Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Georgia

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The State appealed a trial court’s order granting Roderick Parrish’s pretrial motion in limine to exclude a statement made by one of his codefendants, Kevin Smith. The trial court granted the motion, concluding that Crawford v. Washington, 541 U. S. 36 (2004), precluded the admissibility of Smith’s statement. Parrish and several others were charged in a 59-count indictment for various crimes, including murder and attempted robbery, in the shooting death of Rebecca Foley. The State planned to show that the perpetrators were all members of a street gang; Smith was later arrested for an unrelated aggravated assault and had in his possession a firearm that ballistics testing matched to the one used to kill Foley. During questioning by police, Smith was asked where he bought the gun. He explained that he purchased it in March 2013, which was two months after Foley’s murder, from someone he met “on the street” named “Jarod or Rod” Parrish. Parrish moved to prohibit the use of Smith’s custodial statement at trial on the ground that he was implicated in the statement and had a right to confront Smith. The trial court ruled that because Smith’s statement was not clearly inculpatory, severance of defendants under Bruton v. United States, 391 U. S. 123 (1968) was not required, but that Crawford, precluded admissibility in the event Smith did not testify and Parrish had no opportunity to cross-examine him. The Georgia Supreme Court determined Smith’s statement that he bought the gun from Parrish after the murder was not directly inculpatory of Parrish, and so it would have been admissible against Smith with an instruction to the jury to consider the statement only against Smith. The trial court therefore erred in ruling that the statement was wholly inadmissible. Therefore, the Court reversed the trial court’s ruling on the motion in limine and remanded this case for further proceedings. View "Georgia v. Smith" on Justia Law

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Blake Harris appealed his convictions for malice murder and other crimes in connection with the shooting death of Ray Murphy. Harris argued the trial court improperly commented on a witness’s credibility and that the trial court erred by not allowing him to ask a GBI investigator whether he used a waiver of rights form before interviewing Harris. The Georgia Supreme Court concluded the trial court’s isolated statement, which Harris did not object to, had no effect on the outcome of the trial. Furthermore, the Court concluded the trial court did not abuse its discretion in limiting Harris’s cross-examination because his intended questions were not relevant to any issues at trial. View "Harris v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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In Case Number S17A1928, Samuel Blackwell appealed his convictions for malice murder, two counts of aggravated assault, two counts of cruelty to children in the first degree, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, all in connection with the fatal shooting of Deirdre Smith and the wounding of two children. Blackwell challenged the sufficiency of the evidence of his guilt, the effectiveness of his trial counsel, and certain instructions to the jury. In Case Number S17A1929, the State appealed the trial court’s denial of its motion to vacate Blackwell’s sentence of life in prison for murder as void and to enter a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. Finding no reversible error in either case, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed. View "Blackwell v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Appellant Neddrick Green was charged along with Jeremy Reynolds, Jr. and Allen Williams for the malice murder of Barry Bullard. Green and Reynolds (who was also charged with possession of cocaine) were tried together and found guilty. Green appealed, asserting that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. The Georgia Supreme Court found trial counsel’s decision not to seek severance was presumed strategic. “Even if counsel had filed a motion to sever, the court would not have abused its discretion in denying the motion as Green would not have been able to show prejudice from the joint trial.” With otherwise no reversible error in the trial court’s judgment, the Supreme Court affirmed Green’s conviction. View "Green v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Appellant Patricia Ann Brown was convicted of murder and related offenses in connection with the beating death of Eugene Clark. On appeal, Brown contended that trial counsel was constitutionally ineffective. Though the Georgia Supreme Court concluded that Brown was erroneously sentenced, it found no other error. The case was remanded for resentencing. View "Brown v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Appellant Javin Andrews was tried by jury and convicted of malice murder and a related offense in connection with the November 2010 shooting death of Ricardo Francois. Andrews appealed, alleging the trial court erroneously admitted his custodial statements at trial. Finding no error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed. View "Andrews v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Appellant Tracey White was tried by jury and found guilty of malice murder, felony murder, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime in connection with the shooting death of Larry Miller. He appealed, arguing the trial court erred in its instruction to the jury on reasonable doubt, and claimed that he was deprived of his constitutional right to be effectively present at trial. Finding no reversible error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed. View "White v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Matthew Pike appealed his conviction and sentence for malice murder and related crimes in connection with the death of Justin Klaffka. He challenged the denial of severance of his trial from that of his coindictees, the admission of certain evidence, and the legal sufficiency of the evidence of his guilt. The Georgia Supreme Court found no merit to these challenges and affirmed the conviction and sentence. View "Pike v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Joseph Norris was convicted of felony murder, one count of aggravated assault by shooting the victim with a gun (the predicate offense for the felony murder charge), and one count of aggravated assault with the intent to rob, all in connection with the shooting death of Michael Patton. In this appeal, Norris argued that the trial court erred when it failed to suppress his three videotaped statements to police, and that both of the aggravated assault convictions should have merged into the felony murder conviction. The Georgia Supreme Court agreed that the conviction for aggravated assault by shooting should have merged into the felony murder conviction, but otherwise found no error. The case was remanded for resentencing. View "Norris v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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William Burke appealed his convictions for felony murder and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, charges stemming from the death of Andrew Daly. He argued that the trial court improperly limited the jury’s consideration of voluntary manslaughter to a lesser offense of only malice murder, both in its oral instructions and on the verdict form, so that the jury had no option to consider the lesser offense in relation to the felony murder charge. Finding that the trial court committed no plain error in this regard because the evidence did not support a finding of voluntary manslaughter, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed. View "Burke v. Georgia" on Justia Law