Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Georgia

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Tianna Kidd was convicted by jury in 1999 of felony murder, malice murder, aggravated assault, and possession of a firearm during commission of a felony in connection with the shooting and death of Tameka Woody. On appeal, Kidd contended the trial court erred by: (1) overruling her objection during the State’s opening argument; (2) denying her motion to suppress her in-custody statement to police; and (3) denying her objection to the State’s requested jury charge on “revenge for a prior wrong.” Finding no reversible error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed Kidd’s convictions. View "Kidd v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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In May 2009, a jury found Billy Davis, Joseph Andrews, and Tremaine “Dick” Calhoun guilty of malice murder and felony murder in the shooting death of Cornelius Lowe. Davis was sentenced to life imprisonment. His second amended motion for new trial was denied, and he appealed, arguing the trial court erred in admitting a co-defendant’s statement, in the denial of his motion to sever, and by merging rather than vacating his felony murder conviction. Finding no reversible error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed Davis’ convictions. View "Davis v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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In June of 2015, cross-appellant Quantravious Holmes was convicted of malice murder and other offenses arising out of the shooting death of his friend Todd Burkes. The trial court granted Holmes’ motion for new trial on two grounds: on the ground that the court had erred by denying Holmes permission to enter into evidence portions of the recorded and transcribed statement of a person named Hamilton, who was not available to appear as a witness at trial; and on the general grounds as the “thirteenth juror.” The State appealed the order granting the motion for new trial, and Holmes was permitted to file an out-of-time notice of cross-appeal asserting insufficiency of the evidence to convict. After review, the Georgia Supreme Court rejected Holmes’ assertion that the evidence was legally insufficient to support his conviction. The Court also vacated in part the trial court’s order granting a new trial and remanded the case to the trial court for further consideration. View "Georgia v. Holmes" on Justia Law

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A jury convicted Manuel Lord for malice murder and related crimes. Appealing pro se, he appealed, raising “numerous enumerations of error.” Finding no reversible error, however, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed Lord’s convictions. View "Lord v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Appellant Richard McWilliams appealed his convictions relating to the beating death of his girlfriend Kathleen Baxter. McWilliams challenged the sufficiency of the evidence presented at trial for the various convictions, and the trial court committed multiple procedural errors, including the improper admission of extrinsic evidence, and in instructing the jury. Finding no reversible error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed McWilliams’ convictions. View "McWilliams v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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A jury convicted Isaac Beasley of rape, aggravated sodomy, kidnapping with bodily injury, and aggravated assault. He was sentenced to 20 years for the rape offense, 10 years for aggravated sodomy, to be served consecutive to the rape sentence, life imprisonment for kidnapping with bodily injury, to be served concurrent with the sentence for rape, and 10 years for aggravated assault, to be served concurrent with the sentence for aggravated sodomy. Beasley’s direct appeal was affirmed by the Georgia Court of Appeals. Beasley then filed a pro se habeas petition in which he asserted he received ineffective assistance of appellate counsel for failure to raise on direct appeal Beasley’s claim that trial counsel failed to advise him that he faced a mandatory life sentence if convicted of the kidnapping charge. He claimed that if he had been properly advised by trial counsel, he would have accepted the State’s offer of a twenty year sentence, to serve ten years in prison, with respect to the rape charge and to nolle pros the remaining charges. After the habeas court hearing at which Beasley appeared pro se, but did not testify, Beasley obtained counsel who submitted a proposed order granting the habeas petition. The habeas court adopted counsel’s proposed order setting aside the convictions and sentences. The final order concluded that Beasley’s trial counsel provided deficient representation when he failed to advise Beasley that he would face a mandatory life sentence if convicted of kidnapping with bodily injury. The order also concluded that appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to raise the issue on appeal because there was a reasonable probability of a different result on appeal if the issue had been raised. The warden appealed. The Georgia Supreme Court vacated the habeas court’s order granting Beasley relief, finding the trial court needed to determine prejudice resulted from trial counsel’s deficient representation. On remand, the habeas court was instructed to apply the prejudice test for trial counsel’s performance set forth by the United States Supreme Court; only if both deficient representation by trial counsel and prejudice as a result of that deficiency were found would there be a reasonable probability that Beasley would have prevailed had he raised ineffective assistance of trial counsel on appeal. “And even if the habeas court reaches this conclusion and determines that Beasley was prejudiced by appellate counsel’s failure to raise ineffective assistance of trial counsel on direct appeal, ineffective assistance of appellate counsel requires a finding that counsel’s performance was deficient by his failure to raise that issue. Additionally, if the habeas court concludes both prongs of the ineffective assistance test for appellate counsel are met, then the habeas court must consider the remedy for that violation of Beasley’s Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel.” View "Gramiak v. Beasley" on Justia Law

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Darron Cato appealed his convictions for felony murder and a firearm offense stemming from the death of T’Shanerka Smith. Cato argues the trial court committed plain error when it instructed the jury on the commission of aggravated assault, the predicate offense for the felony murder charge, in a manner not charged in the indictment. Cato also argued his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance by failing to present a complete alibi defense. Because any error in the aggravated assault instruction was harmless, and because Cato could not show that trial counsel’s failure to call Cato’s father as an alibi witness was constitutionally deficient performance, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed his convictions. View "Cato v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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The Georgia Supreme Court granted review in this case to decide whether hearsay identifying an alleged sexual abuser of a child victim was admissible under the hearsay exception for statements made for purposes of medical diagnosis or treatment found in OCGA 24-8-803 (4) (“Rule 803 (4)”). New Georgia Rule 803 (4) was materially identical to both an existing federal rule and a provision of the old Georgia Evidence Code. Federal case law construing Federal Rule of Evidence 803 (4) has held that the identity of an alleged child sexual abuser may, in certain circumstances, be admissible. Georgia case law construing the old state rule held that such evidence was not admissible. Because the fundamental rule of the new Georgia Evidence Code was that federal appellate case law applied when a Georgia rule was materially identical to a federal rule and had not yet been interpreted by a Georgia appellate court, the Supreme Court concluded the new Evidence Code displaced the old Georgia precedent and so federal case law applied here. Accordingly, Rule 803 (4) permitted the admission of identity in child sexual abuse cases when reasonably pertinent to medical diagnosis or treatment. The Georgia Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals’s decision to the contrary and remanded with instructions to vacate the trial court’s order and remand for further proceedings. View "Georgia v. Almanza" on Justia Law

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Appellant Phillip Scott Kirby, Sr. was convicted of malice murder in connection with the stabbing death of Emily Mason. On appeal, he argued that his conviction should be reversed because: (1) the trial court erred in admitting custodial statements he made to GBI agents; (2) erred in admitting hearsay testimony about a marking on his wedding ring; and (3) erred in admitting evidence of other crimes he had committed. Finding no reversible error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed Kirby’s convictions. View "Kirby v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Appellant Johnathan Felton appealed his convictions related to the 2010 shooting death of Eric Wright. On appeal, appellant alleged the trial court improperly commented on the evidence in violation of former OCGA 17-8- 57. Finding no reversible error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed his convictions. View "Felton v. Georgia" on Justia Law