Clark v. State, S20A0688

CourtSupreme Court of Georgia
Writing for the CourtWarren, Justice.
Citation309 Ga. 473,847 S.E.2d 364
Decision Date10 August 2020
Docket NumberS20A0688
Parties CLARK v. The STATE.

309 Ga. 473
847 S.E.2d 364

CLARK
v.
The STATE.

S20A0688

Supreme Court of Georgia.

Decided: August 10, 2020


847 S.E.2d 365

Jennifer Faith Arndt, Newton County Public Defender's Office, 1160 Pace Street, Covington, Georgia 30014, for Appellant.

Patricia B. Attaway Burton, Paula Khristian Smith, Christopher M. Carr, Alex Martin Bernick, Department of Law, 40 Capitol Square, SW, Atlanta, Georgia 30334, Layla Hinton Zon, Randal Matthew McGinley, Alcovy Judicial Circuit District Attorney's Office, 1132 Usher Street Room 313, Covington, Georgia 30014, for Appellee.

Warren, Justice.

309 Ga. 473

Rodney Carter Clark was convicted of malice murder and other crimes in connection with the shooting death of Mario Johnson.1 On

309 Ga. 474

appeal, Clark contends only that the evidence

847 S.E.2d 366

was insufficient to sustain his convictions. We disagree and affirm.

Viewed in the light most favorable to the jury's verdicts, the evidence presented at Clark's trial showed that, on November 14, 2015, Clark was drinking at his house with his girlfriend, Kimberly Lewis,2 and Anthony Freeman. That evening, Clark asked Freeman to drive him to a residence where he could purchase marijuana from Johnson. Freeman and Clark left in Lewis's car. Lewis phoned to inform Johnson that Clark was en route to Johnson's house. Clark had a tote bag with him.

When Clark and Freeman arrived, Freeman stayed in the car, and Clark entered Johnson's house through the front door. After two or three minutes, Freeman heard two gunshots and left. Freeman heard additional gunshots as he approached the stop sign at the end of the street but did not call the police. Freeman noticed a black SUV pulling into Johnson's driveway as he left the neighborhood.

Leonard Gaither had driven his black SUV to Johnson's house to purchase marijuana from Johnson that same night. Because a running car with its headlights on was in the driveway, Gaither waited at the end of the street for the car to leave and then pulled into the driveway. When he arrived, Gaither noticed that the front door to the house was open and exited his car. As he approached, Gaither heard moaning and saw someone lying on the front porch. Gaither recognized the man as Johnson but was unaware that Johnson had been shot. Gaither saw Clark standing inside the house and saw a pistol lying three feet inside the door. Clark, who had been shot in the thigh, told Gaither that "they shot him too" and asked Gaither to give him a ride and not to call the police. Gaither agreed. Gaither saw a van pulling around the back of Johnson's house as he and Clark left. During the ride, Clark gave Gaither some marijuana from the tote bag he was carrying, and Gaither dropped Clark off at Clark's house. The next day, Gaither contacted a law enforcement officer to explain what had

309 Ga. 475

happened, and he was interviewed at the Newton County Sheriff's Office.

After Clark had been dropped off at his house, Freeman arrived at Clark's house to return Lewis's car. Clark met Freeman in the yard and threatened to kill Freeman if he said anything about the incident. Clark also threatened to kill Lewis.

Shortly after the incident, Johnson's best friend, Quentin Sims, arrived at Johnson's house after being notified of the shooting. Sims met Johnson's brother, Joeston, and two others at the house. Sims spoke to Johnson, who was lying outside the front door, but received no response. Sims noticed that the garage door was closed, which was consistent with testimony from other witnesses and law enforcement officers who arrived at the scene later. Sims also noticed that the .40-caliber pistol that Johnson often carried was lying inside the front door. After two or three minutes, Joeston called the police.

When law enforcement arrived, two deputies noticed Johnson lying outside the front door; he was not moving. Sims, who testified that Johnson had many enemies from selling drugs, also testified that some of Johnson's customers used the back door, and Gaither testified that he had purchased drugs by going to the back door in other dealings with Johnson. But crime scene photographs showed that the back door remained locked with a deadbolt, and a responding officer testified that she would not have unlocked and relocked a door. Additionally, the front and back doors of the house were equipped with burglar doors consisting of metal bars to add extra protection outside the home's traditional doors, and the back burglar door generally "would stay locked."

