Ward v. State

Decision Date13 September 1999
Docket NumberNo. S99A0990.,S99A0990.
PartiesWARD v. The STATE.
CourtGeorgia Supreme Court

520 S.E.2d 205
271 Ga. 648


No. S99A0990.

Supreme Court of Georgia.

September 13, 1999.

Reconsideration Denied November 15, 1999.

520 S.E.2d 207
Brown & Romeo, Robert T. Romeo, Jonesboro, for appellant

Tommy K. Floyd, District Attorney, Thomas R. McBerry, Assistant District Attorney, Thurbert E. Baker, Attorney General, Angelica M. Woo, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

520 S.E.2d 206
BENHAM, Chief Justice

Pamela Mann was struck by a vehicle driven by appellant John Coy Ward on November 19, 1997, and died without regaining consciousness a month later from pneumonia she developed while comatose. Appellant was convicted of felony murder/aggravated assault in connection with Ms. Mann's death, and appeals from the judgment entered on the verdict.1

A Butts County deputy sheriff responding to a call that a man and woman with a red pickup truck were arguing in the middle of a specified road found the victim lying on the dirt road with her arms above her head, appellant leaning over her, and the truck nearby. Appellant told the deputy that the victim had jumped out of appellant's moving vehicle during an argument. He further stated that the victim had re-entered the vehicle and had demanded to return home, and that appellant had felt a bump as he backed his vehicle, but that he had not run over the victim. Medical testimony established that the victim had suffered severe brain injuries, a broken shoulder blade, nerve damage that rendered her left arm useless, and a broken [271 Ga. 649] jaw. Both her treating physician and the medical examiner testified that her injuries were consistent with having been run over by a motor vehicle, and were not consistent with the victim having jumped from a moving vehicle. A photo of the leather jacket the victim was wearing when she was injured showed a tire track across it.

The State also presented evidence that appellant and the victim had lived together for two years and that their relationship was turbulent, with appellant frequently accusing the victim of having affairs with other men. A co-worker of the victim testified that she had visited the victim at the victim's home about two hours before the victim was injured, that the victim and appellant had argued during that visit, and that the victim had told the visitor that she was scared for her life. Another witness who had been friends with the victim for twenty-one years testified that she had been with the victim five days before the victim was injured; that the victim had left with appellant for thirty-forty minutes; and that, upon her return, the victim, described as crying, terrified and in a rage, had told the witness that appellant had told her he was going to kill her.

1. Appellant contends the State did not present sufficient evidence from which a rational trier of fact could find appellant guilty of felony murder beyond a reasonable doubt. Specifically, appellant contends that the State did not prove he intended to kill the victim or that he used his truck as a deadly weapon by intentionally running over the victim. Because appellant was convicted of felony murder which does not require proof of intent to kill, the State had only to establish that the defendant had the requisite criminal intent to commit the underlying felony, aggravated assault. Franklin v. State, 268 Ga. 865(1), 494 S.E.2d 327 (1998). Criminal intent is a question for the jury and may be inferred from conduct before, during and after the commission of the crime. Peterson v. State, 204 Ga.App. 532(1), 419 S.E.2d 757 (1992). See also Burks v. State, 268 Ga. 504, 505, 491 S.E.2d 368 (1997). The evidence was sufficient to authorize a rational trier of fact to conclude that appellant possessed the requisite intent and was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of felony murder/aggravated assault. Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560 (1979).

520 S.E.2d 208
2. Appellant contends the trial court erroneously admitted hearsay testimony under the "necessity" exception to the rule against the use of hearsay when it permitted the victim's co-worker to testify that the victim had told her, hours before she was run over, that she was "scared for her life," and when the court permitted the victim's friend to testify that the victim had told her that appellant had threatened to kill the victim.

