Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Georgia
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Kenneth Howard was tried by jury and convicted of the murder of Emily Ann Smith Newbegin. Howard appealed, contending that the evidence was legally insufficient to sustain his conviction. Upon its review of the record and briefs, the Georgia Supreme Court found no merit in Howard's claim of error, and affirmed. View "Howard v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Cuevas Carlos Santana was convicted by jury of malice murder and other crimes in connection with the 2010 shooting deaths of Israel Espinoza Mendoza, Vincente Soto Chavez, and Renato Soto Valencia. On appeal, Santana argues that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions, that the trial court erred by declining to grant Santana a new trial on the general grounds, and that trial counsel provided ineffective assistance. Finding no reversible error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed Santana’s convictions. View "Santana v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Larmell Heyward was convicted by jury of malice murder and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony in connection with the 2007 shooting death of Ramon Rogers. Heyward argued on appeal of those convictions that the trial court erred in denying his request to charge the jury on voluntary manslaughter. After review, the Georgia Supreme Court determined the trial court’s refusal to give the charge was harmless, since, in the Court's estimation, there was no realistic probability that the jury would have accepted the "slight" evidence of voluntary manslaughter in the light of the strong evidence of malice murder. View "Heyward v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Reuben Valrie was tried by jury and convicted of murder and other crimes in connection with the death of his infant daughter Aliyana. Valrie appealed, claiming that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel. Aliyana died as a result of closed head trauma, with a blunt-force abdominal injury as a secondary cause of death, which investigators determined was consistent with being shaken or dropped. At trial, Valrie presented the testimony of four expert witnesses who testified that Aliyana died of natural causes and that the injuries to her brain and abdomen were caused by events such as post-mortem CPR and the “rough” handling of her body by first responders. The jury rejected this defense and found Valrie guilty of murder and the other charges. Valrie contended that his trial lawyer should have raised a hearsay objection to the admission of recorded statements that his girlfriend (and Aliyana's mother) made to police investigators (as well as the testimony of one of those investigators about some of those statements). Alternatively, Valrie argued that his lawyer should have sought the redaction of certain portions of the recorded statements that impugned his character. The Georgia Supreme Court concluded Valrie failed to present evidence that his trial counsel was deficient, or that he was prejudiced by any alleged failures. According, the Court affirmed conviction. View "Valrie v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Roger Mills was found guilty by jury of malice murder and aggravated assault in connection with the death of Masuto Garrett. Mills contended that the trial court erred when, during jury deliberations, it excused a holdout juror without sufficient inquiry or good cause. After review, the Georgia Supreme Court concurred with that contention, and reversed Mills’s convictions. The Court also concluded the evidence presented at trial was legally sufficient to support the convictions, so the State could retry Mills if it chose. View "Mills v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Herbert Robinson appealed his convictions for malice murder, armed robbery, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony in connection with the death of Michael Moore. On appeal, he argued the trial court erred by allowing the State to use two firearms for demonstrative purposes during trial, and by allowing body-camera footage to be shown at trial. He also argued his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object to a letter written by Robinson’s cellmate being available to the jury for review during deliberations, and for failing to object to a visual aid used by the State during closing arguments. Because Robinson failed to show ineffective assistance of counsel or reversible error by the trial court, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed. View "Robinson v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Appellant Carzell Moore, proceeding pro se, appealed a trial court’s denial of his motion to set aside a September 2017 order denying his motion for an out-of-time appeal of his 2002 resentencing on his 1977 convictions for murder and rape. Moore contended the trial court abused its discretion by denying his motion to set aside because he was not given proper notice of the September 2017 order. Finding that the record supported the trial court’s ruling, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed. View "Moore v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Appellant Ronald Turner appeals from his conviction for malice murder stemming from the stabbing death of William King. The stabbing took place outside an apartment at which Turner had driven in order to trade food for drugs. Turner testified in his own defense at trial and claimed that King hit him in the head with a beer bottle because Turner owed money to King from a prior drug transaction. Turner testified that he tried to get away from King, but that King chased him down and grabbed his jacket. According to Turner, King was getting ready to hit him again when Turner stabbed King in self-defense. Appealing his ultimate conviction, Turner contended he was denied the effective assistance of counsel in three respects. Seeing no reversible error after a review of the trial court record, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed Turner's conviction. View "Turner v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Richard Williams, II, was tried by jury and convicted of murder in connection with the strangulation death of Cory Robinson. Williams and Robinson were involved in a sexual relationship and had been living together at an extended-stay hotel. Kelvin Spencer was a close friend of both Williams and Robinson. When Spencer met Williams at the hotel room, Williams looked angry and had scratches on his neck. Spencer saw Robinson lying on the floor in a “praying position.” Spencer did not believe Robinson was dead, and he helped Williams move clothes and other things to a U-Haul truck parked outside, in preparation for a move. Williams did not testify or present any evidence. Based on his lawyer’s opening and closing arguments, the defense theory was that Spencer killed Robinson because he was jealous of Williams’s relationship with Robinson. Williams’s sole claim on appeal was that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel when his trial lawyer failed to present as a defense that Williams accidentally killed Robinson during consensual erotic asphyxiation. He argued that his lawyer's discomfort with the topic of homosexual BDSM activity, and his own problems with the Georgia State Bar, precluded presentation of the "true" version of events, and that Williams acceded to the lawyer's defense strategy only "through ignorance and that he did not know that a defense based on consensual erotic asphyxiation was available." Finding no reversible error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed conviction. View "Williams v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Darius Morris was found guilty by jury of malice murder and other offenses in connection with the shooting death of Jameson Bush. Morris appealed, arguing he was denied the right to a timely appeal, that the trial court erred in restricting voir dire as to the religious beliefs and connections of potential jurors, that the trial court erred by giving a confusing jury charge regarding statements of co-conspirators, that the trial court erred by violating his right to a public trial by ordering that the courtroom doors be closed and locked during the court’s charge to the jury, and that his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance by not objecting to the closure of the courtroom. Finding no error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed. View "Morris v. Georgia" on Justia Law