Mangrum v. State

Citation285 Ga. 676,681 S.E.2d 130
Decision Date15 June 2009
Docket NumberNo. S09A0525.,S09A0525.
PartiesMANGRUM v. The STATE.
CourtSupreme Court of Georgia

Scott Patrick Archer, J. Daran Burns, Burns, Speights & Grisham, Canton, for Appellant.

Garry T. Moss, Dist. Atty., Wallace W. Rogers, Jr., Asst. Dist. Atty., Thurbert E. Baker, Atty. Gen., Elizabeth Anne Harris, Asst. Atty. Gen., for Appellee.

CARLEY, Justice.

A jury found Jamerson Mangrum guilty of three counts of felony murder, two counts of aggravated child molestation, and one count of rape, abandoning a dead body, concealing a death and tampering with evidence. The trial court entered judgments of conviction and imposed a life sentence for the felony murder with rape as the underlying felony, consecutive thirty-year sentences for the aggravated child molestations, consecutive ten-year sentences for concealing a death and for tampering, and a concurrent twelve-month sentence for abandoning a dead body. The rape was merged into the felony murder conviction, and the other two felony murder verdicts were vacated by operation of law. See Malcolm v. State, 263 Ga. 369, 372(5), 434 S.E.2d 479 (1993). The trial court denied a motion for new trial, and Mangrum appeals.*

1. Construed most strongly in support of the verdicts, the evidence shows that Mangrum called and spoke to the 15-year-old victim at about one o'clock in the morning. An hour later, neighbors saw two vehicles, one of which looked like Mangrum's vehicle, speed away from his house, proceed through a stop sign, and leave the subdivision on a road that dead-ends into Kemp Road in Cherokee County. Five hours later, the victim's nude and burned body was found dumped near a bridge on Kemp Road, about a mile from Mangrum's house.

Mangrum gave conflicting statements to the police about what happened after he spoke to the victim. He first said that he had not seen her and had gone to bed, but he later stated that he and the victim had sex at his house, after which he took her to a party and left her there. At trial, Mangrum testified to another version of events, denying that he had sex with the victim at his own house, but claiming that he took her to a friend's apartment and had sexual intercourse with her there, but not oral or anal sex, and that he then left her at that apartment.

DNA testing revealed that spermatozoa found in the victim's mouth, anus and vagina came from Mangrum. Two witnesses who were in jail with Mangrum testified that he told them that he sexually assaulted the victim as other men held her down, and that she fought with them as she was choked. According to the witnesses, Mangrum said that they burned the victim's body in an attempt to destroy evidence linking them to the crime.

The cause of the victim's death was determined to be asphyxia. The autopsy revealed symmetrical hemorrhages over the victim's left and right collar bones, and deep muscle hemorrhages between her shoulder blades and the small of her back. The medical examiner who conducted the autopsy, as well as an expert in forensic pathology who reviewed the case, testified that the large bruising on the victim's back was consistent with her having been held down with a great deal of force, possibly from a knee. The evidence was sufficient for a rational trier of fact to find Mangrum guilty of felony murder and the other offenses beyond a reasonable doubt. Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560 (1979).

2. Mangrum claims that the trial court erred in admitting his statements to police into evidence because they were induced by fear of injury and hope of benefit, in violation of OCGA § 24-3-50. However, Mangrum has waived these specific claims because he did not raise them in his motion in limine, at the hearing held pursuant to Jackson v. Denno, 378 U.S. 368, 84 S.Ct. 1774, 12 L.Ed.2d 908 (1964), or when the statements were introduced into evidence. See Morse v. State, 288 Ga.App. 725, 730(2), 655 S.E.2d 217 (2007); Williams v. State, 270 Ga.App. 480, 481-482, 606 S.E.2d 671 (2004).

Even if the claims were not waived, they are without merit. Under OCGA § 24-3-50, in order for an incriminatory statement to be admissible, "`it must have been made voluntarily, without being induced by another by the slightest hope of benefit or remotest fear of injury.'" Vergara v. State, 283 Ga. 175, 177(1), 657 S.E.2d 863 (2008). The "hope of benefit" that will render a statement involuntary must relate to the charges facing the suspect, and generally refers to the reward of a lighter sentence for confessing. Foster v. State, 283 Ga. 484, 485(2), 660 S.E.2d 521 (2008); Preston v. State, 282 Ga. 210, 212(2), 647 S.E.2d 260 (2007). Here, the officers did not offer a lighter sentence in exchange for Mangrum confessing to the crimes committed against the victim. Rather, they admonished him to tell the truth, or else face arrest for felony hindering of the investigation. "Exhortations to tell the truth are not a hope of benefit that renders a confession inadmissible under OCGA § 24-3-50. [Cit.]" Foster v. State, supra at 487(2), 660 S.E.2d 521. Moreover, "a statement by police that makes the defendant `aware of potential legal consequences' is `in the nature of a mere truism' that does not constitute a ... promise of benefit within the meaning of this Code section. [Cit.]" Smith v. State, 291 Ga.App. 535, 537, 662 S.E.2d 305 (2008).

