Lewis v. State

Decision Date01 June 2021
Docket NumberS21A0250
Citation311 Ga. 650,859 S.E.2d 1
CourtGeorgia Supreme Court
Parties LEWIS v. The STATE.

The Steel Law Firm, P.C., Brian Steel, for Appellant.

Fani T. Willis, District Attorney, Stephany J. Luttrell, Assistant District Attorney; Christopher M. Carr, Attorney General, Patricia B. Attaway Burton, Deputy Attorney General, Paula K. Smith, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Leslie A. Coots, Assistant Attorney General, for Appellee.

Warren, Justice.

Appellant Jeffrey Lewis was convicted of felony murder and other crimes in connection with the fatal shooting of Delorean Patterson, who was killed during an armed robbery that Lewis, Patterson, and others carried out at a "trap house" in Atlanta in 2011.1 On appeal, Lewis argues that the trial court erred by admitting into evidence a confession he gave to police while in custody because it was induced by a "hope of benefit"; by admitting that same confession because it was obtained in violation of his right to counsel; by denying Lewis's claim that his trial counsel was constitutionally ineffective for failing to object when the trial court refused to expound on a jury instruction; and by giving an incorrect jury instruction on the statutory accomplice-corroboration requirement. Identifying no reversible error, we affirm Lewis's convictions.

1. Background .

(a) Gault Street Crimes .

The evidence presented at Lewis's trial showed that on the evening of March 25, 2011, Lewis, a convicted felon, met with at least four or five men, including Patterson and Darrius Richardson, to rob the occupants of a house located at 1316 Gault Street in Fulton County, where they expected to find large amounts of drugs and cash. The group took two cars to the house, and several people, including Lewis and Patterson, rode in a burgundy Nissan Altima that Lewis had rented. Danielle Parks, who had dated Patterson for several months, testified that on that evening, she drove Patterson to the Doo Drop Inn to meet with Lewis. She said that while Patterson was in her car, he was on the phone with Lewis and that when she dropped Patterson off, he got into a burgundy Nissan Altima driven by Lewis with several male passengers inside.

According to Richardson, when the group arrived at the Gault Street house, Richardson and Patterson entered the house, carrying firearms and wearing bulletproof vests. The rest of the group, including Lewis, remained outside. Richardson and Patterson encountered two men inside the house and demanded money from them. One of those two men, Stephen Johns, testified that after he handed over a box of money, either Richardson or Patterson pointed a gun and "tried to shoot" him. Johns fled out the back of the house. He claimed that approximately $10,000 was stolen.

While Patterson and Richardson were inside the house, gunfire erupted outside. Richardson dropped to the floor, but Patterson ran outside. Eventually, Richardson left the house and saw Patterson lying unconscious and unresponsive in the driveway. Richardson testified that he picked up Patterson, who was still wearing a bulletproof vest, and placed him in the Nissan Altima Lewis had rented.

Early on the morning of March 26, 2011, police responded to a call that a man's body was lying in front of a school. Detective Scott Demeester arrived at the scene and saw Patterson lying on his stomach with a trail of blood leading away from his body. Detective Demeester later testified that Patterson seemed to have been shot at a different location because officers did not find any shell casings near the body. A Fulton County medical examiner testified that Patterson died of gunshot wounds to the torso and that the cause of death was homicide. And a GBI firearms expert testified that the bullet fragments recovered during Patterson's autopsy were likely fired from an SKS or AK-47-style rifle.

After a preliminary investigation, Detective Demeester spoke with Montavious Rosson, one of the men who stood outside the Gault Street house during the armed robbery. Based on that conversation, Detective Demeester located the Nissan Altima and discovered that Lewis had rented it using a fake driver's license. Lewis's fingerprints were located on the interior and exterior of the vehicle.

Police arrested Lewis on March 30, 2011, on an unrelated warrant. Detective Demeester—who suspected Lewis was involved in the Gault Street crimes based on his conversations with Rosson and Parks, and on evidence related to the Nissan Altima—asked Lewis to discuss the case with him. Lewis declined to do so.

(b) Lewis's Three-Way Phone Call From Jail .2

On April 24, 2011, five days after an arrest warrant was issued accusing Lewis of felony murder for the death of Patterson, Lewis—who was still in custody for an unrelated charge—called his sister from the Fulton County jail. During that phone call, Lewis's sister called Detective Demeester at Lewis's direction so that the three of them could discuss the Gault Street case. At the outset of the call, Detective Demeester acknowledged that Lewis was represented by counsel, and Lewis gave Detective Demeester the name of his two attorneys. Lewis then said that he had been wanting to speak with Detective Demeester at the jail; asked if Detective Demeester could get him out of jail that night; offered to take him to the scene of the armed robbery and shooting; and provided unsolicited information about the case. Detective Demeester informed Lewis that before the phone call, he had spoken with an attorney who Lewis previously claimed was representing him. However, that attorney was not one of the two attorneys Lewis mentioned at the outset of the call. Detective Demeester said that the attorney he spoke with—who apparently was not currently representing Lewis—told Detective Demeester that if he were Lewis's attorney, Lewis was "not gonna talk to you." After he was informed of this exchange, Lewis nonetheless began pleading with Detective Demeester to speak with him, saying "I really need you to come down here to talk to me .... I'm innocent ... I didn't do that. I'll let you know everything .... I can lead you to everything. That's my word man .... I can lead you to the scene. Do you know where the scene at?" He continued:

I'll lead you—y'all can come get me tomorrow and I can, I can, I can try and—I can make a phone call on whoever's cell phone and find out exactly where is the address.
And find out everything .... When we get to the scene I can show you exactly where everybody was standing and everything, Mr. Demeester.

