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This Court granted applications for certificates of probable cause from Mark Jason Jones, Kenneth Eric Gardiner, and Dominic Brian Lucci to appeal the denials of their petitions for writs of habeas corpus. Jones, Gardiner, and Lucci were tried and found guilty of malice murder in the shooting death of Stanley Jackson, as well as of possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony. The three defendants were Army servicemen stationed at Fort Stewart, near Savannah. Defendants were Caucasian; Jackson was African-American. Evidence presented at the November, 1992 trial showed that, during the day of January 31, 1992, Jones sought to borrow some equipment from a fellow soldier, Sylvia Wallace, telling Wallace he was going to Savannah that night because “he had somebody that he was going to shoot.” When Wallace enquired who that would be, Jones replied, “I got a black guy up there I got to get.” A witness stated he saw two men fire military-type automatic or semiautomatic rifles through the window of a 1992 black Chevrolet Cavalier while a third man drove the car; Jackson was killed in the shooting. The Georgia Supreme Court determined, in light of the totality of the circumstances, confidence in the outcome of the trial was undermined by the State’s failure to provide exculpatory evidence to the defense. It therefore reversed denials of each defendant’s petition for habeas corpus and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Jones v. Medlin" on Justia Law

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Mye Brindle worked as a housekeeper and personal assistant to Joe Rogers, who was married. During her employment with Rogers, the two became involved sexually. In June 2012, Brindle hired attorneys David Cohen and John Butters to represent her on a potential claim of sexual harassment. Without Rogers’ knowledge or consent to be video recorded, Brindle allegedly used a “spy” camera to secretly record video of Rogers naked in his bathroom and bedroom, as well as video of a sexual encounter between Rogers and herself inside his bedroom. The video recording was delivered to attorney Cohen, and Brindle resigned from her position with Rogers. Rogers received a demand letter from attorney Cohen relating to the potential sexual harassment claim that he and Butters were prepared to file on Brindle’s behalf. After extensive civil litigation between Rogers and Brindle, Brindle and her attorneys (collectively, “defendants”) were charged in the Superior Court of Fulton County with conspiracy to commit extortion under OCGA 16-8-16 (Count 1), conspiracy to commit unlawful surveillance (Count 2), and conducting unlawful surveillance under OCGA 16-11-62 (Count 3). Brindle was also charged individually with one additional count of conducting unlawful surveillance under OCGA 16-11-62 (Count 4). The indictment was largely based on the defendants’ prior actions involving an alleged conspiracy to secretly video record and then actually record Rogers in the bathroom and bedroom of his home, and then sending Rogers the litigation demand letter. Defendants filed a general demurrer to dismiss the indictment against them and to have the statutes underlying the charged crimes declared unconstitutional. The trial court issued an order granting defendants’ general demurrer, finding the indictment failed to show that defendants committed any crimes under the relevant statutes. The trial court went on to conclude that OCGA 16-8-16 (a) (3) was unconstitutionally overbroad on its face, and further declared that OCGA sections 16- 11-62 (2) and 16-11-66 (a) were unconstitutionally vague because “persons of ordinary intelligence [could not] be expected to determine what is permitted and prohibited by these [two] statutes.” Accordingly, the trial court dismissed all counts of the indictment against all of defendants. The State appealed. The Georgia Supreme Court concluded that: (1) while the trial court properly dismissed Count 1 of the indictment, the trial court erred by reaching the constitutional issue relating to OCGA 16-8-16 (a) (3) in support of this result; and (2) the trial court erred in dismissing Counts 2, 3, and 4 of the indictment and in concluding that OCGA sections 16-11-62 (2) and 16-11-66 (a) were unconstitutionally vague. View "Georgia v. Cohen" on Justia Law

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Appellant Jelani Asim Anthony was convicted of malice murder and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime. On appeal, Anthony contended the trial court erred by: (1) refusing to suppress an identification obtained as the result of an allegedly flawed lineup; and (2) failing to grant his motion for new trial after new evidence relating to an alternate suspect was revealed. Furthermore, Anthony claimed his trial counsel and post-trial counsel were ineffective. Finding no error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed. View "Anthony v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Appellant Diversified Holdings, LLP (“Diversified”) and the City of Suwanee (“the City”) were involved in a zoning dispute regarding the status of 30 acres of undeveloped land located in the City (“Property”). On the merits of the issues presented, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s decision that there was no error in denying Diversified’s application to rezone the Property. But the Court clarified that the “substantially advances” standard that derives from constitutional due process guarantees had no place in an eminent domain or inverse condemnation proceeding. “Consequently, where a landowner claims harm from a particular zoning classification, inverse condemnation is not an available remedy unless the landowner can meet the separate and distinct requirements for such a claim.” The Court did not reach the City’s contention on cross appeal that the trial court erred in concluding that Diversified showed a substantial detriment based on the value of the Property as currently zoned versus its value if rezoned. View "Diversified Holdings, LLP v. City of Suwanee" on Justia Law

