Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Georgia
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Appellant Re’Dayon Hughes challenged his 2019 convictions for felony murder and other crimes in connection with the shooting death of Dre’Landon Brown. Appellant contended: (1) the trial court erred by admitting evidence that he vandalized Marjorie Reed’s car; (2) his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to question Appellant about alleged prior difficulties with Dre’Landon and for failing to object to the admission of other prior difficulties evidence; (3) the cumulative prejudice of these errors requires a new trial; and (4) that the trial court erroneously considered Appellant’s failure to retreat in denying his pretrial motion for immunity. Finding no reversible error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed. View "Hughes v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Rodney Young was convicted by jury for the murder of Gary Jones. The jury declined in its guilt/innocence phase verdict to find him “mentally retarded.” At the conclusion of the sentencing phase, the jury found multiple statutory aggravating circumstances and sentenced Young to death for the murder. Appeal to the Georgia Supreme Court was automatic. Young raised a number of arguments to challenge his conviction, but finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed his conviction and sentence. View "Young v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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In 2005, Kelvin Gilliam was jointly tried with Frederick Terrell and Michael Stinchcomb on an indictment charging them with one count of murder, one count of felony murder, multiple counts of aggravated assault, and related firearms charges. The jury found only Terrell guilty of murder, among other charges, but found Gilliam and Stinchcomb guilty of multiple counts of aggravated assault. The trial court sentenced Gilliam to serve a total of ten years in prison, and Gilliam timely filed a motion for new trial. For unapparent reasons, that motion languished for years, until Gilliam filed an amended motion for new trial in May 2019, adopting all of the grounds set out in Terrell’s amended motion for new trial. The trial court denied Terrell’s and Gilliam’s motions, and both defendants filed a timely notice of appeal to the Georgia Supreme Court. Because the Supreme Court determined it did not have jurisdiction over Gilliam’s appeal, it transferred this case to the Court of Appeals for further proceedings. View "Gilliam v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Walter Terry Moon, Jr., was convicted by jury of murder and other offenses in connection with the shooting deaths of Emily Pickles and Michael Biancosino. Moon challenged the sufficiency of the evidence, contending among other things, that the trial court erred by: (1) denying his motions to suppress evidence and to sever a count of the indictment, by admitting evidence that he committed a prior crime, and (2) removing a holdout juror during deliberation without sufficient cause. The Georgia Supreme Court agreed the trial court abused its discretion in removing the holdout juror, and because the error was presumed harmful, Moon’s convictions were reversed. The Court addressed certain issues likely to recur upon retrial, and remanded for a new trial. View "Moon v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Appellant Demetrius Heade was convicted by jury of malice murder and other crimes in connection with the shooting death of Michael Harvey. On appeal, Appellant contended: (1) the trial court erred in ruling that evidence of Appellant’s prior acts was admissible; (2) trial counsel provided ineffective assistance by conceding the admissibility of one of the acts; and (3) these multiple errors cumulatively prejudiced Appellant. After review, the Georgia Supreme Court found no reversible error on these grounds, but did find two sentencing errors with regard to his convictions for felony murder and aggravated assault. Convictions were affirmed, but the sentence vacated and the case remanded for correction of sentence. View "Heade v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Appellant Micayla “Cay Cay” Taylor was convicted of felony murder and other crimes in connection with the shooting death of Divante Rodriekus Simmons and the aggravated assault of William Lawton. On appeal, Appellant argued: (1) the evidence was legally insufficient to support her conviction; (2) the trial court erred in denying her motion to suppress; (3) the trial court erred in denying her plea in bar; (4) the trial court erred in giving the State’s requested charge on conspiracy over Appellant’s objection; (5) trial counsel provided ineffective assistance by failing to object to prospective Juror No. 44 being struck from the jury panel; (6) trial counsel provided ineffective assistance by failing to object to alleged hearsay statements given by Jeston Yates; and (7) trial counsel provided ineffective assistance by allowing admission of testimony regarding Appellant’s request to take a polygraph test. After review of the trial court record, the Georgia Supreme Court found no reversible error and affirmed. View "Taylor v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Frank Huffman was convicted by jury of felony murder in connection with the shooting death of James Tanner Conrad (“Tanner”). On appeal, Huffman claimed the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress his statements to law enforcement officers by finding that he freely and voluntarily waived his Miranda rights. After review of the trial court record, the Georgia Supreme Court found no reversible error and affirmed. View "Huffman v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Shay Merritt was convicted by jury of malice murder and related offenses in connection with the shooting death of his wife, Rita Ann Merritt. On appeal, Merritt raised six claims of trial court error and further argued the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions and that he was denied constitutionally effective assistance of counsel. Finding no reversible error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed Merritt's convictions. View "Merritt v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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In 2010, Bilal Jackson was convicted by jury for aggravated assault, aggravated battery, attempted armed robbery, attempted murder, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony in connection with the shooting of Darryl Claro in 2007, when Jackson was 15 years old. The trial court sentenced Jackson to serve a total of 55 years in prison. Jackson's petition for habeas corpus was denied after a hearing. The Georgia Supreme Court granted Jackson's application for a certificate of probable cause to appeal to consider two issues: (1) whether alleged merger errors in sentencing may be raised for the first time in a habeas corpus proceeding or instead must be raised as part of a claim of ineffective assistance of appellate counsel; and (2) whether Jackson’s convictions for aggravated assault, aggravated battery, and attempted armed robbery merge into his conviction for attempted murder. The Supreme Court concluded that merger claims could be raised for the first time in habeas and were not procedurally barred by a habeas petitioner’s failure to raise them earlier in his criminal case. The Court also concluded the habeas court erred in rejecting Jackson’s claim that his convictions for aggravated assault and aggravated battery merge into his conviction for attempted murder, but did not err in rejecting his claim that his conviction for attempted armed robbery merged into his conviction for attempted murder. Accordingly, judgment was affirmed in part, and reversed in part. The case was remanded to the habeas court with direction to vacate Jackson’s convictions and sentences for aggravated assault and aggravated battery. View "Jackson v. Crickmar" on Justia Law

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Martin Montanez was convicted by jury for the murders of Byron Caceres and Eulalio Mederos-Vega and several theft, firearm-possession, and drug-related offenses arising from the incident in which they were killed. On appeal, Montanez argued: (1) the evidence presented at trial was insufficient as a matter of due process to sustain his conviction as to one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon under OCGA 16-11-133 (b); (2) the evidence was insufficient to sustain any of his convictions because the testimony of his alleged accomplice was not corroborated, as required by Georgia law; and (3) that his trial counsel provided constitutionally ineffective assistance. Finding no reversible error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed. View "Montanez v. Georgia" on Justia Law