The Georgia Supreme Court earlier this month denied hearing the appeal of a Murrayville man sentenced to 40 years in prison on a child molestation case.
His attorneys argued it was improper for the victim to testify in a military uniform.
Matthew David Cwik was convicted in August 2018 on one count of aggravated child molestation and five counts of child molestation. Cwik was sentenced to life with 40 years in prison and the remainder on probation.
The trial court originally denied Cwik’s motion for a new trial, and Cwik appealed to the Georgia Court of Appeals. After the appellate court upheld the trial court’s decision, Cwik’s attorneys filed a petition for the Georgia Supreme Court to review the ruling.
Eight of the nine Georgia Supreme Court justices agreed Jan. 11 with denying Cwik’s petition to hear the case. Justice Nels S.D. Peterson dissented.
According to court documents, the victim stated the inappropriate touching began when she was “11 or 12, 13 at the oldest,” and it was later disclosed to a school counselor at age 16.
She testified that she had “joined the National Guard and completed boot camp and the required training shortly before trial,” according to the appellate court.
In response to the Georgia Supreme Court petition, the district attorney’s office wrote that the victim “wears her uniform even when not strictly necessary because she feels safe and comfortable in it.”
“The fact that she was not on active duty does not take away the fact that she had just finished boot camp and earned the right to wear her fatigues,” the district attorney’s office wrote.
Defense attorney Graham McKinnon deferred comment Wednesday, Jan. 19, to co-counsel Michael McIntyre. McIntyre did not return a request for comment Thursday, Jan. 20.
Much of Cwik’s petition to the Georgia Supreme Court concerns allowing a witness to testify in a military uniform.
The petition cites a former Court of Appeals ruling that a military uniform “tends to pull on the heartstrings of some members of the jury” and that it might prevent a jury from deciding the case solely on its merits.
Cwik’s attorneys wrote that the appellate court held that the witness could “wear her military uniform at trial even though she was not on active duty, was a reservist, and her military service was unrelated to any issues in the case.”
The appellate court said it has previously ruled that a trial court “does not abuse its discretion in allowing a witness on active duty in the military to testify in uniform.”
Because the judge instructed the jury not to consider her uniform before her testimony, the appellate court ruled that it did not “unduly prejudice Cwik.”