the carpet outside the bathroom and
extending up to eight feet on the walls. One EMT stated that
something about the scene did not seem right to him. Another
EMT indicated that the story of how the chemical came into
contact with C. S. did not make sense, and that Fordhams
explanation kept changing as the EMTs assessed C. S. and the
scene. Investigators from the Henry County police department
crime scene unit conducted re-enactments of the scene in C.
S.s bathroom and hallway. The re-enactments were inconsistent
with Fordhams claim that he accidentally spilled the liquid
onto C. S.
Fordham testified in his own defense at trial, stating that
the incident was an accident, and that he slipped on the ...