Gibbons v. State

Citation248 Ga. 858,286 S.E.2d 717
Decision Date03 February 1982
Docket NumberNo. 38026,38026
Parties, 30 A.L.R.4th 404 Clifton Edward GIBBONS v. The STATE.
CourtGeorgia Supreme Court

Vernon J. Neely, Flanagan & Neely, Augusta, for Clifton Edward gibbons.

Richard Allen, Dist. Atty., W. Leon Barfield, Asst. Dist. Atty., Augusta, Michael J. Bowers, Atty. Gen., Atlanta, for the State.

WELTNER, Justice.

Clifton Edward Gibbons was indicted for the murder of Lloyd O. Agner, convicted of that offense by a jury in Burke County, Georgia, and sentenced to life imprisonment. On appeal, he presents eleven enumerations of error, the last contending that "the evidence is insufficient as proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime of murder." We reach this enumeration first. Lewis v. State, 248 Ga. 566, 285 S.E.2d 179 (1981).

To establish the circumstances of the case, we set out the statement of facts contained in the brief submitted by the District Attorney of the Augusta Judicial Circuit:

"On January 9, 1980 the badly decomposed body of an elderly white male was found tied to a tree in a heavily wooded section of Burke County. The corpse was bound to the tree by a fan belt and other materials. It was clothed in a green work shirt and green work pants, a white tee shirt and a yellow sweater. A felt hat was also discovered laying on the ground in close proximity to the body.

"A subsequent examination of the deceased at the State Crime Lab revealed evidence of its identity and of the probable cause of its death. A Georgia Power bill was found in the right-hand shirt pocket with the name Lloyd Agner thereon. An old grocery receipt, a receipt for a life insurance payment and a water bill issued in the same name were additionally discovered on the deceased's person.

"Examination into the causes of death revealed that a compression imprint and an incise wound had both been made in the neck area of the body. The autopsy also revealed that a considerable amount of internal bleeding had occurred in the chest area before the dead person expired. Several of his ribs were found to be broken. In the opinion of the expert forensic pathologist who conducted the examination, any one of these wounds could have been mortal.

"The evidence concerning the identity of this body corresponded very closely to the description of a resident of neighboring Richmond County, Lloyd O. Agner, who had disappeared some three months earlier. Mr. Agner's daughter, Judy Dunn, positively identified the hat found at the place where the body was discovered and the sweater on the corpse as articles of clothing belonging to her father. Jeannette O. Richardson, a young lady who rented a house trailer from Mr. Agner, said that he generally liked to wear green-colored work clothes and a yellow sweater of which he was particularly fond. Shirley Greaves, who worked at a small grocery store close to Mr. Agner's residence, testified that she last saw him wearing a green pair of pants and a green shirt, a white tee shirt and a yellow sweater prior to the time that he disappeared.

"Mrs. Greaves positively swore that she last saw Mr. Agner in her store on October 8, 1979. Mrs. Richardson similarly said that the last occasion on which she saw Mr. Agner's truck parked in the driveway of his home was the morning of October 8, 1979. Joe Peel, an insurance agent who carried Mr. Agner's life insurance, said that he last met with Mr. Agner on October 3, 1979 when Mr. Agner paid his monthly insurance premium. Peel also cashed Mr. Agner's social security check in the approximate amount of $300.00. According to other testimony adduced at trial, Mr. Agner had previously tried to cash his check at Cantrell's Grocery on that same date.

"Further investigation revealed that at approximately 11:00 a. m. on October 10, 1979 a truck later identified as belonging to Mr. Agner was driven into the car lot of Parrish Motor Company, a used car dealership in Augusta, Georgia. The individual driving the truck traded it in on a 1972 Plymouth Satellite automobile. During the course of this transaction this person identified himself as Lloyd O. Agner. He signed all documents pertaining to the sale of the truck and the purchase of the car in conformity with this identification. Mr. Parrish, the owner of the used car lot, later said that the defendant, Clifton Edward Gibbons, was the individual who held himself out to be Lloyd Agner at the time that Mr. Agner's truck was sold.

