Reed v. The State

Decision Date07 September 2022
Docket NumberS22A0530
Citation314 Ga. 534,878 S.E.2d 217
Parties REED v. THE STATE.
CourtGeorgia Supreme Court

Randall Paul Sharp, Sharp Georgia Law Firm, 4480 South Cobb Drive Suite H, #164, Smyrna, Georgia 30080, for Appellant.

Patricia B. Attaway Burton, Deputy Attorney General, Paula Khristian Smith, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Christopher M. Carr, Attorney General, Parisia Faith Sarfarazi, Assistant Attorney General, Department of Law, 40 Capitol Square SW, Atlanta, Georgia 30334, Fani T. Willis, District Attorney, Fulton County District Attorney's Office, 136 Pryor Street SW Third Floor, Atlanta, Georgia 30303, Lyndsey Hurst Rudder, A.D.A., Fulton County District Attorney's Office, 136 Pryor Street SW 4th Floor, Atlanta, Georgia 30303, Aslean Zachary Eaglin, A.D.A., Fulton County District Attorney's Office, 136 Pryor Street SW Suite C-640, Atlanta, Georgia 30303, Juliana Sleeper, A.D.A., Fulton County - Office of the Fulton County Attorney, 141 Pryor Street, SW Suite 4038, Atlanta, Georgia 30303, Karen S. Bemis, A.D.A., Kevin Christopher Armstrong, A.D.A., Fulton County District Attorney, 136 Pryor Street SW, Atlanta, Georgia 30303, for Appellee.

McMillian, Justice.

Jaquavious Reed appeals his conviction for murder and other charges in connection with the death of Antwan Curry.1 On appeal, Reed asserts that (1) the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions; (2) he was denied due process due to an inordinate delay in the appellate process; (3) he was denied the right to be present at every critical stage of the trial when the trial court conferred with counsel at 26 bench conferences; (4) the Fulton County District Attorney's Office (the "DA's office") should have been disqualified because his attorney of record was employed by the DA's office at the time of trial; (5) he was denied due process when the State failed to preserve a true and correct copy of the full trial transcript including the bench conferences; (6) he was denied the right to effectively confront his accusers when the State failed to turn over exculpatory Crime Stoppers reports in violation of Brady v. Maryland , 373 U.S. 83, 87, 83 S.Ct. 1194, 10 L.Ed.2d 215 (1963) ; (7) the trial court committed reversible error by refusing his request for a continuance to allow time to investigate a "surprise witness" presented by the State; (8) he received ineffective assistance of counsel with regard to the bench conferences, the incomplete transcript, and his trial counsel's failure to object to the "presumption of truthfulness" jury charge; and (9) the trial court erred in sentencing him for both murder and felony murder. Although we agree with Reed that the trial court erred in imposing his sentence and we vacate his conviction for felony murder and remand for resentencing, we otherwise affirm for the reasons discussed below.

The evidence presented at trial showed that on March 15, 2010, Curry stopped at an apartment complex in Fulton County and purchased marijuana. Curry subsequently became involved in a physical altercation with Santron Prickett in a parking lot at the complex. Five people who knew Prickett testified at trial that they observed this altercation. One witness testified that he heard Prickett and Curry arguing about the fact that Curry bought the marijuana from someone other than Prickett. Witnesses said the two men "tussled" and Curry appeared to be getting the better of Prickett until Curry was shot in the knee. After he was shot, Curry continued to struggle with Prickett, until Prickett was shot in the hand and ran away.2 One witness told police that Prickett later told her that, as he ran away, he yelled, "[T]hat n****r shot me. ... [Y]’all kill that p***y n****r."3

Three witnesses, who knew Reed, testified that after Prickett left, Reed approached Curry and shot him. Keon Burns testified that Reed took the gun from Prickett and "finished it off" by shooting Curry. Willie Wilson testified that after Prickett ran off, Curry was on his knees in the parking lot when Reed shot Curry at least twice, saying let the "f*****g n****r die." Reed directed that no one should help Curry and then put the gun in the back of his pants and left. Harriet Feggins testified that she was sitting in her car at the complex when she saw Prickett struggling with Curry. After Prickett left, it looked like Curry was trying to get up. She saw Reed approach Curry and "just unload" the gun. She did not know how many times Reed shot Curry, but she heard Reed shout, "P***y n*****r, you can't do nothing," and that he was going to show Curry "how it's done." A fourth witness, Lakeyta Smith, also testified that she saw someone shoot Curry after Prickett fled the scene, but she did not know Reed and she could not pick his photo out of a police lineup. The medical examiner testified that in addition to the gunshot wound to Curry's knee, Curry had gunshot wounds to the chest and shoulder. She said that Curry died from a bullet that entered his shoulder and traveled through his body striking his lung, heart, and liver.

