Childs v. State, No. 43955

CourtSupreme Court of Georgia
Writing for the CourtWELTNER
Citation357 S.E.2d 48,257 Ga. 243
Docket NumberNo. 43955
Decision Date18 June 1987
PartiesCHILDS v. The STATE.

Page 48

357 S.E.2d 48
257 Ga. 243
CHILDS

v.
The STATE.
No. 43955.
Supreme Court of Georgia.
June 18, 1987.
Reconsideration Denied July 9, 1987.

Page 51

[257 Ga. 258] David E. Morgan III, Abbeville, Ronnie A. Wheeler, Tifton, for Johnny B. Childs.

John Pridgen, Gary C. Christy, Dist. Attys., Cordele, Michael J. Bowers, Atty. Gen., Eddie Snelling, Jr., Asst. Atty. Gen., for the State.

Page 52

WELTNER, Justice.

This is a death penalty case. Appellant, Johnnie B. Childs, was indicted in Wilcox County on two counts of murder and one count each of burglary, rape, kidnapping with bodily injury, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, and escape. Childs pled guilty to the [257 Ga. 244] latter two counts, and was convicted by a jury on all of the remaining counts. He was sentenced to death for each of the murders. 1

FACTS

Childs married Sharon Hill Childs on February 28, 1984. Sometime in late September or early October of that year, the wife left the defendant and moved in with her mother.

The defendant tried unsuccessfully to persuade his wife to return to him. However, after talking to her by telephone on the evening of October 25, 1984, the defendant "made up" his mind that he was going to kill his wife and James Earl Bailey, whom Childs suspected of having an affair with his wife.

Childs appeared at Sharon's mother's house, and, when Sharon answered the door, took her by her arm and put her into his car. They drove around for a few minutes, and, on his urging, she agreed to return to him. However, because she needed some clothes from her mother's house, they returned there. He waited outside, and Sharon entered the house and locked the doors. (Her mother was not at home.)

Childs took a pair of pliers from his car and pried the screen off one of the windows of the house. He climbed inside, caught Sharon, and forced her back into his car.

Childs drove outside of town to an isolated area. He stated that he put his gun on the "back floorboard" and they "made love" on the back seat of the car. Afterwards, they exited the car, and he shot her as she pleaded, "Don't do it, don't do it."

Childs stated: "I shot her in the arm or shoulder the first time ... [She] spun around holding her shoulder and I shot her in the head while she was facing me ... When she fell, I walked around her and shot her in the leg. Then I walked back around her and shot her in the head again."

Childs reloaded his pistol, lit a cigarette, and returned to town. He went to the Half Moon Cafe, where he had shot and killed a man seven years earlier, and observed James Earl Bailey seated outside, in the company of two other men. Childs pulled out his gun and fired at Bailey. The first shot missed, but the next two did not. He shot Bailey once more in the head, as Bailey lay on the ground. Childs told a bystander, "I just did what I wanted to do."

[257 Ga. 245] ENUMERATIONS OF ERROR

1. First, Childs argues that the trial court should have granted his motion for severance.

The crimes charged here were not of such an unrelated character as to entitle Childs to a severance as a matter of right. See Gober v. State, 247 Ga. 652(1), 278 S.E.2d 386 (1981). Rather, the question of severance here addressed itself to the trial court's sound exercise of discretion.

The two murders, the rape, the kidnapping with bodily injury, and the burglary were such all integral parts of the defendant's conduct on October 26, 1984, that the state hardly could have presented a case on any of the crimes without presenting evidence of the other crimes. The court did not abuse its discretion by refusing to order these charges tried separately.

The denial of severance did not force Childs to plead guilty to avoid the introduction of evidence of escape and of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Evidence that the defendant escaped from the Wilcox County jail while being held on

Page 53

the other charges in this case would have been admissible whether or not a severance was granted as to this offense, see Quick v. State, 256 Ga. 780(5), 353 S.E.2d 497 (1987), and an appropriate procedure for trying a possession-of-a-firearm count is set forth in Head v. State, 253 Ga. 429, 322 S.E.2d 228 (1984).