"Mr. Parrish's testimony concerning Gibbons' possession and disposal of the truck was corroborated by the details of an incident that occurred several days later in Burke County. On October 13, 1979 a 1972 Plymouth Satellite was involved in a single car accident occurring on Road 216 in that county. When Lt. Thomas C. Murray of the Burke County Sheriff's Department appeared at the scene of the wreck, the driver of the car identified himself as Clifton Edward Gibbons and produced a driver's license to that effect. However, when the officer requested that Mr. Gibbons produce evidence of his ownership of the wrecked car, Gibbons produced a bill of sale made out to Lloyd O. Agner. The VIN numbers on this bill of sale, on the certificate of title to the car that Mr. Parrish sold and on the car involved in the accident were identical.

"A thorough crime scene investigation of the place where the body was found and an examination of Mr. Agner's truck thereafter revealed that the truck had in all likelihood been present when the criminal act at issue occurred at that place. According to Investigator Gary Theisen of the State Crime Lab, the width of the tire tracks that were discovered there corresponded very closely to the width of the tires on Mr. Agner's truck. Theisen further said that the spacing of certain scratches and dents on the vehicle significantly correlated with the measurements of damage done to trees growing close by the place where the corpse was found. Finally, the investigator concluded that based on his measurements of the tire tracks, of the damage done to the trees and to the truck and of the placement of the body of the deceased when it was discovered, it was Theisen's opinion that the truck had struck the body on at least one occasion.

"Another circumstance which connects Gibbons to this incident is an event that occurred on October 8, 1979, the same date on which Lloyd O. Agner was last seen alive. Late in the afternoon of that day Gibbons and some friends came into Cantrell's Grocery located in Blythe, Georgia. Mrs. Cantrell, the proprietress of the store who waited on Gibbons and his companions, said that he had an unusually large amount of money on his person at that time. More specifically, she said that he was a frequent patron of her business and that it was highly unusual for him to have or to spend as much cash as he possessed on that occasion.

"The above stated facts and circumstances surrounding Mr. Agner's death were the basis of the murder charge lodged against the defendant, Clifton Edward Gibbons, by the State of Georgia. All of the probative evidence brought forward at trial against the appellant was circumstantial in nature. The appellant did not call any evidence in his behalf which would have tended to show that he was not involved in this crime, and he did not himself take the stand and testify. The appellant was tried before a jury in the Superior Court of Burke County from June 17, to June 19, 1981 and was duly convicted of murder."

In further illustration of the factual situation, we set out a portion of the Statement of Facts as contained in the brief filed by the Attorney General:

"Officer Dyke's investigation also revealed that in late September 1979 two black males who lived at the Roberson house [where appellant lived with his girlfriend, Alice Roberson, and her brother, Bobby Roberson] did plumbing work for Agner. At Roberson's house, Appellant told Officer Dyke that he was the one he needed to speak with and that he wanted to clear up the rumor that he had something to do with Agner's disappearance. Officer Dyke testified that prior to that time, he had not heard any such rumor. Appellant told Officer Dyke that he and Bobby Roberson had done plumbing work for Agner and during that time Agner's pistol disappeared. Appellant stated that he discovered that Bobby took the pistol, and Appellant returned it to Agner.

"Beginning on November 18, 1979 Officer Dyke interviewed Bobby Roberson approximately five times. Bobby told Officer Dyke and Larry Hendrix of the District Attorney's office in the Augusta Judicial Circuit that Appellant had told him that Agner was dead. Bobby stated that after he and Appellant did plumbing work for Agner, Appellant asked if he had seen 'all the money' that Agner had and told Bobby that he was going to get it. Several days later, Appellant was discussing Agner's disappearance with Bobby and stated that 'I can tell you something that will scare your heart out.' Appellant then told Bobby that Agner was dead. Appellant told Bobby that he and Agner went riding in Agner's truck and Appellant told Agner to stop. Appellant [told Bobby that he] walked around the truck and cut Agner's throat. Appellant [told Bobby that he] drove to a wooded area where he tied Agner to a tree and made him drink a pint of whiskey. Appellant did not give Bobby any further information about the murder.

"On the witness stand, Bobby refused to answer any questions asked by the State or the Court. After several discussions with the Court and counsel, Bobby denied giving any statements implicating Appellant in the murder.

"Alice Roberson, Appellant's girlfriend, and Bobby testified that Officer Dyke offered them a bribe. Officers Dyke and Hendrix denied any bribes or offers were made."

The statement of facts contained in Gibbons' brief is not materially inconsistent with the foregoing.

* * *

The evidence is amply sufficient to support a finding by a jury that Lloyd O. Agner...

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