Humphreys v. The State, S09P1428.

CourtSupreme Court of Georgia
Citation287 Ga. 63,694 S.E.2d 316
Docket NumberNo. S09P1428.,S09P1428.
Decision Date15 March 2010





Geerdes & Kim, Holly L. Geerdes, Duluth, Mitchell D. Durham, Jimmy D. Berry, Marietta, Carl P. Greenberg, Thomas H. Dunn, Atlanta, for appellant.

Patrick H. Head, Dist. Atty., Dana J. Norman, Asst. Dist. Atty., Thurbert E. Baker, Attorney General, Theresa M. Schiefer, Assistant Attorney General, Richard A Malone, Atlanta, for appellee.

NAHMIAS, Justice.

A jury convicted Stacey Ian Humphreys of two counts of murder and related offenses. After finding beyond a reasonable doubt multiple statutory aggravating circumstances, the jury recommended death sentences for the murder convictions, and the trial court entered judgment accordingly. See OCGA §§ 17-10-30, 17-10-31(a). Humphreys's motion for new trial was denied, and he appeals his convictions and sentences.1 For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.

Sufficiency of the Evidence

1. The evidence, construed in the light most favorable to the jury's verdicts, showed the following. At approximately 12:40 p.m. on November 3, 2003, Humphreys, a convicted felon who was still on parole, entered a home construction company's sales office located in a model home for a new subdivision in Cobb County. Cindy Williams and Lori Brown were employed there as real estate agents. Finding Ms. Williams alone in the office, Humphreys used a stolen handgun to force her to undress and to reveal the personal identification number (PIN) for her automated teller machine (ATM) card. After calling Ms. Williams's bank to learn the amount of her current balance, Humphreys tied her underwear so tightly around her neck that, when her body was discovered, her neck bore a prominent ligature mark and her tongue was protruding from her mouth, which had turned purple. While choking Ms. Williams, Humphreys forced her to get down on her hands and knees and to move into Ms. Brown's office and behind Ms. Brown's desk. Humphreys placed his handgun at Ms. Williams back and positioned a bag of balloons between the gun and her body to muffle the sound of gunshots. He then fired a shot into her back that went through her lung and heart, fired a second shot through her head, and left her face-down on her hands and knees under the desk.

Ms. Brown entered the office during or shortly after Humphreys's attack on Ms. Williams, and he attacked her too. Ms. Brown suffered a hemorrhage in her throat that was consistent with her having been choked in a headlock-type grip or having been struck in the throat. Humphreys also forced Ms. Brown to undress and to reveal her PIN, called her bank to obtain her balance, and made her kneel with her head facing the floor. Then, while standing over Ms. Brown, Humphreys fired one gunshot through her head, this time using both a bag of balloons and Ms. Brown's folded blouse to muffle the sound. He dragged her body to her desk, took both victims' driver's licenses and ATM and credit cards, and left the scene at approximately 1:30 p.m. Neither victim sustained any defensive wounds.

When the builder, whose office was located in the model home's basement, heard the door chime of the security system indicating that someone had exited the sales office, he went to the sales office to meet with the agents. There he discovered Ms. Brown's body and called 911. The responding police officer discovered Ms. Williams's body.

After interviewing the builder and canvassing the neighborhood, the police released to the media descriptions of the suspect and a Dodge Durango truck seen at the sales office near the time of the crimes. In response, someone at the job site where Humphreys worked called to advise that Humphreys and his vehicle matched those descriptions and that Humphreys did not report to work on the day of the crimes. The police began to investigate Humphreys and made arrangements through his parole officer to meet with him on the morning of November 7, 2003. Humphreys skipped the meeting, however, and eluded police officers who had him under surveillance.

Humphreys was apprehended in Wisconsin the following day. Police there recovered from the console of his rental vehicle a Ruger 9-millimeter pistol, which was determined to be the murder weapon. Swabbings from that gun revealed blood containing Ms. Williams's DNA. A stain on the driver-side floormat of Humphreys's Durango was determined to be blood containing Ms. Brown's DNA.

