Raulerson v. State

Decision Date06 October 1997
Docket NumberS97P1207,Nos. S97P1166,s. S97P1166
Citation491 S.E.2d 791,268 Ga. 623
Parties, 97 FCDR 3713 RAULERSON v. The STATE.
CourtGeorgia Supreme Court

Leon A. Wilson, II, John Mark Hatfield, The Wilson Law Firm, Waycross, for Billy Daniel Raulerson.

Richard Ernest Currie, Dist. Atty., Waycross, Thurbert E. Baker, Atty. Gen., Wesley Scott Horney, Asst. Atty. Gen., Department of Law, Atlanta, Alexander John Markowich, Asst. Dist. Atty., Waycross, Susan V. Boleyn, Senior Asst. Atty. Gen., Department of Law, Atlanta, for the State.

Michael Mears, MultiCounty Public Defender, for other interested parties.

BENHAM, Chief Justice.

Appellant Billy Daniel Raulerson received three death sentences for the malice murders of teenagers Jason Hampton and Charlye Dixon and the felony murder of Gail Taylor. Raulerson was also convicted of burglary, kidnapping, necrophilia, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. 1

On May 31, 1993, the bodies of Jason Hampton, Charlye Dixon, and Gail Taylor were found in separate locations in Ware County. Each victim had been shot multiple times by a .22 caliber rifle, and Ms. Taylor suffered a potentially fatal knife wound to her wrist. Semen and spermatozoa were found in Ms. Dixon's rectum. Seven months later, appellant was arrested on unrelated aggravated assault and weapons charges and gave police a blood sample. Analysis of the DNA from the blood sample and from the semen recovered from Ms. Dixon led an expert to conclude that both samples of body fluid originated from the same person. After receiving the DNA test results, law enforcement officers questioned appellant about the three murders, and he admitted killing the three victims. When officers executed a search warrant at appellant's residence, they found a fishing rod and reel identified as having been taken from Hampton's pickup truck the night he was killed, and parts of a .22 caliber rifle. A ballistics expert testified that the shell casings found near Hampton's body and in Ms. Taylor's home were probably fired from the rifle found in appellant's home.

In statements to investigating officers after the DNA test results were known, appellant admitted parking his car the evening of May 30, 1993, at a Ware County lakeside In response to expert testimony presented by appellant that tests administered after the crimes established that appellant was mentally retarded with an IQ of 69, the State presented expert testimony appellant's IQ at age 15 (9 years earlier) was 83. The State's psychologist opined that there was no indication that appellant was severely mentally ill.

"lovers' lane" near the pickup truck occupied by Hampton and Dixon. Appellant stated that he stood on the bed of the pickup truck and shot Hampton several times, and then shot Dixon as she attempted to flee. Appellant dragged Hampton's body from the truck and shot him several more times; he then put Dixon and two fishing rods from the pickup truck in his vehicle and drove to a wooded area several miles away where he shot Dixon again and sodomized her. His attempt to return to Dixon's body the next day was thwarted by the presence of people at the site, so he drove to a rural section of the county looking for a house to burglarize. He stopped at a home with no vehicle in the carport and, when no one responded to his knock at the door, Raulerson broke into a utility shed and stole meat from the freezer. As he was loading the meat into his car, he heard someone inside the house. He entered the home, struggled with Gail Taylor who was armed with a kitchen knife, and shot her multiple times. He then stole Taylor's purse. Appellant told the officers interviewing him that he had stolen the .22 caliber rifle from a Pierce County residence he had burglarized three weeks before the shootings.

1. The evidence summarized above was sufficient to authorize a rational trier of fact to find appellant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of two malice murders and felony murder, burglary, necrophilia, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime and during the commission of a felony. Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560 (1979). With regard to the evidence of the charge that appellant kidnapped Ms. Dixon, appellant contends that the trial court erred in denying his motion for directed verdict of acquittal because the State failed to prove the victim was alive when appellant transported her body from the lakeside shooting site to the area where her body was found.

