Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Georgia
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Juan Chavez appealed his convictions for malice murder, participation in criminal street gang activity, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, and possession of a firearm by a first-offender probationer all stemming from the 2015 shooting death of Ricardo Ovalle. Chavez challenged the sufficiency of the evidence as to his conviction for participation in criminal street gang activity and the felony murder count predicated on that felony. He also argued his lawyers at trial were ineffective in their handling of his prior first-offender disposition, and that the trial court erred by denying his motion for a mistrial based on the State’s failure to disclose a witness’s prior inconsistent statement. After review, the Georgia Supreme Court concluded the evidence was sufficient to sustain all but one of Chavez’s convictions; the evidence was insufficient to sustain Chavez’s conviction for possession of a firearm by a first-offender probationer, and it reversed that conviction. The Court determined Chavez did not show his trial counsel were ineffective or that the State’s failure to disclose the alleged witness statement violated his constitutional rights, so the Court affirmed Chavez’s other convictions. View "Chavez v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Appellant Hamlet Perdomo was convicted of the felony murder of Carl Bush, as well as fourteen other crimes committed against five additional victims during a 2010 crime spree. Appellant challenged the evidence presented against him at trial as insufficient to support his convictions. Finding no reversible error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed. View "Perdomo v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Appellant Clinton Bankston appealed a trial court’s denial in part and dismissal in part of his pro se motion seeking to vacate his convictions and to withdraw his guilty pleas stemming from the murders of five people. In September 1987, a grand jury indicted Bankston for the murders of five people and other crimes that he committed when he was 15 and 16 years old. In 1988, Bankston pled guilty but mentally ill to five counts of malice murder. Other charges were nolle prossed, and he was sentenced to five consecutive life sentences. The trial court denied Banskton’s pro se motion to the extent it sought to vacate Bankston’s convictions, rejecting on the merits Bankston’s claim that his convictions were void. The trial court dismissed the motion to the extent Bankston sought to withdraw his pleas, ruling that it did not have jurisdiction to consider the claim because it was untimely. To the extent that Bankston’s motion sought to vacate his convictions, the Georgia Supreme Court determined the trial court should have dismissed it rather than denied it on the merits, therefore it vacated that part of the trial court’s judgment and remanded the case with direction to dismiss that part of the motion. The trial court order was affirmed in all other respects. View "Bankston v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Ricardo Harris was found guilty by jury of murder and concealing the death of another in connection with the death of Yvonne James. Harris contended on appeal that the trial court erred in admitting his pre-trial statements into evidence, and that trial counsel was ineffective for allowing him to give an incriminating custodial statement. Finding no reversible error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of conviction. View "Harris v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Jesse Swims was convicted by jury of malice murder and other crimes in connection with the death of Deborah “Debbie” Leigh Clemenson. Swims appealed, contending that the trial court erred in denying his motion for mistrial. Finding no error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed. View "Swims v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Louis Floyd, Jr. and Tara Lee Harrell were convicted by jury of murder and other offenses in connection with the death of William Jackson. Floyd argued on appeal that the trial court erred by not granting his motion to sever the trial and by failing to charge the jury on justification, and that his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance. Harrell argued the evidence presented by the State against her was insufficient to support the verdicts, and that the trial court should have granted her motion for directed verdict. Finding no error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed. View "Floyd v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Frederick Driver was convicted of felony murder and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony in connection with the 2017 shooting death of Randy Diamond. On appeal, Driver contended only that the trial court erred in admitting into evidence an admission he made to police while in custody. The Georgia Supreme Court disagreed with this contention and affirmed the conviction. View "Driver v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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In October 2016, a jury found Lerenzo Gaston guilty of felony murder and other crimes in connection with the shooting death of Terrance Walker. Gaston appealed, contending he received ineffective assistance of trial counsel because counsel: (1) did not request a jury charge on justification; (2) did not object to the State’s closing argument referencing evidence outside the record; (3) did not object to the admission of a prior consistent statement; and (4) did not introduce evidence that a witness initially denied seeing Gaston shoot Walker. Finding no error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed. View "Gaston v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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In a pending murder case involving multiple defendants, the State appealed an order denying its pretrial motion to admit a witness’s out-of-court statement by reason of necessity because the witness, Harry Dimeco, was dead. The trial court ruled that the statement was inadmissible under Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36 (2004), based on the court’s determinations that the witness’s statement was testimonial in nature and that the defendants were not afforded the opportunity to cross-examine the witness prior to his death. On appeal, the State conceded that the statement at issue was testimonial because, when given, the statement was going to be used for prosecution purposes. The State also conceded that the defendants had no meaningful opportunity to cross-examine the witness. The State argued, however, that notwithstanding Confrontation Clause concerns, the statement could be admitted for a non-hearsay purpose, specifically, explaining the witness’s conduct as depicted in a video recording that the State intended to offer. The Georgia Supreme Court reviewed the trial court’s grant or denial of a motion in limine for abuse of discretion, and finding none, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Georgia v. Stephens" on Justia Law

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Appellant Jasento Flowers was convicted by jury of the malice murder of his ex-wife, Bridgette Flowers, by shooting her with a handgun, and of the aggravated assaults of Tearro Moore, Ranoda Hammonds, Jamesia Williams, and Onterio Smith, by shooting at them with a handgun. He appealed, contending that the trial court erred in admitting evidence of a prior altercation with Bridgette, and in admitting a photograph of her brain, taken during the autopsy. Finding no reversible error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed. View "Flowers v. Georgia" on Justia Law