In re Interest of A. G., A22A0459

CourtUnited States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
Writing for the CourtDillard, Presiding Judge.
Citation872 S.E.2d 780
Parties In the INTEREST OF A. G., a child.
Docket NumberA22A0459
Decision Date02 May 2022

872 S.E.2d 780

In the INTEREST OF A. G., a child.


Court of Appeals of Georgia.

May 2, 2022

872 S.E.2d 781

Nancy Michele Harris, Shalena Cook Jones Jones, Brittany Lee Padgett, for Appellant.

Larry Chisolm, Savannah, for Appellee.

Dillard, Presiding Judge.

Following an incident in which then 16-year-old A. G. shot his mother's boyfriend, the State filed a delinquency petition in the Juvenile Court of Chatham County, alleging that he committed acts that—if committed by an adult—would constitute attempted murder, aggravated assault, aggravated battery, cruelty to children, and criminal trespass. Thereafter, the State filed a motion to transfer A. G.’s case to the superior court for prosecution; but after a hearing, the juvenile court denied the motion. On appeal, the State contends the juvenile court erred in excluding evidence of A. G.’s prior bad acts, admitting evidence of the victim's prior bad acts, and improperly weighing the factors it was required to consider in determining whether to transfer the case under OCGA § 15-11-562. For the reasons set forth infra , we affirm.

The record shows that Elijah Winn began dating A. G.’s mother in 2014, and, not long thereafter, moved in with her and her five children (including A. G.). At the time Winn moved in with the family, A. G. was 16 years old, had dropped out of school, and did not

872 S.E.2d 782

get along with Winn. Eventually, A. G.’s home life deteriorated to the point that, on October 26, 2020 (after a dispute with his mother about his curfew), he ran away from home—allegedly staying with either his grandmother or friends. Then, late in the evening on November 1, 2020, A. G. called his mother and asked if he could come by the house to pick up a package containing some clothes that he ordered online. His mother told him it was too late in the evening but that he could stop by the house the next day.

Around 11:00 a.m. the next morning, A. G. showed up at the family house to retrieve his package (Winn was not there at that time). After doing so, A. G. asked his mother if he could come inside to take a shower; but still angry about his behavior, she refused his request, telling him that he should shower at his grandmother's house instead. A. G. became upset, and after a brief argument, his mother shut the door. Now further enraged, A. G. began kicking the door, significantly damaging it in the process. At this point, his mother—who was scared because of A. G.’s actions—called Winn and loudly demanded that he immediately return home to help.

Over the next fifteen minutes, a surveillance camera system on the front door of a neighbor's home across the street showed A. G. pacing back and forth on the front porch before sitting down in a chair. Then, nearly 20 minutes after A. G's mother's call for help, Winn arrived and parked his vehicle in the driveway. As he exited the vehicle and walked toward the porch, A. G. drew a handgun and fired seven shots at Winn, all of which struck him. And while Winn lay on the ground, A. G. reloaded the handgun, walked closer, and ultimately fired three more shots at him. Severely wounded, Winn said to A. G., "I probably about to die," to which A. G. responded, while smirking, "No, you're not." A. G. then walked back to the porch, picked up his package, and started walking down the street toward a friend's house before eventually running in that direction.

When the shooting started, A. G.’s mother took his younger siblings upstairs and barricaded them in a bedroom while calling 911. Shortly thereafter, police and emergency medical technicians arrived on the scene, and Winn was transported to the hospital, where doctors were successful in stabilizing him. Nevertheless, Winn sustained serious injuries, remained hospitalized for over a month, and underwent numerous surgeries to treat the results of his gunshot wounds. Meanwhile, although he left the scene before police arrived, a detective was able to contact A. G. that afternoon and convince him to surrender to authorities. Two months later, the police recovered the handgun from A. G.’s friend down the street, who admitted he had recently purchased the weapon from a private seller but did not know how A. G. acquired it.

Subsequently, the State filed a petition of delinquency in the juvenile court, charging A. G. with acts that—if committed by an adult—would constitute attempted murder, aggravated assault, aggravated battery, cruelty to children, and criminal trespass. Several months later, the State filed a motion to transfer the case to the superior court, arguing that the seriousness of the crimes, inter alia , warranted trying A. G. as an adult. Thereafter, A. G. filed a notice of intent to introduce evidence of Winn's prior act of violence—specifically, a domestic abuse incident involving A. G.’s mother. In addition, A. G. filed a motion to preclude the State from introducing a prior bad act he allegedly committed, arguing, inter alia , that the State failed to provide proper notice of its intent to introduce such evidence.

On April 19, 2021, the juvenile court began a hearing on the State's motion to transfer. At the start of the hearing, the court heard argument on A. G.’s request to admit evidence of Winn's prior act of domestic violence against his mother and his motion to exclude evidence of his own prior bad act, which consisted of an Instagram video of him allegedly brandishing a handgun at a charity event one week before. Following those arguments, the juvenile court ultimately ruled to admit evidence of Winn's prior bad act but exclude the evidence pertaining to A. G.

The hearing then proceeded, during which the juvenile court heard testimony from Winn; A. G.’s mother; one of his younger brothers (who witnessed his mother's argument with A. G.); and the investigating detective, who recounted the aforementioned evidence.

872 S.E.2d 783

In addition, a forensic psychologist submitted a behavioral health evaluation of A. G., in which he opined that—although A. G. exhibited difficulty managing his anger—he might be amenable to treatment and should therefore receive it (including counseling and occupational training). And at the conclusion of the hearing, the juvenile court denied the State's motion to transfer, affirming that ruling in an order a few days later. This appeal follows.1

1. We first address the State's contention that the juvenile court erred in denying its transfer motion. Specifically, the State argues the court improperly weighed the factors it was required to consider in determining whether to transfer the case under OCGA § 15-11-562. We disagree.

OCGA §§ 15-11-561 and 15-11-562 address the transfer of a juvenile's case to superior court for criminal prosecution. OCGA § 15-11-561 (a) provides, in relevant part, that before transferring jurisdiction from juvenile court to superior court, the juvenile court must determine that

(1) There is probable cause to believe that a child committed the alleged offense; (2) Such child is not committable to an institution for the developmentally disabled or mentally ill; and (3) The petition alleges that such child (A) Was at least 15 years of age at the time of the commission of the offense and committed an act which would be a felony if committed by an adult ....

Upon making those determinations, and "[a]fter consideration of a probation report, risk assessment, and any other evidence the court deems relevant, including any evidence offered by a child," the juvenile court "may determine that because of the seriousness of the offense or such child's prior record, the welfare of the community requires that criminal proceedings against such child be instituted" and transfer the case to superior court.2 And in determining whether such a transfer is appropriate, the juvenile court must also consider "the non-exhaustive list of eleven criteria set forth in OCGA § 15-11-562 (a),"3 which includes:

(1) The age of such child; (2) The seriousness of the alleged offense, especially if personal injury resulted; (3) Whether the protection of the community requires transfer of jurisdiction; (4) Whether the alleged offense involved violence or was committed in an aggressive or premeditated manner; (5) The impact of the alleged offense on the alleged victim, including the permanence of any physical or emotional injury sustained, health care expenses incurred, and lost earnings suffered; (6) The culpability of such child including such child's level of planning and participation in the alleged offense; (7) Whether the alleged offense is a part of a repetitive pattern of offenses which indicates that such child may be beyond rehabilitation in the juvenile justice

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