Justia Georgia Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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A jury found appellant Kelvin Brown guilty of malice murder and other crimes related to the shooting death of Cornelius Miller. He appealed, contending that: (1) the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions; (2) the prosecutor failed to lay a proper foundation before the trial court allowed him to treat witness Tyeesha Gray as a hostile witness; and (3) the trial court erred in allowing two witnesses to testify despite lacking personal knowledge about the shooting. Finding no error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed Brown’s convictions. View "Brown v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Appellant James Patterson was convicted of felony murder in connection with the 2018 beating death of Jeffrey Burke. In this appeal, Appellant contended: (1) he received constitutionally ineffective assistance of counsel; (2) the trial court erred in permitting a witness to be impeached under OCGA § 24-6-609; and (3) a new trial was warranted due to newly discovered evidence. Finding no error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed Appellant’s convictions. View "Patterson v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Appellant Leonard Holland challenged his convictions for malice murder and other crimes in connection with the 2002 shooting death of James Jones. Appellant contended the trial court erred: (1) by ruling that Appellant’s video-recorded statements could be used for impeachment purposes; (2) by admitting Appellant’s written statements allegedly made in violation of Miranda; and (3) by admitting Appellant’s written statements as similar-transaction evidence. Appellant further contended he was denied the effective assistance of counsel in two respects an d that the cumulative prejudicial effect of the trial court’s and trial counsel’s errors entitles him to a new trial under Georgia v. Lane, 838 SE2d 808 (2020). Finding no error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed Holland’s convictions. View "Holland v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Tevin Sams was convicted by jury of the malice murder of eight-year-old Jai’mel Anderson, the aggravated assault of six-year-old J. A., and other offenses. The charges arose out of an incident in which shots were fired through an apartment door into a room occupied by the two boys. Following the denial of his motion for new trial, Sams challenged the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his convictions and argued the trial court erred by allowing the State to admit evidence pursuant to OCGA § 24-4-404 (b) that Sams shot at someone else in 2014. Finding no reversible error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed Sams’ convictions. View "Sams v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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A jury found Mario Talley guilty of the malice murder of Rodney Walker, the aggravated assault and attempted armed robbery of Isiah Knight, and other offenses. Talley appealed the denial of his motion for new trial, arguing that the trial court erred by admitting certain evidence at trial and that his trial counsel provided constitutionally ineffective assistance. After review, the Georgia Supreme Court found no error and affirmed Talley’s convictions. View "Talley v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Claud Lee “Tex” McIver III was convicted of felony murder and other crimes arising out of the 2016 shooting death of his wife, Diane. He appealed, claiming among other things, that the trial court erred in refusing his request to charge the jury on the lesser grade of involuntary manslaughter under OCGA § 16-5-3 (b) and in allowing the State to introduce allegedly inadmissible and prejudicial evidence and make improper comments during closing argument. After review, the Georgia Supreme Court concluded the trial court erred in refusing McIver’s request to charge on the lesser grade of involuntary manslaughter, because the charge was authorized by law and some evidence supported the giving of the charge. Further, the Supreme Court concluded the failure to give the charge was not harmless error, because the Court could not say that it was highly probable that this error did not contribute to the jury’s verdicts. The Court therefore reversed McIver’s convictions for felony murder and possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony. The Court did not decide issues that were unlikely to recur if the State elected to retry McIver, but it did address certain evidentiary issues, and saw no abuse of discretion in admitting some of the challenged evidence, but other evidence lacked relevance or its probative value was substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, so that unless the evidentiary posture changed for any retrial, that evidence should not be admitted again. View "McIver v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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This case involved a contentious family dispute over the effect of an in terrorem clause in a trust instrument that was executed by David Slosberg (“David”), which said that if his son, Robert Slosberg (“Plaintiff”), or daughters, Suzanne Giller and Lynne Amy Seidner (“Defendants”), challenged the trust, they would forfeit any benefits they were to receive from it. After David died, Plaintiff filed a lawsuit alleging, among other things, that Defendants unduly influenced David to create the trust that contained the in terrorem clause, and at a trial in June 2019, the jury agreed. The trial court accordingly entered an order ruling that the trust instrument was void. Defendants moved for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict, arguing, among other things, that the in terrorem clause contained in the trust instrument precluded Plaintiff from asserting the undue-influence claim in the first place. The trial court denied the motion, but the Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the in terrorem clause barred Plaintiff’s claim and resulted in his forfeiture of any benefits from the trust. The Georgia Supreme Court determined the Court of Appeals erred by determining that the in terrorem clause barred Plaintiff’s undue-influence claim and resulted in forfeiture of the assets the trust instrument otherwise provided. That part of the Court of Appeals’ decision was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings at the trial court. View "Slosberg v. Giller, et al." on Justia Law

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The United States District Court for the Middle District of Georgia certified questions of law to the Georgia Supreme Court, all involving OCGA § 40-8-76.1 (d), the “seatbelt statute.” The federal court asked whether the statute precluded a defendant in an action alleging defective restraint system design and/or negligent restraint system manufacture from producing evidence related to: (1) The existence of seatbelts in a vehicle as part of the vehicle’s passenger restraint system; or (2) Evidence related to the seatbelt’s design and compliance with applicable federal safety standards; or (3) An occupant’s nonuse of a seatbelt as part of their defense. The Supreme Court concluded OCGA § 40-8-76.1 (d) did not preclude a defendant in an action alleging defective restraint-system design or negligent restraint-system manufacture from producing evidence related to the existence of seatbelts in a vehicle as part of the vehicle’s passenger restraint system. Furthermore, the Court concluded the statute did not preclude such defendants from producing evidence related to the seatbelt’s design and compliance with applicable federal safety standards. Finally, the Court concluded OCGA § 40 -8-76.1 (d) precluded consideration of the failure of an occupant of a motor vehicle to wear a seatbelt for the purposes set forth in subsection (d), even as part of a defendant-manufacturer’s defense. View "Domingue, et al. v. Ford Motor Company" on Justia Law

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This case stemmed from the criminal trial of Shalita Jackson Harris, a school bus driver who was convicted of homicide by vehicle in the first degree after the bus she drove crashed, resulting in the death of a student. Following her conviction, Harris moved for new trial alleging that jurors had engaged in misconduct during deliberations by researching the available sentences for her charges. The trial court denied the motion, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. The Georgia Supreme Court found that both the Court of Appeals and trial court applied the wrong legal standards in deciding whether Harris’ claim of juror misconduct was not sufficiently prejudicial to require a new trial. Accordingly, the judgment was vacated and the case remanded for further proceedings. View "Harris v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Jerome Mobley was convicted by jury of breaking into his estranged wife’s home, in violation of a condition of pretrial bond, and shooting and killing her in the presence of the couple’s children. Mobley contended the trial court erred by refusing a jury instruction on voluntary manslaughter was warranted by at least slight evidence of sudden provocation. Because a voluntary manslaughter instruction was not warranted by the evidence, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed. View "Mobley v. Georgia" on Justia Law