Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

by
Appellant Damarius Thompson challenged his convictions for malice murder and other crimes in connection with the shooting death of Joshua Richey. Appellant represented himself on appeal, and enumerated a variety of claims. After review of the trial court record, the Georgia Supreme Court found no reversible error, and thus affirmed Thompson’s convictions. View "Thompson v. Georgia" on Justia Law

by
Christina Menzies was found guilty by jury of felony murder, criminal attempt to commit armed robbery, and related crimes in connection with the shooting death of Menzies’s sister Jennifer during an attempted armed robbery. On appeal, Menzies contended the evidence was insufficient to support the verdicts, that the trial court erred in denying her motion for directed verdict at the close of the State’s case, that her trial counsel was ineffective for failing to move for a mistrial in response to a comment made by the prosecuting attorney in closing argument, and that the trial court erred in failing to exclude certain statements Menzies made while alone in an interview room at the Rockdale County Sheriff’s Office. The Georgia Supreme Court determined none of these claims had merit, and affirmed Menzies’ conviction. View "Menzies v. Georgia" on Justia Law

by
Appellants Tshombe Stripling and Elijah Brewer were convicted of malice murder and other crimes in connection with the 2013 shooting death of Khaseim Walton. On appeal, Stripling contended only that the trial court committed plain error by not instructing the jury on the need for accomplice testimony to be corroborated. Brewer contended the evidence was insufficient to sustain his conviction for criminal street gang activity and that his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance by failing to call an expert on the smartphone application AirDroid. Finding no reversible error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed both appellants’ convictions. View "Stripling v. Georgia" on Justia Law

by
In 2015, Robert Shaughnessy and Katie Patten married and conceived a child. Shaughnessy died soon thereafter. In November 2015, the widowed Patten gave birth to a baby girl, and Patten permitted Shaughnessy’s mother, Mary Jo Ardis, to visit with the baby on a couple of occasions. But those visits did not go well, and in November 2016, Ardis filed a petition pursuant to OCGA 19-7-3 (d) for court-ordered visitation with her granddaughter. In Brooks v. Parkerson, 454 SE2d 769 (1995), the Georgia Supreme Court held that the Grandparent Visitation Act of 1988 was unconstitutional to the extent that it authorized courts to award child visitation to a grandparent over the objection of fit parents and without a clear and convincing showing of harm to the child. Seventeen years later, the General Assembly enacted the Grandparent Visitation Rights Act of 2012, a provision of which authorized courts to award child visitation in some circumstances to a grandparent over the objection of a fit parent and without a clear and convincing showing of harm to the child in limited circumstances. Citing Brooks, Patten responded that subsection (d) unconstitutionally impaired a parent’s “right to raise his or her child without undue state interference,” and upon this ground, Patten moved to dismiss the petition for visitation. In May 2017, following a hearing, the trial court held that subsection (d) was constitutional, denied the motion to dismiss, and granted the petition for visitation pursuant to subsection (d), concluding that visitation with Ardis was consistent with the best interests of the girl. Patten appealed, and the Supreme Court reversed and remanded with direction. The Supreme Court determined subsection (d) was unconstitutional, and the trial court erred in granting visitation pursuant to that subsection. View "Patten v. Ardis" on Justia Law

by
Leroy Willis was found guilty of murder, rape, and other charges arising out of the strangulation death of a victim whose body was discovered in the parking lot of a tire company where Willis had previously been employed and where he frequently slept. Willis denied having a sexual relationship with the victim, but at trial, after incriminating DNA evidence was presented to the jury, he contradicted his initial statement and explained this evidence by testifying he had a consensual sexual encounter with the victim shortly before her body was discovered. Willis admitted he had slept in the vehicle next to where the victim’s body was discovered the night prior to that discovery. Similar transaction evidence established that Willis had attacked and raped two other women at the location where the body was found, and that he had sexually attacked another woman, also in a motor vehicle, at another location. Accordingly, Willis failed to establish plain error arising from the jury instruction in question, and the Georgia Supreme Court rejected his assertion that the convictions should have been reversed. View "Willis v. Georgia" on Justia Law

by
Appellant Jimmy Winfrey pled guilty to six counts of violating Georgia’s Street Gang Terrorism Prevention Act in connection with a drive-by shooting of rapper “Lil Wayne’s” tour bus on Interstate 75. Winfrey appealed, arguing that the trial judge improperly participated in plea negotiations in violation of Uniform Superior Court Rule 33.5 (A) and that his plea was involuntary on the basis of that participation. After review, the Georgia Supreme Court agreed, and therefore reversed Winfrey's convictions. "Taken in their entirety, the trial court’s repeated comments communicated to Winfrey, albeit implicitly, that if he rejected the plea offer and was found guilty by a jury, then he would - not merely may or could - receive a harsher sentence. We must conclude in light of these comments that Winfrey’s guilty plea was involuntary." View "Winfrey v. Georgia" on Justia Law

by
Rico Ballard appealed pro se the Superior Court’s denial of his motion and amended motion in arrest of judgment, which Ballard filed many years after his 1996 murder conviction. The Georgia Supreme Court did not reach the merits of Ballard’s claims, however, because the trial court lacked jurisdiction and should have dismissed his motion and amended motion. The Supreme Court therefore vacated the judgment and remanded with direction for the trial court to do so. View "Ballard v. Georgia" on Justia Law

by
Following the denial of his motion for new trial, Stephon Rickman appealed his convictions for felony murder and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime in connection with the fatal shooting of Travious Floyd. Rickman challenged the trial court’s admission of certain photographic evidence and the effectiveness of his trial counsel. Finding the challenges to be unavailing, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed. View "Rickman v. Georgia" on Justia Law

by
Brandon Taylor and his three co-indictees (Henry Finley, III, James Jordan, and Christopher Cushenberry) were charged with malice murder, three counts of felony murder, and other offenses arising out of the shooting death of Javarus Dupree. Taylor was tried jointly with Henry Grady Finley, whose convictions were previously affirmed. The jury found Taylor guilty of two counts of felony murder (predicated on criminal attempt to commit armed robbery and on conspiracy to commit armed robbery), as well as the underlying predicate crimes to those felony murder charges. Appellant joined the other three co-indictees when they met up with the victim under the ruse of setting up a drug “buy.” During the attempted robbery, Jordan shot the victim in the head, resulting in his death. The trial court denied appellant’s motion for new trial, and he appealed. Finding only error in the sentencing order, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed in part, reversed in part and remanded for resentencing. View "Taylor v. Georgia" on Justia Law

by
In 2012, a jury found Charles Mitchell guilty of malice murder, two counts of felony murder, armed robbery, aggravated assault, arson, concealing the death of another, making a false statement, and possession of a firearm in commission of a felony in connection with the murder of Gboye Jalloh. Mitchell was sentenced to two life terms plus five years. His amended motion for new trial was denied, and Mitchell appealed, alleging on of error remarks made by the trial court during preliminary instructions to the jury venire. Finding no such errors, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed. View "Mitchell v. Georgia" on Justia Law