An investigator who went to the crime scene asked several people to come to the sheriff's office to be interviewed. As part of the ongoing investigation into Johnson's shooting, investigators also visited Clark at his house late on November 15, 2015. There, they found three .32-caliber shell casings inside a trash can on top of Clark's other trash, as well as cocaine and drug paraphernalia in a bedside table. No gun was recovered.

847 S.E.2d 367

An investigator and a corporal interviewed Clark on November 15, 2015, at the sheriff's office. Clark admitted that he was at Johnson's house on the night of the murder, and told the officers that while he was sitting at Johnson's kitchen table, there was a knock on the back door. According to Clark, a man whom Clark did not know entered the residence, and after a couple of minutes, shooting erupted between the man and Johnson. Clark claimed that he sustained a bullet wound when the man shot back inside the house while running out of the front door. Clark said that he then ran to the garage, fumbled with the garage door opener, and ran out of the garage before

309 Ga. 476

getting a ride home with Gaither. Clark explained that afterwards, he went with Lewis to her house in another county and threw the jeans he was wearing into a trash can on a nearby street.

At trial, Clark's cousin, Charles Carter, testified that he kept a .32-caliber revolver that belonged to Clark at his home for about a year or so, but Carter no longer possessed it. Carter identified the gun as a .32-caliber revolver that he thought held five bullets. Carter originally told an investigator that Clark retrieved the gun on November 14 or 15, but Carter testified at trial that he...

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10 practice notes
  • Sims v. State, S21A0874
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Georgia
    • August 24, 2021
    ...that could be drawn from the evidence presented at trial"—but those are matters for the " ‘jury[’s] ... resolution.’ " Clark v. State , 309 Ga. 473, 478, 847 S.E.2d 364 (2020) (citation omitted). It was for the jury to determine Wright's credibility and to resolve any conflicts or inconsist......
  • Arnold v. State, S20A1027
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Georgia
    • August 10, 2020
    ...a Chevron on Campbellton Road or a high-rise in Buckhead, the police, like they did in this case, they're going to do their job. They're 847 S.E.2d 364 going to send the evidence to the crime lab. They're going to find eyewitnesses. They're going to get it on video. The D.A.’s office is goi......
  • Styles v. State, S20A0668
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Georgia
    • August 10, 2020
    ...that he considered filing a motion for severance, but decided not to because he thought that it would be better to try both defendants 309 Ga. 473 together and shift the blame to others who were arguably more culpable, like Derrick and Jones. Counsel did not believe the fact that Derrick ha......
  • Arnold v. State, S20A1027
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Georgia
    • August 10, 2020
    ...a Chevron on Campbellton Road or a high-rise in Buckhead, the police, like they did in this case, they're going to do their job. They're 847 S.E.2d 364 going to send the evidence to the crime lab. They're going to find eyewitnesses. They're going to get it on video. The D.A.’s office is goi......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
10 cases
  • Sims v. State, S21A0874
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Georgia
    • August 24, 2021
    ...that could be drawn from the evidence presented at trial"—but those are matters for the " ‘jury[’s] ... resolution.’ " Clark v. State , 309 Ga. 473, 478, 847 S.E.2d 364 (2020) (citation omitted). It was for the jury to determine Wright's credibility and to resolve any conflicts or inconsist......
  • Arnold v. State, S20A1027
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Georgia
    • August 10, 2020
    ...a Chevron on Campbellton Road or a high-rise in Buckhead, the police, like they did in this case, they're going to do their job. They're 847 S.E.2d 364 going to send the evidence to the crime lab. They're going to find eyewitnesses. They're going to get it on video. The D.A.’s office is goi......
  • Styles v. State, S20A0668
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Georgia
    • August 10, 2020
    ...that he considered filing a motion for severance, but decided not to because he thought that it would be better to try both defendants 309 Ga. 473 together and shift the blame to others who were arguably more culpable, like Derrick and Jones. Counsel did not believe the fact that Derrick ha......
  • Arnold v. State, S20A1027
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Georgia
    • August 10, 2020
    ...a Chevron on Campbellton Road or a high-rise in Buckhead, the police, like they did in this case, they're going to do their job. They're 847 S.E.2d 364 going to send the evidence to the crime lab. They're going to find eyewitnesses. They're going to get it on video. The D.A.’s office is goi......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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