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Styles v. State

Court of Appeals of Georgia

September 24, 2014

STYLES
v.
THE STATE

Page 167

Armed robbery, etc. Brooks Superior Court. Before Judge Tunison.

Byron D. Watson, for appellant.

J. David Miller, District Attorney, Bradfield M. Shealy, Jessica W. Clark, Assistant District Attorneys, for appellee.

PHIPPS, Chief Judge. Ellington, P. J., and McMillian, J., concur.

OPINION

Page 168

Phipps, Chief Judge.

In connection with a home invasion during which property was taken at gunpoint from four persons, Dominique Styles was tried by a jury, then convicted of burglary and four counts of armed robbery. In this appeal, he challenges the sufficiency of the evidence, claims he was entitled to a jury charge on robbery by intimidation as a lesser [329 Ga.App. 144] included offense of armed robbery, and contests the denial of his motion for new trial which asserted that his trial counsel had rendered ineffective assistance. We affirm.

1. Styles contends that the trial court erred by denying his motion for a directed verdict of acquittal and that his convictions are not supported by sufficient evidence. Pursuant to Jackson v. Virginia,[1] " the relevant question is whether, after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt." [2]

In its case-in-chief, the state showed the following. The crimes occurred at the residence of two women and one of the women's children. Their home had frequently been the site of card games. Styles had once participated in a game there. He returned on July 25, 2009, at about 10:00 p.m. The residents were at home, and their family members were visiting; collectively, the occupants numbered about 12.

When Styles knocked on the front door and announced his name, a brother of one of the residents recognized him, opened the door, and allowed Styles to enter. Styles stepped into the living room and asked the group sitting there whether they were playing cards that night; they answered no. Styles went back to the front door, peered outside, then walked back into the living room. About ten seconds later, a man wearing a mask rushed into the residence through that same door, which had been left ajar.

Page 169

The masked man pointed a gun at each adult resident and family member, ordering to the effect: " Give me everything, cell phone, money and all." The man took money from two of them. He took a cell phone from a third. From a fourth, the man took car keys, ordering her: " Take me out to the car, where the money at." The man then forced that woman to her car, which he searched; finding no money, the man took a bank envelope.

Meanwhile, one of the family members, who had escaped while the gunman was still inside, ran to a neighbor's residence and summoned police. While the gunman was outside searching the car, another family member inside the residence dialed police; and a third family member sneaked out a window and ran to a nearby apartment, where he asked residents to contact the police. Styles had initially [329 Ga.App. 145] begun " running behind" that family member; however, as another family member testified, " [Styles] could have kept going and got help, but he came back inside the house where the gunman was," then went into a bedroom and began " plundering trying to steal [a] PlayStation."

During the intervals when Styles and the gunman were both at the residence, the gunman never pointed his weapon at Styles and never ordered Styles to relinquish any property. And by the time the police arrived, neither Styles nor the gunman was still on the premises.

The gunman was later identified as Lamar Jones. Co-indicted on all counts with Styles, Jones entered a negotiated guilty plea, pursuant to which he agreed to testify for the state at Styles's trial. In his trial testimony, Jones provided details about the planning and execution of the heist. Earlier on the day in question, Styles had called him and told him about a " lick" [3] at a residence, which Styles described as a " gambling house." Jones recounted that Styles had designed a plan: " [Styles was] going to go knock on the door. As he knock on the door and get the door open, I just come behind him, and he just play like, you know ... like I just came by myself." Jones testified that, after driving to the targeted residence, " We got out, ... crept along side of the house. We went on around, he knocked on the door. Once he knocked I could hear him talking with somebody[,] ... then they kind of exchanged a little bit more words." Jones recalled, " I came around, and I went in the house." Jones testified that he was wearing a mask, that he brandished a gun, and that he took money from two or three of the occupants. He testified that he also " escorted" one of the residents to her car, which he searched for money; he took a bank envelope, which he later discovered contained only receipts. And when he saw police approaching the area, he ran away.

On cross-examination of several of the state's witnesses, Styles's lawyer elicited testimony that during the incident, Styles had not held a gun, had not threatened anyone, and had not made any demand upon anyone.

Styles was the sole defense witness. He admitted that, prior to the night of the incident, he had been to the residence, where he had played cards and seen " [a] pretty good amount of money" change hands. He testified that when he knocked on the front door on the night in question, he was invited to come inside, and that after stepping inside, Jones came into the residence, waving a gun and demanding money.

[329 Ga.App. 146] Styles conceded that, after his initial entry into the living room, " [t]he door was never closed." Styles, who was 21 years old at the time of the incident, testified that he had known Jones since they were children. Styles admitted that Jones never pointed the gun at him nor demanded from him any money. Styles denied, however, planning with Jones the commission of any offense and testified further that, while Jones was perpetrating the crimes, he and a resident's family member sprinted to a nearby apartment and asked someone there to contact police.

In rebuttal, the state called as a witness that family member, who recounted that after he sneaked out the window, he saw Styles already outside. Although Styles had initially begun running with him, Styles " split off" and " went some else where" -- Styles was not

Page 170

with him when he reached the apartment nearby and asked the residents ...


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