Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Georgia
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Terrance Medina was indicted for malice murder (Count 1), felony murder (Count 2), aggravated assault (Count 3), and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony (Count 4) in connection with the July 20, 2015, shooting death of James Thornton. The jury reached a verdict as to malice murder but was deadlocked on the remaining counts. The parties and the trial court agreed to a mistrial on all counts. Before the trial court actually declared the mistrial, however, it instructed the jury to disclose its verdict. When the jury reported its not guilty verdict on the malice murder count and the judge read it in open court, all of the requirements for formally returning a verdict on that count were fulfilled and the verdict became effective. The trial court then purported to declare a mistrial on all counts, including malice murder. But the mistrial was not effective as to the malice murder count. Double jeopardy thus precluded retrial on that count, although retrial was permissible on the felony murder, aggravated assault, and firearm possession counts. The Georgia Supreme Court found: (1) the record did not show the jury's verdict on Count 1 must have been based on a finding that Medina acted in self-defense; (2) the jury also could rationally have found Medina not guilty of malice murder based on a conclusion that the evidence did not prove malice beyond a reasonable doubt, while being undecided on the different issue of whether the evidence proved the general intent to inflict injury needed for aggravated assault (Count 2), which was the predicate for the felony murder count (Count 3) and one of the predicates for the charge of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony (Count 4). The Court concluded Medina failed to carry his burden of establishing that the jury necessarily determined that he acted in self-defense. Consequently, he could be retried on Counts 2, 3, and 4. View "Medina v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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In a discretionary appeal, the Georgia Supreme Court considered whether the superior court erred in dismissing Marcus Tumlinson's petition for pre-trial habeas relief without considering the merits of his claims or holding a hearing. Because the record showed Tumlinson exhausted his efforts to seek an interlocutory review of the trial court’s order denying him bond in this case, and because he had no other adequate remedy for meaningful review of the lawfulness of his continued detention, the habeas court erred in concluding that it lacked the authority to consider the merits of Tumlinson’s petition for pre-trial habeas relief on this basis. The Supreme Court therefore remanded this case and directed the habeas court to consider Tumlinson’s petition and any exhibits, and if necessary, to conduct a hearing. View "Tumlinson v. Dix" on Justia Law

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Michael Dobbins was convicted by jury of malice murder and other crimes in connection with the shooting death of Hollis Boddie. On appeal, Dobbins contended: (1) the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions; (2) that the trial court erred by failing to grant Dobbins’s motion for mistrial, to rebuke the prosecutor, or to give a curative instruction when the prosecutor referenced Dobbins’s “previous trial” before the jury; and (3) that his trial counsel rendered constitutionally ineffective assistance by failing to provide written notice of her intent to use a prior conviction of one of the State’s witnesses for impeachment purposes. Seeing no reversible error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed. View "Dobbins v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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In this case's first appearance, the Georgia Supreme Court reversed the trial court's grant of David Newman's motion for a new trial. In doing so, the Court found the trial court erred in concluding that harmful error occurred at Newman’s trial based on the court’s failure to give a sua sponte jury charge on the use of force in defense of habitation under OCGA 16-3-23. However, the Court remanded the case to the trial court for consideration of the remaining claims raised in Newman’s motion for new trial that had not been ruled upon in the trial court’s original order on the motion. This appeal stemmed from the trial court’s denial of Newman’s numerous remaining claims relating to the alleged ineffective assistance of his trial counsel. Finding that Newman failed to show his trial counsel performed deficiently, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court with respect to those claims. View "Newman v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Raekwon Pauldo was convicted by jury on one count of malice murder, one count of felony murder, and three counts of aggravated assault in connection with the death of Jaquel Smith. The trial court granted Pauldo’s motion in limine to exclude the portions of his custodial interview with police after he invoked his rights to remain silent and to counsel on the ground that police failed to honor Pauldo’s invocation of those rights by continuing to interrogate him. The State appealed that ruling. After its review of the trial court record, the Georgia Supreme Court concluded police did not continue the interrogation, that Pauldo reinitiated a conversation with police about the case, and that he knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waived his rights before further interrogation began. Therefore, the Court reversed the trial court's suppression order. View "Georgia v. Pauldo" on Justia Law

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Merrick Redding was tried by jury and convicted of murder and aggravated assault in connection with the death of Joseph Davis. Redding appealed arguing: (1) the evidence was legally insufficient to sustain his convictions; (2) that he was denied his constitutional right to a speedy trial; and (3) that certain evidence was admitted erroneously at trial. Although the Georgia Supreme Court concluded the evidence was sufficient to sustain the convictions, the trial court failed to apply the proper standard to the claim that Redding was denied his right to a speedy trial. For that reason, the Court vacated the judgment below and remanded for the trial court to resolve that claim under the proper standard. The Court declined at this point to address the remaining claims of error. View "Redding v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Appellant DeAndre Glover was convicted of malice murder and making a false statement in connection with the 2015 shooting death of Mario Williams. The trial court denied his motion for a new trial and Glover appealed, arguing he received ineffective assistance of trial counsel for failing to object to the admission of hearsay testimony. Finding no error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed. View "Glover v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Nathaniel Mathis was found guilty of malice murder and other crimes in connection with the 2016 shooting death of Rodney Benton. Mathis appealed, challenging the sufficiency of the evidence as to each offense of which he was convicted, and contending that he received ineffective assistance of trial counsel because counsel: (1) did not file a pretrial motion for immunity from prosecution under OCGA 16-3-24.2; and (2) did not call Mathis’ nephew and mother as witnesses at an immunity motion hearing and at trial. Finding no reversible error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed. View "Mathis v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Appellant Damien Heard was convicted as a party to malice murder and other crimes in connection with the fatal shooting of James Daniel Evers, the armed robbery of Donald Evers, and the aggravated assaults of Charles Emmons and John Elledge, Jr. On appeal, Heard argued that, among other things, the trial court erred by admitting under OCGA 24-4- 404 (b) evidence of subsequent crimes committed by Appellant. The Georgia Supreme Court determined that because the trial court abused its discretion by admitting the evidence of Appellant’s later crimes and the error was not harmless, Appellant’s convictions were reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Heard v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Torrey Sicarr Nigel Scott was tried by jury and convicted of murder, four rapes, and various other offenses in connection with a violent crime spree in the Savannah area in late 2013 and early 2014. Scott appealed, claiming: (1) the evidence was legally insufficient to sustain several of his convictions; (2) the trial court erroneously admitted hearsay evidence; and (3) that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel. The Georgia Supreme Court agreed that the evidence was legally insufficient to sustain one of his rape convictions, and reversed that conviction. The Court affirmed in all other respects. View "Scott v. Georgia" on Justia Law