When Reed was arrested about one month after the incident, he told police that he was not there when Curry was shot but instead was at his cousin's apartment in another part of the complex. However, Reed's cousin testified at trial that when she left her apartment about an hour or so before the shooting, Reed was not inside but instead was sitting outside in the complex about a couple of minutes’ walk from the scene of the shooting.

The State also called Feggins's cousin as a witness in response to Feggins's testimony, which, although it implicated Reed, was exculpatory for Prickett. The cousin described an earlier altercation she had with Feggins during which Feggins bit the cousin in the leg, kicked in the cousin's door, and threatened the cousin with a pistol. When asked about Feggins's reputation for truthfulness in the community, Feggins's cousin replied that it depended on the situation.

Reed called five witnesses at trial in his defense. Reed's grandmother testified that he had never been in trouble before. Wilson's daughter, whom Reed dated for almost a year, testified that her father was a "compulsive liar," who did not like Reed. Two of the remaining witnesses were called to rebut Wilson's testimony as to the sequence of events on the day of the crime, and the third, a law student assisting the defense, said that when Reed's trial counsel previously interviewed Feggins's cousin about Feggins's reputation for truthfulness in the community, the cousin replied that Feggins was "a liar."

1. Reed first argues that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions.4 When evaluating the sufficiency of evidence as a matter of constitutional due process, "the relevant question is whether, after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt." Jackson v. Virginia , 443 U.S. 307, 319, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560 1979 (emphasis omitted). "This Court does not reweigh evidence or resolve conflicts in testimony; instead, evidence is reviewed in a light most favorable to the verdict, with deference to the jury's assessment of the weight and credibility of the evidence." Hayes v. State , 292 Ga. 506, 506, 739 S.E.2d 313 (2013) (citations and punctuation omitted).

Reed argues that the evidence against him was insufficient because it rested only on the testimony of Wilson and Feggins, neither of whom made an initial statement to police once investigators arrived on the scene. Moreover, the evidence showed that Wilson was upset that Reed was dating his daughter and the State sought to impeach Feggins's testimony at trial, even though Feggins was a witness for the State.5

However, Reed's arguments merely attack the credibility of Wilson and Feggins, and it is well settled that "it is the role of the jury to 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." Graham v. State , 301 Ga. 675, 677 (1), 804 S.E.2d 113 (2017) (citation and punctuation omitted). Moreover, Reed's arguments fail to take into account the remainder of the evidence presented by the State at trial, including, but not limited to, Burns's testimony that he saw Reed take the gun from Prickett and shoot Curry. See OCGA § 24-14-8 ("The testimony of a single witness is generally sufficient to establish a fact.").

We conclude that the evidence presented at trial, when viewed in the light most favorable to the verdict, was sufficient to authorize a rational trier of fact to find beyond a reasonable doubt that Reed was guilty of the crimes for which he was convicted.

2. Reed also contends that he was denied due process because there was an inordinate delay in the appellate process, thereby violating his right to a speedy appeal.

"This Court has recognized that substantial delays experienced during the criminal appellate process implicate due process rights." Chatman v. Mancill , 280 Ga. 253, 256 (2) (a), 626 S.E.2d 102 (2006). In assessing such claims, this Court considers four factors: "(1) the length of the delay; (2) the reason for the delay; (3) the defendant's assertion of his right; and (4) prejudice to the defendant." Terrell v. State , 313 Ga. 120, 123 (1), 868 S.E.2d 764 (2022). Prejudice in this context "is prejudice to the ability of the defendant to assert his arguments on appeal and, should it be established that the appeal was prejudiced, whether the delay prejudiced the defendant's defenses in the event of retrial or resentencing." Chatman , 280 Ga. at 260 (2) (e), 626 S.E.2d 102 (appropriate test for analyzing prejudice in this context is "akin to the second prong of Strickland v. Washington , 466 U. S. 668, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed.2d 674 (1984) : appellate delay is prejudicial when there is a...

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