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Browner v. State

Supreme Court of Georgia

November 3, 2014


Page 349

Murder. Bibb Superior Court. Before Judge Christian, Senior Judge.

Jonathan P. Waters, for appellant.

K. David Cooke, Jr., District Attorney, Dorothy V. Hull, Shelley T. Milton, Assistant District Attorneys, Samuel S. Olens, Attorney General, Patricia B. Attaway Burton, Deputy Attorney General, Paula K. Smith, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Jason M. Rea, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

BENHAM, Justice. All the Justices concur.


Page 350

Benham, Justice.

Appellant Antonio Browner was convicted of felony murder and other related crimes associated with the shooting death of Gary Cole, the assistant manager of a Family Dollar store, during an armed robbery of the store. He was also convicted of armed robbery of Fran Meyer and attempted car-jacking of her vehicle which occurred later in the same evening as the shooting of Mr. Cole.[1] Browner appeals, raising several grounds, and for the reasons set forth herein, we affirm.

[296 Ga. 139] Viewed in the light most favorable to the verdict, the trial evidence showed that appellant entered the store armed with a gun with the intent to commit robbery. He commanded the store manager to open the safe but while the manager was attempting to do so, Browner shot him. The victim died as a result of the shooting. After shooting the manager, appellant turned his gun on another employee, Cynthia Poole, before running out of the store. Although neither employee opened the store safe or registers, appellant testified and admitted he took cash that was laying on the store counter. The robbery was recorded by store security cameras which showed appellant wearing distinctive cartoon-printed pajama-style pants. Video from a security camera at the courthouse showed a man matching appellant's description wearing the same pajama-style pants earlier the same day. Appellant admitted he was the man shown in both security camera videos. The store camera also showed one of appellant's co-indictees, Quartez Carter, standing at the door to the store. The other co-indictee, Ron'Esha Smith, waited outside in a get-away car. During the robbery, the cell phone appellant was carrying made an apparently inadvertent call to a friend who heard appellant tell the store manager to " shut the f*** up and give it to me. Open the drawer." The witness also heard another

Page 351

male voice in the background saying, " Just beat his a**." She also heard a gunshot. The next day, appellant admitted to the friend who received the telephone call that he and the others had robbed the store, but he denied killing anyone. When the friend learned from an internet report that an employee had been killed in the robbery, she notified law enforcement [296 Ga. 140] authorities and told them appellant and Smith were on their way to her home, where they intended to hide out for a few days.

Acting on this tip, the police located Smith's car en route to the friend's house and made a traffic stop. Appellant was taken into custody, after which he gave two statements to police. A search of the stopped car revealed evidence related to the armed robbery and attempted car-jacking of victim Fran Meyer. That victim identified co-indictee Smith's car as one she had seen nearby before she was accosted. She testified that the purse taken from her contained several hundred-dollar bills. Security cameras at a nearby store, as well as store records of the transaction, captured video showing appellant making a purchase using a one-hundred-dollar bill shortly after the robbery of Meyer and the attempted car-jacking. When Smith's car was searched after Smith and appellant were taken into custody, the victim's checkbook was found in Smith's vehicle. Two of appellant's younger relatives testified that appellant and his two co-indictees had picked them up on the evening of these events and they had witnessed the Meyer armed robbery and attempted car-jacking. Pajama-style pants matching those that appellant admitted he was wearing at the scene of the store robbery and shooting were recovered from a dumpster at Carter's apartment complex.

At trial, appellant testified he had committed the store armed robbery, had fired the shot that killed the store manager, and took Meyer's purse, but appellant claimed Carter had threatened to kill him and Smith if he did not comply. The witnesses to the attempted car-jacking, however, testified they never saw Carter threaten appellant as they were driving around. In two custodial statements given to the police, appellant did not mention that Carter had threatened or coerced him.

1. Appellant asserts the trial court erred in denying his motion for new trial on the ground that the evidence was insufficient to convict. Quoting Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 317 (99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560) (1979), appellant urges that the United States Supreme Court recognized that even " a properly instructed jury may occasionally convict even when it can be said that no rational trier of fact could find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt," and that this is such a case. Particularly with respect to what appellant refers to as " the secondary charges," presumably referring to the charges relating to ...

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