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Merritt v. State

Supreme Court of Georgia

November 3, 2014

MERRITT
v.
THE STATE

Murder. Stephens Superior Court. Before Judge Caudell.

Harvey S. Wasserman, for appellant.

Brian M. Rickman, District Attorney, Richard K. Bridgeman, Assistant District Attorney, Samuel S. Olens, Attorney General, Patricia B. Attaway Burton, Deputy Attorney General, Paula K. Smith, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Ryan A. Kolb, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

HINES, Presiding Justice. All the Justices concur.

OPINION

Page 317

Hines, Presiding Justice.

Anthony C. Merritt appeals from his convictions and sentences for malice murder, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, and [296 Ga. 99] possession of a firearm during the commission of the crime of malice murder, in connection with the death of Jerron Jackson. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.[1]

Construed to support the verdicts, the evidence showed that Merritt and Jackson shared a home in a mobile home park. On the afternoon of July 31, 2011, Timms, who was a neighbor of Merritt and Jackson, heard gunshots, although she did not see who fired them; Jackson approached Timms and asked her to call 911. Soon thereafter, Merritt approached her and said not to call the police as he was a convicted felon. As the two men walked back to their home, they argued; Jackson told Merritt to find another place to stay, and Merritt said that if Jackson had a " beef" with him, they could settle it " right now." A handgun fell from Merritt's pants, and he retrieved it from the ground. Timms called 911, but the responding sheriff's deputy was unable to get a response at Merritt's home.

Later that afternoon, Timms heard two gunshots from inside Merritt's home. She did not see Jackson again, but saw Merritt leave the home and go into a nearby wooded area; on multiple occasions, Merritt paced outside the home, apparently under the influence of drugs or alcohol. At some point, Merritt telephoned his former fiancé e and said " something about somebody got shot or something like that." Merritt also telephoned his grandmother and said " something had happened and somebody had been shot, something about his roommate."

After hearing the gunshots from inside Merritt's home, Timms stopped a passing sheriff's deputy and identified Merritt as the person from whose pants the handgun had fallen, and the deputy left the area. Merritt went to Timms's home and asked what Timms had told the deputy; she responded " nothing," and Merritt said he " could take [Timms] out, too." Timms called 911 and responding sheriff's [296 Ga. 100] deputies established a perimeter around Merritt's home, rather than immediately attempting to enter it. Before the deputies arrived, a man came to Timms's home, asked which mobile home was Merritt's, and said that he had received a telephone call to the effect that Merritt had shot his roommate; the man went to Merritt's mobile home, but did not stay long.[2]

Page 318

After sheriff's deputies had been outside Merritt's home for two hours, the Sheriff of Stephens County was informed that the Georgia State Patrol SWAT team would not assist without a warrant being secured. Thereafter, deputies near the mobile home heard sounds from inside that appeared to be a person moaning, and the decision was made to enter the mobile home without a warrant. Inside, deputies found Jackson's body lying face up on the bedroom floor and Merritt lying face down on the bed, crying. A deputy handcuffed Merritt, who spoke toward Jackson's body, saying " get up off the floor and quit playing." Law enforcement investigators collected evidence from inside the mobile home that included unfired bullets, cartridge cases, and spent projectiles; a leafy green substance that appeared to be marijuana was found in multiple places inside the home. Merritt smelled of alcohol and a later test of his blood showed the presence of marijuana. Jackson was lifeless and had been fatally shot once in the back by a handgun found in the woods outside the mobile home; the fatal projectile matched other projectiles recovered from inside the home. The moaning noise that deputies had heard was determined to have emanated from a refrigerator inside the home.

Merritt was interviewed by an agent of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and, at first, said that he had gone to sleep, been awakened when deputies were standing over his bed, and that Jackson was alive and speaking to the deputies when Merritt was taken from the home. He later told the agent that he and Jackson sold marijuana; that " Carolina men" entered the home and robbed them in a " drug deal [that] went bad," and killed Jackson.

1. The evidence authorized the jury to find Merritt guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the crimes of which he was convicted. Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. ...


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