In response, Detective Demeester asked Lewis specific questions about the Gault Street crimes, but never advised Lewis of his rights under Miranda .3 Lewis then had the following exchange with Detective Demeester:

LEWIS: If I reach out to my attorney tomorrow and tell them that I want to talk to you, and tell them to come up with some kind of deal, can that work Detective Demeester? Please? ... Mr. Demeester, here's what I'm telling you, man. Here's my word, man ... when I come down there to homicide, man, I'll take a lie detector or whatever, Mr. Demeester. I can help y'all with whatever y'all want. I can take y'all to everything .... [w]hatever y'all ask for, man, that's what I'm going to do. That's my word, man.
DETECTIVE: Would you want to talk to me without your attorney?
LEWIS: I would talk to you without my attorney, if that's what the attorney said, yes. That's my word, man. I just want you to know that I didn't kill him period.
DETECTIVE: What I'm going to do is I'm going to call the district attorney that is handling the case right now, I'm going let him know that you are reaching out to me and that you want to talk ... but we're going to have to communicate with your attorney, man, I mean, you know, and I can almost guarantee you they're going to tell you not to talk to me. But, you know, that's just the way it is. What you have to understand is that you're also a grown man and you can choose, you know, if you feel that the attorney is not acting in your best interest, then you don't have to ... you can not listen to them, you know what I mean?

(Emphasis supplied.)

Detective Demeester also told Lewis that had Lewis cooperated when he was first arrested, he "wouldn't be in this situation right now." Lewis explained that his initial hesitancy to cooperate stemmed from his recollection of his attorney's advice in a different criminal proceeding, in which Lewis's lawyer told him to never speak with law enforcement without counsel present, but that Lewis was now "willing to do everything, Mr. Demeester. That's my word. I'm talking about everything." He then repeated his offer to bring Detective Demeester to the Gault Street house and show him where everyone was standing during the armed robbery. Detective Demeester again told Lewis that he would inform the district attorney of Lewis's interest in cooperating and "go from there." The call ended after Detective Demeester told Lewis that he would be in contact "real soon," and Lewis asked Detective Demeester to stay in contact with Lewis's sister, whom Detective Demeester promised to call first thing the next morning.

(c) Lewis's Custodial Interview .

The next day, April 25, 2011, Detective Demeester brought Lewis to the Atlanta Police Department headquarters to conduct a video-recorded interview. Before Lewis gave his statement, he acknowledged that he had contacted and asked to speak with Detective Demeester via a three-way phone call the day before. At the outset of the interview, Detective Demeester confirmed Lewis's education level and that Lewis could read and write English. After Detective Demeester reviewed it with Lewis, Lewis signed a written waiver form that listed his rights under Miranda and memorialized that he waived his right to counsel. The following exchange then occurred:

LEWIS: So, the DA never said they was going to try to help me out.
DETECTIVE: I'm not saying that, no.
LEWIS: Okay, they didn't?
DETECTIVE: I'm sorry?

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5 cases
  • Collins v. State
    • United States
    • Georgia Supreme Court
    • October 5, 2021
    ...Burdine's attorney did not object to this instruction at trial, we review this enumeration for plain error only. See Lewis v. State , 311 Ga. 650, 664, 859 S.E.2d 1 (2021). Accordingly, the alleged instructional error requires reversal only if it "was not affirmatively waived; was clear and......
  • Durham v. State
    • United States
    • Georgia Court of Appeals
    • August 30, 2022
    ...(2018).3 Foster's indictments do not include a charge for possession of the sawed-off shotgun.4 (Citation omitted.) Lewis v. State , 311 Ga. 650, 665 (4), 859 S.E.2d 1 (2021). See also State v. Johnson , 305 Ga. 237, 240, 824 S.E.2d 317 (2019), citing OCGA § 24-14-8 ; Stanbury v. State , 29......
  • Durham v. State
    • United States
    • Georgia Court of Appeals
    • August 30, 2022
    ... ... theft charge ... [2] See, e.g., Hawkins v. State, ... 304 Ga. 299, 300 (1) (818 S.E.2d 513) (2018) ... [3] Foster's indictments do not ... include a charge for possession of the sawed-off ... shotgun ... [4] (Citation omitted.) Lewis v ... State, 311 Ga. 650, 665 (4) (859 S.E.2d 1) (2021). See ... also State v. Johnson, 305 Ga. 237, 240 (824 S.E.2d ... 317) (2019), citing OCGA § 24-14-8; Stanbury v ... State, 299 Ga. 125, 129-130 (2) (786 S.E.2d 672) (2016); ... Burns v. State, 342 Ga.App. 379, ... ...
  • Washington v. State
    • United States
    • Georgia Supreme Court
    • September 21, 2021
    ...if only the error seriously affects the fairness, integrity, or public reputation of judicial proceedings. Lewis v. State , 311 Ga. 650, –––– (4), 859 S.E.2d 1 (2021) (citation, punctuation, and emphasis omitted). As we have noted, affirmatively establishing all four prongs "is a difficult ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • Evidence
    • United States
    • Mercer University School of Law Mercer Law Reviews No. 74-1, September 2022
    • Invalid date
    ...at 492.15. Id. at 183, 188, 860 S.E.2d at 497, 500. 16. Id. at 188, 194, 860 S.E.2d at 500, 504.17. O.C.G.A. § 24-8-824 (2022).18. Id.19. 311 Ga. 650, 859 S.E.2d 1 (2021).20. Id. at 657-58, 859 S.E.2d at 9.21. Id. at 658, 859 S.E.2d at 9.22. Id.23. O.C.G.A. § 24-8-807 (2011).24. 312 Ga. 771......

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