Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Georgia

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In 1977, Carzell Moore was convicted of the rape and murder of Teresa Allen, and sentenced to death. In a federal habeas corpus case, Moore was granted a new sentencing proceeding. In the course of the new state sentencing proceeding, the State filed notice of its intent to seek the death penalty; Moore moved in the trial court to bar the State from seeking the death penalty, the trial court denied the motion, and this Court affirmed. In 2002, assisted by counsel, Moore pled guilty to rape and malice murder, and was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. In 2017, acting pro se, Moore filed a motion for an out-of-time appeal, alleging that the sentence of life without the possibility of parole was void, that his sentence contravened public policy, and that counsel who represented him during the 2002 plea and sentencing hearing was ineffective; Moore also moved that venue be changed to the Superior Court of Monroe County, which was granted. In September 2017, addressing Moore’s motion for an out-of-time appeal, the Superior Court of Monroe County denied the motion, finding that Moore had elected to enter his guilty pleas and accept a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole after discussing the matter with counsel “for some time prior to the hearing.” The court also found that the sentence was not a void sentence, did not contravene public policy, and that Moore was not prejudiced by the sentence, as the State intended to seek the death penalty and Moore benefitted from the pleas by not having to face it. Moore did not file a notice of appeal of the September 2017 order; rather, in October 2017, he filed in the trial court what he styled an “Amended Motion for Out of Time Appeal.” The court rejected the motion, finding that it was untimely in light of the trial court’s September 20, 2017 denial of the initial motion; as to the merits, the court also ruled that there was no violation of Moore’s due process rights during the 2002 hearing, and that Moore’s 2002 trial counsel was not ineffective. Moore appealed the rejection of his “Amended Motion for Out of Time Appeal.” Finding no reversible error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed the rejection of Moore's Out of Time Appeal. View "Moore v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Christopher Szorcsik was convicted by jury of malice murder, felony murder, and aggravated assault in connection with the 2007 stabbing death of Richard Bentley. On appeal, Szorcsik contended: (1) the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to support the verdict; (2) the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress certain statements that he made to police; (3) the trial court committed plain error by failing to instruct the jury on the rule of sequestration and voluntary manslaughter; and (4) that his trial attorneys were ineffective for failing to request a jury charge on voluntary manslaughter. Finding no reversible error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed Szorcsik's convictions. View "Szorcsik v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Appellant Antonio Faust was convicted for various crimes related to the 2013 kidnapping of Michael Pippins and the shooting death of David McMillan, III. Appellant’s sole enumeration of error is that the State failed to prove venue beyond a reasonable doubt in regard to the crimes appellant committed against Pippins. The Georgia Supreme Court determined the jury was authorized to infer that a DeKalb County Officer who responded to the 911 call, and DeKalb County Officer who was the lead investigator of the crimes against Pippins, acted within the scope of their territorial jurisdiction. Accordingly, sufficient evidence existed for the jury to find beyond a reasonable doubt that the crimes against Pippins were committed in DeKalb County. As such, venue was proper, and Faust's conviction was affirmed. View "Faust v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Appellant Qutravius Palmer and his codefendant Zion Wainwright were convicted of murder and other crimes in connection with the December 2013 shooting death of Xavier Arnold. On appeal, Palmer argued the trial court erred by failing to order an unprompted evaluation of his competency to stand trial and by denying his motion to sever the codefendants’ trials. He also argued his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance. Finding no error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed. View "Palmer v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Appellant Marvin Manning was charged with malice murder, two counts of felony murder, and other offenses arising out of the shooting death of Jimmy Sims. The jury found Manning not guilty of malice murder but found him guilty of the remaining charges. According to appellant, because the trial court lumped all the charges against him together when instructing the jury on how to determine guilt or innocence, and did not instruct the jury to make a separate determination regarding guilt or innocence with respect to each of the counts against him, the instructions were confusing and harmful, and were erroneous as a matter of law. Viewing the charges as a whole, the Georgia Supreme Court concluded the manner in which the trial court instructed the jury was not confusing