Williams v. State, S16A0834

Citation794 S.E.2d 127,300 Ga. 161
Decision Date21 November 2016
Docket NumberS16A0835,S16A0834
Parties Williams v. The State. Smith v. The State.
CourtSupreme Court of Georgia

Chaunda Brock, Brock Law, LLC, 50 Hurt Plaza SE, Suite 1410, Atlanta, Georgia 30303, for Appellant in S16A0834.

Patricia B. Attaway Burton, Deputy Attorney General, Paula Khristian Smith, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Samuel S. Olens, Attorney General, Matthew Min–soo Youn, Assistant Attorney General, Department of Law, 40 Capitol Square, S.W., Atlanta, Georgia 30334, Paul L. Howard, Jr., District Attorney, Fulton County District Attorney's Office, 136 Pryor Street, S.W., 4th Floor, Atlanta, Georgia 30303, Paige Reese Whitaker, Deputy D.A., Fulton County District Attorney's Office, 136 Pryor Street, N.W., 3rd Floor, Atlanta, Georgia 30303, Sheila Elizabeth Gallow, General Counsel, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of the Chief Counsel, 180 Ted Turner Drive S.W., Suite 332, for Appellee in S16A0834 and S16A0835.

Jonathon Justin Majeske, 66 Lenox Pointe, N.E., Atlanta, Georgia 30324, for Other Party in S16A0834.

Jonathon Justin Majeske, Ashutosh S. Joshi, 66 Lenox Pointe, N.E., Atlanta, Georgia 30324, Mark J. Issa, The Issa Law Firm, P.C., 66 Lenox Pointe, N.E., Atlanta, Georgia 30324, for Appellant in S16A0835.

HINES, Presiding Justice.

Gregory Williams and Shauna Smith appeal from their convictions and sentences, rendered at the conclusion of a joint trial, for murder, burglary, and related crimes in connection with the shooting death of Brian Mosely. For the reasons that follow, we affirm in both cases.1

Construed to support the verdicts, the evidence established as follows. At 11:01 a.m. on December 3, 2007, police were dispatched to an East Point apartment complex in response to a 911 call reporting shots fired. The first responding officer found the victim, lying face down in the stairwell adjacent to his fourth floor apartment, naked and bleeding from gunshot wounds

to his back. A trail of blood led up to the victim's apartment, which had been forcibly entered and ransacked; the shower had been left running, and blood spatter patterns were indicative of a struggle between victim and assailant. The crime scene technician noted bullet holes in the walls and found multiple spent shell casings in the apartment, as well as a projectile that had traversed a wall into a neighboring apartment. The victim died from his gunshot wounds, which the medical examiner concluded had been inflicted at close range. The victim had also sustained multiple blunt force injuries to his head, consistent with having been pistol-whipped, and injuries to his neck, consistent with having been manually choked; these injuries had likely been sustained contemporaneously with the gunshot wounds.

The 911 caller reported that, immediately after he heard the gunshots, he saw three black males exit the apartment complex parking lot in a black Mitsubishi SUV. One of these men wore his hair in dreadlocks.

During the investigation, East Point police received a phone call from an anonymous tipster with information about the murder. The caller, whom investigators ultimately identified as Latonja Cojoe, reported that she had been present during a conversation in which Smith, whom Cojoe had known for several years, discussed the murder. Through this conversation, Cojoe learned that Smith had been angry with the victim, whom she had previously dated, for "keying" a vehicle belonging to Smith's then-boyfriend after entering Smith's unlocked home and finding Smith and the boyfriend together. Smith had spent $850 to repair the damaged car and believed the victim was responsible for repaying her. The victim did not reimburse Smith, and Smith thus contacted a woman named Calenthia Honeycutt, who arranged for some men to "set up" the victim. Though Cojoe subsequently signed an affidavit swearing to have no knowledge about the murder, at trial she confirmed that she had made the anonymous call to police but wanted to have no further involvement in the case.

Calenthia Honeycutt had family connections to both Smith and Williams. Honeycutt once had been married to Williams' father and, as of the date of the crimes, Williams and his girlfriend, Erica Henderson, were living with Honeycutt and Honeycutt's then-husband, William Serena. Serena was a cousin of Smith. Though Honeycutt denied having any knowledge about the crimes—and initially denied even being acquainted with Smith, a claim she later retracted—she testified at trial that, at the time of the crimes, Williams had worn his hair in dreadlocks and had ready access to Henderson's black Mitsubishi SUV. Henderson, too, testified that as of the date of the crimes, Williams had his own set of keys to her black Mitsubishi SUV.

