Walker v. State, No. S06P0992.

Decision Date02 October 2006
Docket NumberNo. S06P0992.
Citation281 Ga. 157,635 S.E.2d 740
PartiesWALKER v. The STATE.
CourtGeorgia Supreme Court

Edward W. Clary, St. Marys, Richard O. Allen, Atlantic Beach, FL, for Appellant.

Stephen D. Kelley, Dist. Atty., George Cobb Turner, Jr., Asst. Dist. Atty., Thurbert E. Baker, Atty. Gen., Leslie Kirby DeVooght, Asst. Dist. Atty., Patricia B. Attaway Burton, Asst. Atty. Gen., for Appellee.

Holly Lynn Geerdes, Georgia Capital Defender, Thomas Howard Dunn, Georgia Resource Center, Richard A. Malone, Prosecuting Attorney's Office, Other party representation.

SEARS, Chief Justice.

A jury convicted Gregory L. Walker of malice murder, possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. The jury recommended a death sentence for the murder conviction based on the following statutory aggravating circumstances: the murder was committed while the defendant was engaged in an aggravated battery; the murder was committed while the defendant was engaged in a kidnapping with bodily injury; and the murder was outrageously or wantonly vile, horrible, or inhuman in that it involved torture and an aggravated battery to the victim prior to the victim's death.1 The trial court denied Walker's motion for new trial, and he appeals.2 Finding no reversible error, we affirm the convictions and sentences.

General Grounds

1. Walker contends that the verdict was contrary to the evidence, against the weight of the evidence, and contrary to law and principles of justice and equity, asserting that the only evidence against him was circumstantial and corroborated by the impeached testimony of unreliable witnesses. "`However, resolving evidentiary conflicts and inconsistencies, and assessing witness credibility, are the province of the factfinder, not this Court.'"3 Moreover, "[t]his Court does not re-weigh evidence . . . [and] 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."4

So viewed, the evidence in the guilt/innocence phase showed that on the morning of June 8, 2001, Walker, Shedrick Tate, and Denise Green were sleeping in a room in the Howard Johnson motel in Brunswick when the victim, Janeika Murphy, who was a motel housekeeper and an acquaintance of Walker's, entered the room and took money and a cigar box containing marijuana and cocaine. When Walker awoke and discovered the items were missing, he was furious and sent Green to the front desk to see if anyone had cleaned the room. He then searched the motel and angrily confronted Murphy about being in his room. Walker's girlfriend, Tomeka Perry, who was staying at Walker's home in Brunswick, testified that Walker called her about the missing drugs, saying he was going to find out who had them. Walker came home about 10:00 p.m. accompanied by Tate. After receiving a telephone call, Walker told Perry he knew who had his drugs, and he was going to get them. Then he and Tate took some clothes and left.

Green, who was from Jacksonville, Florida, and was unfamiliar with Murphy, testified that she drove Walker and Tate to get something to eat that night and that Walker stated that "he had to go check something out." The three drove around awhile, and Walker and Tate left the car at several stops before eventually getting out and walking up the street. About twenty minutes later, Walker called Green, giving her directions to meet them. When Green arrived, Walker directed her into the driveway of a house, where she saw Tate in the yard with a young woman. Tate was holding a handgun, and Walker ordered the woman into the car. After pushing her into the backseat, Walker and Tate sat on either side of her, and Walker directed Green to drive. In the rearview mirror, Green saw something "glossy," like mud, on the woman's forehead, and Green overheard Walker asking the woman how she could do this to him when he had helped her pay bills and buy items for her children. Walker eventually directed Green to stop at a secluded area so he could put the woman "somewhere safe." Walker, Tate, and the woman exited the car, and Green drove around the block. When she returned, Walker and Tate got back into the car, but the woman was no longer with them and Walker had a gun, which he threw from a bridge on their return to Brunswick. Walker then directed Green to drive to a Wal-Mart to buy cleaning supplies. A Wal-Mart receipt for cleaning items purchased at 3:03 a.m. on June 9, 2001, was later found in Walker's room at Howard Johnson's. Green dropped Walker and Tate off at Walker's house, and she went to the carwash to clean blood from the car's backseat, as Walker instructed her to do.

Perry testified that, when Walker and Tate returned about 2:30 a.m., Walker told her he had killed the person who had his drugs, shooting her four times. Walker and Tate showered, put the clothes they had just removed in a black plastic bag, and left. Walker met Green at the carwash, and they returned to Howard Johnson's. When morning came, Green took a bus to Jacksonville, where she contacted her ex-husband, a police officer, who arranged for her to meet with law enforcement and cooperate with authorities.

Rodney Butler, the father of two of Murphy's daughters, testified that he went to Murphy's house around 2:30 a.m. on June 9, and, although Murphy's car was there, he found their infant and two-year-old daughters in the house alone in bed. Murphy never returned, and, shortly after 7:00 a.m., her body was found beside Refuge Road in Camden County. The medical examiner's testimony was that Murphy sustained three gunshot wounds to her head, any one of which would have been fatal. She also suffered painful blunt force injuries to the head, which were indicative of "pistol-whipping," and non-fatal gunshot wounds to both arms, including a painful bullet entry through her wrist, which were consistent with defensive injuries and probably inflicted while she was conscious. Several .40 caliber shell casings and projectiles were discovered near her body.

