Morris v. the State., A11A0315.

Decision Date17 June 2011
Docket NumberNo. A11A0315.,A11A0315.
PartiesMORRISv.The STATE.
CourtGeorgia Court of Appeals

310 Ga.App. 126
712 S.E.2d 130
11 FCDR 2019

MORRIS
v.
The STATE.

No. A11A0315.

Court of Appeals of Georgia.

June 17, 2011.


[712 S.E.2d 131]

Gerard Bradley Kleinrock, for appellant.R. Javoyne Hicks White, Dist. Atty., Daniel James Quinn, Asst. Dist. Atty., for appellee.BARNES, Presiding Judge.

[310 Ga.App. 126] Isaac Morris got out of his vehicle and punched a pedestrian, who fell backward onto the pavement and later died from the resulting skull fracture. Morris was indicted on the charge of voluntary manslaughter, but was convicted of involuntary manslaughter. On appeal from the denial of his motion for a new trial, Morris contends that the trial court erred by allowing the State to amend the indictment to charge the crime of involuntary manslaughter. He further contends that his conviction is void because it rests upon an indictment that did not allege the critical element of intent. For the reasons discussed below, we affirm.

Following a criminal conviction, we view the evidence in the light most favorable to the jury's verdict. Gordon v. State, 294 Ga.App. 908(1), 670 S.E.2d 533 (2008). So viewed, the evidence showed that on July 10, 2007, Morris was driving his truck during evening rush hour. As he turned left onto a side street to avoid the heavy traffic, Morris almost struck a pedestrian walking across the intersection[310 Ga.App. 127] .1 After the near collision, Morris stopped his truck in the middle of the street, got out, exchanged words with the pedestrian, and struck the pedestrian in the face once with his fist. The pedestrian fell backward and hit his head on the street. As the pedestrian lay in the street unconscious and bleeding from the head, Morris dragged him to the curb. Morris called 911 but drove off before an ambulance or the police arrived. The pedestrian was rushed by ambulance to the hospital but later died from the head injury he sustained from the fall.

[712 S.E.2d 132]

Several eyewitnesses called 911, and one of them provided the license plate number of the truck that drove away from the scene. Based upon this information, a detective learned that Morris was the owner of the truck and obtained a photograph of him. The detective then compiled a photographic lineup and showed it to a witness, who identified Morris as the person who had struck the pedestrian.

Morris was arrested and indicted on the charge of voluntary manslaughter. The indictment averred that Morris did cause the death of another human being, to wit:

[the victim], by striking [the victim] with his fist, while acting as a result of a sudden, violent and irresistible passion resulting from serious provocation sufficient to excite such passion in a reasonable person contrary to the laws of said State, the good order, peace and dignity thereof.

On the first day of trial, after the jury was selected, the prosecutor noted to the trial court that the single count of the indictment was captioned “voluntary manslaughter” but that the language of the count omitted any allegation that Morris acted with the intent to kill. The prosecutor further stated that the State did not believe that Morris had acted with the intent to kill. Consequently, the prosecutor requested that the case proceed only on the lesser included charge of involuntary manslaughter and contended that Morris had notice of such a charge based upon the factual allegations in the indictment.

Over objection from Morris, the trial court ruled that the case would proceed on the lesser included charge of involuntary manslaughter by the commission of the unlawful act of simple battery.2 See OCGA §§ 16–5–3(a); 16–5–23(a). The court then instructed the [310 Ga.App. 128] jury prior to opening statements that the charge in the indictment had been “changed” from voluntary manslaughter to involuntary manslaughter.

In the ensuing trial, several eyewitnesses and the detective assigned to the case testified to the events as set out above. The deputy chief medical examiner testified that the cause of the pedestrian's death was blunt force trauma to the head caused by impact with a flat surface, and that the “enormous skull fractures” would not have occurred if the pedestrian had fallen to the ground “on his own” rather than from a blow. Furthermore, Morris took the stand and admitted that he got out of his truck and intentionally struck the pedestrian once with his fist, causing the pedestrian to fall backward onto the street. He denied that he intended to kill or harm the pedestrian.

Following the close of evidence, the trial court in its charge to the jury reiterated that involuntary manslaughter was the “only charge” and instructed them solely on the lesser included offense of involuntary manslaughter by the commission of the unlawful act of simple battery. The jury subsequently convicted Morris of involuntary manslaughter. Morris moved for a new trial, and the trial court denied the motion, leading to this appeal.

1. The evidence was sufficient to authorize a rational jury to find Morris guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of involuntary manslaughter by the commission of the unlawful act of simple battery. Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560 (1979). “Questions concerning the weight of the evidence and credibility of the witnesses were for the jury to decide.” Johnson v. State, 289 Ga.App. 206, 208, 656 S.E.2d 861 (2008).

2. Morris contends that the trial court erred by allowing the State to amend the indictment, over his objection, from voluntary manslaughter to involuntary manslaughter by the commission of the unlawful act of simple battery. He maintains that the indictment did not allege the facts necessary to establish that offense. Therefore, Morris asserts that his due process rights were violated because he was never put on notice that he could be convicted of involuntary manslaughter.

[712 S.E.2d 133]

“An indictment cannot be materially amended after the grand jury has returned the indictment into court; any subsequent amendment by the trial court or prosecution that materially affects the indictment is void and cannot serve as the basis for a...

To continue reading

Request your trial
14 cases
  • Sneiderman v. State
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • March 11, 2016
    ...the indictment employs language that necessarily raises an inference that the requisite criminal intent existed." Morris v. State, 310 Ga.App. 126, 130, 712 S.E.2d 130 (2011) (citation and punctuation omitted); Humphrey v. State, 231 Ga. 855, 861, 204 S.E.2d 603 (1974). It follows that the ......
  • State v. Wilson
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • October 19, 2012
    ...even if the trial court directs a verdict on the offense expressly charged in the indictment.(Citations omitted.) Morris v. State, 310 Ga.App. 126, 129(2), 712 S.E.2d 130 (2011). See also OCGA § 16–1–6 (“An accused may be convicted of a crime included in a crime charged in the indictment or......
  • Nix v. State
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • February 13, 2020
    ...the indictment is void and cannot serve as the basis for a conviction." (Citation and punctuation omitted.) Morris v. State , 310 Ga. App. 126, 128 (2), 712 S.E.2d 130 (2011). "An amendment to the indictment can be actual or constructive; a constructive amendment occurs when the essential e......
  • Smith v. State
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • March 1, 2017
    ...a specific crime, he performs any act which constitutes a substantial step toward the commission of that crime."); Morris v. State, 310 Ga.App. 126, 131 (3), 712 S.E.2d 130 (2011) ("It is immaterial what the offense is called in the indictment as long as the averments of the presentment are......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT