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Gill v. State

Supreme Court of Georgia

November 17, 2014

GILL
v.
THE STATE

Reconsideration denied December 11, 2014.

Murder. Houston Superior Court. Before Judge Lumsden.

Nicholas E. White, for appellant.

George H. Hartwig III, District Attorney, Daniel P. Bibler, Assistant District Attorney, Samuel S. Olens, Attorney General, Patricia B. Attaway Burton, Deputy Attorney General, Paula K. Smith, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Clint C. Malcolm, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

MELTON, Justice. All the Justices concur.

OPINION

Page 926

Melton, Justice.

Following a jury trial, Robert Lee Gill was found guilty of felony murder, aggravated battery, and aggravated assault in connection with the beating death of Terry Lynn Carson.[1] On appeal Gill contends that the evidence was insufficient to support the verdict and that the trial court erred by excluding at trial certain medical records evidence pertaining to the victim. We affirm.

1. Viewed in the light most favorable to the jury's verdict, the evidence reveals that, on June 18, 2012, Gill got into a verbal and then physical altercation with his co-worker, Carson. After the initial altercation had ended, and in the presence of several eyewitnesses, Gill approached the unarmed Carson from behind and hit him in the back of the head with a large piece of wood, fracturing his skull. [296 Ga. 352] Carson fell to the ground, and Gill continued to kick him in the head. Carson was taken to the hospital, where he later died from his injuries.

This evidence was sufficient to enable a rational trier of fact to reject Gill's claim of self-defense and find him guilty of the crime of 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); Bostic v. State, 294 Ga. 845, 846 (1) (757 S.E.2d 59) (2014) (" The question of justification was a matter for the jury, which was free to reject [the defendant's] version of the events" ) (citation omitted).

2. Gill argues that the trial court erred by excluding from evidence at trial

Page 927

certain toxicology reports that would have allegedly shown that Carson may have been under the influence of drugs at the time of his altercation with Gill. However, " [e]vidence of drug use is inadmissible when it is intended only to impugn a victim's character and has no relevance to any disputed issues in the case." (Footnote omitted.) Crowe v. State, 277 Ga. 513, 514 (591 S.E.2d 829) (2004). See also Robinson v. State, 272 Ga. 131, 133 (3) (527 S.E.2d 845) (2000) (toxicology report showing presence of cocaine metabolites in the victim's blood was irrelevant where there was no showing of " what, if any, effect cocaine had on [the victim] at the time of his fatal argument with appellant" ).

Here, there has been no showing of how any drugs that were allegedly in Carson's system may have been affecting his behavior at the time of his fatal encounter with Gill. Gill merely speculates that drugs could have been affecting Carson at the time of the incident, which is an insufficient basis for the toxicology reports relating to Carson to be admitted into evidence at trial. Bell v. State, 280 Ga. 562 (4) (629 S.E.2d 213) (2006). See also, e.g., James v. State, 270 Ga. 675, 676 (2) (513 S.E.2d 207) (1999) (exclusion of expert testimony on victim's marijuana use was proper where " the defense could not demonstrate how the use of drugs contributed to behavior of the victim that would have been relevant to [the defendant's] justification defense" ). We find no abuse of discretion in the trial court's refusal to admit evidence of the victim's toxicology reports.

3. For all of the reasons stated above, Gill's remaining enumeration regarding the trial court's denial of his motion for new trial lacks merit.

Judgment affirmed. All the Justices concur.


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