"Insofar as the `remotest fear of injury' is concerned, any confession obtained through physical or mental torture is inadmissible. [Cit.]" State v. Roberts, 273 Ga. 514, 517(4), 543 S.E.2d 725 (2001), overruled in part on other grounds, Vergara v. State, supra at 178(1), 657 S.E.2d 863. Although the police did not threaten Mangrum with any physical or mental harm, he contends that a detective violated the "fear of injury" prohibition by saying, "If you lie to us and we put you back out there on the street and they, then you're dead. How's your mama going to feel? We can't help you." Contrary to Mangrum's contention, the suggestion by the detective that Mangrum might be safer remaining in police custody did not render the custodial statements involuntary. See Carswell v. State, 268 Ga. 531, 533(2), 491 S.E.2d 343 (1997) (investigators did not exercise undue influence by suggesting defendant would be better off in police custody because community members had threatened to harm the murderer).

Finally, we reject Mangrum's claim that his statements were not voluntary under the "totality of the circumstances" test, as applied to a 17-year-old. Age alone is not determinative of whether a person can waive his rights and give a voluntary statement. Murray v. State, 276 Ga. 396, 397(2), 578 S.E.2d 853 (2003); Rounds v. State, 166 Ga. App. 212, 213(2), 303 S.E.2d 543 (1983). Indeed, "`[o]ur courts have approved statements from defendants of even younger years. [Cits.]' [Cits.]" Stone v. State, 271 Ga.App. 748, 750(1), 610 S.E.2d 684 (2005). Under the totality of the circumstances, Mangrum has failed to show that the trial court abused its discretion in allowing the statements into evidence. See Nelson v. State, 289 Ga.App. 326, 329(1), 657 S.E.2d 263 (2008) (no error in trial court's conclusion that 15-year-old made voluntary statement).

3. Mangrum contends that because he was not re-advised of his rights under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966), after a two-hour break in questioning by detectives, any statements made after that break should have been suppressed. However, the lack of a Miranda warning after the break "is of no consequence, as [Mangrum] was informed of and waived his Miranda rights before the first interview and ... the second interview ... [was] part of a continuous series of interviews." Carswell v. State, 279 Ga. 342, 343(2)(a), 613 S.E.2d 636 (2005). See also Williams v. State, 244 Ga. 485, 488(4)(b), 260 S.E.2d 879 (1979) ("no duty to repeat the Miranda warnings given the day before where, as here, the interviews were part of a continuing interrogation"); Watson v. State, 227 Ga. 698, 700(1), 182 S.E.2d 446 (1971) (further warning not necessary after seven-hour lapse between statements).

4. Mangrum claims that the trial court erred in denying his motion for a mistrial after an expert in forensic pathology opined about the ultimate issue in the case by testifying that the manner of death was a homicide. "A witness generally is not permitted to express his or her opinion regarding an ultimate issue in the case because to do so would invade the fact-finding province of the jury...." Medlock v. State, 263 Ga. 246, 248(3), 430 S.E.2d 754 (1993). However, in this case, whether the death was a homicide was not the ultimate issue for the jury to decide. Rather, the ultimate issue was whether Mangrum, who presented an alibi defense and attempted to implicate other suspects, was culpable for the killing of the victim. See Wright v. State, 285 Ga. 57, 63(5), 673 S.E.2d 249 (2009) (ultimate issue was whether appellant caused fatal injuries to victim); Collum v. State, 281 Ga. 719, 722(3), 642 S.E.2d 640 (2007) (ultimate issue was not whether victim beaten to death, but "was the identity of the person or persons responsible for the beating"). Because the expert's testimony did not go to the ultimate issue and did not invade the province of the jury, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying the motion for a mistrial. See Pittman v. State, 274 Ga. 260, 262(2), 553 S.E.2d 616 (2001) ("Whether to grant a motion for mistrial lies within the sound discretion of the trial court. [Cit.]").

5. Mangrum contends that although he was indicted for felony murder, with rape as the underlying felony, the jury could have found that the victim died during the commission of the lesser offense of statutory rape, which was a misdemeanor due to his age and that of the victim. See OCGA § 16-6-3(c). Thus, he reasons, the trial court erred in failing to...

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