Hill v. State, 31082

CourtSupreme Court of Georgia
Citation229 S.E.2d 737,237 Ga. 794
Docket NumberNo. 31082,31082
PartiesCharles Harris HILL v. The STATE.
Decision Date28 September 1976

Page 737

229 S.E.2d 737
237 Ga. 794
Charles Harris HILL
No. 31082.
Supreme Court of Georgia.
Sept. 28, 1976.
Rehearing Denied Oct. 26, 1976.

Page 738

[237 Ga. 803] David Botts, Atlanta, for appellant; Charles, H. Hill, pro se.

Alton G. Hartley, Asst. Dist. Atty., Edward H. Kellogg, Jr., Decatur, Arthur K. Bolton, Atty. Gen., Isaac Byrd, Staff Asst. Atty. Gen., Atlanta, for appellee.

[237 Ga. 794] JORDAN, Justice.

Charles Harris Hill, the appellant, James Brown, Jr., and Gary Watts, were indicted for the murder and robbery of Elmo Pressley on April 6, 1975. The appellant was tried separately, convicted, and after finding statutory aggravating circumstances, the jury recommended the death penalty. He is before this court on appeal and for mandatory review of the death penalty imposed.

The evidence shows that in the late night of April 5, 1975, or early morning of April 6, 1975, Elmo Pressley was robbed and murdered in his home on Glenwood Avenue in Atlanta, Georgia.

Watts and Brown were playing cards until around 11:00 p.m. on April 5, 1975, when they were joined by appellant Hill. After drinking a bottle of wine they decided to break into the victim's home.

The appellant, Watts, and Brown, then started walking toward the house on Glenwood Avenue. On their arrival at the house, the appellant walked onto the porch and knocked at the door. Later, Brown walked onto the porch, looked through a window and discovered that someone was in the house. He informed the appellant and Watts, and the three men left the house and walked down to the street. The appellant said, 'wait' and suggested that they go back to the house.

The appellant went back to the house. He decided to break the door in and signaled Brown to help him. Brown refused. Appellant then broke the door in by himself. The appellant, Brown and Watts then entered the house and surprised the victim. Brown held the victim down on a couch in the living room while the appellant and Watts moved through the house. The appellant indicated that he wanted to harm the victim but Brown pleaded with him not to harm the victim and suggested that the victim be [237 Ga. 795] tied instead. Realizing that the appellant intended to harm him, the victim begged Brown to protect him. The appellant insisted on beating the victim and grabbed the victim and struck him. The appellant faced Watts and pointed his thumbs downward, apparently indicating that the fictim should be killed.

The appellant and Watts remmaged through the house searching for items to

Page 739

steal. Brown was left alone with the victim. The victim told Brown that he did not have any money, but they could take anything from the house they wanted. Brown examined the victim's wallet and found no money. The appellant then returned with his knife in hand and stood behind Brown directly over the head of the victim. The appellant then tried to cut the victim but Brown prevented him from doing so.

The appellant left the room and returned with his thumbs downward and said, 'We got to kill, you know.' A fight for control of the knife followed. Eventually, the appellant got control of the knife and tried to cut the victim.

Brown then pleaded with the appellant and Watts not to harm the victim. He told them that the victim had already told him that they could take any of the victim's property. The appellant and Watts then ran through the house collecting a TV set and stereo equipment belonging to the victim. During this time, the victim requested Brown to let him take a full breath of air. Brown agreed. The victim made two more similar requests and Brown agreed twice more; however, when the victim took his third full breath of air he and Brown saw blood on the pillow where the victim's head rested.

The victim became frightened and ran into a bedroom of his home. Shortly afterwards, the appellant came out of the bedroom into which the victim had run. Brown then walked to the bedroom and saw the victim lying still in a sea of blood. Brown also saw Watts rising from a kneeling position and throwing a knife down as he rose.

The trio fled when the victim's wife and stepson arrived at the home. They ran to Watts' home. They arrived there at about 1 a.m. on the sixth of April. Watts' mother permitted the appellant to clean himself at her [237 Ga. 796] home and prepared a place for him to sleep for the night.

An autopsy of the victim's body revealed the cause of death was a knife wound on the right side of the neck extending some six inches from the center of the neck to the right ear of the victim. The knife would varied in depth from three-fourths of an inch to one inch. The blood vessels on the right side of the victim's neck were cut open. The victim had suffered multiple wounds including facial bone fractures, inner cranial bleeding, nasal wound fractures and auxiliary wounds. The victim also sustained bruises beneath his skin and the right temple area. Numerous other wounds were detected also.

The defense presented evidence to the following effect:

Betty Daniel testified she was employed by the Atlanta Police Department, and she knew the appellant. She testified that the appellant stayed at her house the entire night in question.

The appellant testified and corroborated Betty Daniel's testimony concerning his alibi of being with her. The appellant further testified that he had been to the victim's house earlier on the 5th of April, 1975. Appellant further stated that he had left his sunglasses (found at the scene) at the victim's house on that visit. He denied being with the co-defendants that night or having anything to do with the murder and robbery.

