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Baxter v. State

Court of Appeals of Georgia

November 13, 2014

BAXTER
v.
THE STATE

Rape, etc. Richmond Superior Court. Before Judge Jolly.

Steel Law Firm, Brian Steel, for appellant.

Ashley Wright, District Attorney, Joshua B. Smith, Assistant District Attorney, for appellee.

MCFADDEN, Judge. Andrews, P. J., and Ray, J., concur.

OPINION

Page 739

McFadden, Judge.

After a jury trial, Jared U. Baxter was convicted of one count of rape, one count of kidnapping, three counts of burglary, three counts of terroristic threats, and one count of peeping tom. He appeals, arguing that his sentence of life without the possibility of parole for the rape conviction is illegal; that trial counsel was ineffective; and that the state failed to prove asportation as required for the kidnapping conviction.

As the state concedes, the sentence of life without the possibility of parole for the rape conviction is illegal. Accordingly, we vacate that sentence and remand for resentencing. We reject Baxter's other claims. Baxter argues that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object to the admission of certain evidence. We find that some of the evidence was admissible and trial counsel had strategic reasons for failing to object to the other evidence. We also find that the state sufficiently proved asportation. We therefore affirm Baxter's convictions.

1. The evidence was sufficient to support the convictions.

Viewed in the light most favorable to the verdict, Morris v. State, 322 Ga.App. 682 (1) (746 S.E.2d 162) (2013), the evidence shows that on June 29, 2008, the first victim woke up in her bedroom to find Baxter putting his hand on her mouth threatening to kill her if she screamed. When she fought back, Baxter fled through the back door. The victim called the police and left her apartment. When she returned, she discovered that her television was missing. The police later recovered the television in Baxter's apartment while executing a search warrant.

Less than a week later, Baxter forced his way into the apartment of the second victim. He threatened to slit her throat if she screamed. Baxter raped the victim, ejaculated on her back, and then made her take a shower. The victim described her assailant as wearing a mask [329 Ga.App. 590] with eye holes cut out of it and a long-sleeved t-shirt. Investigators found a similar mask and a long-sleeved t-shirt in Baxter's storage closet.

On July 14, 2008, the third victim was watching television on her laptop. She heard a sound and went to check that the door was locked, when Baxter forced his way into her apartment, covered her mouth with his hand, and threatened to slit her throat. Baxter told the victim to remove her shirt, but she fought him, and he retreated. The victim described her assailant as wearing a black ski mask with white stripes above the eyes, the same kind of mask found in Baxter's storage closet.

A few days later, the sheriff's office set up a surveillance operation at the apartment complex. At around 5:20 in the morning, a deputy saw an individual, who was later identified as Baxter, drive up and park in a

Page 740

bright blue Saturn, take a black, cloth object from the trunk of the car, and place it in his back pocket. Baxter looked into the back window of an apartment. He heard a noise, thought someone had seen him peeping into the window, and fled in his car, pursued by two undercover Richmond County deputies. Baxter was eventually stopped in South Carolina. Baxter admitted looking into the window, but he said he was spying on his girlfriend. But his girlfriend did not live in that apartment; instead that apartment belonged to the fourth victim.

Baxter testified at trial. He admitted being a peeping tom and admitted peeping into the ...


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