Johnson v. the State., S11A0390.

CourtSupreme Court of Georgia
Citation11 FCDR 1305,709 S.E.2d 768,289 Ga. 106
Docket NumberNo. S11A0390.,S11A0390.
Decision Date18 April 2011

289 Ga. 106
709 S.E.2d 768
11 FCDR 1305


No. S11A0390.

Supreme Court of Georgia.

April 18, 2011.

[709 S.E.2d 770]

Steven Lee Sparger, Savannah, for appellant.Thurbert E. Baker, Attorney General, Larry Chisholm, District Attorney, Jerome M. Rothschild, Jr., Asst. Dist. Atty., Paula Khristian Smith, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Jason Charles Fisher, Assistant Attorney General, Mary Beth Westmoreland, Deputy Attorney General, Larry Chisolm, District Attorney, for appellee.CARLEY, Presiding Justice.

[289 Ga. 106] A jury found David Rontell Johnson guilty of the malice murder of Andrew Howard. The trial court entered judgment of conviction [289 Ga. 107] on the guilty verdict and sentenced Johnson to life imprisonment. A motion for new trial was denied, and Johnson appeals.* His co-defendant Ontario Williams was convicted of malice murder and obstruction by giving false information, and those convictions were affirmed on appeal. Williams v. State, 284 Ga. 94, 663 S.E.2d 179 (2008).

1. Construed most strongly in support of the verdict, the evidence, including eyewitness testimony, shows that, after Williams stated that he was going to shoot the victim over a $10 debt out of “principle,” Williams, Johnson, and another man went to the victim's home, where Williams was belligerent and appeared to be holding something behind his back. The three men went to a nearby park, and the victim subsequently went there as well after learning of the visit to his home. Johnson confronted several people in the park, told them that something was about to go down, and warned them not to tell anyone. He then confronted the victim and argued loudly with him. The victim was fatally shot twice in the head from close range. Johnson and Williams fled the scene. While in jail, Johnson admitted to another inmate that he killed somebody. Although there was conflicting evidence as to whether Johnson or Williams was the shooter, the evidence was more than sufficient to authorize a rational trier of fact to find Johnson guilty of malice murder beyond a reasonable doubt. Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560 (1979); Williams v. State, supra at 95–96(1), 663 S.E.2d 179.

2. Johnson contends that the trial court erred by denying a motion in limine to exclude eight autopsy photographs of the victim's head.

“The admission of photographic evidence is at the discretion of the trial court. [Cits.]” Stewart v. State, 286 Ga. 669, 670(3), 690 S.E.2d 811 (2010). Johnson argues that the forensic pathologist could have verbally described the wounds and, if necessary, used a diagram or model. However, “we recognize that photographs are inherently more persuasive regarding the existence of the things they depict than testimony regarding those same things.” Stinski v. State, 281 Ga. 783, 786(3), 642 S.E.2d 1 (2007). Furthermore, “ ‘[p]re-incision photos such as the ones currently at issue which depict the location [289 Ga. 108] and nature of the victim's wounds are

[709 S.E.2d 771]

admissible because they are relevant and material.’ [Cit.]” Banks v. State, 281 Ga. 678, 680(2), 642 S.E.2d 679 (2007). See also Roberts v. State, 282 Ga. 548, 552(9), 651 S.E.2d 689 (2007). Indeed, “ ‘they are admissible even if they are duplicative and may inflame the jury. [Cit.] ... This is not altered by the fact that the cause of death may not be in dispute.’ [Cit.]” Roberts v. State, supra. The photographs were relevant to the issue of whether the State proved that the shooting of the victim twice in the head was caused by Johnson with malice aforethought. Bradley v. State, 281 Ga. 173, 174(2), 637 S.E.2d 19 (2006). Moreover, some “of the photographs showed gunpowder stippling on the victim['s] skin.... Each of the photographs was relevant to some point of the forensic pathologist's testimony. [Cit.]” Conway v. State, 281 Ga. 685, 691(5), 642 S.E.2d 673 (2007).

None of the photographs shows any changes in the state of the body by authorities or the pathologist sufficient to bring this case within the stricter rule of admissibility announced in Brown v. State, 250 Ga. 862, 867(5), 302 S.E.2d 347 (1983). Shaving of the victim's hair around the wounds “cannot be equated with post-mortem surgical procedures.” Bell v. State, 257 Ga. 560, 561(3), 361 S.E.2d 488 (1987). See also Stewart v. State, supra at 671(3), 690 S.E.2d 811; Brown v. State, 270 Ga. 601, 604(6), 512 S.E.2d 260 (1999). “The mere fact that metal probes could be seen in some of the photographs did not render them inadmissible. The probes simply illustrated the angle and path of the victim's wounds.” Williams v. State, 265 Ga. 681, 683(5), 461 S.E.2d 530 (1995). The trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting the pre-incision autopsy photographs into evidence.

3. Over objection, the trial court allowed the prosecutor to play the entire tape of an out-of-court police interview of a witness for the State. Johnson urges that particular statements made during that interview which were inculpatory of Johnson were inadmissible as prior inconsistent statements because the witness had...

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22 cases
  • Clay v. State
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Georgia
    • 11 Abril 2012
    ...that the [blood samples] had an “obvious” or “readily perceived” exculpatory value.’ ” (Citations omitted.) Johnson v. State, 289 Ga. 106, 109(4), 709 S.E.2d 768 (2011). Accordingly, the blood samples were not constitutionally material. See State v. Miller, 287 Ga. 748, 754–755, 699 S.E.2d ......
  • Moses v. State, A14A0140.
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • 20 Octubre 2014
    ...disputes the truth of the earlier statement. There is no such denial requirement under [former] OCGA § 24–9–83.” Johnson v. State, 289 Ga. 106, 108(3), 709 S.E.2d 768 (2011) (citation and punctuation omitted). Although Moses argues that the recording of his interview also “contained numerou......
  • Zamora v. State, S12A0847.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Georgia
    • 10 Septiembre 2012
    ...victim were relevant and admissible because they depicted the location and nature of his external injuries. See Johnson v. State, 289 Ga. 106, 107–108, 709 S.E.2d 768 (2011). Similarly, the post-incision photos were admissible because, according to the medical examiner, they depicted bleedi......
  • Williamson v. State, S19A0276.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Georgia
    • 6 Mayo 2019
    ...error. Id. at 760 (1) (b), 716 S.E.2d 154 ; see also Brown v. State, 297 Ga. 685, 691 (4), 777 S.E.2d 466 (2015) ; Johnson v. State, 289 Ga. 106, 110-111 (5), 709 S.E.2d 768 (2011). The instruction is not reversible error here. "[P]rior consistent statements are substantive evidence that al......
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