Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Georgia

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Christopher Lee Coley was convicted of malice murder in the 2006 shooting death of John Adams. On appeal, Coley argued: (1) the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction; (2) the trial court erred in denying his motion for a mistrial, in charging the jury on party to a crime, and in allowing the alternate juror to sit in the jury room during deliberations; and (3) that his trial counsel was ineffective. Finding no error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed. View "Coley v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Quinton Jones appealed his conviction for malice murder based on the 2013 shooting death of Steven Johnson. He argued the trial court erred by refusing to admit the first offender plea of a key State witness and by overruling his objection to the admission of his own prior conviction. Because the trial court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to allow Jones to cross-examine the prosecution witness about her first offender plea, and because any error in the admission of Jones’s prior conviction was harmless, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed. View "Jones v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Benjamin Carpenter was tried by jury and convicted of murder and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony in connection with the 2016 fatal shooting of Lucio Vasquez. Carpenter appealed, contending the trial court erred in its resolution of certain evidentiary issues and in its charge to the jury. After review of the record and briefs, the Georgia Supreme Court found no merit in these claims of error, and affirmed. View "Carpenter v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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George Bellamy was convicted of malice murder in 1998. The indictment named him as “George Bellamy aka Michael Johnson aka Lamar Ellison.” In 2014, Bellamy filed pro se a “Motion for Leave to Correct Indictment Misnomer,” asserting that his legal name was actually Michael Johnson and that Bellamy was an alias. The motion was denied in 2014, and the Georgia Supreme Court dismissed his untimely direct appeal of that order in February 2015. On July 3, 2017, with the assistance of counsel, Bellamy filed a substantially similar second motion entitled “Motion to Correct Clerical Error.” In April 2018, after two requests for a ruling had gone unanswered, Bellamy, pro se, filed a “Petition for Writ of Mandamus,” seeking to have the judge that presided over his trial “consider and issue a ruling on the pending motion to correct the clerical error.” Based on the Supreme Court’s review of the record, it concluded the superior court’s order denying the filing of Bellamy’s mandamus petition pursuant to OCGA 9-15-2 (d) was made in error: the record showed that, when Bellamy filed the mandamus petition, he had been waiting for a ruling on his motion for nine months, which was considerably outside the maximum period during which a judge was required to decide a pending motion. The order denying the filing of Bellamy’s mandamus petition was reversed. View "Bellamy v. Rumer" on Justia Law

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Robert Davis was tried by jury and convicted of the murders of his wife, Bernadene Lebert-Davis, and his son, Robert-Kellie Davis, as well as possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. He appealed, contending the trial court erred when it allowed the lead investigator to testify about a brief delay in his custodial interview. After review of the record and briefs, the Georgia Supreme Court found no error, and affirmed. View "Davis v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Saul Castillo-Velasquez appealed his convictions for malice murder and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime stemming from the 2013 shooting death of Silverio Acosta. On appeal, Castillo-Velasquez contended the trial court erred by admitting other-act evidence under OCGA 24-4-404 (b) and by admitting Acosta’s bloody clothes into evidence. He also claimed he received ineffective assistance of counsel. The Georgia Supreme Court concluded his claims had no merit and affirmed. View "Castillo-Velazquez v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Jerome Burgess was convicted in 2010 by jury of felony murder, three counts of aggravated assault, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime, and we affirmed his convictions. Burgess later filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, alleging that appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to argue on appeal that: (1) trial counsel was ineffective for failing to cross examine effectively a testifying co-defendant; and (2) the State committed a Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963) violation for failing to disclose impeachment evidence against that co-defendant. The habeas court denied Burgess relief. The Georgia Supreme Court granted Burgess’s application for a certificate for probable cause, but ultimately affirmed, finding the habeas court correctly rejected Burgess’s claims. View "Burgess v. Hall" on Justia Law

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The Superior Court of Jenkins County Georgia granted Jeffrey Watson’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus and set aside his convictions for family violence aggravated battery based on its finding that Watson’s plea counsel provided him with ineffective assistance in connection with the entry of his guilty plea. The Warden did not challenge the habeas court’s findings concerning plea counsel’s deficient performance. Rather, the Warden contended only that the habeas court, by “conflating” deficient performance and prejudice, failed to properly analyze whether Watson was prejudiced by counsel’s deficient performance. The Georgia Supreme Court found the deficient performance and prejudice prongs of the Strickland v. Washington, 466 U. S. 668 (1984) test were two separate inquiries, and the habeas court was, required to determine whether Watson had shown “that there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel’s errors, he would not have pleaded guilty and would have insisted on going to trial.” Because the habeas court failed to properly analyze the prejudice prong, its order lacked a factually supported legal conclusion essential to its ruling on Watson’s ineffective assistance of counsel claim and essential to the Supreme Court’s appellate review of that ruling. Therefore, the Court vacated the habeas court’s judgment and remanded this case to the habeas court with instruction to enter a new order consistent containing the requisite findings of fact and conclusions of law. View "Dozier v. Watson" on Justia Law

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Alandis Jackson was convicted by jury of malice murder and other crimes in connection with the 2014 death of Steven Lewis. Jackson appealed the denial of his motion for a new trial, arguing the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction for burglary; that the trial court committed plain error when it charged the jury regarding circumstantial evidence, evidence of good character, and prior statements; that he received ineffective assistance of counsel due to his trial attorney’s failure to object to such instructions; and that the false imprisonment count should have merged with his conviction for the aggravated assault of Titus Robinson. The Georgia Supreme Court determined each of these enumerations of error were meritless and affirmed the trial court’s denial of his motion for a new trial. View "Jackson v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Appellee DeJuan Spratlin was convicted of malice murder and a firearm offense in connection with the shooting death of Edward Cobb. The trial court granted Spratlin a new trial, however, on the ground that his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance by failing to seek the exclusion of testimony and comments about his post-arrest silence. The State appealed that ruling. The Georgia Supreme Court concluded there was not a reasonable probability that, but for the limited deficient performance by Spratlin’s trial counsel, the jury at his trial would have reached a different result. The Court therefore reversed the trial court’s order granting Spratlin a new trial. View "Georgia v. Spratlin" on Justia Law