Linson v. The State, S10A1225.

CourtSupreme Court of Georgia
Citation287 Ga. 881,700 S.E.2d 394
Docket NumberNo. S10A1225.,S10A1225.
PartiesLINSON v. The STATE.
Decision Date04 October 2010

287 Ga. 881
700 S.E.2d 394


No. S10A1225.

Supreme Court of Georgia.

Oct. 4, 2010.


700 S.E.2d 396

Julianne W. Holliday, LaGrange, for appellant.

Monique Lynn Kirby, Asst. Dist. Atty., Thurbert E. Baker, Attorney General, Peter J. Skandalakis, District Attorney, Timothy M. Marlow, Asst. Dist. Atty., Sheila E. Gallow, Assistant Attorney General, Mary Beth Westmoreland, Deputy Attorney General, Paula K. Smith, Senior Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

CARLEY, Presiding Justice.

287 Ga. 881

Appellant Vickie Faye Linson was charged with malice murder, felony murder, and cruelty to children, and, after a jury trial, she was found guilty of each offense. The trial court entered judgments of conviction on the guilty verdicts and imposed concurrent sentences of life imprisonment for malice murder and felony murder and 20 years for cruelty to children. A motion for new trial was denied, and Appellant appeals. *

1. Construed most strongly in support of the verdicts, the evidence shows that the victim of all crimes charged was Zi'Terrian Linson, who was Appellant's 16-month-old son, was afraid of her, and had been physically abused by her on numerous occasions. Mario Johnson, who was Appellant's codefendant at trial, was her boyfriend and lived in the same apartment. On the morning of January 2, 2008, Appellant awakened Johnson and asked him to take care of

287 Ga. 882

the victim. She did not follow her usual practice of notifying her child care provider that the victim would not be coming that day. Although Appellant claimed that she heard the victim fall out of bed, she left for work, later telling friends that she heard him crying and knew that he was dying.

Johnson tried to console the victim, finally realized something was wrong, and sought help in a panicked and distraught manner. Emergency personnel found the victim cool to the touch and in a very grave condition. Appellant arrived and was unemotional, trying to obtain information from Johnson, and declining to ride in the ambulance or with the police escort. Having learned that the victim's body was cool, Appellant falsely reported a problem with the apartment's heating unit. She later incorrectly told police that she did not have a phone number for the child care provider. At the hospital, Johnson continued to be distraught and Appellant was unconcerned. Several witnesses testified to Appellant's lack of grief and apparently insincere displays of grief when the victim's death was announced and at the time of the funeral.

The forensic pathologist testified that the victim had extensive external and internal injuries which were caused by blunt force trauma, including a great amount of force to the abdomen, and were inconsistent with a single fall. The primary cause of death was internal bleeding from extensive lacerations to the liver. Relying on part of a statement by Johnson as to time and medical testimony presented by the defense, Appellant contends that the fatal injury was likely inflicted after she left home. However, according to the pathologist's testimony and contrary to Appellant's contention, the nature of the victim's

700 S.E.2d 397

injuries and the temperature of his body indicate that those injuries and even the death itself could have occurred well before Appellant left for work.

Both Appellant and Johnson stipulated to the admissibility of polygraph examinations. The examination of Johnson was inconclusive as to whether he caused the injuries to the victim's stomach, but Appellant's examination strongly indicated deception in all of her relevant responses. See Johnson v. State, 281 Ga. 770, 771(1), 642 S.E.2d 827 (2007); Hendrick v. State, 257 Ga. 514, 515(3), 361 S.E.2d 169 (1987).

“ ‘ “(Q)uestions as to reasonableness are generally to be decided by the jury which heard the evidence and where the jury is authorized to find that the evidence, though circumstantial, was sufficient to exclude every reasonable hypothesis save that of guilt, the appellate court will not disturb that finding, unless the verdict of guilty is unsupportable as a matter of law.” (Cit.)’ (Cit.) It is the role of the jury to
287 Ga. 883

resolve conflicts in the evidence and to determine the credibility of witnesses, and the resolution of such conflicts adversely to the defendant does not render the evidence insufficient. (Cit.)” [Cit.]

