Today, the Court of Appeals of Georgia affirmed the convictions of Matthew Deres and Sanford Barton. Copies of the opinions are provided below.
Deres was tried and convicted for one count of Rape in November of 2018. He was later sentenced to Life in Prison. On appeal, Deres claimed that the evidence presented to the jury was insufficient, that the trial court committed errors by admitting evidence of his internet search history and failed to send medical records to the jury deliberation room, and that his trial attorney provided ineffective assistance of counsel. The Court of Appeals rejected all of these arguments with the three judge panel unanimously affirming the conviction and sentence.
As to the issue of his internet search history, evidence was presented that Deres had recently searched online on how to pass a lie detector test, the statute of limitations for rape, maps of Mexico and Candaa, and the how long DNA lasts after a sexual encounter. Deres argued that his attorney should have objected to those records being presented at trial because his privacy was violated under Georgia law. The Court of Appeals ruled that Deres did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in his internet search history because the device he used was in his wife's name, that they used the same passwords for numerous accounts, and essentially shared this type of information.
Senior Assistant District Attorney Jacqueline Fletcher, who also tried the case, handled the appeal.
Sanford Barton was convicted of Kidnapping with Bodily Injury, Kidnapping for Ransom, two counts of Aggravated Assault, False Imprisonment, Possession of a Firearm During a Felony, and two counts of Tampering with Evidence. Because Barton had previous convictions of Rape, Aggravated Sodomy, and Armed Robbery, under Georgia law, he received the only available sentence, Life Without the Possibility of Parole. The trial showed that Barton was a high ranking member of the Ghost Face gang. He committed many of these crimes along with a then-girlfriend.
Barton claimed on appeal that there was insufficient evidence of the Kidnapping with Bodily Injury, that the trial court should have given the jury the option of convicting him of kidnapping, and that some of his charges should have "merged" for the purposes of sentencing. Barton also claimed that his trial attorney was ineffective. This included a claim that he may have pleaded guilty to a lesser sentence. The Court of Appeals found that there was no "reasonable probability" that he would have accepted a plea offer based on his insistence in going to trial.
Barton's appeal was handled by Assistant District Attorney Dave Williamson, who also tried the case.