A directed verdict of acquittal is appropriate when "there is no conflict in the evidence and the evidence introduced with all reasonable deductions and inferences therefrom shall demand a verdict of acquittal or 'not guilty'...." OCGA § 17-9-1(a). In the case at bar, the forensic pathologist who examined Ms. Dixon's body testified that there was nothing which indicated that any of the seven gunshot wounds inflicted upon the victim were inflicted after her death. In his statement to law enforcement officers, appellant said he had shot the victim again after he had transported her from the lovers' lane and before he sexually assaulted her. A reasonable deduction or inference from the pathologist's testimony and appellant's chronicling of events is that the victim was still alive when appellant last shot her, after he took her from the lovers' lane and before he sexually assaulted her. A verdict of acquittal not being demanded by the evidence and the deductions and inferences drawn therefrom, it was not error for the trial court to deny appellant's motion for directed verdict.

2. Raulerson contends that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress the DNA blood and semen comparison evidence, his incriminating statements, and the evidence seized from his residence pursuant to a search warrant.

(a) Appellant first contends that the investigating officers obtained the blood sample from him by means of a warrantless, unreasonable search and seizure. Acknowledging that appellant signed a waiver of the search warrant required to take a blood sample, appellant argues that the State failed to prove that his consent to the search and seizure of his blood was freely and voluntarily given.

In order to justify a warrantless search on the grounds of consent, the State has the burden of proving that the consent was freely and voluntarily given under the totality of the circumstances. Dean v. State, 250 Ga. 77(2a), 295 S.E.2d 306 (1982). See Schneckloth v. Bustamonte, 412 U.S. 218, 229, 93 S.Ct. 2041, 2048-2049, 36 L.Ed.2d 854 Raulerson argues that he was incapable of giving voluntary consent because he is mentally retarded and his limited reading skills precluded him from making a knowing waiver of his right to a search warrant. The strict standard of waiver applied to Fifth Amendment claims does not extend to the protections of the Fourth Amendment, and a suspect's intelligence is only one factor in determining whether consent was voluntary. Schneckloth v. Bustamonte, supra, 412 U.S. at 246, 93 S.Ct. at 2057-2058. Dean v. State, supra, 250 Ga. at 80, 295 S.E.2d 306. There was no evidence presented at the suppression hearing to the effect that Raulerson was mentally retarded, and the evidence presented did not support Raulerson's claim that he lacked the capacity to consent.

                (1973).  See also State v. Davis, 261 Ga. 225, 226, 404 S.E.2d 100 (1991).  Relevant factors include the age of the accused (twenty-four), his education (eighth grade education and literate), his intelligence, the length of detention (twenty-four hours), the fact that appellant was advised of his constitutional rights, that the questioning which produced the consent was not of a prolonged nature, that no physical punishment was used to procure the consent, and the psychological impact of these factors on the accused.  Dean, supra at 80, 295 S.E.2d 306.   No one factor is controlling.  Id
                

Appellant next argues that even if given, his consent was invalid because it was obtained when officers continued to interrogate him after he repeatedly invoked his right to counsel. Edwards v. Arizona, 451 U.S. 477, 101 S.Ct. 1880, 68 L.Ed.2d 378 (1981) (a defendant who invokes his Fifth Amendment right to counsel during custodial interrogation may not be subjected to further interrogation until counsel is made available to him unless he subsequently initiates communication). Even if we assume that blood evidence which is neither testimonial nor communicative in nature is protected by Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966), the officers who interviewed Raulerson and the lab technician who drew the blood sample all testified at the suppression hearing that Raulerson never asked for an attorney. Furthermore, prior to giving his consent, Raulerson executed a signed waiver of counsel. The trial court's conclusion that appellant did not invoke his right to counsel is supported by the evidence and is not clearly erroneous. Therefore, we uphold it. Johnson v. State, 266 Ga. 140(2), 464 S.E.2d 806 (1996). In conclusion, we note that the evidence presented at the suppression hearing failed to demonstrate that Raulerson was incapable of giving consent or that his will was overborne. Under the totality of the circumstances, the trial court's determination that Raulerson freely and voluntarily consented to the drawing of the blood sample is not clearly erroneous. Dean v. State, supra, 250 Ga. at 79-80, 295 S.E.2d 306.

(b) Appellant next takes issue with the trial court's failure to suppress appellant's incriminating statements made while in custody. After conducting a hearing pursuant to Jackson v. Denno, 378 U.S. 368, 84 S.Ct. 1774, 12 L.Ed.2d 908 (1964), the trial court determined that Raulerson's custodial statements were freely and voluntarily given after he had made a knowing...

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