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Nwakanma v. State

Supreme Court of Georgia

January 20, 2015

NWAKANMA
v.
THE STATE. FRANCIS
v.
THE STATE

Reconsideration denied February 16, 2015.

Page 504

Murder. Cobb Superior Court. Before Judge Ingram.

Brian Steel, for appellant (case no. S14A1442).

Edwin J. Wilson, for appellant (case no. S14A1443).

D. Victor Reynolds, District Attorney, Jesse D. Evans, Benjamin M. First, Amelia G. Pray, 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.

OPINION

Page 505

Blackwell, Justice.

Miracle Nwakanma and Louis Francis were tried together by a Cobb County jury and convicted of the murder of Justin Brown, among other crimes. Both Nwakanma and Francis appeal. Nwakanma contends only that he was denied due process when the prosecution failed to reveal a deal with a material witness and to correct critical misstatements of fact during that witness's testimony. [296 Ga. 494] Francis contends that the trial court erred when it failed to sever his trial from that of his co-defendants, when it limited his questioning of prospective jurors and refused to strike one of them, when it limited the scope of his cross-examination of a witness for the State, and when it admitted certain evidence at trial. Francis also claims that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel. Upon our review of the record and briefs, we see no error, and we affirm.[1]

Page 506

1. Viewed in the light most favorable to the verdict, the evidence shows that on the evening of August 1, 2007, Nwakanma, Francis, Muhammed Abdus-Salaam, Milton Blackledge, and David Hayes -- all members of a criminal street gang known as " MPRC 300" -- made plans to rob Dylan Wattecamps, who recently had been involved in a dispute with Abdus-Salaam over a sale of marijuana. Early on the [296 Ga. 495] morning of August 2, Hayes gave Nwakanma a .380 caliber pistol, and Blackledge drove Nwakanma, Francis, and Abdus-Salaam to the gated apartment complex in which Wattecamps lived. Hayes drove there separately in his pickup truck, arranged entry for the other four men through a resident he knew, parked his truck across the street from the entry gate, and waited there while the others entered the apartment complex. After parking near Wattecamps's apartment, Blackledge and his passengers began to survey the area on foot. Blackledge and Nwakanma were armed with silver handguns. Wattecamps was having a party in his third-floor apartment, and when one of his guests left, she saw the men standing around and recognized Nwakanma. The four men decided to go forward with their plan, and Nwakanma gave Hayes's gun to Francis.

As the four men were preparing to enter the apartment, another guest came out, and Blackledge hit him in the face. The four men then ran down the stairs and through the parking lot, pursued by Wattecamps and several of his guests. Brown, Scott Keller, and Josh Washington, who had just parked and were walking to the party, heard Wattecamps yell " get them," and began to chase the four men. Blackledge and Francis then fired several shots, one of which fatally wounded Brown in the chest. Nwakanma, Francis, Blackledge, and Abdus-Salaam climbed over the apartment complex fence and hurried into Hayes's truck. Both Francis and Blackledge claimed to have shot Brown, and Hayes drove everyone to Abdus-Salaam's apartment. Six matching .380 caliber shell casings and three .380 caliber projectiles, including the one that entered Brown's chest, were recovered. All of the shell casings came from the same gun, and two of the projectiles, including the one that killed Brown, were fired from the same pistol. Francis and Blackledge admitted to being present at the apartment complex during the shooting, and while in jail, Francis confessed his involvement to another inmate. Abdus-Salaam confessed his role in the crimes to police and testified at trial.

Neither Nwakanma nor Francis disputes the legal sufficiency of the evidence. We nevertheless have independently reviewed the evidence to assess whether it is sufficient to sustain their convictions. Upon that review, we conclude that the evidence adduced at trial was sufficient to authorize a rational trier of fact to find beyond a reasonable doubt that Nwakanma and Francis were guilty of the crimes of which ...


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