Felts v. State

Decision Date17 May 2021
Docket NumberS21A0320
Citation858 S.E.2d 708,311 Ga. 547
CourtGeorgia Supreme Court
Parties FELTS v. The STATE.

Brad Gardner, 5722 Jubilant Drive, Rex, Georgia 30273, for Appellant.

Burke Olivia Doherty, Lyndsey Hurst Rudder, Deputy D.A., Fulton County District Attorney's Office, 136 Pryor Street SW, 4th Floor, Atlanta, Georgia 30303, Paul L. Howard, Jr., 920 Dannon View SW, Suite 3202, Atlanta, Georgia 30331, Christopher M. Carr, Attorney General, Paula Khristian Smith, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Patricia B. Attaway Burton, Deputy Attorney General, Department of Law, 40 Capitol Square, S.W., Atlanta, Georgia 30334, for Appellee.

Bethel, Justice.

A Fulton County jury found William Felts guilty of malice murder and other offenses in connection with the stabbing deaths of Delarlonva Mattox, Jr., and Chrisondra Kimble. Felts appeals, arguing that the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to support his convictions. We affirm.1

1. Viewed in the light most favorable to the verdicts, the evidence presented at trial showed the following. On April 5, 2007, 13-year-old Chrisondra Kimble and 15-year-old Delarlonva Mattox, Jr., were at Mattox's house in College Park. They left the house around 4:00 p.m. to buy snacks at a store. Mattox told their grandmother before they left the house that they planned to walk to the store through a shortcut in some nearby woods surrounding an elementary school. Kimble and Mattox walked to the store, purchased several items, and left around 5:30 p.m. They never returned home.

Later that evening, Mattox's family became concerned. Mattox's father called the police, and the families and some neighbors searched the area for Kimble and Mattox. Their bodies were found off the pathway in the woods around the elementary school at approximately 4:00 p.m. the next afternoon. When they were found, both Kimble and Mattox were lying on the ground unclothed. Their clothes were found in a pile nearby. Mattox's face was covered in blood, and a belt was tied around his ankles. Both were dead.

Kimble's autopsy revealed that she had injuries consistent with strangulation and that she was stabbed sixteen times: three times in her head and thirteen times in her neck. Kimble ultimately died from the stab wounds to her neck. She had abrasions on her face and thighs that were consistent with having her face and the front of her body pressed and rubbed repeatedly against the ground. She also had vaginal bruising and injuries. Investigators found Moody's DNA inside Kimble's vagina.

Mattox's autopsy revealed that he died of 35 to 40 stab wounds to the head, neck, and chest. The wounds to his neck and chest caused significant blood loss. According to the medical examiner, the head wounds would have taken a "huge amount" of force and would have been painful, as four of them went through his skull and into his brain. Other head wounds showed signs of "drag," indicating that Mattox was moving his head from side-to-side as he was stabbed. Two stabs to his chest punctured vital blood vessels, and stabs to his neck punctured his left carotid artery and both jugular veins.

The stab wounds suffered by both Kimble and Mattox were consistent with having been inflicted by a blunt, rectangular object such as a flathead screwdriver. The medical examiner testified that, due to the size and fitness of the victims and the number and extent of their injuries, it would have been "really difficult, if not impossible" for one person to have inflicted all of the injuries without assistance. The medical examiner testified that "once these injuries started occurring, I think [the victims] would be trying to get away. I think it would be very hard for one person to control them." The medical examiner testified that it was "unreasonable" to conclude that a person could be holding the belt that was tied around Mattox's ankles while stabbing Kimble. Further, Mattox played baseball, basketball, soccer, and was on the swimming team. Witnesses testified that he lifted weights, and they described him as "buff," "very athletic," and "physically strong." The officer who collected the clothing that was piled near the victims’ bodies testified that, in examining a t-shirt, a jacket, and a pair of tennis shoes associated with Mattox and a shirt, a pair of jeans, and tennis shoes associated with Kimble, she saw no signs of blood or defects consistent with stabbing on those items or any sign that Kimble's shirt had been ripped.

Moody called his girlfriend, Tameka Wright, around 5:21 p.m. on April 5, the day the victims went missing, and told her that he was going to rob someone so that he could bring her some money. At 7:11 p.m., Wright called Moody, and he told her that he had money for her from two drug dealers he had just robbed. Around noon on April 7, Wright called the police and reported what Moody had told her. The police located Moody at a nearby bus station. He was searched, and the police found information about bus tickets to Texas and Florida in his possession. Moody was placed under arrest.