1. The appellant alleges the trial court erred in failing to charge without request on circumstantial evidence.

There was direct evidence relating to the body of the victim and the nature of the wounds causing his death, the concerted action of the appellant and his accomplices, disarray at the scene of the crimes, the death weapon and full and complete testimony by one of the accomplices that the crimes were committed within the course of their conspiracy and the part played by the appellant therein. There being direct evidence connecting the appellant with the crime, the court did not err in failing to charge on circumstantial evidence. House v. State, 232 Ga. 140, 146, 205 S.E.2d 217 (1974) and cases cited therein.

2. In enumeration two the appellant alleges the trial court erred in not giving a

Page 740

correct and complete charge on [237 Ga. 797] corroboration required of a co-defendant's testimony, and in enumeration eleven that the trial court failed to charge that the testimony of a co-defendant should be viewed with great skepticism and caution.

In his charge to the jury after instructing on conspiracy the trial court clearly instructed the jury that 'the State had put up evidence of a co-defendant. I charge you that you may not convict on the bare testimony of a co-defendant alone,' and 'that the question of corroboration is a matter entirely for you jurors to determine, the question of whether or not there is sufficient corroboration to corroborate the testimony of the co-defendant.'

The appellant had not requested instructions on this subject nor did he make any objection to the instruction given.

The court having correctly instructed on the necessity for corroboration of testimony of an accomplice, it is not ground for a new trial that the court failed, in the absence of a request, to further charge that it was not sufficient that the accomplice was corroborated as to the corpus delicti when such facts did not show any connection of accused with the commission of the offense. Cantrell v. State, 141 Ga. 98, 80 S.E. 649 (1913). There was sufficient evidence in this case to comply with Code Ann. § 38-121 and to justify the jury in finding that the testimony of the accomplice was corroborated by independent evidence tending to connect the accused with the crime or leading to an inference that the accused is guilty in that the evidence goes beyond merely casting a grave suspicion of guilt on the accused. West v. State, 232 Ga. 861, 209 S.E.2d 195 (1974). Slight evidence from another source identifying the accused as a participant in the criminal act is sufficient corroboration of the accomplice to support the verdict. Birt v. State, 236 Ga. 815, 225 S.E.2d 248 (1976). See also Slocum v. State, 230 Ga. 762, 199 S.E.2d 202 (1973).

As we view the evidence, the testimony of a disinterested witness placing the accused with the testifying co-defendant prior to the crime, other testimony that three men of the same race were seen fleeing the scene, the presence of the appellant's singlasses at the [237 Ga. 798] scene of the crime, for which the appellant's explanation was apparently rejected by the jury, was sufficient to connect the appellant with the crime as a participant in it.

These enumerations are without merit.

3. In enumerations 3 and 14 the appellant alleges that the trial court in its charge shifted the burden of proof as to alibi upon the defendant.

The portion of the trial court's charge concerning alibi was as follows:

'I charge you, Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, that one of the defenses raised by the defendant is that defense of alibi. I charge you that alibi involves the impossibility of the accused's presence at the scene of the offense at the time of its commission. Any evidence whatsoever of alibi is to be considered on the general case with the rest of the testimony.

'Ladies and Gentlemen, if you believe that the contentions of the defendant that he was not there, that he did not have anything to do with this case, that he was instead...

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24 cases
  • Collins v. Francis, 83-8097
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • 15 March 1984
    ...the evidence clearly establishes that he was an active participant in all aspects of the rape and murder of the victim. Hill v. State, 237 Ga. 794, 229 S.E.2d 737 In reviewing the death penalty in this case, we have considered the cases appealed to this court since January 1, 1970, in which......
  • Pulley v. Harris, 82-1095
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • 23 January 1984
    ...Coley v. State, 231 Ga. 829, 835-836, 204 S.E.2d 612, 616-617 (1974) (death sentence disproportionate for rape). Cf. Hill v. State, 237 Ga. 794, 802-803, 229 S.E.2d 737 (1976) (death sentence not disproportionate even though unclear which defendant actually committed murder; sentence later ......
  • Godfrey v. Georgia, 78-6899
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • 19 May 1980
    ...of STEWART, POWELL, and STEVENS, JJ.). 8. See also Ruffin v. State, 243 Ga. 95, 106-107, 252 S.E.2d 472, 480 (1979); Hill v. State, 237 Ga. 794, 802, 229 S.E.2d 737, 742-743 (1976). Cf. Holton v. State, 243 Ga. 312, 318, 253 S.E.2d 736, 740 (1979). 9. Gregg v. Georgia, supra, at 201, 96 S.C......
  • Blake v. Zant, CV480-251
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court (Southern District of Georgia)
    • 29 April 1981
    ...of the Georgia Supreme Court lends further support to the conclusion suggested by Pass, Creamer and Allen. Thus, in Hill v. State, 237 Ga. 794, 795, 229 S.E.2d 737 (1977), the death penalty was imposed and affirmed with respect to the robbery of a home and murder of the person who resided t......
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