Teen’s murder conviction reversed because of “prejudicial” goth evidence

Courtney Boring, a teenage girl, was convicted of murdering her mother, Debra Boring, and sentenced to life imprisonment plus a consecutive five-year term for firearm possession.  But earlier this week, the Supreme Court of Georgia reversed the conviction because of the way prosecutors characterized the girl as being goth.

Though the Supreme Court of Georgia concluded that there was sufficient evidence to convict Courtney Boring of murder, the Court held that the State committed reversible error by introducing “irrelevant and highly prejudicial character evidence” about the girl’s lifestyle  –

[T]he State introduced, over defense objections, various items of evidence seized from the 15-year-old’s bedroom during the police investigation, including photographs of appellant with dyed black hair and dark make-up; a document bearing the words of a “curse” to be recited “while burning the letter over a black candle”; and seven different inscriptions, one typewritten and the rest handwritten on the bedroom walls, of song lyrics and quotations attributed to various singers and other artists, bearing themes of anguish, enslavement, atheism, and violence.

The Court explained the problem with the evidence  — none of it directly related to a contested issue in the case, i.e.,  motive, identity, or intent.

Though the State elicited no elaboration from any of its witnesses regarding the import of these items, the State explicitly sought in both opening and closing to link these items with the so-called “gothic lifestyle” and to characterize them as evidence of “satanic influences.”

In other words, the State failed to make any connection between the girl’s alleged gothic and/or satanist lifestyle and the crime.  The evidence, instead, “operated merely to impugn the [girl’s] character by suggesting that she held satanic beliefs.”   The Court also noted that the State failed to introduce any evidence to support its claims that the girl held satanist beliefs.

And so the Court reversed because the evidence was irrelevant and highly inflammatory.

Hooray for the Georgia Supreme Court.  Not only did the Court understand that goth does not equal satanist, but the Court understood that goth does not equal motive, intent or “state of mind” to commit murder.

A copy of the Court’s opinion is at this link.

Source — Greg Bluestein of the Associated Press

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~ by siouxsielaw on June 4, 2011.

12 Responses to “Teen’s murder conviction reversed because of “prejudicial” goth evidence”

  1. Interesting. It is sad that the judge and jury bought into the lifestyle “evidence” the first time around. This sounds like it would make a good episode of Law & Order.

  2. I cannot believe the ignorance of some people!

  3. This was shocking Prosecutorial misconduct. The Prosecutor made claims during his statement that he had no intent or ability to prove with evidence during his case. The Prosecutor made no attempt to tie any of the evidence to Satanism, and even though his own expert witnesses explicitly stated that they found no such connection, he repeated to claim the evidence showed such a connection in his closing statement.

    “We believe there even is a depravity of mind here.” This claim was based on *nothing*, a senseless slur, and the Prosecutor knew it.

  4. […] there is one thing I can’t resist linking to straight away – a mindblowing post over at Siouxsie Law, wherein a teenage girl’s murder conviction is overturned because the court used evidence of […]

  5. […] Thank God somebody in Georgia understands the difference between Goth kids and murderers. [Siouxsie Law] * The headline on this Pabst v. SEC story is worth the click. [WSJ Law […]

  6. i know courtney personally and she was not even capeable of murdering her mother. the system really stuck it to her. gilmer county arrested her, tried and convicted that girl in less than 1 year. that was the fastest anything has ever been pushed through the system here. i am so glad to hear the news but it saddens me that she lost 6 years of her life over the way she looked.

  7. I found this post as the reuslt of a link posted on facebook by the admin of the http://www.wm3blackboard.com group. Author Mara Leveritt wrote a blog on the case relating similarities to a case from West Memphis, Arkansas. Is anyone here familiar with the West Memphis Three?

    Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Miskelley, Jr. were tried and convicted in a similar whirlwind, low-budget witch trial in 1993 and I am a supporter of their innocence / police and prosecutorial misconduct involving allegations of satainism as motive. with lttle if any other evidence to arrest these boys, much less convict them.

    I hope you will visit the site, http://www.wm3.org and related informative sites, such as http://www.jivepuppi.com and maraleveritt.com – and draw your own comparisons. From what I know of Miss Boring’s situation, it appears tragically similar to that of the three men incacerated in Arkansas whom I (and many, many others) believe are innocent. Find me on facebook to discuss them!

  8. “Though the Supreme Court of Georgia concluded that there was sufficient evidence to convict Courtney Boring of murder”

    This being completely unimportant, of course.
    And of course we all know that you can know a person is incapable of murder – after all, every murder is committed by people we knew were going to do so, right?
    The actual death, the actual crime – that is clearly unimportant in the face of an unfair accusation of what one wears.

    • Hi Kit — I think you may have missed the point of this post. It is not whether Courtney Boring committed murder. It is whether the trial court admitted irrelevant prejudicial evidence. The actual death and crime is important, but it is not what this post is about. Thanks for reading.

  9. […] top hat tip to a recent commenter who cited the West Memphis Three as an example of people being targeted in a criminal prosecution […]

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