Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Georgia
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Carla Rae Hopwood was tried by jury and convicted of murder in connection with the 2012 fatal shooting of her longtime boyfriend, Ernest Bray. Hopwood appealed, contending that the evidence was legally insufficient to sustain her conviction and that the trial court erred when it admitted a statement that she gave to an investigator. Upon review of the record and briefs, the Georgia Supreme Court found no merit in these claims of error, and affirmed. View "Hopwood v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Paul Mattei was tried by jury and found guilty of malice murder, aggravated assault, and various other offenses in connection with the shooting death of Angela Williams. On appeal, Mattei contended the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to support his convictions and that the trial court erred by admitting at trial character evidence in violation of OCGA 24-4-404 (b). Finding no reversible error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed Mattei’s convictions. View "Mattei v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Demiko Jones was tried by jury and convicted of murder and other crimes in connection with the 2015 fatal shooting of Rodney Stafford. On appeal, Jones claimed the trial court abused its discretion when it excused a juror after deliberations were underway. The Georgia Supreme Court found no merit in this claim. However, the Supreme Court did agree, however, with Jones’s contention that the State failed to present sufficient evidence under OCGA 24-14-8 to establish that he was guilty of the unlawful possession of a firearm by a first-offender probationer. As a result, Jones’s conviction for possession by a first-offender probationer was reversed, but all other convictions were affirmed. View "Jones v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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William Moore appealed after a jury convicted him of malice murder for the strangling and beating death of his girlfriend, Mandi Kaiser. He challenged the trial court’s rulings on evidentiary matters, including allowing the State to introduce evidence of his prior violent acts toward another girlfriend. He also argued the trial court erred by denying a request for a jury instruction on mutual combat and by failing to grant a mistrial based on a comment by the prosecutor in closing argument. Further, Moore argued his trial counsel was ineffective in matters related to the other acts evidence. After review, the Georgia Supreme Court concluded that any error in admitting the other acts evidence was harmless given the strength of the State’s case. And because Moore had not otherwise shown trial court error or deficient performance by counsel, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Moore v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Jesus Guerrero was tried by jury and convicted of murder and other crimes in connection with the 2016 fatal shooting of Shiann Cray. Guerrero appealed, claiming the trial court erred when it refused to charge the jury on justification. Upon review of the record and briefs, the Georgia Supreme Court found no reversible error and affirmed. View "Guerrero v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Appellant Bruce Howard was convicted by jury of malice murder and other crimes in connection with the 2016 shooting death of Jaylon Maddox during an attempted robbery. On appeal, Howard challenged only the sufficiency of the evidence used to convict him. The Georgia Supreme Court determined there was sufficient evidence, so it affirmed. View "Howard v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Appellant Frankie Jay Henry III was convicted by jury for the stabbing death of Antonio Wiley. On appeal, he argued the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to support his conviction and that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. Finding no reversible error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed. View "Henry v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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In 2005, Nicholas Tate pleaded guilty to the murders of Chrissie Williams and her three-year-old daughter, Katelyn, and to numerous related crimes. He waived his right to a jury trial as to sentencing for the murders. At the conclusion of a sentencing bench trial, the trial court found several statutory aggravating circumstances and sentenced Tate to death for each of the murders. The Georgia Supreme Court unanimously affirmed Tate’s convictions and death sentences. On January 31, 2012, the day that his execution was scheduled to occur, Tate filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus and a motion for a stay of execution. Tate’s execution was stayed, and he amended his petition on May 16, 2013. The habeas court conducted an evidentiary hearing on June 9-10, 2014, and, in an order filed on December 27, 2018, the court denied relief with respect to Tate’s convictions but granted relief with respect to his death sentences after finding that Tate received ineffective assistance of counsel at the sentencing trial. In case number S19A0825, the Warden appealed the habeas court’s vacation of Tate’s death sentences, contending that the habeas court erred by concluding trial counsel were prejudicially deficient in investigating and presenting mitigating evidence at the sentencing trial, and in denying the Warden the opportunity to call Tate as a witness at the habeas evidentiary hearing. In case number S19X0826, Tate cross-appealed, contending the habeas court committed reversible error in denying several claims, including several instances of ineffective assistance of counsel, the violation of his constitutional right to a speedy trial, the State’s pursuit of contradictory theories, and post-conviction counsel’s conflict of interest. In the Warden’s appeal, the Supreme Court reversed and reinstated Tate’s death sentences. In Tate’s cross-appeal, the Court affirmed. View "Ford v. Tate" on Justia Law

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Earnest Shaw appealed the denial of his motion for new trial after a jury found him guilty of malice murder and concealing the death of another in connection with the death of Elizabeth Richardson. On appeal, Shaw argued the evidence presented by the State was insufficient to support the jury’s verdicts because the State’s case was based entirely on circumstantial evidence and the State did not exclude all reasonable theories of the crimes other than Shaw’s guilt. Shaw also argued the trial court erred by requiring Shaw to proceed pro se during a pre-trial hearing on the admission of certain evidence and by admitting certain evidence at trial. He further contended he received ineffective assistance from his trial counsel. Finding no grounds for reversal, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed. View "Shaw v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Appellant Marcus Eberhart, a former City of East Point police sergeant, challenged his 2016 conviction for felony murder predicated on aggravated assault in connection with the tasing death of Gregory Towns, Jr. Appellant contended the evidence presented at trial was legally insufficient to support his conviction for two reasons: (1) the Georgia Supreme Court’s decision in Ford v. Georgia, 423 SE2d 255 (1992), precluded his felony murder conviction; and (2) proof of intense physical pain was not enough, standing alone, to support a jury finding of serious bodily injury as required for the aggravated assault predicate for his felony murder conviction. The Supreme Court determined Ford did not apply to this case, because the predicate for the felony murder conviction was aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Moreover, the State presented expert medical testimony that the repeated tasing of Towns proximately caused not merely the infliction of intense physical pain, but also death. Accordingly, the Court affirmed Appellant’s felony murder conviction. View "Eberhart v. Georgia" on Justia Law