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Oliver v. State

Court of Appeals of Georgia

October 29, 2014

OLIVER
v.
THE STATE

Voluntary manslaughter, etc. Cobb Superior Court. Before Judge Grubbs.

Cynthia L. Bower, for appellant.

D. Victor Reynolds, District Attorney, Daniel J. Quinn, Assistant District Attorney, for appellee.

DILLARD, Judge. Doyle, P. J., and Miller, J., concur.

OPINION

Page 607

Dillard, Judge.

Following trial, a jury convicted Darius Oliver of one count each of voluntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, criminal trespass, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. Oliver appeals his convictions and the denial of his motion for new trial, arguing that the trial court erred in excluding evidence of the victim's propensity for violence. For the reasons set forth infra, we affirm Oliver's convictions.

Viewed in the light most favorable to the jury's verdict,[1] the record shows that in the early morning hours of April 29, 2012, Chasmyn Donald was out with friends when she received a call from her boyfriend, Oliver, who asked her to pick him up from a nightclub that he and his friends had just left. But shortly after Donald and her friends picked up Oliver and his friends, she and Oliver began arguing. This argument escalated into a fight, at which point Donald's friend, who was driving, demanded that Oliver and his friends get out of her car. They complied, but as Donald and her friends drove away, Oliver drew a handgun he was carrying and fired it into the air.

A day and a half later, on April 30, 2012, Ricardo Reese--who had recently become romantically involved with Donald--and one of his friends were socializing with Donald and one of her friends at Donald's apartment when someone began knocking angrily on the [329 Ga.App. 378] front door. Looking through the door's peephole, Reese's friend, and then Donald, saw that it was Oliver who was demanding entry. Scared and still upset over their fight from the night before last, Donald refused to open the door for Oliver. But this refusal further angered Oliver, and a moment later, he sprinted around the apartment building to Donald's back door and kicked it open.

Page 608

Donald then fled upstairs and locked herself in a bathroom. Oliver followed, but after yelling at Donald to open the door for a minute or so, he walked back toward the stairs and told Donald's visitors that the " party was over." At that point, Reese directed a racial epithet at Oliver, removed his shirt, and started up the stairs. Oliver warned Reese that he did not want to fight, then drew his handgun, and from several feet away fired two shots into Reese's chest, killing him. Immediately, everyone else in the apartment fled, including Oliver. But as Oliver reached the parking lot, Reese's friend, who had retrieved a handgun from Reese's car, began firing at him. Consequently, Oliver dashed off to some nearby woods and hid there until police officers eventually found and arrested him a short time later.

Thereafter, Oliver was charged, via indictment, with one count of malice murder; one count of aggravated assault; one count of burglary; two counts of felony murder, which were predicated upon the aggravated-assault and burglary charges, respectively; and two counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, which also were predicated upon the aggravated-assault and burglary charges respectively.

Prior to his trial, Oliver filed a notice of his intent to present evidence of Reese's propensity for violence in support of his justification defense, i.e., that he shot Reese in self-defense. And following a pre-trial hearing on the issue, the trial court expressed serious skepticism as to whether such evidence was admissible. Nevertheless, the court reserved ruling on the issue and stated that Oliver would be allowed to make a proffer of the expected evidence at the appropriate time.

Oliver was then tried, during which the three witnesses to the shooting testified, as did the law-enforcement officers who investigated the incident. In addition, Oliver testified in his own defense, claiming that he shot Reese because he feared that Reese and his friend were about to attack him. And after this testimony, Oliver once again sought to present evidence of Reese's propensity for violence. Specifically, he proffered that a defense witness would testify that Reese shot and injured the witness and his then 18-month-old son in 1992 (for which Reese pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated assault), and that, subsequently, the witness learned that Reese had ...


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