Cameron v. State, 012121 GACA, A20A1829

Docket NºA20A1829
Opinion JudgeMERCIER, JUDGE.
Judge PanelMILLER, P. J., MERCIER, J., and SENIOR APPELLATE JUDGE PHIPPS Miller, P. J., and Senior Appellate Judge Hebert E. Phipps, concur.
Case DateJanuary 21, 2021
CourtCourt of Appeals of Georgia




No. A20A1829

Court of Appeals of Georgia, Second Division

January 21, 2021



Following a jury trial, Milton Cameron was convicted of simple battery (as a lesser included offense of kidnapping with bodily injury), terroristic threats, criminal damage to property, and two counts of misdemeanor battery.[1] He appeals, arguing that the trial court erred in refusing to merge his battery convictions. We affirm.

Viewed favorably to the jury's verdict, the evidence shows the following. See Wilson v. State, 354 Ga.App. 64 (840 S.E.2d 601) (2020). On January 26, 2002, the victim was at her apartment with several individuals, including Cameron, who was her boyfriend at the time. When the victim indicated that she needed to leave for work, Cameron began to argue with her, telling her not to go. As the argument escalated, Cameron punched the victim in the mouth, then dragged her by her hair from the living room to her bedroom. Once in the bedroom, Cameron locked the door, continued to physically assault the victim, and placed her in a choke-hold. The victim managed to escape from the room and her apartment, but not before Cameron hit and kicked her multiple times, leaving her with a broken lip and blood on her shirt, and threatened to kill her.

A few minutes after she ran from the apartment, the victim saw Cameron walking down the street. She returned home to find that items in her closet had been set on fire. The police and fire department were called, and the victim went to the hospital for treatment.

Following her release from the hospital, the victim spent two nights in a hotel, then went to a shelter for battered women. Over the next few days, Cameron left voice mail messages for her, threatening to hurt her family if she did not contact him. Fearing for her family's safety, the victim met with Cameron on February 1, 2002, and accompanied him to his sister's apartment. When the victim decided to leave later that night, Cameron told her that he did not want her to go and placed a gun on the bed. The victim agreed to stay.

The two remained together in the apartment for several days without further incident. On February 4, 2002, however, Cameron began to look at her "all crazy," slapped her, and punched her in the eye and mouth, causing her to bleed. The victim tried to walk out of the apartment, but Cameron placed an object around her neck, choking her. The victim fell to the floor, and Cameron hit her in the head. She lost consciousness for a period of time, then woke to Cameron carrying her up the stairs of the apartment. Cameron eventually fell asleep, and the victim fled from the home.

The jury found Cameron guilty of simple battery (as a lesser included offense of kidnapping with bodily injury) (Count 1), criminal damage to property (Count 2), terroristic threats (Count 3), misdemeanor battery with respect to the events on January 26, 2002 (Count 4), and misdemeanor battery with respect to the events on February 4, 2002 (Count 7). Cameron appeals the denial of his motion for new trial, arguing that the three battery offenses should have been merged at sentencing.2

1. First, Cameron claims that the trial court erred in failing to merge his conviction for simple battery (as a lesser included offense of kidnapping with bodily injury) (Count 1) into his misdemeanor battery conviction relating to the January 26, 2002 incident (Count 4). We disagree.

"Whether two offenses should be merged is a question of law, and we apply a 'plain legal error' standard of review." Wilson, supra at 72 (3) (citation and punctuation omitted). Under the merger doctrine, "a criminal defendant cannot be subject to the imposition of multiple punishment when the same conduct establishes the commission of more than one crime." Id. (citation and punctuation omitted). The doctrine does not apply, however, when multiple convictions are based on different conduct. See id. And in this case, the record clearly shows that Cameron's convictions on Counts 1 and 4 arose from different conduct.

Count 1 alleged that on January 26, 2002, Cameron committed the offense...

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