Harris v. State

Decision Date03 December 2002
Docket NumberNo. A02A2332.,A02A2332.
PartiesHARRIS v. The STATE.
CourtGeorgia Court of Appeals


Cook & Connelly, Bobby Lee Cook, Summerville, Rex B. Abernathy, Cartersville, for appellant.

T. Joseph Campbell, Dist. Atty., Donald S. Smith, Asst. Dist. Atty., for appellee.

ANDREWS, Presiding Judge.

Debbie Harris appeals from the judgment entered after a jury found her guilty of trafficking in methamphetamine. Finding no error, we affirm.

The evidence at trial, taken in the light most favorable to the verdict, was that police used a confidential informant to set up a drug deal with Harris. The informant testified at trial that he talked to Harris several times on the phone before setting the meeting. According to the informant, Harris wanted to buy a pound of methamphetamine, but could not raise that much money so they decided that the sale would be for half a pound of methamphetamine.

On the day set for the transaction, Harris drove to the meeting place, got out of her car and got into the passenger seat of the informant's car. Harris gave the informant the agreed-upon amount of money, $3,200, half of the purchase price for the drugs. Harris was to pay the other half after she sold the drugs. After she gave him the money, the informant told Harris that "the stuff was in the dash." After Harris retrieved the methamphetamine from the glove box, the officers moved in to arrest her.

Harris testified in her own defense and said she brought the money to give to the informant because he was in trouble and needed it. She said the informant had asked her if she knew anyone who wanted to buy drugs but she told him that she did not. Harris admitted to taking the methamphetamine out of the glove box but said she was only going to take enough for herself.

The evidence was sufficient to support the verdict. Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560 (1979).

Harris filed a motion for new trial claiming she received ineffective assistance of counsel. The trial court denied the motion, and this appeal followed.

1. First, Harris argues that trial counsel was ineffective because he failed to file a general demurrer to the indictment. She claims the indictment was fatally defective because it omitted the word "knowingly."

The indictment charged that Harris "on or about February 12, 2001 in the above-stated County and State did unlawfully then and there have under her control and did traffic in the Schedule II controlled substance methamphetamine by possessing a mixture containing said methamphetamine which said mixture weighed in excess of 200 grams."

OCGA § 16-13-31 provides in pertinent part:

Any person who knowingly sells, manufactures, delivers, or brings into this state or has possession of 28 grams or more of methamphetamine, amphetamine, or any mixture containing either methamphetamine or amphetamine, as described in Schedule II, in violation of this article commits the felony offense of trafficking in methamphetamine or amphetamine....

OCGA § 16-13-31(e). Harris claims that because the statute uses the word "knowingly" and the indictment did not, the indictment was fatally defective and counsel was ineffective for failing to file a general demurrer.

"A general demurrer challenges the sufficiency of the substance of the indictment, whereas a special demurrer challenges the sufficiency of the form of the indictment." Bramblett v. State, 239 Ga. 336, 337, 236 S.E.2d 580 (1977).

A special demurrer is waived if not raised before pleading to the merits of the indictment. On the other hand, because a general demurrer attacks the legality of an indictment, it is permissible to raise this ground after verdict by a motion in arrest of judgment even if there was no earlier objection. A motion in arrest asserts that the indictment contains a defect on its face affecting the substance and real merits of the offense charged and voiding the indictment, such as failure to charge a necessary element of a crime.

(Citations and punctuation omitted.) McKay v. State, 234 Ga.App. 556, 559, 507 S.E.2d 484 (1998). A motion in arrest of judgment or habeas corpus are the only remedies available when no demurrer to the indictment is interposed before judgment is entered on the verdict. See, e.g., id. at 559, 507 S.E.2d 484; Williams v. State, 162 Ga.App. 350, 351, 291 S.E.2d 425 (1982).

Therefore, a motion for new trial is ordinarily not the proper method to attack the sufficiency of the indictment. Seymour v. State, 210 Ga. 21, 77 S.E.2d 519 (1953); McKay, supra; Abreu v. State, 206 Ga.App. 361, 363, 425 S.E.2d 331 (1992); Carr v. State, 184 Ga.App. 889, 890, 363 S.E.2d 319 (1987); Thompson v. State, 58 Ga.App. 452-453, 198 S.E. 805 (1938). But, this Court has made an exception when the motion for new trial raises the ground of ineffective assistance of counsel. See Hammock v. State, 201 Ga.App. 614, 615, 411 S.E.2d 743 (1991).

"To establish ineffective assistance of counsel, [a defendant] must show that his counsel's performance was deficient and that the deficient" Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed.2d 674 (1984)." Gross v. State, 262 Ga. 232, 233-234(1), 416 S.E.2d 284 (1992). The test is whether there is a reasonable probability the jury would have reached a different verdict, absent the error of counsel. Gross, supra.

In analyzing a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, we note at the outset that a trial court's finding that a defendant has not been denied effective assistance of counsel will be affirmed unless clearly erroneous. Warren v. State, 197 Ga.App. 23, 24(1), 397 S.E.2d 484 (1990). Further, Harris must overcome the strong presumption that defense counsel's conduct falls within the broad range of reasonable professional conduct. Snyder v. State, 201 Ga.App. 66, 70(8), 410 S.E.2d 173 (1991).

The indictment was not defective. "An accusation or indictment is not subject to a general demurrer unless there is a defect so extreme that the...

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21 cases
  • State v. Wilson
    • United States
    • Georgia Court of Appeals
    • October 19, 2012
    ...and still be innocent of committing any crime, the indictment is legally valid and will survive a general demurrer. Harris v. State, 258 Ga.App. 669, 671–672(1), 574 S.E.2d 871 (2002) (“[I]f, taking the facts as alleged in the indictment, the guilt of the accused follows as a legal conclusi......
  • Pauley v. State
    • United States
    • Georgia Court of Appeals
    • April 27, 2020
    ...cases such as this one] when the motion for new trial raises the ground of ineffective assistance of counsel. Harris v. State , 258 Ga. App. 669, 671 (1), 574 S.E.2d 871 (2002) (citations and punctuation omitted).As the State concedes, "there may be legitimate issues regarding at least some......
  • Poole v. State
    • United States
    • Georgia Court of Appeals
    • March 14, 2014
    ...pleading to the merits of the indictment” and cannot be raised after conviction by a motion in arrest of judgment. Harris v. State, 258 Ga.App. 669, 670–671(1), 574 S.E.2d 871 (2002). See McDaniel v. State, 298 Ga.App. 558, 559–560, 680 S.E.2d 593 (2009). Consequently, by failing to timely ......
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    • Georgia Court of Appeals
    • March 28, 2007
    ...the indictment is interposed before judgment is entered on the verdict. (Citations and punctuation omitted.) Harris v. State, 258 Ga.App. 669, 670-671(1), 574 S.E.2d 871 (2002). Thus, this claim is not properly before us because Jackson failed to object to the indictment in any manner befor......
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