Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Georgia

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Appellant Abijah Richards was convicted of malice murder and associated offenses arising out of the shooting death of Leevon Daniels. On appeal, Appellant’s sole issue was that trial counsel was ineffective by failing to object to hearsay testimony from an investigator and by failing to object to emotional character testimony concerning the victim. After review of the trial court record, the Georgia Supreme Court found no reversible error and affirmed conviction. View "Richards v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Jameshia Reid appealed the denial of her motion for new trial after a jury found her guilty of malice murder, felony murder, and cruelty to children in the first degree in connection with the death of her three-year-old son, Jakarie Reid. On appeal, she argued the evidence against her was insufficient to support the jury’s verdicts; the trial court erred by admitting a recording of an interview Reid gave to a DFCS investigator at the detective bureau; and that the trial court erred by admitting a jail recording of a telephone conversation between Reid and her mother in which they discussed Reid’s trial strategy. Finding no reversible error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed. View "Reid v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Michael Davis was convicted by jury of felony murder and other crimes arising out of a home invasion and the shooting death of Nicolas Jackson II. On appeal, Davis argued the trial court erred in striking a prospective juror over his objection. Specifically, he contended the trial court improperly questioned the juror regarding a topic not covered in OCGA 15-12-164 (a). He also contended the trial court improperly excused the juror for cause based on the State’s argument that she could not be fair and impartial. The Georgia Supreme Court found the juror in question was excused on hardship grounds, not impartiality. Therefore, no error in her excusal was found, and the Supreme Court affirmed Davis’ convictions. View "Davis v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Glenn Riggs, II was convicted of murder and armed robbery in connection with the 2013 strangulation and beating death of Dr. Charles Mann, III. He appealed, arguing the trial court erred in refusing to allow him to answer a question on re-direct examination. In the alternative, he argued he received ineffective assistance of counsel due to failure to preserve that error for appeal. Finding no reversible error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed. View "Riggs v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Appellant Talib Smith was convicted of murder, criminal street gang activity, and other crimes in connection with the 2013 shooting death of Khaseim Walton. On appeal, Smith argued the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions, and the trial court erred in instructing the jury. Finding no reversible error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed. View "Smith v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Appellant Deondra Martin was convicted of felony murder and possession of a knife during the commission of a felony in connection with the stabbing death of her husband, Christopher Washington. On appeal, Martin challenged the sufficiency of the evidence supporting her convictions. Further, she argued the trial court erred by excluding evidence of Washington’s drug use, and that trial counsel was constitutionally ineffective. Finding no reversible error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed. View "Martin v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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In November 2015, appellee Paul Hamilton was indicted for the malice murder of Brandon Lay, the felony murder of Lay predicated on aggravated assault, and the aggravated assaults of Lay, Teddi Taylor, and Judy Hewatt. In October 2018, a jury found Hamilton not guilty of malice murder but guilty of the remaining crimes. The trial court, on its own motion, granted Hamilton a new trial on general and legal grounds. The State appealed. Having reviewed the entire record, and considering that the trial court was authorized, as the thirteenth juror, to discount Taylor’s and Hewatt’s testimony and to credit Hamilton’s story, and bearing in mind the standard of review set forth in OCGA 5-5-50, the Georgia Supreme Court could not say the trial court’s conclusion was an abuse of its substantial discretion to grant Hamilton a new trial. Therefore, it affirmed the trial court judgment. View "Georgia v. Hamilton" on Justia Law

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Appellant Tamaron Varner was convicted of malice murder and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon in connection with the shooting death of Joshua Deberry. On appeal, he argued the trial court erred by denying his motion to exclude a police body-camera recording that depicted Deberry just after the shooting and that recorded the statements made by Deberry and his fiancée to the police. Appellant also contended his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance by failing: (1) to challenge the admission of certain statements in the recording; (2) to specially demur to the firearm-related charges in his indictment; (3) to object to the prosecutor’s argument that he was presenting mutually exclusive defenses; and (4) to challenge the admission of evidence of a shotgun that had no connection to the charged crimes. Having reviewed the record and the briefs, the Georgia Supreme Court found no error, and affirmed. View "Varner v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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In 2009, Bridgette Hines was convicted of armed robbery and other crimes in connection with the robbery of a convenience store, and she was sentenced to imprisonment for 20 years. Her convictions were affirmed on appeal. Then, in 2017, Hines filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, alleging that she was denied the effective assistance of counsel on appeal. The habeas court agreed with Hines and set aside her convictions. The Warden appealed. The evidence presented at her trial shows that Hines, Geoffrey Jupiter, and Ricky Timmons were involved in the robbery. Hines and Jupiter were tried together, and Timmons testified against them. Timmons had agreed to testify for the prosecution as a part of a plea deal that allowed Timmons to plead guilty to simple robbery and avoid prosecution for the greater offense of armed robbery. Hines argued that her trial counsel failed to cross-examine Timmons about the fact that he faced a potential life sentence for armed robbery with no parole eligibility for 30 years, but for his deal in which the State agreed that he could plead guilty only to simple robbery and testify against Hines (and Jupiter). This failure to impeach Timmons, Hines argued, was the basis for a claim of ineffective assistance of trial counsel that her appellate counsel should have raised on direct appeal. Because her appellate counsel raised no such claim, she concluded she was denied the effective assistance of counsel on appeal. The Georgia Supreme Court concluded Hines has failed to show ineffective assistance of appellate counsel, "Even if Hines could have shown that her trial counsel acted deficiently in failing to impeach Timmons on this particular issue, she likely would not have been able to show prejudice." The Court reversed the habeas court's judgment granting relief. View "Benton v. Hines" on Justia Law

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Appellant Delwoun Williams was convicted of felony murder and other crimes in connection with the 2017 shooting death of Cornelius Gordon. On appeal, Appellant argued the trial court erred in denying his request to charge the jury on voluntary manslaughter. After review of the trial court record, the Georgia Supreme Court concluded this contention was without merit and affirmed. View "Williams v. Georgia" on Justia Law