Murder. Clayton Superior Court. Before Judge Benefield.
Brandon A. Bullard, for appellant.
Tracy Graham-Lawson, District Attorney, Elizabeth A. Baker, Frances C. Kuo, Assistant District Attorneys, Samuel S. Olens, Attorney General, Patricia B. Attaway Burton, Deputy Attorney General, Paula K. Smith, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Christian A. Fuller, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.
Hines, Presiding Justice.
Cleo Roosevelt Hampton, Jr., appeals the denial of his motion for new trial, as amended, following his convictions for malice murder and possession of a firearm during the commission of murder in connection with the fatal shooting of Jared Taylor. Hampton's sole claim on appeal is that his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance. Finding the claim to be without merit, we affirm.
[295 Ga. 666] The evidence construed in favor of the verdicts showed the following. During the morning of January 21, 2011, Hampton and Darion Brownlee went to Jared Taylor's home in Clayton County under the guise that they intended to sell him a handgun. Taylor lived with his girlfriend, Angela Davis, and the two sold marijuana out of the home that they shared. Taylor used calls to a cell phone and text messages to arrange drug deals. He kept as much as $25,000 in the home and stored marijuana in a black book bag on his side of the couple's bed. Taylor had a handgun, but he carried it only when someone he did not know came to buy drugs. Otherwise, Taylor stored the handgun in the couple's bedroom under his pillow.
Earlier on the morning of January 21, Davis left home to run errands and called Taylor around 11:30 a.m. to ask him what he wanted for lunch. While on the phone with Taylor, Davis heard at least two other voices in the background. After buying Taylor's lunch from a restaurant and running some more errands, around 1:00 p.m., Davis attempted repeatedly to call Taylor on the cell phone he used, but there was no answer. At approximately 1:20 p.m., Davis returned home to find the usually locked entrance door unlocked and Taylor lying bloody on the floor between the hallway and the kitchen. Taylor died from a single gunshot wound to the head. Davis saw the cell phone used by Taylor under the kitchen table, and she used it to call 911. While waiting for police to arrive, Davis discovered that the closet was in complete disarray and the access panel to the attic had been disturbed; however, marijuana and some drug proceeds that were stashed in a locked " makeup case" had gone undiscovered. Also, Taylor's handgun was still under his pillow. Because Davis did not want the police to learn that the couple was dealing drugs, she hid the marijuana and money in a neighbor's truck. The police's initial investigation of the crime scene revealed several footprints inside and outside of the home.
Davis's sister knew Hampton and Brownlee through mutual friends. On the night of the murder, Hampton showed up at the sister's house claiming that he was at Taylor's home earlier to sell him a handgun but left to go to Southlake Mall. After the sister received [295 Ga. 667] a telephone call informing her that Taylor had died, Hampton commented that he " didn't mean it" and he left. About a month before Taylor's murder, Davis's sister overheard Hampton and Brownlee discussing a plan to rob Taylor and Davis; Brownlee stated that " he knew where everything was ... where the attic was and where [Taylor] hid his stuff at." At the time of the conversation, Hampton was wielding a handgun. Subsequently, Davis's sister related the overheard conversation to the police.
The police questioned Hampton about his involvement in the shooting. At first, Hampton admitted to being present during Taylor's murder and that he " shot two and gave him one in the head." Later in the investigation, however, Hampton's story was that he and Brownlee went to Taylor's home only to sell him a handgun, and Brownlee decided on his own to shoot Taylor.
Surveillance video taken the day of Taylor's death showed Hampton and Brownlee shopping with cash at Southlake Mall, where Hampton purchased clothes and shoes. After receiving permission to search Hampton's residence, officers found clothing and shoes soaking in a large trash can full of water. The shoes that the police recovered were the same size and brand of shoes that Hampton later replaced with a purchase at Southlake Mall, and they matched some of the shoe prints recovered by the police at the crime scene. Subpoenaed records from the cell phone used by Hampton revealed several text messages and phone calls between Hampton and Brownlee on the day of Taylor's murder. Testifying in his own defense at trial, Hampton admitted that he and Brownlee discussed robbing Taylor, and that he knowingly accepted from Brownlee some of the cash stolen from Taylor and used it to shop at the mall.
1. Hampton has not asserted that the evidence was insufficient to sustain his convictions; nevertheless, this Court has reviewed the evidence and finds it sufficient to enable a rational trier of fact to conclude beyond a reasonable ...