Doug Peters and Scott Key Obtain Reversal of Aggravated Child Molestation Convictions, Saving Defendant from 60-Year Prison Sentence

Roger Darst was formerly represented by other counsel in his jury trial in Gwinnett County on allegations made by his 2 foster children that he placed his mouth on their vaginas and put his penis in their mouths. The defendant was found guilty on all counts and sentenced to serve 60 years in prison.

Mr. Peters was retained by Mr. Darst following his trial. Mr. Peters undertook a new investigation of the charges, including locating and interviewing witnesses, subpoenaing records not previously considered in the case, and having the facts of his new investigation reviewed by experts specially trained and recognized for their expertise in analyzing allegations of child molestation.

Mr. Peters presented 3 days of evidence at the Motion for New Trial hearing…evidence never heard by the jury. The evidence included impeaching facts from the alleged victims’ school records (68 pages), therapy records (331 pages), juvenile court records (64 pages), and DFACS records (232 pages). At the hearing Mr. Peters also presented testimony from 6 lay witnesses and 3 expert witnesses. The experts addressed issues of the conduct and behavior of the alleged victims and testified that their behavior described by witnesses and supported by the records was inconsistent with what you would expect had they been molested by Mr. Darst as alleged. The experts also provided testimony regarding the improper and suggestive interviews conducted by the state in its investigation and stated that the claims by the alleged victims lacked a sufficient basis of reliability.

The evidence presented by Mr. Peters created a post-trial record which was then appealed by Scott Key to the appellate courts of Georgia. Mr. Key, currently serving as Chairman of the Appellate Section of the State Bar of Georgia and formerly Chairman of the Amicus Commission of the Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, briefed the issues and presented oral argument in the Georgia Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals decision (See Darst v. State, 746 S. E.2d 865) reversed the defendant’s convictions citing as authority cases including Goldstein v. State, 640 S. E.2d 599, a previous decision reversing a defendant’s conviction for Aggravated Child Molestation from Fulton County in which Mr. Peters also served as co-counsel. The state then sought review by the Georgia Supreme Court. Mr. Key responded to the state’s Petition for Certioria, arguing that the Court of Appeals decision was correct in its judgment in the case. The Georgia Supreme Court agreed with Mr. Key’s position and affirmed the reversal of the defendant’s convictions (See S13C18467).

The Darst decision is now being cited throughout Georgia by defense lawyers requesting that trial judges grant defense requests for the issuance and enforcement of subpoenas for the court’s in camera review of confidential but critical records, as well as defense requests for funds to allow defense lawyers to retain expert witnesses to review issues relating to the conduct and behavior of alleged victims of child abuse, as well as the manner in which the state conducts its interviews of the alleged victims.