Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Georgia

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Appellant Windy Scott challenged her convictions for malice murder and a gun crime in connection with the shooting death of William Scott. Appellant claimed she was denied the effective assistance of counsel for her trial. After review, the Georgia Supreme Court concluded Appellant’s trial counsel performed deficiently in not seeking expert assistance in evaluating her mental condition at the time of shooting and at the time of trial. However, Appellant did not show that but for this deficiency, there was a reasonable probability that the outcome of the trial proceeding would have been more favorable to her. Accordingly, the Court affirmed. View "Scott v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Appellant Quinton Mitchell appealed the denial of his motion to suppress and his motions in limine. Mitchell was charged with driving under the influence (less safe) and failure to maintain lane. Because the trial court failed to require the proper foundation for the Romberg field sobriety test under Harper v. Georgia, 292 SE2d 389 (1982), the Georgia Supreme Court reversed on that ground. The Court affirmed the remainder of the trial court’s rulings. View "Mitchell v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Appellant Michael Jones was tried, convicted and sentenced for driving under the influence. He appealed on the ground that evidence of a prior DUI conviction was wrongfully admitted at trial. At the core of the dispute was the method by which the lower courts are to determine the admissibility of extrinsic act evidence under Rules 404 (b) and 403 of the new Evidence Code. The trial court admitted appellant’s prior DUI for the limited purpose of showing intent and knowledge, as permitted by Rule 404 (b), finding that all three standards for admissibility had been met. The Court of Appeals, however, determined the trial court erred because the evidence in question was not relevant and, therefore, was inadmissible. The Georgia Supreme Court held that Jones’s prior DUI conviction was relevant extrinsic act evidence as contemplated by Rule 404 (b) as to the issue of intent. Upon finding that the prior DUI conviction was relevant to show intent under Rule 404 (b), the Court vacated the Court of Appeals’ judgment in “Jones I” and remanded back to the Court of Appeals with instructions to address the second prong of the three-part admissibility test by determining whether the trial court properly applied the balancing test required by Rule 403. On remand (“Jones II”), the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s decision to admit the prior DUI conviction. Since “Jones III” was decided, the Supreme Court had more opportunities to clarify what was required when conducting a Rule 403 balancing test. In light of these recent decisions, the parties agreed, as did the Supreme Court, that the Court of Appeals in Jones III did not fully consider whether the trial court properly conducted the balancing test required by Rule 403. Furthermore, upon review of the trial court’s balancing of the evidence under Rule 403, the Supreme Court held the trial court erred when it determined the probative value of appellant’s prior DUI was not substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice. Nevertheless, the error in admitting the prior DUI-less safe evidence was harmless as to appellant’s conviction and sentence for DUI-per se and so the Court of Appeals’ judgment was affirmed as right for any reason. View "Jones v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Appellant Hunter Mason Davis was tried before a jury and found guilty of felony murder, armed robbery, aggravated assault, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony in the shooting death of Angelo Larocca. He appealed, asserting multiple claims of error. The Georgia Supreme Court vacated Davis’ sentences on the felony murder counts. “Because both [felony] murder counts involved the same victim, one of the guilty verdicts was vacated by operation of law.” View "Davis v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Prisoner Jomeka Pope appealed pro se an order denying his “motion to vacate a void and illegal sentence,” “motion to withdraw Alford (guilty) plea,” and “motion for appointment of counsel.” Pope contended that his sentence of life without the possibility of parole was void under former OCGA 17-10-32.1, because the sentencing court failed to comply with it. The Georgia Supreme Court agreed. As to the propriety of the superior court’s denial of Pope’s motion to withdraw his Alford (guilty) plea and his motion for appointment of counsel, such rulings were inextricably linked to the court’s erroneous denial of Pope’s motion to vacate his sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. The superior court denied his motion to withdraw the Alford (guilty) plea based primarily upon its finding that the motion was untimely as it was filed more than two years after Pope’s sentence was imposed, and it denied his motion for appointment of counsel after finding that Pope had no right to the appointment of counsel because his motion to withdraw his plea was untimely. Because the superior court’s denial of these motions was premised on timeliness in relation to sentencing, and the Supreme Court determined that Pope’s sentence of life without the possibility of parole was void ab initio, such motions had to be reconsidered. However, the vacating of Pope’s sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole will not render his pleas on the remaining counts subject to withdrawal as a matter of right. View "Pope v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Jerrick Atkinson was tried by jury and found guilty of malice murder, aggravated assault, attempted armed robbery, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, and various other offenses in connection with the shooting death of Wayne Edwards. In his pro se appeal, Atkinson raised thirty separate enumerations of error relating to the sufficiency of the evidence, his sentence, and other matters that transpired before and at trial and during his sentencing, and he raised twenty-three separate grounds of alleged ineffective assistance of his trial counsel. The Georgia Supreme Court affirmed Atkinson’s convictions, but it also vacated a portion of his sentence in order to rectify an issue relating to the merger of certain counts against him for sentencing purposes. View "Atkinson v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Appellants Travon Menefee and Christian Williams appealed their convictions for malice murder and related crimes stemming from a “drug deal gone bad” which resulted in the death of Antonias Williams (no relation to appellant). The Georgia Supreme Court affirmed in part, vacated in part and remanded to address errors in sentencing. View "Menefee v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Appellant Gregory Walker, Jr. was convicted of malice murder and other crimes in connection with the shooting death of Roger Clark. He contended on appeal that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions; that the trial court committed plain error in failing to charge the jury on voluntary manslaughter and defense of habitation; that the trial court abused its discretion in excluding testimony at trial and at the motion for new trial hearing; and that Appellant received ineffective assistance of trial counsel. Finding no reversible error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed. View "Walker v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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A jury found appellant Stephen Bailey guilty but mentally ill on all thirteen counts of an indictment filed in connection with the stabbing deaths of Ursula Peterson and her adult daughter Dominique Martin, who were his upstairs neighbors. Bailey argued on appeal that the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress evidence, denying his Jackson-Denno motion, and refusing to give an instruction on voluntary manslaughter. Finding no error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed. View "Bailey v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Appellant Joe Lee Waye appealed the denial of his amended motion for out of-time appeal of his conviction and sentence on his plea of guilty to malice murder. In 1996, Waye entered a negotiated plea under which he pled guilty to one count of malice murder and was sentenced to life imprisonment for the 1991 murder of victim Tim Worley. In exchange for Waye’s plea, the State agreed to the dismissal of additional charges related to the murder (as well as separate pending drug charges) and agreed not to seek the death penalty. Twenty years later, Waye filed a pro se motion to correct his sentence. That motion was denied, and Waye did not initiate a timely appeal. Instead, Waye filed a pro se motion seeking leave to file an out-of-time direct appeal of his conviction, contending that his guilty plea was invalid. Subsequently, Waye amended his motion for out-of-time appeal, so that he could also seek leave to appeal the trial court’s denial of his motion to correct sentence. The trial court denied both motions. Finding no error with the trial court’s decision, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed. View "Waye v. Georgia" on Justia Law