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.