Virginia Spear, a friend of Felts, testified that, on the afternoon of April 5, Felts and Moody came to her home near the elementary school. Moody seemed "nervous and edgy," and Felts seemed "sleepy." Both Felts and Moody made statements in Spear's presence seeming to brag about committing crimes.2 According to multiple witnesses, Felts made plans that evening to leave the area because he feared being connected to the killing of the victims.3

Osborne Chappell, Felts's cousin, testified that, on April 7, Felts's mother asked Chappell to drive Felts to a relative's home in South Carolina. Chappell agreed and drove Felts to South Carolina that day. The police located Felts in South Carolina and arrested him on April 12. The officer who arrested Felts gave the Miranda4 warnings after handcuffing Felts and placing him into the police vehicle.

Following his arrest, and after again receiving Miranda warnings, Felts was interviewed. He told the police the following. He noticed Moody was acting strangely for a few days before the murders, and he could tell Moody was going to do something "foolish." On April 5, he and Moody were in or near the woods by the elementary school "plotting what [they were] going to do to come up on some money."

He knew Moody "was on cocaine." He told Moody that Moody needed to sit down, but "Moody was not one to go sit down, period. Bottom line. He was gonna stay out until he found him a victim."

When they spotted Kimble and Mattox walking down the street, Felts stood near a tree and acted as a lookout while Moody approached them and began talking to them and leading them toward the woods. It looked like Moody was trying to force Kimble and Mattox to kiss, hug, or have sex with each other when he first confronted them. The closer Moody got them to the woods, the worse Felts started feeling. Moody had his hands in his pockets when he approached Kimble and Mattox, and "[a]ny time Moody got his hands in his pocket, he got a weapon." Felts knew Moody had something that looked like a box cutter or a screwdriver, and he saw it in Moody's hand once Moody had forced Kimble and Mattox into the woods.

Once by the woods, Moody specifically tried to trick Mattox by offering him beer, but Mattox was not persuaded. Moody then forced Kimble and Mattox into the woods.5 Mattox resisted Moody, and Felts saw Moody hit Mattox with some type of object and knock him to the ground. Felts said he saw Kimble backing up and trying to put her hand up while Moody was holding the weapon with which he previously hit Maddox. He then saw Moody attack Kimble, begin ripping at her shirt, throw her to the ground, and begin to choke her. Felts did not want anything to do with what Moody was doing. Kimble was screaming as Felts began to walk away, but by the time he reached the end of the street, the screaming had stopped.

Felts told the police that he and Moody had only planned to rob Kimble and Mattox and that he did not know Moody planned to "go that far." Felts claimed that he never touched either victim and that he was not with Moody when Moody killed Mattox and raped and killed Kimble. He said that he saw Moody again later that afternoon.

2. In three separate enumerations of error, Felts contends that the evidence presented at trial and summarized above was insufficient as a matter of constitutional due process to support his convictions for malice murder, aggravated assault with intent to rob, and kidnapping with bodily injury.6 See Jackson v. Virginia , 443 U. S. 307, 319 (III) (B), 99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560 (1979). When evaluating the sufficiency of evidence, this Court views the evidence presented at trial in the light most favorable to the verdicts and asks whether any rational trier of fact could have found the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. See id. Felts contends that the only conclusion to be drawn from the evidence presented at trial is that Moody was the sole perpetrator of these offenses. We disagree and conclude that the evidence presented at trial was sufficient to authorize his convictions.7

(a) We first consider the sufficiency of the evidence with regard to the counts for the malice murder of Kimble and Mattox.

A person commits the offense of murder when he unlawfully and with malice aforethought, either express or implied, causes the death of another human being. The State, of course, must prove malice beyond a reasonable doubt to convict someone of malice murder, as malice incorporates the intent to kill. Express malice is that deliberate intention unlawfully to take the life of another human being which is manifested by external circumstances capable of proof, while malice is implied where no considerable provocation appears and where all the circumstances of the killing show an abandoned and malignant heart. The malice necessary to establish malice murder may be formed in an instant, as long as it is present at the time of the

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    • United States
    • Georgia Supreme Court
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    ...trial."), disapproved of by Kelly v. State , ––– Ga. at ––––, 860 S.E.2d 740.19 See OCGA §§ 5-5-20 ; 5-5-21; Felts v. State , 311 Ga. 547, –––– n.6, 858 S.E.2d 708, 714 (2021) ; Holmes v. State , 306 Ga. 524, 527-528 (2), 832 S.E.2d 392 (2019).20 See Brady v. Maryland , 373 U. S. 83, 83 S.C......
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    • May 16, 2023
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