Murder. Fulton Superior Court. Before Judge McBurney.
Barbara M. Collins, for appellant (case no. A14A0804).
Raina J. Nadler, for appellant (case no. A14A0805).
Paul L. Howard, Jr., District Attorney, Paige Reese Whitaker, Peggy R. Katz, Sheila E. Gallow, Arthur C. Walton, Assistant District Attorneys, Samuel S. Olens, Attorney General, Patricia B. Attaway Burton, Deputy Attorney General, Paula K. Smith, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Meghan H. Hill, Michael A. Oldham, Assistant Attorneys General, for appellee.
BENHAM, Justice. All the Justices concur.
Herman Lawson and Christopher James were jointly indicted, along with two others, for charges arising out of the shooting deaths of two victims. In separate trials, appellants were convicted of all charges, including the malice murder of both victims. At the first appearance of these cases before this Court, we reversed the trial court's grant of new trial to each appellant. State v. James, 292 Ga. 440 (738 S.E.2d 601) (2013). Upon remand, each appellant's sentence was reinstated, the remaining grounds for new trial raised in each appellant's motion for new trial were considered, and the trial court denied those motions. Lawson's and James's
appeals were consolidated for review by this Court. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm the convictions as to each appellant.
[296 Ga. 2] Viewed in the light most favorable to the verdicts, the evidence in both trials showed the deaths arose out of a dispute over whether drugs had been stolen from co-indictee Bruce Roberts's apartment where the victims, Jeremiah Ingram and Fatima Fisher, were found by the co-indictees when they returned to Roberts's apartment after spending the evening at a nightclub. The co-indictees blamed the victims for stealing cocaine and then bound the victims and transported them in two different vehicles to a location in Fulton County where Lawson shot them at James's urging. The bodies were left near the side of the road. After the shooting, the co-indictees changed the tires on one of the vehicles and drove the other vehicle to a rural area in another county and set fire to it, as part of an attempted cover-up of the crimes.
The State's primary witness against all three of the co-indictees who faced trial was Karryngton Sims, an unindicted witness to the crimes who was characterized by the State as a third victim. He testified about the events that transpired before and after the shootings, and testified that the shootings occurred at about sunrise. Sims testified that after these events he and the co-indictees returned to Roberts's apartment to hide out for a few days and agreed to tell police, if questioned, that they had last seen the victims leaving in the vehicle they had burned. Members of the group called Ingram's phone to leave messages in an effort to make it appear they did not know his fate. Another witness testified at the trials of both Lawson and James that she spoke to victim Fisher by phone several different times [296 Ga. 3] during the evening of August 19 into the morning of August 20. The witness testified that earlier in the evening, Fisher was upset because Ingram was late picking her up. Eventually, Ingram let Fisher know he was coming to get her to take her out. This testimony is consistent with other testimony that Ingram had been seen at the nightclub earlier in the evening. The witness further testified that she last
spoke to Fisher at approximately 4:00 a.m., at which time Fisher told her she and Ingram were about to leave Ingram's apartment at the ...