The two requirements for the admission of hearsay under the "necessity" exception are "necessity" and "particularized guarantees [271 Ga. 650] of trustworthiness." Jordan v. State, 266 Ga. 499(3), 467 S.E.2d 568 (1996), overruled on other grounds in Clark v. State, 271 Ga. 6, 10, 515 S.E.2d 155 (1999). In order to satisfy the first requirement, the proponent of the hearsay must show that "the declarant is deceased or unavailable, that the statement is relevant to a material fact, and that the statement is more probative than other evidence which may be offered. Chapel v. State, 270 Ga. 151(4), 510 S.E.2d 802 (1998). The second requirement is satisfied when the declaration is coupled with circumstances which attribute verity to it. [Cit.]" Azizi v. State, 270 Ga. 709(2), 512 S.E.2d 622 (1999). In the case at bar, the first requirement is satisfied since the declarant is deceased, the statements are relevant in that one shows appellant's state of mind and the other the victim's fear for her personal safety (see id.), and the statements are more probative than other evidence.

As is usually the case, the more difficult issue is whether the deceased declarant's statements were made under circumstances which offer particularized guarantees of trustworthiness to authorize their use at trial without the benefit of the oath and the test of cross-examination of the declarant. White v. State, 268 Ga. 28(2), 486 S.E.2d 338 (1997). In such a situation, the court considers the totality of the circumstances. Fetty v. State, 268 Ga. 365, 367, 489 S.E.2d 813 (1997); Dix v. State, 267 Ga. 429, 431, 479 S.E.2d 739 (1997); Roper v. State, 263 Ga. 201(2), 429 S.E.2d 668 (1993). Uncontradicted statements made to one in whom the deceased declarant placed great confidence and to whom she turned for help with her problems are admissible under the necessity exception. Fetty v. State, supra, 268 Ga. at 368, 489 S.E.2d 813; McGee v. State, 267 Ga. 560(5), 480 S.E.2d 577 (1997); Roper v. State, supra. Cf. Carr v. State, 267 Ga. 701(3), 482 S.E.2d 314 (1997).

In the case at bar, one witness testified that she and the victim had known each other for over twenty years and had been neighbors for the ten years before the victim's death. She described herself and the victim as "good friends" who had seen each other at least twice a week until the last two-three years, when the victim had become involved with appellant and had spent much of her time with him on the road as a truck driver. The witness testified that she and the victim had a "trusting" relationship which allowed them to talk to each other about family and relationship issues. Five...

To continue reading

Request your trial
45 cases
  • Wright v. State, S02A1350.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Georgia
    • 27 Marzo 2003
    ...placed great confidence and to whom she turned for help with her problems are admissible under the necessity exception." Ward v. State, 271 Ga. 648, 650(2), 520 S.E.2d 205 (1999). Each of the witnesses at issue testified that she had such a relationship with Beverly, that she and Beverly re......
  • Watson v. State, S04A1098.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Georgia
    • 8 Noviembre 2004
    ...State, 274 Ga. 444, 553 S.E.2d 569 (2001); Morrow v. State, 272 Ga. 691, 532 S.E.2d 78 (2000); Ward v. State, 271 604 S.E.2d 809 Ga. 648, 520 S.E.2d 205 (1999); Chapel v. State, supra. We are mindful that, in specific instances, cases involving statements made to friends may not contain suf......
  • Givens v. State
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Georgia
    • 7 Mayo 2001
    ...his truck, that she visited him at his home "all the time," and that she was very close even to Ms. Givens. See Ward v. State, 271 Ga. 648, 650-651(2), 520 S.E.2d 205 (1999). Compare McWilliams v. State, 271 Ga. 655, 656-657(2), 521 S.E.2d 824 (1999) ("no evidence that the victim and her si......
  • Thomas v. State
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Georgia
    • 16 Julio 2001
    ...placed great confidence and to whom she turned for help with her problems are admissible under the necessity exception." Ward v. State, 271 Ga. 648, 650(2), 520 S.E.2d 205 For these same reasons, the court did not abuse its discretion in admitting the testimony of Mary Jane Berrien. The evi......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT