Seals v. State, A19A0468

CourtUnited States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
Writing for the CourtDillard, Chief Judge.
Citation350 Ga.App. 787,830 S.E.2d 315
Parties SEALS v. The STATE.
Docket NumberA19A0468
Decision Date24 June 2019

350 Ga.App. 787
830 S.E.2d 315

SEALS
v.
The STATE.

A19A0468

Court of Appeals of Georgia.

June 24, 2019


830 S.E.2d 317

Randall Paul Sharp, for Appellant.

Stephen Andrew Bradley, Milledgeville, Allison Thatcher Mauldin, for Appellee.

Dillard, Chief Judge.

350 Ga.App. 787

Following trial, Tavares Seals was convicted of rape (two counts), burglary, aggravated assault, false imprisonment, third-degree cruelty to children (three counts), and giving a false name to law enforcement. Seals appeals his convictions, arguing that (1) the evidence was insufficient to sustain them; (2) the trial court plainly erred when it failed to rule on his request for a certain jury charge until after closing arguments; (3) the trial court plainly erred in when it gave a sequential charge to the jury, and (4) trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance in several respects.

830 S.E.2d 318

For the reasons set forth infra , we affirm.

Viewed in the light most favorable to the jury’s verdict,1 the record shows that on June 13, 2009, S. P. went to a dance club by herself around midnight. At the club, S. P. ran into Seals, a longtime acquaintance, and they sat at a table chatting with other people. Later, the group danced together, and at some point, Seals asked S. P. if she would meet him after they left the club to have sex, but she declined his request. S. P. then left the club alone sometime between 2:00 a.m. and 2:30 a.m., while Seals stayed there. And after picking up her three children at her father’s house, S. P. drove home and went to bed. Ordinarily, S. P.’s children slept in the living room, but that night, they slept in her bedroom.

After S. P. and her children were asleep, she woke up to someone, later identified as Seals, grabbing her head and putting a knife to her neck. Seals then grabbed S. P.’s hair while holding the knife to her neck, at which point the children heard the commotion and got out of bed "screaming and hollering." When the children exited the bedroom, Seals told them that if they did not go back into the bedroom, he would hurt them. And to prevent S. P. from escaping, he slammed her up against a wall, threw her on the sofa in her living room, and forced her to cover her head with a shirt. Seals then made S. P. lie down on the floor while her children were nearby crying. S. P. did not recognize Seals as her attacker because he disguised his voice, but she believed the perpetrator was someone she knew. Once she was on the floor, Seals tore S. P.’s bra off and had sex with her against her will.

Eventually, Seals fled the scene, and S. P. called her father, whose girlfriend then called the police. When the police arrived, S. P. told them about the attack before going to the hospital for treatment and

350 Ga.App. 788

to have a rape kit performed. The police also interviewed S. P.’s children about what happened, and her eldest child identified the intruder as Seals. An investigation ensued, and during a search of S. P.’s home, police recovered a kitchen knife in the living room, where the incident reportedly occurred. Approximately one month after the attack, on July 14, 2009, Seals was arrested, and investigators obtained a DNA sample from him for comparison with the DNA collected from the rape kit performed on S. P. Ultimately, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation tested S. P.’s rape kit and discovered both Seals and S.P.’s DNA.

On July 10, 2009, just days before his arrest, Seals encountered S. T. when she was walking home, and he threatened her, saying that if she "[didn’t] give [him] none," he would kill her. S. T. believed this statement to mean that if she did not have sex with Seals, he would "hurt [her] real bad." But S. T. did not want to have sex with Seals, and she immediately told him so. Despite her protests, Seals pulled S. T.’s hair and choked her while she fought back and tried to escape. Seals then told S. T. to "shut the hell up," pulled down her pants, and "put his [penis] inside [her] vagina." During the attack, Seals held S. T.’s neck so tight that she could hardly breathe, and he told her that if she told anyone about what happened, he would kill her. When the assault was over, S. T. walked home and called the police. S. T. reported these events before going to the hospital, where a rape kit was performed. As with S. P., investigators later confirmed that Seals’s DNA was found inside S.T.’s rape kit.

Subsequently, as to the attack on S. T., Seals was charged with rape, and as to his assault on S. P., he was charged with rape, burglary, aggravated assault, and false imprisonment. Additionally, Seals was charged with one count each of cruelty to children as to S. P.’s three children. Following a jury trial, Seals was convicted of all charged offenses. He then obtained new counsel and filed a motion for a new trial; and after a hearing on the matter, his motion was denied. This appeal follows.

1. Addressing Seals’s last argument first, he contends that the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to support his convictions. We disagree.

830 S.E.2d 319

When a criminal conviction is appealed, "the evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the verdict, and the appellant no longer enjoys a presumption of innocence."2 And in evaluating the sufficiency of the evidence to support a conviction, we do not weigh the

350 Ga.App. 789

evidence or determine witness credibility but only resolve whether "a rational trier of fact could have found the defendant guilty of the charged offenses beyond a reasonable doubt."3 The jury’s verdict will be upheld, then, so long as "there is some competent evidence, even though contradicted, to support each fact necessary to make out the State’s case."4 With these guiding principles in mind, we turn now to Seals’s specific challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence presented in this case.

Here, citing only the standard for considering whether evidence is sufficient to support a conviction, Seals summarily asserts that the State failed to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. But he does not argue that the State failed to prove a particular element of any one of his many offenses. Indeed, in his three-paragraph argument as to this claim, Seals does not assert arguments as to any individual offense, cite legal authority applicable to any of his offenses, or present meaningful arguments applying the relevant law to the particular facts of this case. Thus, Seals has abandoned any contention that the State failed to prove the essential elements of each charged offense.5

Instead of addressing each of his convictions separately, Seals reiterates a small portion of the evidence presented at his three-day trial and essentially asks us to substitute our judgment for that of the jury. Specifically, he points to the testimony he offered in his defense, claiming that he "provided reasonable explanations why the complaining witnesses would testify falsely against him." He similarly argues that due to "the conflicting nature of the evidence introduced at trial[,]" including his testimony and that of the victims, the State failed to prove its case. But Seals’s argument ignores that the jury obviously did not find his testimony and claims of innocence credible. And, of course, the determination of a witness’s credibility, including the defendant’s testimony, is "within the exclusive province of the jury."6 Indeed, it is the role of the jury, not this Court, to "determine the credibility of the witnesses and to resolve any conflicts or

350 Ga.App. 790

inconsistencies in the evidence."7 And here, Seals’s challenge to his convictions based solely on conflicts in the evidence, which the jury resolved against him, is meritless.8

2. Next, Seals argues that the trial court plainly erred when it failed to rule on his

830 S.E.2d 320

request for a jury charge that sexual battery is a lesser-included offense of rape until after closing arguments and by giving an improper sequential jury charge. Again, we disagree.

As Seals concedes, he failed to object at trial to the timing of the trial court’s ruling on the sexual-battery charge and to the allegedly improper sequential charge. Under such circumstances, we review these issues for plain error under OCGA § 17-8-58 (b).9 In doing so, we apply a four-prong test. First, there must be an error or defect—some sort of deviation from a legal rule—that has not been intentionally relinquished or abandoned, i.e. , affirmatively waived by the appellant.10 Next, the legal error must be clear or obvious, "rather than subject to reasonable dispute."11 Additionally, the error must have affected the appellant’s substantial rights, "which in the ordinary case means he must demonstrate that it affected the outcome of the trial court proceedings."12 Lastly, if the above three prongs are satisfied, the appellate court has "the discretion to remedy the error—discretion which ought to be exercised only if the error seriously affects...

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5 practice notes
  • Gathers v. State, A20A0097
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • 16 Junio 2020
    ...separate offenses).8 Allen v. State , 345 Ga. App. 599, 602 (1), 814 S.E.2d 740 (2018) (punctuation omitted).9 See Seals v. State , 350 Ga. App. 787, 790 (1), 830 S.E.2d 315 (2019) (holding that defendant's "challenge to his convictions based solely on conflicts in the evidence, which ......
  • Hawkins v. State, A19A0717
    • United States
    • Georgia Court of Appeals
    • 24 Junio 2019
    ...proof of the same or less than all the facts required to establish the commission of the other crime charged." (Citation omitted.) 830 S.E.2d 315 Metcalf , supra, 349 Ga. App. at 419, 825 S.E.2d 909. Under these circumstances, Hawkins’s convictions on Counts Eleven, Twelve, and Thirtee......
  • Edwards v. State, A20A0919
    • United States
    • Georgia Court of Appeals
    • 23 Octubre 2020
    ...rape statute").To the extent that there were inconsistencies in the evidence, such was for the jury to resolve.3 Seals v. State , 350 Ga. App. 787, 789-790 (1), 830 S.E.2d 315 (2019). On this record, the evidence was sufficient to support the rape conviction. 2. Edwards next argues tha......
  • Aeger v. State, A20A1544
    • United States
    • Georgia Court of Appeals
    • 11 Septiembre 2020
    ...of a witness's credibility, including the defendant's testimony, is within the exclusive province of the jury." Seals v. State , 350 Ga. App. 787, 789-790 (1), 830 S.E.2d 315 (2019) (citations and punctuation omitted); see Muckle , supra at 638 (1) (a), 705 S.E.2d 721.In this case, the......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
5 cases
  • Gathers v. State, A20A0097
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • 16 Junio 2020
    ...separate offenses).8 Allen v. State , 345 Ga. App. 599, 602 (1), 814 S.E.2d 740 (2018) (punctuation omitted).9 See Seals v. State , 350 Ga. App. 787, 790 (1), 830 S.E.2d 315 (2019) (holding that defendant's "challenge to his convictions based solely on conflicts in the evidence, which ......
  • Hawkins v. State, A19A0717
    • United States
    • Georgia Court of Appeals
    • 24 Junio 2019
    ...proof of the same or less than all the facts required to establish the commission of the other crime charged." (Citation omitted.) 830 S.E.2d 315 Metcalf , supra, 349 Ga. App. at 419, 825 S.E.2d 909. Under these circumstances, Hawkins’s convictions on Counts Eleven, Twelve, and Thirtee......
  • Edwards v. State, A20A0919
    • United States
    • Georgia Court of Appeals
    • 23 Octubre 2020
    ...rape statute").To the extent that there were inconsistencies in the evidence, such was for the jury to resolve.3 Seals v. State , 350 Ga. App. 787, 789-790 (1), 830 S.E.2d 315 (2019). On this record, the evidence was sufficient to support the rape conviction. 2. Edwards next argues tha......
  • Aeger v. State, A20A1544
    • United States
    • Georgia Court of Appeals
    • 11 Septiembre 2020
    ...of a witness's credibility, including the defendant's testimony, is within the exclusive province of the jury." Seals v. State , 350 Ga. App. 787, 789-790 (1), 830 S.E.2d 315 (2019) (citations and punctuation omitted); see Muckle , supra at 638 (1) (a), 705 S.E.2d 721.In this case, the......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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