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Law School Case Brief

Brown v. State - 275 Ga. App. 281, 620 S.E.2d 394 (2005)


When error is found, the inquiry becomes whether harm occurred, and the test for determining harmless error is whether it is highly probable that the error did not contribute to the judgment. 


Defendant Troy Johnnie Brown was a pastor at a church and was alleged to have used his father-figure position to commit the crimes against various youth in the church. A DeKalb County, Georgia, grand jury returned an indictment against him, charging him with 14 counts of child molestation and 11 counts of aggravated child molestation. After a jury trial in Georgia state court, Brown was convicted of each charge. On appeal, Brown argued that his motion for new trial should have been granted because of juror misconduct, that the trial court erroneously admitted similar transaction evidence, that his trial counsel was ineffective, and that the trial court should have granted his motion to recuse. 


Was Brown entitled to a new trial?




The state appellate court affirmed the judgment. The court found that, though one juror engaged in misconduct by using MapQuest via his cell phone internet service to calculate the distance between the pastor's house and a store, all of the jurors were painstakingly questioned by the trial court and, of those who recalled receiving the information, all of them testified that they were unaffected by the information. The admission of similar transaction evidence was proper because no objection was made and, even if improper, the evidence of Brown's guilt was so overwhelming that he failed to show that a different result would have been obtained had the evidence been excluded. It was not a biased act for the trial judge to amend an order to allow medical personnel to approve medication for Brown.

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