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A jury found appellant Eric Thompson guilty of two counts of malice murder in connection with the deaths of Andre Geddis and Melody Keller. On appeal, Thompson contended the trial court erred by admitting certain evidence, including character evidence and hearsay evidence, and denying his motion for continuance. Thompson also challenged the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the guilty verdicts and alleged his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object to a portion of the State’s closing argument. The Georgia Supreme Court agreed that some of the challenged character evidence was improperly admitted and that the admission was not harmless. Therefore, the Court reversed and remanded for a new trial. View "Thompson v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Appellant Davoris Hodges was found guilty by jury of two counts of felony murder, armed robbery, and two counts of aggravated assault related to the shooting death of Khristal Wright, a Johnson County deputy sheriff. He was found not guilty of malice murder. Finding only an error in the trial court’s calculation of Appellant’s sentence, the Georgia Supreme Court vacated his sentence and remanded for resentencing. The Court affirmed in all other respects. View "Hodges v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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E. Kendrick Smith, an Atlanta lawyer, brought this action to compel a corporation, Northside Hospital, Inc. and its parent company, Northside Health Services, Inc., (collectively, “Northside”), to provide him with access to certain documents in response to his request under the Georgia Open Records Act (“the Act”). A government agency owns and operates a large and complex hospital as part of its mission to provide healthcare throughout Fulton County. The agency leased its assets (including the hospital) to the Northside for a 40-year term at a relatively minimal rent. All governmental powers were delegated to Northside with respect to running the hospital and other assets. Northside’s organizing documents reflected that its purpose aligned with the agency’s: to provide healthcare for the benefit of the public. Thirty years into the arrangement, the corporation became “massive,” and owned other assets in surrounding counties. In resisting Smith’s request for records, Northside argued it no didn’t really do anything on behalf of the agency (in part because the now nearly-nonexistent agency has no idea what the corporation is doing), and thus the corporation’s records of a series of healthcare-related acquisitions weren’t subject to public inspection. The Georgia Supreme Court surmised that if the corporation’s aggressive position were wholly correct, it would cast serious doubt on the legality of the whole arrangement between Northside and the agency. Smith argued everything Northside did was for the agency’s benefit and thus all of its records were public. The Supreme Court concluded both were wrong: Northside’s operation of the hospital and other leased facilities was a service it performed on behalf of the agency, so records related to that operation were public records. But whether the acquisition-related records sought here were also public records depended on how closely related the acquisition was to the operation of the leased facilities, a factual question for the trial court to determine on remand. View "Smith v. Northside Hospital, Inc." on Justia Law

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This appeal arose from an order modifying an existing interlocutory injunction. In December 2016, appellee Peach Trader Inc., d/b/a A City Discount and A City Discount, Inc. (“Peach Trader”), filed a complaint against appellants Jeffery and Sharon Jones, a married couple, alleging that Mr. Jones used his position as an employee to embezzle or misappropriate over $1 million from Peach Trader and take advantage of business opportunities for personal gain to the detriment of his employer. Along with its complaint, Peach Trader sought a temporary restraining order against the Joneses, and the order was granted. The Joneses then filed a motion to dissolve the order. The trial court later entered an order granting an interlocutory injunction against the Joneses that prohibited them from selling, transferring, altering, encumbering, or otherwise disposing of any assets within their custody, control, or possession. The Joneses did not attempt to appeal the order. Six months later, in July, the Joneses filed a second motion to dissolve the interlocutory injunction. During a hearing on several outstanding issues, Peach Trader’s counsel consented to certain accounts being removed from the purview of the interlocutory injunction. In line with an agreement between the parties, the trial court entered an order denying the Joneses’ motion to dissolve the interlocutory injunction but granting the motion to modify the injunction by removing the restrictions on at least one of the Joneses’ accounts. The Joneses timely filed an application for discretionary appeal with the Georgia Supreme Court seeking review of the trial court’s orders dismissing their notices of appeal. The Supreme Court vacated the trial court’s order dismissing appellant’s initial notice of appeal because Georgia law vests appellate courts with the sole authority to determine if a decision or judgment is appealable. “But that is not the end of the matter. Because an order modifying an interlocutory injunction is not subject to direct appeal under OCGA 5-6-34 (a) (4), we dismiss the appeal.” View "Jones v. Peach Trader, Inc." on Justia Law

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Lisa Lebis was convicted by jury of murder and other crimes related to the shooting death of a police officer. On appeal, she argued the evidence was insufficient to support the verdict with regard to a number of counts against her and that trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance in the case. The Georgia Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part - affirming Lebis’s convictions of two of the misdemeanor obstruction counts and all of the counts regarding possession of firearms and dangerous weapons; but reversing her conviction of felony murder and of the other two misdemeanor obstructions. View "Lebis v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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This case concerns a small grocery store on Allgood Road in Marietta and, specifically the parcel of land on which that store sat. Ray Summerour owned the land for nearly three decades; the City of Marietta wanted to acquire the land to build a public park. When the City was unable to negotiate a voluntary sale of the parcel, it resolved to take the land by eminent domain, and it filed a petition to condemn the property. Following an evidentiary hearing before a special master, the superior court adopted the return and entered an order of condemnation. Summerour appealed, and the Court of Appeals set aside the condemnation order, reasoning that when the City attempted to negotiate a voluntary sale of the land, it failed to fulfill its obligations under OCGA 22-1-9. The Court of Appeals directed that the case be remanded for the superior court to consider whether the failure to comply with Section 22-1-9 amounted to bad faith. The Georgia Supreme Court issued a writ of certiorari to review the decision of the Court of Appeals, and held that compliance with Section 22-1-9 was an essential prerequisite to the filing of a petition to condemn, that the City failed in this case to fulfill that prerequisite, and that its petition to condemn, therefore, must be dismissed, irrespective of bad faith. View "City of Marietta v. Summerour" on Justia Law