Cell phone records reflected 25 phone calls between Smith's cell phone and a cell phone used by Williams on the day of the crimes. These records further showed that, during the rest of that month, from December 4 through 31, 2007, there were a total of only seven phone calls between these two phone numbers, one on December 5 and six on December 31. In addition, the records reflected that Williams' phone "pinged" off various cell towers in East Point between 7:00 a.m. and 11:07 a.m. on the day of the crimes; several of these calls were transmitted from a cell tower located less than a mile from the crime scene, including one phone call at 11:04 a.m. Out of approximately 3,000 phone calls on Williams' phone during the month of December 2007, the 11:04 a.m. call on the day of the crimes was the last call that was transmitted from that cell tower. After the 11:04 a.m. call, Williams' phone "pinged" off of an East Point cell tower farther from the crime scene at 11:07 a.m., then a cell tower in southwest Atlanta at 11:12 a.m., and a cell tower in northwest Atlanta at 11:25 a.m., indicating the phone's movement away from the vicinity of the crime scene in the minutes after the crimes.

During the investigation, Smith confirmed that she had been angry with the victim for failing to repay the $850, although she denied being involved in the murder. Smith also expressed outrage after learning that investigators had questioned Honeycutt about the crimes. After her arrest, Smith initiated a conversation with the lead investigator in the case, Detective Shawn Buchanan, by commenting that he must think she is a heartless person. Detective Buchanan responded by saying he believed she had just made a bad decision, which Smith acknowledged by nodding and saying "yes." Detective Buchanan then stated that $850 was "not worth a person dying over." According to Detective Buchanan, Smith "said she knew and was sorry."

Case No. S16A0834.

1. In his sole enumeration of error, Williams contends that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions, noting that the evidence was entirely circumstantial and asserting that such evidence was not such as would exclude every reasonable hypothesis except that of guilt. See, e.g., Wright v. State, 274 Ga. 730 (1), 559 S.E.2d 437 (2002) (conviction based on circumstantial evidence is authorized where evidence excludes every reasonable hypothesis but for that of defendant's guilt). Williams highlights the lack of inculpatory physical evidence and, positing an alternative theory of the crimes, notes that there was evidence that the victim was a drug dealer who had been attempting to broker a marijuana deal the night before the crimes. Williams further assails the cell phone records as insufficient to show anything other than his general proximity to the crime scene, noting that the records could show only a three to five-mile radius in which a cell phone was located at a given time and that they offered no evidence regarding the actual identity of the phone's user at a given time or the content of any given communication.

While we agree that the evidence against Williams was not overwhelming, we nonetheless find it sufficient to enable a rational trier of fact to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that Williams was guilty of the crimes of which he was convicted, Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560 (1979), and to exclude all other reasonable hypotheses but for that of Williams' guilt, see Wright, 274 Ga. at 731, 559 S.E.2d 437. Testimony from multiple witnesses established that Smith was angry with the victim over the $850 she believed he owed her, and Smith herself tacitly acknowledged to Detective Buchanan her role in the victim's murder. Evidence undisputedly established a relationship between Smith and Honeycutt and between Honeycutt and Williams, and there was evidence that Smith had contacted Honeycutt about "setting up" the victim. There was evidence that the getaway car was the same model and color as the vehicle Williams routinely drove at the time of the crimes, and Williams fit an eyewitness' physical description of one of the assailants. Most damning are the cell phone records, reflecting 25 phone calls between Williams' and...

To continue reading

Request your trial
11 cases
  • Bernier v. State
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • 10 Marzo 2020
    ...a defendant remains silent after he or she is made aware of the proceedings occurring in his or her absence." Williams v. State , 300 Ga. 161, 166 (3), 794 S.E.2d 127 (2016) (citation and punctuation omitted). Here, where Bernier was present before, during, and after all of these bench conf......
  • Ellington v. State
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Georgia
    • 9 Agosto 2022
    ...v. State , 305 Ga. 92, 94, 823 S.E.2d 774 (2019) ; Cochran v. State , 305 Ga. 827, 830, 828 S.E.2d 338 (2019) ; Williams v. State , 300 Ga. 161, 163-164, 794 S.E.2d 127 (2016). Moreover, to the extent Ellington relies on certain inconsistencies across the various witnesses’ testimony about ......
  • Johnson v. State, A18A0980
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • 29 Octubre 2018
    ...to be present at these bench conferences discussing whether a potential juror would be struck for cause. See Williams v. State , 300 Ga. 161, 165 (3), 794 S.E.2d 127 (2016) (recognizing that, although defendant was present when juror asked to be excused for hardship and when trial court ann......
  • Goodrum v. State, S17A1748
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Georgia
    • 15 Marzo 2018
    ...only if it was made at his express direction or in open court in his presence or if he acquiesced to the waiver. See Williams v. State , 300 Ga. 161, 165, 794 S.E.2d 127. Because the first two options clearly were not satisfied, we examine if Goodrum acquiesced to the waiver. "As our preced......
  • 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