Phillips v. State, 287 Ga. 560, 561-562(1), 697 S.E.2d 818 (2010). Reviewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdicts, we conclude that it was sufficient to exclude every reasonable hypothesis except for that of Appellant's guilt and to authorize a rational trier of fact to find her guilty of the crimes charged. Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560 (1979); Jackson v. State, 281 Ga. 705-706(1), 642 S.E.2d 656 (2007).

2. Appellant urges that the trial court's conduct, rulings, and comments compromised its neutrality and violated Appellant's constitutional right to a fair, adversarial, and reliable trial, as codified in OCGA § 17-8-57.

The State argues that, because Appellant failed to object to any of the first three comments of which she complains, she has waived any error.

However, we have clarified that a violation of OCGA § 17-8-57 will always constitute “plain error,” meaning that the failure to object at trial will not waive the issue on appeal. [Cit.] On appeal, the issue is simply whether there was such a violation. If so, “(i)t is well established that th(e) statutory language is mandatory and that a violation of OCGA § 17-8-57 requires a new trial. (Cits.)” [Cit.]

State v. Gardner, 286 Ga. 633, 634, 690 S.E.2d 164 (2010).

OCGA § 17-8-57 mandates reversal of the judgment in a criminal case where the trial court expresses its opinion “as to what has or has not been proved or as to the guilt of the accused....” “Such reversal is required, though, only when such comments are made in the presence of the jury. [Cit.]” Johnson v. State, 278 Ga. 344, 346(2), 602 S.E.2d 623 (2004). See also Lockaby v. State, 265 Ga.App. 527, 528(1), 594 S.E.2d 729 (2004) ( “ ‘the purpose of OCGA § 17-8-57 is to prevent the jury from being influenced’ ”). One comment of which Appellant complains occurred when the trial court, in an effort to keep the proceedings under control and to prevent a disturbance, warned Appellant outside the presence of the jury that she would be removed from the courtroom if she could not stay under control. “We find nothing improper in the trial court's conduct.” Cheek v....

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46 cases
  • Rouse v. State
    • United States
    • Georgia Supreme Court
    • 17 Noviembre 2014
    ...judge indicating the court's opinion that a critical element that must be proved by the State was not in dispute.2 See Linson v. State, 287 Ga. 881, 883–884, 700 S.E.2d 394 (2010) (statement during preliminary instructions that State may not use all of its witnesses and “may 765 S.E.2d 882t......
  • Pyatt v. State
    • United States
    • Georgia Supreme Court
    • 25 Marzo 2016
    ...jury's verdicts. See McCartney v. State, 262 Ga. 156, 159(1), 414 S.E.2d 227 (1992), overruled on other grounds, Linson v. State, 287 Ga. 881, 886(4), 700 S.E.2d 394 (2010). Compare Bridges v. State, 286 Ga. 535, 540(5), 690 S.E.2d 136 (2010).Further, I do not agree with the majority's conc......
  • Ledford v. the State.
    • United States
    • Georgia Supreme Court
    • 12 Abril 2011
    ...statute does not exempt the defendant from prosecution and punishment under the other.” (Cit.)’ [Cit.]” [Cit.]Linson v. State, 287 Ga. 881, 885(4), 700 S.E.2d 394 (2010). Both malice murder and aggravated battery require a malicious intent. See OCGA §§ 16–5–1(a), 16–5–24(a). However, “ ‘(t)......
  • Metcalf v. State
    • United States
    • Georgia Court of Appeals
    • 13 Marzo 2019
    ...requires proof of at least one additional element which the other does not." (Citations and punctuation omitted.) Linson v. State , 287 Ga. 881, 886 (4), 700 S.E.2d 394 (2010). See also Brown v. State , 321 Ga. App. 798, 803 (3), 743 S.E.2d 474 (2013) (" Drinkard -required evidence test for......
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