2. Second, Childs contends that his motion for change of venue should have been granted. We disagree. Of 95 prospective jurors who underwent a voir dire examination, 48 were excused for cause. However, less than half of these 48 prospective jurors (and less than a fourth of the total) were excused as a result of publicity-related bias, prejudice, or fixed opinion. Most were excused because of their attitudes for or against the death penalty, or for physical reasons. The jury selection process does not show actual prejudice to a degree that rendered a fair trial impossible, and Childs has not shown otherwise that the trial setting was inherently prejudicial. See Chancey v. State, 256 Ga. 415(5), 349 S.E.2d 717 (1986).

3. After Childs shot James Earl Bailey, he drove to the police station to surrender himself. Police Chief Ray Bloodsworth was the only police officer on duty, and because he had been called to the Half Moon Cafe to respond to the reported shooting, the station was empty. The defendant stated: "I walked back to where the ambulance service was. I saw ... Annie Ruth ... back there ... I told [her] that I had come for the police to lock me up because I had just killed somebody. Annie Ruth told me to go on and get out of there, that I was crazy. She said I hadn't killed anybody. I walked in the [city] clerk's office and asked a woman in there where was the police. I told her I had killed two people. She called [Chief Bloodsworth] on the radio ... I told her I had some more bullets in my pocket and I took them out and gave them to her. The woman told me to wait there. I told [257 Ga. 246] her I wasn't going anywhere."

The clerk for the city of Rochelle, Georgia, Jean Greene, testified that, although she was not a police officer and had no training as such, she did "have occasion," during the day, to dispatch the police to scenes of reported crimes. On this day, she dispatched Chief Bloodsworth to the Half Moon Cafe with information that someone had been shot. A few minutes later, Greene testified, Childs "came into the City Hall and told me that he was the one that done it ... and I said, what? And he said, I'm the one that done it, and I said, Oh, you are? And he said, Yeah." So she called Chief Bloodsworth and told him the person who had done the shooting was at the City Hall. Chief Bloodsworth told her to hold him.

Childs heard the Chief tell Greene to hold him, and responded, "You hadn't got to hold me, I'm not going anywhere," and then, Greene testified, "he took out some bullets ... put [them] on the counter and told me to go get the gun if I wanted it, it was in the car. So, after that I asked him, I--I thought that he was probably--that there had been an accident since he had come in and turned himself in, and I asked him what happened ... And he said I just done what I wanted to do ... Now I'll go back where I came from. And so I started to ask him where he had came from and then I happened to--I said, have you been in prison? And he said, Yeah. And I said, What were you in prison for. He said, shooting a man, said, Now I've got two more." Greene testified that she asked Childs whom he had shot, because she had not known until then that a second person had been shot. Childs told her that Sharon was "laying [sic] out there in the woods close to Newt Hudson's dead," and that he had killed her.

Greene testified that she was about 5'4"'", was not armed, did not attempt to handcuff the defendant, and would not have tried to stop him if he had tried to leave.

(a) In his fourth enumeration of error, Childs argues that his statements to the city clerk were elicited in violation of Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966), and, on his objection, should have been excluded.

We do not agree. The standards of Miranda come into play when the defendant

Page 54

is subjected to custodial interrogation by law enforcement officers. See Ross v. State, 254 Ga. 22, 26-27 (fn. 5), 326 S.E.2d 194 (1985).

Ms. Greene, although involved to some extent with dispatching police officers in the City of Rochelle, was not a police officer, and had no law enforcement authority.

[257 Ga. 247] Moreover, Ms. Greene took no overt action to detain the defendant (and would not have done so). The issue of custody involves an objective standard: Would a reasonable person in the defendant's situation have believed that he was physically deprived of his freedom of action in any significant way? If not, he is not subject to the compulsive atmosphere of an actual arrest, and Miranda does not apply. See People v. Lopez, 163 Cal.App.3d 602, 608-609, 209 Cal.Rptr. 575 (Cal.Ct.App.1985).

In the circumstances of this case, Childs could not have believed reasonably that an unarmed, non-uniformed city clerk was a law enforcement officer, or that he was in her custody. See Berkemer v. McCarty, 468 U.S. 420 (III), 104 S.Ct. 3138, 82 L.Ed.2d 317 (1984).

(b) Childs additionally argues that Greene's testimony violated OCGA § 17-7-210, because the state failed to furnish Child's statements to the defense at least 10 days prior to trial. However, Greene testified to no statements given by the defendant "while in police custody," and OCGA § 17-7-210 therefore does not apply.

