Justification. Clayton Superior Court. Before Judge Simmons.
Tyler R. Conklin, James C. Bonner, Jr., for appellant.
Tracy Graham-Lawson, District Attorney, Elizabeth A. Baker, Deah B. Warren, Assistant District Attorneys, for appellee.
BRANCH, Judge. Barnes, P. J., and Boggs, J., concur.
James Gower Jackson was tried by a Clayton County jury and found guilty on two counts of criminal damage to property in the second degree and one count of simple assault. He now appeals from the denial of his motion for a new trial, arguing that the trial court erred when it refused to instruct the jury on the defense of justification. We find no error and affirm.
" 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." Marriott v. State, 320 Ga.App. 58 (739 S.E.2d 68) (2013) (citation omitted). So viewed, the record shows that Jackson was previously employed as a truck driver for Super Service Trucking. On October 27, 2011, while driving a trailer of freight to Tennessee, Jackson used the Qualcomm system located in the cab of the Super Service truck he was driving to send a message to Bruce Ellington, Super Service's director of operations. Jackson told Ellington that he was going to bring Ellington his " god damn truck" because he was " tired of delivering [Super Service's] freight for nothing" ; he concluded the message by writing " [w]hatever happens now just remember you drove me to it." Ellington replied to the message, telling Jackson that he accepted Jackson's resignation. After receiving Ellington's reply, and assuming that he had been fired, Jackson dropped the trailer loaded with freight at a truck stop off of I-75 in north Georgia, near the Tennessee line. Jackson then drove the truck cab to the Super Service facility in Ellenwood, Georgia.
Vehicles enter the Super Service facility at Ellenwood through a parking lot. Trucks entering the lot are then supposed to drive to a guard shack located at an interior gate, check in with the guard, and then drive around the building to the back entrance. When he returned with the truck cab, however, Jackson neither stopped at the [329 Ga.App. 241] guard gate nor attempted to drive to the back of the building. Instead, he drove past the guard shack and through the interior gate, made a sharp left turn, and ran into two SUVs parked near the building. One of the SUVs belonged to Ellington and the other belonged to Danny Bryan, the Super Service terminal manager. Jackson then exited the truck cab carrying his tire bat, which was described as a long wooden object that resembles a billy club. Carrying the tire bat, Jackson walked into Ellington's office and told Ellington he was " going to whoop somebody's ass." Jackson also told Ellington that he had " hit a couple of cars in the parking lot."
After observing the damaged cars and truck cab from his office window, Ellington called the police while another Super Service employee walked Jackson out of the building. Following an investigation at the scene, the responding officer arrested Jackson.
Jackson testified in his own defense and stated that as he pulled into the Super Service parking lot, the truck's throttle became stuck. He then accidentally hit the accelerator instead of the brake, and he indicated that the accelerator got stuck. At that point, Jackson decided to steer the truck into the parked cars to avoid hitting either the guard or two Super Service employees who were sitting at a nearby picnic table. Jackson further explained that he confronted Ellington while carrying a tire bat because he was afraid Ellington would be angry about the damage to his car.
During the charge conference, Jackson requested charges on the affirmative defenses of justification and accident. The trial court agreed that the charge on accident was supported by the evidence, but declined to give the charge on justification, finding that Jackson's testimony showed that the damage to the cars was accidental. As the court explained its reasoning, " what [Jackson's] saying here is the truck malfunctioned. [He] had an accident and [he] ran into their cars instead of running into people. I think that's all covered by accident." Jackson excepted to the jury charge and on appeal he contends that the trial court's refusal to give his requested charge on justification constitutes reversible error.
A defendant is entitled to a requested jury charge on an affirmative defense as long as there is at least some evidence, including the defendant's own testimony, to support it. Price v. State, 289 Ga. 459, 459-460 (2) (712 S.E.2d 828) (2011). Whether the evidence presented supports a particular affirmative defense is a question of law, Lewis v. State, 292 Ga.App. 257, 264 (2) (663 S.E.2d 721) (2008), and the trial court's ruling ...