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Washington v. State

Supreme Court of Georgia

November 17, 2014

WASHINGTON
v.
THE STATE

Murder. Fulton Superior Court. Before Judge Dempsey.

Sheueli C. Wang, for appellant.

Paul L. Howard, Jr., District Attorney, Paige Reese Whitaker, Joshua D. Morrison, Assistant District Attorneys, Samuel S. Olens, Attorney General, Patricia B. Attaway Burton, Deputy Attorney General, Paula K. Smith, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Vicki S. Bass, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

MELTON, Justice. All the Justices concur.

OPINION

Page 906

Melton, Justice.

Page 907

Following a jury trial, Bryant Washington was found guilty of malice murder, two counts of felony murder, aggravated assault, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.[1] On appeal, Washington [296 Ga. 253] argues that the trial court made several errors regarding the introduction of identification testimony and that trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.

1. In the light most favorable to the verdict, the record shows that, on September 2, 2008, Jeffrey Lawrence, the victim, was living in an apartment with his brother, Charles Lawrence, and their friend, Darnell Hudson. That day, Monica Taylor, the mother of Hudson's child, was visiting the apartment. At approximately 11:00 a.m., a man known as " Slim" or " Old Man Ron" came to the apartment with the intention of purchasing drugs from Charles Lawrence and Hudson. Slim was accompanied by three other men, one of whom was wearing a yellow hat and a yellow shirt and had a New Orleans accent. After walking in and out of the house several times, the man in the yellow hat came inside, pulled out a gun, and told everyone to " lay it down." He then opened fire and shot Jeffrey Lawrence in the head, ultimately killing him. Charles Lawrence responded by firing a gun back, and he and Hudson chased the man outside of the apartment. Later, when investigating the scene, police recovered a yellow hat from the bushes in front of the apartment, and DNA on the hat was a match for Washington, who is originally from New Orleans.

To further the investigation, police created a photo lineup containing Washington's picture, and both Charles Lawrence and Taylor identified Washington. In both instances, the police officer administering the lineup read Charles Lawrence and Taylor the admonition located on the back of the photo lineup,[2] he did not tell either witness whether they had made the correct choice, and he did not threaten them. Prior to Taylor's identification of Washington, however, the police officer told her that they had discovered someone's DNA at the scene and had a suspect.

This evidence was sufficient to enable the jury to find Washington guilty of the crimes for which he was convicted beyond a reasonable doubt. Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307 (99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560) (1979).

2. Washington contends that the trial court erred by allowing Steve Berne, Charles Lawrence's attorney, to testify regarding the [296 Ga. 254] manner in which the photo lineup was presented to Charles Lawrence. Specifically, Washington contends that Berne bolstered Charles Lawrence's testimony. We disagree.

It is improper to allow one witness to testify regarding the veracity of another. See Bly v. State, 283 Ga. 453, 459 (3) (660 S.E.2d 713) (2008) (" a witness ... can never bolster the credibility of another witness as to whether the witness is telling the truth" ) (citation and punctuation omitted). That, however, is not what happened in this case. Instead, Berne, who was present during the photo lineup, testified that (1) detectives read Charles Lawrence an admonition prior to the lineup; (2) Charles Lawrence was neither pressured nor instructed whom to choose; (3) Charles Lawrence immediately chose Washington; and (4) detectives did not inform Charles Lawrence that they had Washington's DNA. Contrary to ...


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