(c) Finally, Childs argues here, and in his 16th enumeration of error, that the statements should not have been admitted because the references to his prior conviction were irrelevant and prejudicial.

Unless the defendant himself decides to make it so, his character is not an issue at the guilt-innocence phase of a trial. However, evidence otherwise relevant is not inadmissible simply because it reflects adversely upon his character. Felker v. State, 252 Ga. 351, 365, 314 S.E.2d...

To continue reading

Request your trial
127 practice notes
  • Young v. State, S21P0078
    • United States
    • Georgia Supreme Court
    • June 24, 2021
    ...mitigation evidence that relates to the individual defendant and not to the death penalty in general is admissible."); Childs v. State , 257 Ga. 243, 256 (19) (b), 357 S.E.2d 48 (1987) (holding that, "although a defendant may present witnesses who know and care for him and are willing on th......
  • Raulerson v. State, Nos. S97P1166
    • United States
    • Georgia Supreme Court
    • October 6, 1997
    ...833 (1995); Potts v. State, 261 Ga. 716, 410 S.E.2d 89 (1991); Crawford v. State, 257 Ga. 681, 362 S.E.2d 201 (1987); Childs v. State, 257 Ga. 243, 357 S.E.2d 48 (1987); Devier v. State, 253 Ga. 604, 323 S.E.2d 150 (1984); Chambers v. State, 250 Ga. 856, 302 S.E.2d 86 (1983); Strickland v. ......
  • Spencer v. State, No. S90P0921
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Georgia
    • November 21, 1990
    ...Allen, Broxton and Mulling). The trial court did not err by failing to excuse sua sponte these unchallenged jurors. Childs v. State, 257 Ga. 243, 249(7), 357 S.E.2d 48 (1987). We do not find erroneous the trial court's finding that the remaining five were qualified to serve as jurors. Isaac......
  • People v. White, No. 91SA248
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court of Colorado
    • January 10, 1994
    ...information with which to arrive at an appropriate sentence based on the character and background of the defendant. See Childs v. State, 257 Ga. 243, 357 S.E.2d 48, 61, cert. denied, 484 U.S. 970, 108 S.Ct. 467, 98 L.Ed.2d 406 (1987); Stephens, 247 S.E.2d at 97; Templeman, 785 S.W.2d at 260......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
127 cases
  • Young v. State, S21P0078
    • United States
    • Georgia Supreme Court
    • June 24, 2021
    ...mitigation evidence that relates to the individual defendant and not to the death penalty in general is admissible."); Childs v. State , 257 Ga. 243, 256 (19) (b), 357 S.E.2d 48 (1987) (holding that, "although a defendant may present witnesses who know and care for him and are willing on th......
  • Raulerson v. State, Nos. S97P1166
    • United States
    • Georgia Supreme Court
    • October 6, 1997
    ...833 (1995); Potts v. State, 261 Ga. 716, 410 S.E.2d 89 (1991); Crawford v. State, 257 Ga. 681, 362 S.E.2d 201 (1987); Childs v. State, 257 Ga. 243, 357 S.E.2d 48 (1987); Devier v. State, 253 Ga. 604, 323 S.E.2d 150 (1984); Chambers v. State, 250 Ga. 856, 302 S.E.2d 86 (1983); Strickland v. ......
  • Spencer v. State, No. S90P0921
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Georgia
    • November 21, 1990
    ...Allen, Broxton and Mulling). The trial court did not err by failing to excuse sua sponte these unchallenged jurors. Childs v. State, 257 Ga. 243, 249(7), 357 S.E.2d 48 (1987). We do not find erroneous the trial court's finding that the remaining five were qualified to serve as jurors. Isaac......
  • People v. White, No. 91SA248
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court of Colorado
    • January 10, 1994
    ...information with which to arrive at an appropriate sentence based on the character and background of the defendant. See Childs v. State, 257 Ga. 243, 357 S.E.2d 48, 61, cert. denied, 484 U.S. 970, 108 S.Ct. 467, 98 L.Ed.2d 406 (1987); Stephens, 247 S.E.2d at 97; Templeman, 785 S.W.2d at 260......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT