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Daddario v. State

Supreme Court of Georgia

October 31, 2019

DADDARIO
v.
THE STATE.

          BOGGS, JUSTICE.

         Appellant Lawrence Daddario challenges his conviction and sentence of life in prison for aggravated child molestation for having sexual intercourse with his 14-year-old daughter, which resulted in a very painful and potentially life-threatening childbirth approximately nine months later. Appellant does not dispute having sexual intercourse with his daughter but claims that he committed only child molestation, not aggravated child molestation, because aggravated child molestation requires an act that "physically injures" the child, OCGA § 16-6-4 (c), and pregnancy and childbirth usually are not considered to be physical injuries. He also claims that his aggravated child molestation conviction violates due process, because the statute is unconstitutionally vague regarding whether an act of child molestation that causes a child under the age of 16 to endure childbirth can "physically injure[]" the child. Alternatively, he claims that he is entitled to a new trial on the aggravated child molestation charge due to the erroneous admission at trial of incriminating statements that he made to a volunteer court-appointed special advocate ("CASA") who spoke with him when he was in jail and represented by counsel in his criminal case without first advising him of his rights under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694) (1966).

         As explained below, in every prosecution for aggravated child molestation based on physical injury to the child, the State must present evidence sufficient to enable a rational jury to find beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed an act of child molestation and that the act proximately caused physical injury to the child. Appellant asks this Court to hold that evidence related to a resulting pregnancy or childbirth is never legally sufficient under Georgia law to support a jury finding that an act of child molestation caused physical injury to the child, while the State asks us to hold that evidence of a pregnancy or childbirth alone is always sufficient to support such a finding. We instead hold that whether an act of molestation proximately caused physical injury to the child victim is a question of fact to be decided by the jury based on the evidence presented at trial and is not dictated by per se rules like the ones sought by Appellant and the State, which do not appear in the text of the aggravated child molestation statute. And we hold that the evidence here - which showed that Appellant's act of child molestation proximately caused his daughter to endure a very painful and physically traumatic childbirth nine months later - is legally sufficient to support a jury finding of the physical injury element of aggravated child molestation.[1]

         We also reject Appellant's claim that the aggravated child molestation statute violates due process because it is unconstitutionally vague as applied to his conduct with his 14-year-old daughter, as well as his claim that the trial court erred in admitting at trial the incriminating statements that he made to the CASA volunteer. Accordingly, we affirm Appellant's conviction and sentence for aggravated child molestation.[2]

         1. (a) Viewed in the light most favorable to the verdicts, the evidence presented at trial showed as follows regarding Appellant's conviction for aggravated child molestation. Appellant's daughter, S.D., was born in April 2000, and she lived with Appellant and her two brothers, who were around her same age.

         When S.D. was in the fifth grade, an elementary school teacher saw Appellant kiss S.D. on the lips in a manner that the teacher had never seen between a parent and child and that "[f]reaked out" and "[d]isgusted" the teacher. In September 2014, at the beginning of eighth grade, Appellant pulled S.D. out of school, ostensibly for homeschooling. By then, S.D. could not remember how long her father had been having sexual intercourse with her, but she said it seemed like it had been "[e]very day" for her "whole life." Appellant did not wear a condom when he had sexual intercourse with S.D. He told her that it was right for them to have sex with each other, that no one would think that it was "weird," and that she should have sex with him because she was too "ugly" ever to have a boyfriend.

         In early November 2014, Appellant impregnated S.D. He threatened to kill her if she told anyone that he was the father. S.D. wanted to get an abortion, but Appellant said no. In mid-January 2015, Appellant took S.D. to a faith-based pregnancy resource center that did not provide abortion services. A week later, a sonographer at the resource center performed an ultrasound on S.D. and determined that S.D. was around 12 weeks pregnant.

         The resource center notified the sheriff's office, because S.D. was only 14 years old. The ensuing investigation uncovered evidence that Appellant neglected S.D. and her brothers, and in March 2015, Appellant was arrested for second degree child cruelty. The local Department of Family and Children Services took S.D. and her brothers into custody, and the juvenile court appointed a CASA volunteer for the children.

