Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Georgia
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Cleandre Franklin was tried by jury and convicted of murder and other crimes in connection with the fatal shooting of Marvin Wiley. Franklin appealed, contending (1) the evidence was insufficient to sustain his convictions; (2) the trial court erred when it allowed a witness for the prosecution to testify notwithstanding that the witness violated the rule of sequestration; and (3) he was denied the effective assistance of counsel. Upon review of the record and briefs, the Georgia Supreme Court found no reversible error and affirmed. View "Franklin v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Charles Pennington and Jay Briele were found guilty By jury of possessing with intent to distribute methamphetamine within 1,000 feet of an elementary school. At trial, Pennington and Briele requested that the jury be instructed on an affirmative defense provided in the Georgia Controlled Substances Act, specifically, that the conduct prohibited by OCGA 16-13-32.4 (a) took place entirely within a private residence, that no minors were present in the residence at any time during the commission of the offense, and that the prohibited conduct was not carried on for financial gain. The trial court denied the request and, in denying Pennington’s motion for a new trial, explained that the court refused to instruct the jury on the affirmative defense because Pennington and Briele, neither of whom testified at trial, did not admit doing the act charged, possessing with intent to distribute methamphetamine, and because neither the State nor either defendant presented any evidence that the “active meth lab” in Pennington’s residence was not being used for financial gain. The Court of Appeals affirmed Pennington’s convictions, reasoning that, because he did not admit that he possessed with intent to distribute methamphetamine near a school, he was not entitled to the affirmative defense he requested. Pennington petitioned for certiorari review, asking “What, if anything, must a criminal defendant admit in order to raise an affirmative defense?” The Georgia Supreme Court held a criminal defendant was not required to “admit” anything, in the sense of acknowledging that any particular facts are true, in order to raise an affirmative defense. “To the extent a defendant in raising an affirmative defense accepts for the sake of argument that he committed the act alleged in a charge, the defendant may do so only for the limited purpose of raising the affirmative defense at issue.” Judgement was vacated and the case remanded for further proceedings. View "Pennington v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Following a jury trial, Carlos McClure was found guilty of two counts of aggravated assault based on an indictment that charged him with assaulting Armando Cuevas and Jamie Thun with a lever-action BB rifle by aiming the gun at them. McClure requested that the jury be instructed on the affirmative defenses of justification in defense of self and justification in defense of habitation. The trial court refused to give the requested instructions on justification on the basis that McClure, who testified that he carried the BB gun during an encounter with the victims but denied pointing the gun at them, could not both deny that he performed the act of pointing the gun at someone and at the same time argue that he was justified in performing that act. On appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed, reasoning that, because McClure did not admit to aiming the BB gun at the victims, an element of aggravated assault as charged, he was not entitled to an instruction on any affirmative defense. The Georgia Supreme Court determined a criminal defendant was not required to “admit” anything, in the sense of acknowledging that any particular facts are true, in order to raise an affirmative defense. “To the extent a defendant in raising an affirmative defense accepts for the sake of argument that he committed the act alleged in a charge, the defendant may do so only for the limited purpose of raising the affirmative defense at issue.” The Supreme Court vacated the judgment and remanded to the Court of Appeals for consideration of whether the trial court erred in failing to give the requested instructions regarding the affirmative defenses of justification, that is, whether the theory of the instructions was supported by at least slight evidence, and, if so, whether any such instructional error was harmful. View "McClure v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Leonard Rodrigues tried by jury and found guilty of malice murder and other crimes in connection with the stabbing death of Nathaniel Reynolds. He appealed, contending the trial court erred in letting improper testimony regarding the circumstances of prior bad acts to be admitted at trial. After review of the trial court record, the Georgia Supreme Court found no reversible error and affirmed. View "Rodrigues v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Roman Hills was convicted of malice murder in connection with the 2014 strangulation, beating, and stabbing death of his live-in girlfriend, Beverly Jones. He appealed, arguing the trial court erred in excluding a defense witness’ testimony, and he received ineffective assistance of trial counsel. Finding no reversible error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed his conviction. View "Hills v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Quintavius Hawkins was convicted of felony murder (predicated on criminal attempt to commit armed robbery) in connection with the death of Clayton Smith, criminal attempt to commit armed robbery, and possession of a firearm during commission of a felony. On appeal, Hawkins contended: (1) he received ineffective assistance of trial counsel; (2) the trial court erred in finding that his third amended motion for new trial was untimely; and (3) the trial court erred in denying him an opportunity to present evidence in support of his third amended motion for new trial. Although the Georgia Supreme Court found no merit in these claims, the record revealed the trial court erred when it imposed sentence on both the felony murder and the predicate offense of criminal attempt to commit armed robbery, which offense merged with the felony murder for sentencing. Accordingly, the Supreme Court vacated Hawkins’s conviction for criminal attempt to commit armed robbery, and affirmed in all other respects. View "Hawkins v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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A grand jury indicted Javis Denson and his brother, Myron Mitchell, Jr., individually and as parties to a crime, for the felony murder (predicated on aggravated assault) of Mickey Albritton; two counts of aggravated assault, one of Albritton and the other of Earl Dasher; and three counts of possession of a firearm during commission of a felony. A jury would later find Denson and Mitchell guilty of all counts, for which Denson was sentenced to life imprisonment plus concurrent sentences. Denson moved for a new trial, arguing (among other things) that “[t]he verdict [wa]s contrary to the evidence” and “the principles of justice and equity” and that it was “decided strongly against the weight of the evidence.” After holding a hearing and considering the parties’ legal briefs, the trial court granted Denson’s motion for a new trial under OCGA sections 5-5-20 and 5-5-21. The State then appealed. Having reviewed the entire record, and considering that the trial court was authorized, as the thirteenth juror, to credit Denson’s version of events and discount versions offered by other witnesses, and bearing in mind the standard of review set forth in OCGA 5- 5-50, the Georgia Supreme Court could not say the trial court abused its "substantial discretion" in granting Denson a new trial on the general grounds. Therefore, it affirmed the trial court's judgment. View "Georgia v. Denson" on Justia Law

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Appellant Geno West appeals his convictions for felony murder and other crimes in connection with the 2008 shooting death of Marcus Simpson. On appeal, he argued the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to support his conviction, the trial court violated his right to full and fair appellate review by failing to follow the proper procedure for supplementing the record, and that his trial counsel rendered constitutionally ineffective assistance. Finding no such errors, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed West's convictions. View "West v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Appellant Abijah Richards was convicted of malice murder and associated offenses arising out of the shooting death of Leevon Daniels. On appeal, Appellant’s sole issue was that trial counsel was ineffective by failing to object to hearsay testimony from an investigator and by failing to object to emotional character testimony concerning the victim. After review of the trial court record, the Georgia Supreme Court found no reversible error and affirmed conviction. View "Richards v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Jameshia Reid appealed the denial of her motion for new trial after a jury found her guilty of malice murder, felony murder, and cruelty to children in the first degree in connection with the death of her three-year-old son, Jakarie Reid. On appeal, she argued the evidence against her was insufficient to support the jury’s verdicts; the trial court erred by admitting a recording of an interview Reid gave to a DFCS investigator at the detective bureau; and that the trial court erred by admitting a jail recording of a telephone conversation between Reid and her mother in which they discussed Reid’s trial strategy. Finding no reversible error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed. View "Reid v. Georgia" on Justia Law