Moody v. State

Decision Date16 May 2023
Docket NumberS23P0046
CourtGeorgia Supreme Court


In 2007, Jeremy Moody was charged with the April 5, 2007, rape and murder of 13-year-old Chrisondra Kimble and the murder of Kimble's 15-year-old cousin, Delarlonva Mattox Jr.,[1] and other related offenses. Shortly after Moody's jury trial began in April 2013, Moody pleaded guilty to two counts each of malice murder, felony murder predicated on aggravated assault, aggravated assault, aggravated assault with intent to rob, and kidnapping with bodily injury, as well as to one count of rape. At the conclusion of the sentencing phase, a jury found the existence of multiple statutory aggravating circumstances as to each murder and recommended a sentence of death for each murder, and the trial court sentenced Moody accordingly. See OCGA §§ 17-10-30 (b); 17-10-31 (a).[2]

On appeal, Moody raises thirteen claims of error, which we reject, concluding as follows. The trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying Moody's request to withdraw his guilty plea, because his plea was knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily entered and therefore its withdrawal was not required to prevent a manifest injustice. By pleading guilty to all charges in the indictment against him, Moody waived his constitutional rights to represent himself at the trial he forewent and to decide the objective of his defense at such a trial. The trial court did not err in denying Moody's challenge to the composition of the master jury list, because he failed to show any violations of "essential and substantial" provisions of a jury selection statute that would warrant automatic reversal or would establish a prima facie case of a Sixth Amendment fair cross-section violation. The trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying Moody's motion for a mistrial based on juror misconduct, because the juror at issue did not share the information that he had learned from his misconduct with the remaining jurors and because the trial court promptly removed him. There was no plain error resulting from the admission of the challenged victim impact testimony because there is no reasonable probability that the testimony contributed to the jury's decision to impose Moody's death sentences. The trial court did not err in charging the jury that its verdict as to sentencing must be unanimous. The record does not support Moody's prosecutorial misconduct claims or that the State pursued inconsistent theories in this trial and in that of his co-defendant.[3] The State's expert witness's testimony about his trainees' testing and evaluation of Moody did not violate the Confrontation Clause. And we reject Moody's other constitutional challenges - the execution of persons with mental illness not rising to the level of intellectual disability violates neither the federal nor the state constitutions, Georgia's death penalty statutes are not unconstitutional, and qualifying jurors according to their death penalty views is not unconstitutional.

Finally, as statutorily required in death penalty appeals, we also review three additional matters regarding Moody's sentence. See OCGA § 17-10-35 (c). We determine that the sentence of death in this case was not imposed under the influence of passion, prejudice, or any other arbitrary factor. We determine that the evidence was sufficient to support the jury's finding beyond a reasonable doubt the existence of each of the statutory aggravating circumstances that it found. And we determine that the sentence of death is not excessive or disproportionate to the penalty imposed in similar cases, considering both the crimes and the defendant. We therefore affirm Moody's convictions and sentences.

1. Because Moody pled guilty at the very beginning of the guilt/innocence phase of his trial, the only trial at which evidence was presented was his sentencing trial; the evidence presented at that sentencing trial showed the following. On April 5, 2007, Kimble and Mattox were spending their spring break from school at Mattox's father's home. Kimble's mother, who is the sister of Mattox's father, lived in the same home, and the cousins' grandmother was staying there temporarily to help care for her grandchildren. Between 4:00 p.m. and 4:30 p.m., Kimble and Mattox told their grandmother that they were going to walk to the store to buy some snacks. When the teens had not returned by approximately 7:00 p.m., their grandmother and parents became concerned. After checking with the teens' friends with no success, the teens' parents contacted law enforcement and then, joined by other family members, searched for the missing teens late into the night. Early the next day, friends and neighbors joined family members in the search.

During the search, the families learned that Kimble and Mattox had been seen in the area of nearby Bethune Elementary School. Based on this information, on the afternoon of April 6, 2007, Kimble's mother and a young man from the neighborhood searched an area behind the school. While doing so, Kimble's mother noticed an open area in the fence and walked through it and into the wooded area behind it. There, she first saw some clothing, then the body of her nephew Mattox, and lastly the body of her daughter.

When they were found, they were both naked except for socks on their feet and a leather belt tied around Mattox's ankles. Piles of clothing were located near Mattox's body, and law enforcement officials also discovered a store receipt from Dollar Tree at the crime scene. The medical examiner testified that both victims suffered numerous stab wounds that were consistent with the use of a flatheaded screwdriver. Blood spatter was located on a tree trunk near the ground, indicating that the victims were stabbed while lying on the ground.

According to the medical examiner, Kimble's primary cause of death was multiple stab wounds to her neck, with secondary causes being blunt trauma to the neck and stab wounds to the head. The medical examiner testified that Kimble received thirteen stab wounds to her neck and three stab wounds to her head, including what would have been a "very severe[ly]" painful wound to the ear. The medical examiner further testified that Kimble suffered blunt trauma to her neck and petechial hemorrhages in her eyes, injuries consistent with manual strangulation, and that she had vaginal injuries and abrasions on her face and thighs that were consistent with her being face down in a wooded area and having her face and the front of her body repeatedly thrust against vegetation. The medical examiner opined that the stab wounds and the injuries to the vaginal area most likely occurred before Kimble's death and that Kimble could have survived for "minutes" or for "hours" after the stab wounds, although she would not have survived "very long following the strangulation." Subsequent forensic testing of the vaginal smears from Kimble revealed the presence of Moody's DNA.

The medical examiner testified that Mattox's cause of death was stab wounds to the head, neck, and chest and that he had approximately 41 stab wounds in total, including approximately 14 stab wounds to his neck alone. The medical examiner testified that the injuries to his neck would have been "quite painful" and would have resulted in "significant bleeding," as his left carotid artery and both of his jugular veins were pierced. She also opined that the multiple stab wounds to the top of Mattox's head would have required a significant amount of force to inflict, as they went through the skull and penetrated his brain, and that they would have been "very painful." According to her testimony, some of the stabs to Mattox's chest entered his chest cavity and damaged the cephalic brachial vein, resulting in the collection of approximately half a liter of blood in his chest, and it would have taken "several minutes to an hour or so" for Mattox to bleed to death. She also testified that an abrasion on Mattox's back was consistent with his lying face-up in a wooded area with someone on top of him inflicting stab wounds.

The next day, on April 7, 2007, law enforcement officials received a telephone call from Moody's ex-girlfriend, Tameka Wright, who identified Moody as a suspect. Wright said that Moody might be attempting to leave town and that they should look for him at the bus station, and she provided a description of what Moody was wearing. Moody was arrested at the bus station with paperwork in his possession regarding trips to Orlando and Houston. On the way to the police station, Moody asked why he was being arrested. When his question was not answered, Moody suggested that he had watched the news and then stated, "You're not going to do this to me. You're not going to put those kids on me."

Wright testified for the State regarding a statement that she had given to law enforcement officials on the day of Moody's arrest. According to Wright, Moody called her at 5:21 p.m. on the day of the murders and said that he was going to commit a robbery. Moody called her again about two hours later, saying that he had money. Later that night, he met her at her job and told her "that he didn't have the money, that it didn't go right, things didn't go as planned." Moody said that he had killed two drug dealers and that "they didn't really mean nothing . . . [t]o nobody." Moody said that the victims had believed that he had a gun, and that he had walked them "at gunpoint" into the woods near his mother's house killed them, and left their bodies in the woods. Moody described the victims as "young" and "scared." He also said that he undressed the victims because he did not want any evidence, such as hairs or fibers, to be found on them. Moody told...

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