         S.D. was put into foster care, and in mid-May 2015, she finally broke down and told her foster mother that Appellant was the baby's father. The CASA volunteer talked to S.D. several times about the disclosure, but it was very hard for S.D. to share anything about what had happened to her. In June 2015, the CASA visited Appellant at the jail to get more information from him about what happened to S.D. so that the CASA could better help S.D. During the course of the conversation, which the jail recorded, Appellant admitted to the CASA that he had sexual intercourse with S.D. more than once.

         In early August 2015, S.D. started having contractions, and her foster mother took her to the hospital. After several hours, they were sent home, because S.D.'s contractions were starting and stopping too far apart for her to be admitted to the hospital. That evening, S.D. awoke in the middle of the night and told her foster mother that the baby was coming. S.D. sat down in a recliner, and the baby suddenly emerged still enclosed in the amniotic sac. S.D.'s foster mother called 911, and an ambulance soon arrived to take S.D. and the baby to the hospital.

         According to S.D.'s foster mother, the doctor later told her that the reason the baby emerged so quickly was because it was born inside an intact amniotic sac. S.D.'s foster mother explained: "If the sac doesn't break, they more or less just come out. The downside to that is, it tears you all apart." When asked if she saw any kind of injury to S.D., S.D.'s foster mother said, "You couldn't help but see it," because S.D.'s vaginal area was severely torn, and S.D. was bleeding profusely. S.D.'s foster mother described the scene as "traumatic," stating that she "had never seen so much blood," and she was told that if she had tried to drive S.D. to the hospital instead of calling an ambulance, S.D. "would have bled to death." S.D. was asked at trial if she had any tearing or needed any stitches after the baby was born, and she replied, "The lady at the hospital said it was like plastic surgery." She also testified that she experienced a great deal of pain for weeks after the birth. S.D.'s foster mother confirmed that S.D. had to have numerous stitches, and that S.D. "had pain for about six weeks" after the birth, for which S.D. was given prescription pain medication.

         DNA samples were taken from the baby at the hospital. DNA testing later confirmed that Appellant was the baby's father.

         (b) On August 12, 2015, Appellant was indicted for aggravated child molestation, incest, statutory rape, and two counts of second degree child cruelty. The aggravated child molestation count alleged that in early November 2014, Appellant

did perform an immoral and indecent act with [S.D.], a child under the age of 16 years, in that said accused did have sex with [S.D.] with the intent to arouse and satisfy the sexual desires of said accused and said child, said act resulting in physical injury to said child in violation of O.C.G.A. § 16-6-4.

         Appellant filed a combined motion to quash and special demurrer, asserting among other things that the aggravated child molestation count was defective due to a lack of specificity. The trial court held a hearing, but before the court issued a ruling, the State obtained a superseding indictment. The superseding indictment contained identical charges, except that the aggravated child molestation count specified that the "sex" was "sexual intercourse," which resulted in "physical injury to said child by impregnating her causing said child to endure childbirth."

         Appellant filed a second motion to quash and special demurrer. The trial court held a hearing, and Appellant argued "on statutory interpretation grounds . . . that the injury element of aggravated child molestation cannot be proven through pregnancy and childbirth." He also argued that the aggravated child molestation statute was unconstitutionally vague as applied to him, because a person of ordinary intelligence who read the aggravated child molestation statute "would not have thought at that time that childbirth or pregnancy would constitute an injury under the . . . statute." The trial court denied the motion to quash and special demurrer.

         The State filed a motion in limine to admit Appellant's jailhouse statements to the CASA volunteer. The State acknowledged that the CASA interviewed Appellant without first advising him of his Miranda rights but argued that Appellant's statements to the CASA were admissible, because she went to the jail to speak with Appellant of her own volition and not at the direction of any State actor, and the statements were voluntarily made. The State analogized the situation to the scenario where a relative visits a defendant in jail and then contacts the State afterwards to relay incriminating statements that the defendant made.

         The trial court held an evidentiary hearing on the State's motion in limine, at which both the CASA volunteer and the lead investigator in Appellant's criminal case testified. The court then entered an order ruling that Appellant's statements were admissible. The court found that Appellant made the statements freely and voluntarily, and that the CASA volunteer was not a government employee or the functional equivalent of a law enforcement officer. The court further found that the CASA volunteer went to the jail to speak with Appellant in her capacity as an advocate for the children, and that she was not acting as an interrogator for purposes of the criminal investigation. The court later entered a supplemental order finding that the CASA was genuinely concerned for the children's physical and emotional ...


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