Murder. Richmond Superior Court. Before Judge Overstreet.
Judgment affirmed in part and reversed in part.
Tanya D. Jeffords, for appellant.
Ashley Wright, District Attorney, Madonna M. Little, J. Bradley Smith, Assistant District Attorneys, Samuel S. Olens, Attorney General, Patricia B. Attaway Burton, Deputy Attorney General, Paula K. Smith, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Andrew G. Sims, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.
BLACKWELL, Justice. All the Justices concur.
Cedrick Alexis Walker was tried by a Richmond County jury and convicted of the murder of Ramona Givens, the murder of Tyler Givens, and unlawfully concealing the death of Ramona. Walker appeals, contending that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions, that the trial court erred when it excluded the testimony of a defense witness, and that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel. Upon our review of the record and briefs, we see no harmful
error in the exclusion of the witness, and we conclude that Walker has failed to prove any denial of effective assistance. As to the sufficiency of the evidence, it is sufficient to sustain the conviction for the murder of Ramona, which we affirm. It is not, however, sufficient to sustain the conviction for concealing her death, which we reverse. The evidence also is not sufficient -- because of the particular legal theory by which the State charged Walker -- to sustain his conviction for the murder of Tyler, which we reverse as well. Accordingly, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed in part and reversed in part.
1. Viewed in the light most favorable to the verdict, the evidence shows that Ramona and her infant son, Tyler, shared an apartment [296 Ga. 162] in Augusta with Ramona's mother, Mona Lisa Givens. On the evening of Saturday, October 4, 2003, Mona Lisa said goodbye to Ramona and left the apartment for an overnight visit to Atlanta. The following evening, Mona Lisa returned to the apartment, where she found Tyler lying in his crib, dead. Next, Mona Lisa discovered Ramona on a sofa in the living room, also dead. Mona Lisa summoned police officers to the scene.
When the officers responded, one was approached by Walker, who was among several people gathered outside the apartment. Walker explained that he was Ramona's boyfriend, and he was " adamant about wanting to help and speak [with the officers]." Eventually, Walker was taken -- along with Mona Lisa and her boyfriend -- to a police station for interviews. In his interview, Walker claimed at first that he had not seen Ramona during the weekend, but they had spoken by telephone, he said, on Saturday night. In that telephone conversation, according to Walker, Ramona said that a man had been watching her through a window of the apartment. Soon, Walker admitted, however, that he actually had visited the apartment on Saturday night. Eventually, Walker said that he was present when Ramona died, claiming that she suffered a seizure as they were having sex, became paralyzed, stopped breathing, and died as he tried to administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Walker explained that he never before had seen someone die, that he panicked, and that he ran from the apartment without seeing Tyler.
But the physical evidence did not support the account given by Walker. In the first place, Ramona had been found fully clothed, and investigators found no sperm or seminal fluid on her body or clothing. An autopsy revealed no disease or trauma affecting her brain or spinal cord that might have been indicative of a seizure or paralysis. The medical examiner did find, however, a whitish foam in her nose and mouth, a finding consistent with the eventual determination that Ramona died as a result of asphyxiation. Moreover, the account given by Walker failed to explain the death of Tyler. Tyler's autopsy revealed compression marks on his face, and " a very specific facial lividity pattern" from blood that pooled around his nose and mouth, a result, the medical examiner concluded, of " the central part of [his] face [having been] pressed into ...