State v. Lane

Citation838 S.E.2d 808,308 Ga. 10
Decision Date10 February 2020
Docket NumberS19A1424
CourtSupreme Court of Georgia
Parties The STATE v. LANE.

308 Ga. 10
838 S.E.2d 808



Supreme Court of Georgia.

Decided: February 10, 2020

Patricia B. Attaway Burton, Deputy Attorney General, Paula Khristian Smith, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Christopher M. Carr, Attorney General, DEPARTMENT OF LAW, 40 Capitol Square, S.W., Atlanta, Georgia 30334, Sherry Boston, District Attorney, Destiny H. Bryant, Jason Matthew Rea, A.D.A., DEKALB COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, 556 N. McDonough Street, Suite 700, Decatur, Georgia 30030, for Appellant.

Donald Franklin Samuel, GARLAND, SAMUEL & LOEB, P.C., 3151 Maple Drive, N.E., Atlanta, Georgia 30305, for Appellee.

Peterson, Justice.

308 Ga. 10

Antiwan Lane was convicted of malice murder and other charges for procuring the murder of Ivan Perez.1 The trial court granted Lane a new trial based on a host of grounds, including evidentiary errors and ineffective assistance of counsel. The State appeals, arguing that none of the claimed errors by counsel or the trial court resulted in sufficient prejudice or harm to require reversal. Given the large number of errors at issue, we first reconsider and overrule our prior precedent that precluded full consideration of the cumulative effect of multiple errors at trial. We then conclude that counsel was ineffective in at least two respects and the trial court made at least one key evidentiary error in overruling a defense objection. Finally, given the combined prejudicial effect of multiple errors by counsel and the trial court, we affirm the grant of a new trial.

The evidence presented at trial showed the following.2 Perez was shot and killed on December 26, 2011, outside of a DeKalb County apartment complex where he was visiting his cousin, Hector Gonzalez. Testifying at Lane’s

838 S.E.2d 811

trial, Kevin Stallworth admitted that he shot Perez, claiming it was a botched murder-for-hire procured by Lane.

308 Ga. 11

Stallworth was the State’s primary witness, and critical evidence used to corroborate his testimony was hearsay, much of which the defense did not object to.

Stallworth testified that Lane called him shortly after December 15, 2011, wanting to meet. Stallworth said he was expecting Lane’s call based on information that he had received from Stallworth’s cousin, Eddie Davis. Stallworth said Lane hired him to kill Gonzalez for $10,000. Stallworth claimed that Lane showed him Gonzalez’s Dunwoody apartment, truck, and photo, and gave Stallworth a gun.

Stallworth testified that, on the day of the shooting, he received a ride from Albert Rose to meet with Lane, who provided a BMW for Stallworth to drive. Stallworth then drove to the apartment complex in Dunwoody, where he shot Perez. After the shooting, Stallworth testified, he drove the BMW toward College Park and left it at an apartment complex, then was picked up by Lane. Stallworth testified he and Lane then had "a little scuffle" over payment, resulting in scratches on Stallworth’s face, when Lane told him he had shot the wrong person.3 Stallworth testified that he and Lane met up the following day at Davis’s home.

Stallworth’s girlfriend, Brittany Thompson, testified that, at some point around Thanksgiving, Stallworth told her that he "was going to hit a lick" and would get $5,000 in return. Thompson testified over the defense’s hearsay objection that, on the date of the murder, Stallworth told her, "I’m going to do it. He want me to do it, I’m going to kill him, I’m going to get the money." Thompson also testified over objection that Stallworth told her after the murder that Lane procured the car for him but did not pay him because he shot the wrong person. She testified that she saw scratches on Stallworth’s face that night. She also testified that she saw Lane and Stallworth together at Stallworth’s cousin’s home a couple of days after the shooting and overheard Lane saying that Stallworth "was all good" because a witness had given a description that did not match Stallworth.

In addition to Thompson, the State also presented the testimony of Rose, who testified that he gave Stallworth a ride to a hotel the day of the shooting. Lane’s girlfriend, Linda Yun, testified that she found $15,000 cash in a plastic bag in her sofa shortly after Lane was arrested.

