by
Odes Dupree was convicted of malice murder and other crimes arising out of the asphyxiation death of 75-year-old Florene Duke. Raising the sufficiency of the evidence to convict him, Dupree asserted the trial court erred in denying his motion for directed verdict. Dupree’s defense theory was that some other perpetrator committed the crimes. He also claimed he received ineffective assistance of trial counsel. Finding no reversible error in the trial court proceedings, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed his convictions. View "Dupree v. Georgia" on Justia Law

by
Willie Terrell was tried by jury and convicted of murder and related crimes in connection with a shooting that killed Anthony Thomas and Tanisha Johnson and wounded Tanisha’s one-year-old son, K.T. Terrell argued on appeal that the trial court deprived him of his constitutional right to testify. Terrell told the court that his lawyer advised him not to testify but that he (Terrell) “[didn’t] know what to do.” Terrell explained that he wanted to testify but was “too stressed out.” Upon further questioning by the court, Terrell said he was upset that no other witnesses would be called on his behalf, and he again stated: “I wish to testify, just not right at this time. I’m too upset right now. I don’t think it would be fair to me, and the prosecutor have fair shots at me — unfair shots at me.” Terrell asked the court if he could delay testifying until the following morning. The court rejected his request, stating that the jury would be present for another hour and 15 minutes, and that if Terrell wished to testify, he would have to begin that day. When Terrell refused to take the stand, the trial court found that Terrell “chose not to testify, with a complete understanding of his rights.” Finding no error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed. View "Terrell v. Georgia" on Justia Law

by
Appellant Stevie Lamar Garner was tried by jury and found guilty of murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, aggravated battery, and other crimes in the shooting death of Patrick Marcus Edwin Wall. Garner appealed, arguing the trial court erred in refusing to instruct the jury on self- defense. Finding no reversible error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed Garner's convictions. View "Garner v. Georgia" on Justia Law

by
In August 2015, Doug and Lynda Tatum applied to the Pickens County Board of Commissioners for a conditional use permit for a 75-acre parcel near Jasper. The application was referred to the Pickens County Planning Commission for a hearing. Following the publication of notice, the Planning Commission held a hearing in October 2015, at which several neighbors appeared and objected to the application. The Planning Commission nevertheless recommended that the application be approved, and in January 2016, the Board approved it. Some of the neighbors filed a petition for judicial review, asserting that they were denied a meaningful opportunity to be heard on the application. The neighbors moved for summary judgment, but the superior court denied it, agreeing with the Board that the notice of the October 2015 hearing was enough to satisfy the ZPL. The neighbors appealed, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. The Georgia Supreme Court reversed, finding the problem with the Board decision was that it rested upon the premise that the October 2015 hearing before the Planning Commission (and the notice of that hearing) was enough to satisfy the notice-and-hearing requirements of the ZPL. "[T]he whole point of the statutory notice-and-hearing requirements is to afford interested citizens a meaningful opportunity to be heard on a proposed zoning decision. [. . .] when a hearing is too attenuated in time or circumstance from the final zoning decision, another hearing may be required." The Planning Commission in this case had no authority to make a final zoning decision, and it could only make recommendations to the Board. If an adequate record of the hearing before the Planning Commission had been made and transmitted to the Board — such that the final zoning decision of the Board could be said to have been meaningfully informed by what happened at the hearing — the hearing before the Planning Commission might satisfy the requirements of the ZPL. "But it appears that the only record of that hearing is a one-page memorandum to the Board" failed to disclose even the general nature of “considerable objections.” Accordingly, it could not be said that the hearing before the Planning Commission afforded interested citizens a meaningful opportunity to be heard by the Board on the application for a conditional use permit, and the October 2015 hearing does not satisfy the notice-and-hearing requirements of the ZPL. View "Hoechstetter v. Pickens County" on Justia Law

by
Sean Nalls and Montrella Baskin appealed their convictions for malice murder and other charges stemming from an incident in which William Hughes was killed while attempting to buy drugs. Nalls argued: (1) the trial court erred by failing to limit a jury instruction on justification as applying only to Baskin; and (2) the instruction was an improper comment on the evidence in violation of OCGA 17-8-57. Baskin argued the trial court erred in failing to instruct the jury that it was not permitted to find him guilty of murder as a party to a crime if it found that his participation was limited to being an accessory after the fact, resulting in mutually exclusive convictions for murder and hindering the apprehension of a criminal that all must be vacated as void. The Georgia Supreme Court found that because any error in failing to limit the jury instruction on justification to Baskin did not affect the outcome of the trial and because the instruction did not violate the version of OCGA 17-8-57 in effect at the time of trial, it affirmed Nalls’ convictions. And because the Court overruled case law that held that murder and hindering convictions were always mutually exclusive, and because the other precedent cited by Baskin did not require the jury instruction he said should have been given, the Court found no reversible error on the arguments he raised. View "Nalls v. Georgia" on Justia Law

by
The Georgia Supreme Court granted a writ of certiorari in this case to decide whether, when a motion to recuse the trial judge is filed after the judge has orally held a party’s attorney in contempt, the recusal motion must be decided before the judge may properly proceed to enter a written contempt order. Michael O. Mondy, Esq. represented Moses Langford, the defendant in a breach of contract and trade secrets lawsuit brought in state court by Langford’s former employer, Magnolia Advanced Materials, Inc. Langford was also the plaintiff in an employment discrimination case against Magnolia brought in federal court in Georgia, and Magnolia was also the defendant in a trade secrets case brought by its competitor, Epoplex, in federal court in South Carolina. A few days after Epoplex issued a federal court subpoena to Langford requesting Magnolia documents, the trial judge in the state case entered an injunction prohibiting Mondy and Langford from directly or indirectly disclosing or permitting unauthorized access to Magnolia’s non-public information. Magnolia moved to quash the federal subpoena, and a federal magistrate judge entered an order staying compliance with the subpoena until further order. A few days later, Mondy filed an unsealed brief with 28 exhibits opposing the motion to quash. Because the brief was not sealed, Magnolia’s non-public information in the exhibits was made available not only to the general public but to Magnolia’s competitor Epoplex – to whom Mondy also directly sent a Dropbox link containing the brief and exhibits. Magnolia then filed a motion in the state case to hold Mondy and Langford in contempt of the injunction. Days later, Mondy moved the trial court to recuse the trial judge. The judge did not immediately rule on the recusal motion. Instead, the judge held Mondy in contempt, then voluntarily recused himself from further proceedings. Mondy appealed the contempt order. The Court of Appeals held that the trial judge could ignore the pending recusal motion and enter the contempt order. The Georgia Supreme Court disapproved that holding, concluding that under Uniform Rule of Superior Court 25.3, the entry of a written contempt order was an “act upon the merits” of the contempt proceeding that a trial judge whose impartiality has been formally called into question may not properly perform until the recusal motion has been decided. The Court concluded, however, that even assuming the motion to recuse in this case was not only filed with the clerk but also “presented” to the trial judge as Rule 25.3 required, the motion was legally insufficient on its face. Thus, if properly considered, the recusal motion would not have required the trial judge’s recusal, and the judge’s procedural error does not require the Supreme Court to vacate the contempt order that followed. Therefore, the Court ultimately affirmed the Court of Appeals. View "Mondy v. Magnolia Advanced Materials, Inc." on Justia Law

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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