Harry Jackson testified that, while incarcerated with him, Walker told him he shot Murphy with a .40 caliber handgun about four times while she was lying on the ground trying to shield her head with her arms after Walker and Tate had beaten and dragged her from her home and Green had driven them to a secluded area. Walker offered Jackson $5,000 to retrieve from the woods the bag containing the clothes Walker and Tate had worn and then to destroy Walker's clothes, discharge a gun while wearing Tate's right shirt sleeve to leave gunpowder residue, and anonymously call the GBI, all in order to make it appear Tate was the gunman. Instead, Jackson went to the police, who found the bag of clothes in the location Walker had given Jackson. We find that the evidence was sufficient to authorize a rational trier of fact to find beyond a reasonable doubt that Walker was guilty on all charges.5

Constitutional Issues

2. Walker claims that the State failed to timely notify him of the statutory aggravating circumstances upon which it would rely to support his death sentence, contending that the United States Supreme Court's decision in Apprendi v. New Jersey6 requires the State to allege the statutory aggravating circumstances in the indictment. However, as Walker acknowledges, this issue was decided adversely to his position in Terrell v. State.7 There, this Court held that, in light of Apprendi and the more recent decision in Ring v. Arizona,8 the defendant was provided "constitutionally sufficient notice of the State's intent to seek the death penalty and the statutory aggravating circumstances that it would rely upon in seeking that sentence" when the State filed several months before trial a renewed notice of intent to seek the death penalty containing the statutory aggravating circumstances which would be used to support a sentence of death.9

Here, in compliance with U.A.P. II(C)(1), Walker was notified prior to his first appearance hearing that the State intended to seek the death penalty, but, due to an acknowledged oversight by the State, the notice of the statutory aggravating circumstances upon which the State intended to rely was not filed until the first day of voir dire.10 Pretermitting whether this rose to a constitutional violation,11 we find it was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt,12 as one of the statutory aggravating circumstances relied upon by the State and which the jury found beyond a reasonable doubt—that the murder was committed while the defendant was engaged in a kidnapping with bodily injury—was alleged in the indictment, thus putting Walker on sufficient actual notice for due process purposes of that statutory aggravating circumstance.13 Therefore, no reversal of Walker's death sentence is required, as his death sentence remains based upon at least one valid statutory aggravating circumstance.14

3. Trying the issues of guilt and sentence before the same jury in bifurcated proceedings was not unconstitutional.15

4. This Court's proportionality review "is neither unconstitutional nor inadequate under Georgia statutory law."16

5. The trial court did not err in rejecting Walker's claim that lethal injection is unconstitutional, as Walker proffered no evidence to sustain his claim.17

6. While Walker does not assert that the decision-makers in his case acted with any discriminatory purpose,18 he contends that the prosecutor's authority to choose in which cases to seek the death penalty permits the possibility of an arbitrary and capricious abuse of discretion and is unconstitutional. This Court has held that prosecutors do not have unfettered discretion to seek the death penalty,19 and it "has repeatedly rejected challenges to the legislature's determination that district attorneys should have the discretion to decide...

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    • United States
    • Georgia Supreme Court
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    ...in arbitrary and capricious results. See Arrington v. State, 286 Ga. 335, 336-337 (4) (687 SE2d 438) (2009); Walker v. State, 281 Ga. 157, 161 (6) (635 SE2d 740) (2006). 3. The trial court properly refused Young's attempt to plead guilty but mentally retarded to his murder charge in exchang......
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    ...proceedings sufficiently established that Harris was guilty of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. See Walker v. State, 281 Ga. 157, 165(10)(c), 635 S.E.2d 740 (2006); Morrison v. State, 272 Ga.App. 34, 44(8)(a), 611 S.E.2d 720 2. Harris argues that the trial court erred in allowi......
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    ...jury drawn from a representative cross-section of the community and is not otherwise unconstitutional. [Cits.]" Walker v. State, 281 Ga. 157, 162(8), 635 S.E.2d 740 (2006). See Wainwright v. Witt, 469 U.S. 412, 418-426(II), 105 S.Ct. 844, 83 L.Ed.2d 841 3. Arrington's contention that the tr......
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1 books & journal articles
  • Death Penalty Law - Therese M. Day
    • United States
    • Mercer University School of Law Mercer Law Reviews No. 59-1, September 2007
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    ...post facto doctrine may have amounted to error. See id. 71. Id., 642 S.E.2d at 8. 72. Id. at 788-89, 642 S.E.2d at 8. 73. Walker v. State, 281 Ga. 157, 635 S.E.2d 740 (2006); Williams v. State, 281 Ga. 87, 635 S.E.2d 146 (2006); Sanders v. State, 280 Ga. 780, 631 S.E.2d 344 (2006). 74. Sand......

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