with respect to whether the jury was to make a determination of guilt on each individual count of the indictment, and thus the Court found the instruction was not erroneous. This was further evidenced by the fact that the jury found appellant not guilty of malice murder as charged in Count 1 of the indictment but found him guilty on the remaining counts. Accordingly, appellant failed to establish that the alleged error in the jury instruction as a whole likely affected the outcome of the proceedings. View "Manning v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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The Georgia Supreme Court granted a certificate of probable cause in a habeas corpus action to determine whether the habeas court erred in ruling that certain claims alleged in Andre Gordon’s petition for habeas corpus were foreclosed from habeas review. In 2008, a jury found Gordon guilty of child molestation, aggravated sexual battery, rape, and incest in connection with crimes he committed in June and July of 2000. Although the State had originally indicted Gordon in December 2006 only for child molestation, the State nolle prossed that indictment in October 2007 and re-indicted Gordon the following day, adding counts of aggravated sexual battery, rape, and incest. All of the new counts still concerned the June and July 2000 criminal activity against the same victim. The aggravated sexual battery and incest counts were subject to a seven-year statute of limitations, and a fifteen-year statute of limitations applied to the rape count. On direct appeal, Gordon argued that the statute of limitations had run on the aggravated sexual battery count and that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to challenge the indictment on that ground. The Court of Appeals found that the substantive statute of limitations issue was procedurally barred because trial counsel had not moved to demure, quash, or dismiss that count at trial. The Court of Appeals also refused to reach the merits of the related ineffective assistance claim because Gordon’s appellate filings contained no supporting record citations. Another claim by Gordon on direct appeal was that the evidence was insufficient to sustain his rape conviction. The Supreme Court granted Gordon’s application for a certificate of probable cause to appeal, and requested the parties address two issues: (1) whether the habeas court erred in finding that the statute of limitations issue addressed in Claims Two and Six of the underlying petition was foreclosed from review in habeas; and (2) whether the habeas court erred in finding that the claim of ineffective assistance of trial counsel underlying the claim of ineffective assistance of appellate counsel presented in Claim Four of the underlying petition had been resolved adversely to petitioner in his direct appeal. Because the Supreme Court concluded that some of those claims were not foreclosed, it vacated the judgment in part and remanded to the habeas court to consider them. View "Gordon v. Caldwell" on Justia Law

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Kevin Puckett was found guilty by jury of malice murder, felony murder, and family violence aggravated assault in connection with the shooting death of his father, Luther. On appeal, Puckett contended that the trial court erred: (1) by allowing a photograph of certain books to be admitted into evidence at trial; and (2) in allowing improper bolstering of the statements of a State’s witness at trial. Finding no reversible error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed. View "Puckett v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Appellant Stephen Johnson was indicted in 2013 for felony murder and drug conspiracy. He challenged the trial court’s order denying his motion to withdraw his guilty plea to felony murder. Appellant claims that his plea was not knowing, intelligent, and voluntary because he was intoxicated when he entered it and that the trial court applied an erroneous standard of review in ruling on his motion. Finding no reversible error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed. View "Johnson v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Michael Jordan was convicted of felony murder and related offenses arising out of the shooting death of Stacy Johnson and the aggravated assaults of Rodney Miles and Shatik Bryant. On appeal, Jordan argued: (1) the evidence was insufficient to sustain the verdicts; (2) the trial court erred in admitting certain evidence; (3) he was entitled to a mistrial; and (4) that the trial court should have granted his motion for new trial. Though the Georgia Supreme Court found no reversible error, it did find error in certain aspects of Jordan's sentence. The Court vacated and remanded for resentencing. View "Jordan v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Maurice Thomas was tried by a jury and convicted of murder and other crimes in connection with the fatal shooting of Eugene Grier. Thomas appealed, contending that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel when his lawyer opened the door and failed to object to evidence of a statement made by his codefendant, which, Thomas says, violated Bruton v. United States, 391 U. S. 123 (1968). Finding no such violation or other reversible error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed Thomas' conviction. View "Thomas v. Georgia" on Justia Law