Williams v. State

Decision Date29 June 2020
Docket NumberA20A0397
Citation846 S.E.2d 190,356 Ga.App. 19
Parties WILLIAMS v. The STATE.
CourtGeorgia Court of Appeals

Leigh Ann Webster, Atlanta, for Appellant.

John Richard Edwards, Marietta, John Stuart Melvin, Decatur, for Appellee.

Barnes, Presiding Judge.

Following a jury trial, Tadarius Williams was convicted in Cobb County Superior Court of aggravated assault and aggravated battery. Williams now appeals from the denial of his motion for a new trial, claiming that the trial court abused its discretion in denying his request for a continuance to allow him to retain an expert witness. Williams further contends that the trial court erred in allowing the State to introduce evidence of his gang affiliation, including a note allegedly found under Williams's jailhouse mattress. Additionally, Williams asserts that the trial court violated his Sixth Amendment rights by limiting his cross-examination of two of the State's witnesses. He also challenges the trial court's denial of his motions for a mistrial, which were based on: (i) certain testimony of the State's expert witness; and (ii) trial counsel's conflict of interest that prevented her from calling a potential witness. And Williams asserts an ineffective assistance claim, based on trial counsel's failure to retain an expert witness for trial. Finally, Williams claims that the trial court erred in denying his three motions to recuse the trial judge from hearing his motion for a new trial. Accordingly, in the event this Court grants him a new trial, Williams requests an order requiring the case be transferred to a different judge on remand.

For reasons explained more fully below, we find that the trial court erred in denying Williams's motion for a continuance and in limiting his cross-examination of the victim.1 We further find, however, that Williams's arguments as to the recusal of the trial judge are unsupported by any citation to the record. Accordingly, we reverse the trial court's order denying Williams's motion for a new trial, but we deny Williams's request that we order the case transferred to a different judge on remand.

"On appeal from a criminal conviction, the defendant is no longer entitled to a presumption of innocence and we therefore construe the evidence in the light most favorable to the jury's guilty verdict." (Citation and punctuation omitted.) Maddox v. State , 346 Ga. App. 674, 675, 816 S.E.2d 796 (2018). So viewed, the record shows that on December 25, 2013, the victim was shot as he left a neighbor's apartment following a Christmas gathering. The victim suffered gunshot wounds to his back and arm, and his injuries required hospitalization. After interviewing the victim, police identified Williams and two juveniles (D. M. and T. C.) as suspects. Police later showed the victim photographic lineups, from which he identified Williams, D. M., and T. C. as the men involved in the assault. Williams was arrested, and was subsequently indicted individually and as a party to the crime on a single count each of aggravated assault and aggravated battery.

Williams's trial was specially set for November 17, 2014. Ten days before trial, the State served supplemental discovery responses in which it identified for the first time Benjamin Miller and Investigator Charles Lyda as potential witnesses. The State also provided the defense with a copy of a search warrant allowing them to photograph Williams's tattoos, photos taken pursuant to the warrant, a disc containing a police interview of Miller, and a photocopy of a threatening note allegedly received by Miller on November 7. The same day it served the supplemental discovery, the State also filed a motion to admit evidence of Williams's status as a member of a street gang known as the Gangster Disciples. In support of this motion, the State claimed that the indicted crimes constituted unindicted criminal gang activity, committed for the purpose of furthering "the reach of the gang." The State further contended that the evidence was admissible under OCGA § 24-4-404 (b) to show Williams's motive in committing the crimes at issue.

Just before trial, the court held a hearing on the State's motion to introduce evidence of Williams's gang affiliation. During that hearing, the State revealed for the first time that the prosecution would be calling Investigator Lyda as an expert in criminal gangs. Following the hearing, the trial court ruled that the evidence was admissible because under the State's theory of the case, Williams's gang membership was intrinsic to the crimes and relevant to prove motive. Defense counsel then requested a continuance to obtain an expert witness to refute the State's gang-related evidence, including Lyda's expert testimony. When the trial court asked what testimony she anticipated an expert witness would provide on behalf of the defense, trial counsel responded that although she had limited knowledge, she believed an expert could combat the testimony of Lyda on the subject of whether the crimes were gang-related and whether the note received by Miller indicated it was sent by a member of the Gangster Disciples. The trial court denied the motion for a continuance without explanation.

Also prior to trial, defense counsel informed the court that she represented one of the witnesses on the State's updated list (Mildred Alcinder) in a separate criminal matter. Counsel noted that if the State intended to call Alcinder, the case would need to be continued and a new attorney appointed, as she could not cross-examine her own client. The State indicated that it did not know definitively whether calling Alcinder would be necessary, and the trial court responded that, in the event Alcinder was called, it would have to declare a mistrial.