After the murders, the victims' ATM cards were used to withdraw over $3,000 from their accounts. Two days after the murders, Humphreys deposited $1,000 into his account, and he had approximately $800 in cash in his possession when he was arrested. Humphreys claimed in a statement to the police that he did not remember his actions at the time of the crimes. However, when asked why he fled, he said: “I know I did it. I know it just as well as I know my own name.” He also told the police that he had recently taken out some high-interest “payday” loans and that he “got over [his] head with that stinking truck.”

The evidence presented at trial and summarized above was easily sufficient for a rational jury to find Humphreys guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the crimes charged. Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 319(III)(B), 99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560 (1979).

Pre-Trial Issues

2. Humphreys asserts that the trial court erred in failing to quash the indictment against him because the jury administrator improperly and arbitrarily excused potential grand jurors, thus vitiating the array.2

(a) The jury administrator's authority. Humphreys contends that the jury administrator was without authority to grant excusals and deferments, because the 1984 standing order adopted by the Cobb County Superior Court authorizing her to do so was repealed by the adoption of the Uniform Rules of Superior Courts and was never re-adopted. Humphreys asserts that the Uniform Rules were adopted in 1994. In fact, the Uniform Rules were originally adopted by order of this Court in accordance with the directive of Art. VI, Sec. IX, Par. I, of the 1983 Constitution of the State of Georgia and became effective on July 1, 1985. See 253 Ga. 800, 800 (1985).

While Rule 1.1 of the original Uniform Rules provided that [a]ll local rules of superior courts in effect as of the effective date of these rules are hereby repealed[,] Rule 1.2 provided that, [t]he above provisions notwithstanding, each superior court may retain or adopt without specific Supreme Court approval ... an order establishing guidelines governing excuses from jury duty pursuant to OCGA § 15-12-1.0[sic].” 3 OCGA § 15-12-1(a)(1) provides in relevant part that any person who shows “good cause why he or she should be exempt from jury duty may be excused by ... [a] person who has been duly appointed by order of the chief judge to excuse jurors” where “ guidelines governing excuses” have been established by court order. The Code section further provides for the excusal or deferment of specifically described persons. See OCGA § 15-12-1(a)(2) through (c)(2).

Among the evidence presented at the pre-trial hearing were two orders signed by the chief judge of the Cobb County Superior Court. The first order, which was entered in April of 1984, “appointed and empowered” the court administrator and the deputy court administrator/jury manager “to receive requests for jury deferments and make determinations as to deferments and excusals” in accordance with guidelines contained within the order. While the order does not cite OCGA § 15-12-1, it tracks that statute's language. The second order, which was entered after the original adoption of the Uniform Rules [p]ursuant to Rule 1.2,” provides for the retention of “the local court rules establishing guidelines governing excuses from jury duty pursuant to OCGA 15-12-1.0.” That order became effective on July 1, 1985.

In 1994, Rule 1.1 was amended to provide that [a]ll local rules of the superior courts,” except those relating to jury pool selection, would expire effective December 31, 1994. However, Rule 1.2 continued to provide that [t]he above provisions notwithstanding, each superior court may retain” without specific approval of this Court “an order establishing guidelines governing excuses from jury duty.” See Rule 1.2(D).4 There is no evidence that the Cobb County Superior Court did not retain its 1984 and 1985 juror excusal and deferment orders, and indeed we are aware of no authority for the proposition that such orders automatically become invalid when the Uniform Rules are amended. See English v. State, 290 Ga.App. 378, 382(3) (a), 659 S.E.2d 783 (2008) (noting lack of authority for the proposition “that such an order becomes invalid when the chief judge who signed it retires”). We therefore reject Humphreys's contention that the jury administrator was without authority to excuse or defer potential grand jurors for his case.

(b) The jury administrator's grounds for excusals. We also do not find reversible error in the manner in which potential grand jurors were excused from service. At the pre-trial hearing, the jury administrator testified that she summoned 65 potential grand jurors for the term of court during which Humphreys was indicted, that seven of those potential jurors were excused, and that two potential jurors were deferred. A review of the testimony and evidence presented at the hearing shows that the jury administrator investigated the juror excusals and deferments and that they were authorized under the guidelines in the 1984 standing order, under statutory provisions, or under both. While the jury administrator did not obtain a notarized affidavit in every situation, she did obtain written confirmation in each case. Under our precedent, there clearly was not “such disregard of the essential and substantial provisions of the statute...

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