240 S.E.2d 694 (Ga. 1977), 32220, Corn v. State

Docket Nº:32220.
Citation:240 S.E.2d 694, 240 Ga. 130
Opinion Judge:HALL, Justice.
Party Name:Charles Thomas CORN v. The STATE.
Attorney:[240 Ga. 141] Thomas K. McWhorter, Jonesboro, for appellant. [240 Ga. 142] William H. Ison, Dist. Atty., Clifford A. Sticher, Asst. Dist. Atty., Jonesboro, Arthur K. Bolton, Atty. Gen., G. Stephen Parker, Asst. Atty. Gen., Atlanta, for appellee.
Case Date:November 08, 1977
Court:Supreme Court of Georgia

Page 694

240 S.E.2d 694 (Ga. 1977)

240 Ga. 130

Charles Thomas CORN

v.

The STATE.

No. 32220.

Supreme Court of Georgia.

November 8, 1977

Page 695

[240 Ga. 141] Thomas K. McWhorter, Jonesboro, for appellant.

[240 Ga. 142] William H. Ison, Dist. Atty., Clifford A. Sticher, Asst. Dist. Atty., Jonesboro, Arthur

Page 696

K. Bolton, Atty. Gen., G. Stephen Parker, Asst. Atty. Gen., Atlanta, for appellee.

HALL, Justice.

Charles Thomas Corn was indicted in Clayton County for armed robbery and murder occurring on August 15, 1975. At a special sanity hearing a jury found him competent to stand trial, and he was convicted of both counts and sentenced to death for each offense.

The case is before this court on appeal and for mandatory review of the death penalty.

  1. SUMMARY OF THE EVIDENCE

    The state presented evidence from which the jury was authorized to find the following:

    Two female friends of Mary Long, the victim, came by the Stop-and-Go store on Roberts Drive in Clayton County, Georgia, at about 5:30 P.M. on August 15, 1975, to visit with Mary, the cashier. Both friends identified Corn as the young man they saw at the store. Corn spoke with them and also asked Ms. Long if her boss was there. When the girls left about 6:00 P.M., Corn was still in the store.

    Shortly thereafter several customers stopped by the store, and later identified Corn as the man who waited on them. They noticed that Corn had blood on his hands and arms, and had a rag wrapped around his right hand. He was wiping up blood and tinkering with the cash register. There was blood on the cash register and the counter. Corn told one of the customers, Billy Sweatman, that he had been robbed. Another customer, Rosemary Strickland, testified that Corn told her a drunk with a knife had tried to rob him and that he had been cut in the struggle. When Ms. Strickland offered to call someone, Corn said he had already called police. Ms. Strickland noticed that the cash drawer of the register was open. Mark Crabb, a frequent customer at the store, stopped there on August 15, 1975, and saw Ms. Long. Crabb also saw a man in jeans and a tee-shirt whom he later identified as Corn. Crabb left but returned later. He saw [240 Ga. 131] no one; noticed blood on the counter and drops of blood leading to a back room; opened the door; and found Ms. Long on the floor. He summoned police.

    An autopsy on the victim revealed multiple stab wounds, abrasions and lacerations. There were four major stab wounds, apparently made by a knife, two in front and two in back, the fatal one being through the chest.

    A store supervisor ascertained that about $47.00 was missing from the cash register the victim had been using.

    Two days later, Corn came to the Riverdale Police Station to pay a traffic ticket and officers noticed that he fit the description of the suspect in the Long murder. He was advised of his rights and questioned about an injury on his hand, which he said he had cut on a lawn mower.

    Captain Quinlan of the Clayton County Police was called in and again advised Corn of his rights, after which he signed a waiver and made a statement that he spent Friday afternoon of August 15 riding around with his wife and child, going to a hamburger restaurant and returning home late that night. When police could not substantiate this alibi, Quinlan informed Corn of this and asked him to go to the Clayton County Police Department, which he willingly did.

    At a Jackson-Denno hearing, (Jackson v. Denno, 378 U.S. 368, 84 S.Ct. 1774, 12 L.Ed.2d 908, 1 A.L.R.3d 1206), and subsequently before the jury, Captain Quinlan testified that Corn made different conflicting statements. Quinlan then ended the questioning and Corn's wife came to see Corn. Although Corn was told that anything he said to his wife could be used against him, when she asked if he had done "it," he replied, "Yes, I killed the girl, but I didn't mean to."

    Corn later stated to Quinlan that he went to one store where he talked to a woman but could not bring himself to hurt her. (This woman was later identified and testified that Corn came to her store about

    Page 697

    11:00 A.M. on August 15, asked her if she were afraid to be alone, paced the floor for some time, said he was waiting for his boss to pick him up, and then left in a car alone.) Corn then stated he went to a Stop-and-Go market and that the girl there lunged at him. At this point, he became hysterical and the questioning ended.

    [240 Ga. 132] The victim had blood type O and Corn had type A. Blood scrapings from the store, from Corn's tennis shoes, and from a steak knife furnished by Corn's wife were found to be type A or types A and O. There was testimony that prints lifted from the register and counter matched Corn's palm and fingerprints.

    In the Jackson-Denno hearing, Corn testified that he had not been advised of his rights and had been threatened. He also stated that all he could remember was being in Clayton County hospital and then in Central State Hospital. The trial court ruled that his statement had been freely and voluntarily made.

    The sole witness for the defense was a neuropsychiatrist who testified that Corn had been insane and unaware of his actions on August 15.

    The evidence is sufficient to support the verdict of the jury.

  2. ENUMERATIONS OF ERROR

    1. In Enumerations 1, 2, and 3, Corn alleges that a prospective juror, Vickie White, was improperly excused because of her beliefs about capital punishment, and that the questioning of jurors and exclusion of those opposed to the death penalty violated the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, because death-qualified juries are more "guilt-prone" than juries which include persons opposed to capital punishment.

    In response to questions about her willingness and ability to vote for a death penalty, White responded "I don't think so." This questioning followed:

    "Q. So what you're saying is regardless of what the evidence is and regardless of what the law is, on that point, you don't think you could impose the death penalty?

    A. No.

    Q. Under any circumstances?

    A. No."

    Although upon further questioning she again reverted to "I don't think so," her responses clearly establish that although she "believed in" the death penalty, she could never herself vote to impose it regardless of the circumstances. Her responses fulfill the requirements set forth in Witherspoon v. Illinois, 391 U.S. 510, 88 S.Ct. 1770, 20 L.Ed.2d 776 (1968), and Davis v. Georgia, 429 U.S. 122, 97 S.Ct. 399, 50 L.Ed.2d 339, 341 (1976).

    [240 Ga. 133] Corn offered no evidence in support of his allegation that death-qualified juries are more "guilt-prone" than those including capital punishment objectors, thus denying him a fair trial on the guilt phase. He merely restates this argument which has been already rejected by the Supreme Court in Bumper v. North Carolina, 391 U.S. 543, 88 S.Ct. 1788, 1790, 20 L.Ed.2d 797 and by this court. Smith v. Hopper, 240 Ga. 93, 239 S.E.2d 510 (1977); Douthit v. State, 239 Ga. 81, 235 S.E.2d 493 (1977); Porter v. State, 237 Ga. 580, 229 S.E.2d 384 (1976). Answering his further contention, Douthit and Porter also ruled that a defendant has no right to have capital punishment objectors serve on the guilt determination phase of trial as part of the "cross section of the community" to which he is entitled.

    For these reasons, no point would have been served by inquiring of White whether she could have voted impartially on the guilt phase; and this "Witherspoon" questioning of the prospective jurors was not improper for any reason alleged.

    2. In his fourth enumeration, Corn contends that he "was arrested without probable cause; therefore all incriminating statements and evidence obtained subsequent thereto should have been suppressed as being violative of appellant's rights granted in the Constitution of Georgia and in the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States."

    Page 698

    Although no restraint was placed on Corn at the Riverdale Police Station when officers asked him to answer some questions, one officer testified at the trial that in his own mind he did not regard Corn as free to leave. It is on this item of testimony that Corn bottoms his illegal arrest theory.

    The record shows that Corn was approached by an officer at the Riverdale Police Station where he went to pay a traffic ticket. They approached him because he fit the description witnesses had given them. He was completely agreeable to speaking with the officers. No restraint was placed on him. He was advised of his rights under the Miranda decision and made exculpatory statements. Captain Quinlan from the Clayton County Police made it clear to the other officers when he arrived [240 Ga. 134] later that Corn was free to leave, thus mooting the question sought to be raised by Corn of whether the initial detaining officer had probable cause for an arrest. (The trial court found that no arrest had yet been made.) Corn was then transported to the Clayton County Police Department to take a lie detector test. He agreed to these procedures. He was not arrested until incriminating evidence had been obtained by a search of his car with his permission, search of his home with a warrant and with the cooperation of his wife, and identification by the victim of another robbery of which he was also suspected. Following his arrest and another reading of his Miranda rights and the signing of the waiver, Corn's wife arrived at the Clayton County Police Department. He asked to talk to her and a detective informed him that the detective would have to remain in the room and that anything he said could be used against him. Both the detective and Mrs. Corn testified that in response to a question by his wife Corn admitted killing...

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