At trial, the victim testified that at the time of the incident, he resided in the Crescent Square Apartments in Cobb County. On the night in question, he went to a neighboring apartment, apartment B-12, where one of the juvenile co-conspirators, D. M., lived. While at the apartment, the victim and D. M.’s girlfriend got into a dispute, and the girlfriend told the victim she would have people "do stuff" to him. For the rest of the evening, the girlfriend wandered in and out of the apartment and acted as if she was keeping track of the victim's location. Shortly after the victim saw the girlfriend for the last time, Williams's second juvenile co-conspirator (T. C.) came to the door of the residence and told the victim that Williams and D. M. wanted to speak with him. Feeling uneasy, the victim left the apartment by the back door, but when he went around the building, he encountered Williams and D. M. Both men had guns pointed at the victim, and Williams told D. M. to shoot. D. M. then shot the victim in the arm and back before he fled the scene with Williams. The victim later identified Williams and D. M. from a photo lineup as the men who assaulted him. Additionally, the victim identified Williams at trial as one of his assailants. On cross-examination, defense counsel attempted to question the victim about his gang affiliation, and the State objected on relevance grounds. The court sustained the objection, citing its previous ruling that the defense could not place the victim's character in issue.

The victim's mother testified that following the incident, an eyewitness who lived in apartment B-12 provided her with the names of the alleged assailants. Based on that information, the mother located pictures of D. M., D. M.’s girlfriend, and T. C. on social media and showed them to her son. After the mother stated the unidentified eyewitness lived in apartment B-12, defense counsel moved for a mistrial. In support of this motion, defense counsel noted that her client Alcinder lived in that same apartment, and given that Alcinder had assisted in the case against Williams, she believed she was ethically obligated to remove herself from both cases. The trial court denied the motion, noting that the victim's testimony showed that a number of people lived in apartment B-12 and there was no evidence that Alcinder was the resident who approached the victim's mother and identified the suspects.

Benjamin Miller testified that he had been incarcerated with Williams at the Cobb County jail for the previous five months. Williams befriended Miller when the two were housed in the same pod at the jail. Williams told Miller that he was a member of the Gangster Disciples, and Miller noticed that Williams had a Gangster Disciples tattoo on his arm. According to Miller, Williams told him that Williams was charged with shooting a man who was "false claiming" membership in the Gangster Disciples. Miller further explained that false claiming referred to claiming membership in a gang to which you did not belong. After Williams confided in him, Miller had his attorney provide that information to the State in an effort to get out of jail.

Miller was aware that, based on the information he provided, the State had obtained a search warrant to photograph Williams's tattoos. The State executed the warrant on November 6, and the following day, Miller found a handwritten note on his bunk. The note, which was admitted into evidence, asked Miller why he was "snitching" and stated that the Gangster Disciples did not care about members of the United Nigerian Mafia, the gang to which Miller belonged. The note also threatened Miller with death if he testified. Miller stated that Williams's was the only case in which he had agreed to testify.

On cross-examination, Miller agreed that he did not know who wrote the note or who placed the note on his bunk. Defense counsel attempted to question Miller about whether he had been involved in any fights in the jailhouse pod where he and Williams were housed.

The State objected, and defense counsel pointed out that in his police interview, Miller had admitted to starting four fights in the pod. Counsel further explained that she believed one of the fights led Miller to...

To continue reading

Request your trial
4 cases
  • Evans v. State
    • United States
    • Georgia Court of Appeals
    • 17 de junho de 2021
    ...Dixon v. State , 320 Ga. App. 257, 261 (1), (739 S.E.2d 737) (2013) (citation and punctuation omitted). Accord Williams v. State , 356 Ga. App. 19, 35 (5), (846 S.E.2d 190) (2020) (appellant cannot incorporate by reference arguments made in the lower court).12. Expression of opinion.Evans c......
  • Bully v. State
    • United States
    • Georgia Court of Appeals
    • 28 de outubro de 2020
    ...prosecution where evidence of the defendant's drug business was relevant to his motive to rob the victim); Williams v. State , ––– Ga. App. –––– (3), 846 S.E.2d 190 (2020) ("evidence related to Williams's gang membership was intrinsic to the charged crimes of aggravated assault and aggravat......
  • Hogg v. State
    • United States
    • Georgia Court of Appeals
    • 29 de junho de 2020
  • Barraza v. State
    • United States
    • Georgia Court of Appeals
    • 22 de dezembro de 2020
    ...– and the State's failure to disclose – an expert report of Chandler's forensic interview with the victim. See Williams v. State , 356 Ga. App. 19, 28 (2), 846 S.E.2d 190 (2020) (physical precedent only as to Division 2) (the purpose of Georgia's Criminal Discovery Act is "to promote fairne......

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