The lead investigator, Detective Delima, testified extensively at trial. He testified at various points about statements Stallworth made to him. Detective Delima testified without objection that he had

308 Ga. 12

an informant in Clayton County who gave him information consistent with the shooting being a murder-for-hire. Detective Delima also testified without objection that other witnesses stated that Stallworth did not have a car and was known as "K." And Detective Delima testified over objection by the defense that Davis "confirm[ed]" Stallworth’s statement that Lane initially tried to hire Davis to kill Gonzalez.

The State also tried to corroborate Stallworth’s testimony through cell phone data. Cell phone records showed communications between Stallworth’s phone and two separate phone numbers listed in Stallworth’s cell phone contacts as "D" and "Punkin D." Talking to Detective Delima, Stallworth called Lane "D" and confirmed that "Punkin D" was the same person; Stallworth testified that Lane used to go by the name "Punkin D" and that he just put "D" in his contacts by a new phone number Lane gave him. Other witnesses testified that Lane went by "Punkin" or "Punkin D." Based on a prior incident report, Detective Delima confirmed that the "Punkin D" phone number was associated with Lane, who had the corresponding phone in his possession when he was arrested. But the "D" phone, a prepaid cell phone, was never recovered, and the cellular service provider was unable to provide subscriber information for that phone.

The records showed that someone used the "Punkin D" phone associated with Lane to

838 S.E.2d 812

call Stallworth on December 17, 2011, and again on December 19. The following day, six days before the murder, Stallworth sent that phone text messages saying, "Bra u got da dollar" and "Im on da way." Stallworth’s cell phone number had 18 calls between it and the "Punkin D" phone from December 17 to December 20, 2011, and 151 calls between Stallworth’s number and the "D" phone from December 20 until December 26, 2011, the day of the shooting. Cell phone data also showed that Stallworth and someone carrying Lane’s "Punkin D" phone both arrived in College Park at 1:47 p.m. on the day of the shooting, then Stallworth moved towards Dunwoody at 3:00 p.m., while the "Punkin D" phone moved towards Norcross (where Lane lived) at 3:36 p.m.4 Although Stallworth lost his cell phone at the scene of the shooting, cell site data showed that, at 8:17 p.m. on the night of the shooting, the "Punkin D" phone was pinging off a tower in College Park near the complex where the BMW was left, stayed there until 11:39 p.m., and was pinging near Davis’s home the next day.

The State claimed that Lane had a motive to kill Gonzalez because Gonzalez and his wife, Sophia, were interfering with Lane’s relationship with Yun, who was friends with Sophia. The State

308 Ga. 13

presented evidence that Lane and Sophia had some sort of "dispute" at the Gonzalezes’ apartment complex in February 2011, in which Lane (1) grabbed her by her jacket; (2) argued with her, Gonzalez, and Gonzalez’s brother; and (3) fired a shot into the air. The jury heard about another incident involving Lane, the Gonzalezes, and Yun at a nightclub that year, in which Lane insisted on searching the Gonzalezes’ apartment to see if a man was there for Yun, as well as an incident in which Lane once challenged Gonzalez to a fight. And the jury heard that the Gonzalezes had sought multiple protective orders against Lane, including one after the murder. After the Gonzalezes filed for the last protective order, Gonzalez testified, their home was "shot up" by someone Gonzalez believed was sent by Lane. Gonzalez also testified had he had some "concerns" about someone following his wife.

In addition to the evidence of difficulties between Lane and the Gonzalezes, the State also introduced testimony by Joseph Harris, the father of one of Yun’s children, who claimed that someone "shot up" his car while he was in it at some point after Lane threatened to kill Harris. Harris testified without objection that the person who shot at his car was wearing a mask but was about the same height as Lane.

The trial court granted Lane’s motion for new trial. The trial court found that trial counsel was ineffective for, among other reasons, (1) failing to cross-examine Detective Delima with evidence that he testified falsely about Davis’s statements to him, and (2) failing to object to hearsay and bolstering testimony by Detective Delima. In addition, the trial court found that it had erred in various respects, including in admitting Thompson’s testimony as to statements by Stallworth. The State has appealed the trial court’s grant of the motion for new trial.

1. Here, the trial court found numerous distinct instances of deficient...

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    ...entire record, the multiple errors so infected the jury's deliberation that they denied [Ash] a fundamentally fair trial." State v. Lane , 308 Ga. 10, 21 (4), 838 S.E.2d 808 (2020). However, when reviewing a claim of cumulative prejudice, "we evaluate only the effects of matters determined ......
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