Finley v. State

Decision Date08 February 2016
Docket NumberNo. S15A1595.,S15A1595.
Citation782 S.E.2d 651,298 Ga. 451
Parties FINLEY v. The STATE.
CourtGeorgia Supreme Court

Jason W. Swindle, Sr., Swindle Law Group, P.C., Carrollton, for appellant.

Patricia B. Attaway Burton, Deputy Atty. Gen., Paula Khristian Smith, Sr. Asst. Atty. Gen., Samuel S. Olens, Atty. Gen., Elizabeth Michelle Haase, Asst. Atty. Gen., Department of Law, Ryan Reese Leonard, Sr. Asst. Dist. Atty., Emily Kathleen Richardson, Asst. Dist. Atty., Douglas County District Attorney's Office, James David McDade, Douglas County District Attorney's Office, Douglasville, for appellee.

BLACKWELL

, Justice.

Henry "Trey" Finley was tried by a Douglas County jury and convicted of murder and conspiracy to commit armed robbery in connection with the fatal shooting of Javarus Dupree. Finley contends that the trial court erred when it admitted evidence that Finley was involved in a gang and when it admitted evidence of a custodial statement given by Finley. We see no error and affirm.1

1. Viewed in the light most favorable to the verdict, the evidence shows that, on the afternoon of May 11, 2010, James Jordan shot and killed Javarus Dupree while Dupree's car was parked outside the poolhouse of the Arbor Station neighborhood in Douglasville. Jordan's accomplice, Brandon Taylor, accidentally dropped a cell phone on the front passenger side of Dupree's car, and police officers later discovered evidence of numerous phone calls in the hours before the murder among the victim and four men: Finley, Jordan, Taylor, and Christopher "Doo–Wop" Cushenberry.

Further investigation revealed that, on the night before Dupree was killed, Finley and his long-time friend Cushenberry—both of whom were unemployed—"blew all their money" at a party. Several people reported that Finley and Cushenberry were planning to "goon[ ] out" and "hit some licks"—both slang terms for committing a robbery—so that they could continue partying the next day. Dupree, who was known to be making money both as a seller of marijuana and by working at a restaurant, was specifically mentioned as a target for a robbery, and Finley placed a call to Dupree to arrange a "buy."

The next day, Finley got a ride to the home of Cushenberry's mother, where he and Cushenberry met up with Jordan and Taylor. Jordan allowed Finley to drive his Cadillac, and Finley took the men to a location near a gas station at which they had arranged to meet Dupree. When Dupree called and said that he was nearby, Jordan and Taylor exited the Cadillac and got into Dupree's car. Meanwhile, Finley drove Jordan's Cadillac to Arbor Station, where he and Cushenberry waited for the robbery to take place. Several witnesses observed Dupree's car pull into the parking lot by the Arbor Station poolhouse, heard a single gunshot, and saw Jordan and Taylor run out of the car and in the direction of the portion of the apartment complex where Finley and Cushenberry were waiting for them. Jordan and Taylor met up with Finley and Cushenberry a short time later, and Finley's father drove the four men to the mall. Dupree, who had been shot in the head, died the next day.

Finley does not dispute that the evidence is sufficient to sustain his convictions. Nevertheless, we have independently reviewed the record with an eye toward the legal sufficiency of the evidence. We conclude that the evidence adduced at trial was legally sufficient to authorize a rational trier of fact to find beyond a reasonable doubt that Finley was guilty of the crimes of which he was convicted. See Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 319(III)(B), 99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560 (1979)

; Powell v. State, 291 Ga. 743, 744(1), 733 S.E.2d 294 (2012) ("[a] person who does not directly commit a crime may be convicted upon proof that a crime was committed and that person was a party to it") (citations and punctuation omitted). See also OCGA § 16–2–20(b) (defining parties to a crime).

2. Finley claims that the trial court erred when it admitted evidence that tended to show he was involved in a gang.2 This evidence included tattoos, photographs of rap albums, social media postings, and drawings that Finley had apparently made on his shoes. It is within the trial court's sound discretion to determine whether to admit evidence, however, and evidence that is relevant and material to an issue in the case is not rendered inadmissible "because it incidentally places the defendant's character in issue." Thomas v. State, 293 Ga. 829, 833(4), 750 S.E.2d 297 (2013)

. Here, evidence that Finley, Cushenberry, Jordan, and Taylor were all involved in a gang was relevant to show the affiliation between the four men and explain the motive of the principals in committing the crimes. The jury could infer that Jordan and Taylor were willing to commit crimes that had been orchestrated by Finley and Cushenberry—and that allowed the unemployed Finley and Cushenberry to continue their weekend of "partying" by living off the spoils of crimes directly committed by Jordan and Taylor—because they all were affiliated with the same gang. It is well established that involvement with a gang may be admissible to show motive, see Mallory v. State, 271 Ga. 150, 153(6), 517 S.E.2d 780 (1999), and evidence of gang involvement in this case supported the State's theory of how the co-indictees were affiliated and what motivated them to commit the crimes in the way that they did. As a result, the trial court did not err when it admitted evidence of gang involvement. See Willoughby v. State, 280 Ga. 176, 178(3), 626 S.E.2d 112 (2006).

3. Finley also claims that the trial court erred when it admitted evidence of a custodial statement that he gave after his arrest. According to Finley, a statement made by a police detective during the interview—that "[y]our quickest way to get [to see your children] ... or your quickest way to take a large load off your shoulders, is just to tell the truth"—was an improper promise of benefit because it implied that Finley would receive a shorter sentence (and thereby see his children) if he admitted his involvement in the crimes. See former OCGA § 24–3–50 (confession is inadmissible if it was "induced by another by the slightest hope of benefit").3 We disagree.

This Court consistently has held that the...

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8 cases
  • Budhani v. State
    • United States
    • Georgia Supreme Court
    • June 28, 2019
    ...court’s factual findings about the alleged pre-interview statements unless they were clearly erroneous, see, e.g., Finley v. State , 298 Ga. 451, 454, 782 S.E.2d 651 (2016), and—given that the only direct evidence on this point is testimony the trial court heard at the hearing on Budhani’s ......
  • Cushenberry v. State
    • United States
    • Georgia Supreme Court
    • November 21, 2016
    ...the affiliation between the four [co-indictees] and explain the motive of the principals in committing the crimes." Finley v. State, 298 Ga. 451, 453, 782 S.E.2d 651 (2016). See also Mallory v. State, 271 Ga. 150, 153, 517 S.E.2d 780 (1999).(f) Finally, Appellant argues that the trial court......
  • Taylor v. State
    • United States
    • Georgia Supreme Court
    • June 18, 2018
    ...returned against codefendant Finley, was set forth in this Court’s opinion affirming Finley’s conviction. See Finley v. State , supra, 298 Ga. at 452-453 (1), 782 S.E.2d 651. Viewed in the light most favorable to the guilty verdict returned against appellant, the evidence shows, as noted ab......
  • Smith v. State
    • United States
    • Georgia Supreme Court
    • October 21, 2019
    ...prove that they shared a common intent with the crowd that was chanting "EMF" as it beat and kicked Stanford. See Finley v. State, 298 Ga. 451, 453 (2), 782 S.E.2d 651 (2016) (trial court did not err in admitting evidence that defendant was involved in a gang, even though none of the charge......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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