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Griffin v. State

Supreme Court of Georgia

January 20, 2015

GRIFFIN
v.
THE STATE

Murder. Effingham Superior Court. Before Judge Woodrum.

Robert L. Persse, for appellant.

Richard A. Mallard, District Attorney, Benjamin T. Edwards, Assistant District Attorney, Samuel S. Olens, Attorney General, Patricia B. Attaway Burton, Deputy Attorney General, Paula K. Smith, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Meghan H. Hill, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

MELTON, Justice. All the Justices concur. NAHMIAS, Justice, concurring.

OPINION

Page 516

Melton, Justice.

Following a jury trial, Lester Casey Griffin was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter based on misdemeanor battery as a lesser included offense of malice murder, felony murder, two counts of cruelty to children, aggravated battery, and aggravated assault.[1] On appeal, Griffin contends that the resulting convictions must be reversed because the jury rendered inconsistent verdicts. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.

1. In the light most favorable to the verdict, the record shows that, on June 28, 2009, two-year-old Dylan Helmey was at home with his younger half-brother, Jaiden, and Griffin, who was babysitting. [296 Ga. 416] Griffin was the live-in boyfriend of Dylan's mother, who had left home at 11:00 a.m. At around 1:30 p.m., Officer Brion Hunt responded to a call that Dylan had stopped breathing. By the time Officer Hunt arrived, Dylan was dead. The next day, an autopsy was performed, and the medical examiner determined that Dylan sustained over one hundred injuries within two hours of his death. The most significant injury was a laceration to the right atrium of Dylan's heart, caused by extreme force. When confronted with the autopsy results, Griffin admitted that he had gotten angry at Dylan and hit the child in the chest. Finally, he admitted that it was not the first time Dylan had been harmed while in his care.

This evidence was sufficient to enable the jury to find Griffin 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. In his sole enumeration of error, Griffin argues that his convictions must be reversed because the verdicts were mutually exclusive. Specifically, Griffin maintains

Page 517

that the verdicts were inconsistent because the jury considered the blow to Dylan's chest a misdemeanor for the purposes of the involuntary manslaughter verdict and a felony offense for the purposes of the felony murder verdicts. As a result, Griffin contends that all of his convictions must be reversed, see Jackson v. State, 276 Ga. 408 (2) (577 S.E.2d 570) (2003), and that he should be granted a new trial. See Thomas v. State, 261 Ga. 854 (1) (413 S.E.2d 196) (1992). We disagree.

" Verdicts are mutually exclusive 'where a guilty verdict on one count logically excludes a finding of guilt on the other. (Cits.)' [Cits.]" Jackson v. State, [supra, 276 Ga. at 410 (2)]. While guilty verdicts on involuntary manslaughter and felony murder are not mutually exclusive as a matter of law, Smith v. State, 267 Ga. 372 (6) (477 S.E.2d 827) (1996), a mutually exclusive verdict may be rendered in a particular case where the offenses underlying the felony murder and involuntary manslaughter convictions " reflect that the jury, in order to find the defendant guilty [of both offenses], necessarily reached two positive findings of fact that cannot logically mutually exist." (Citations and punctuation omitted.) Flores v. State, 277 Ga. 780, 783 (3) (596 S.E.2d 114) (2004). A mutually exclusive verdict results when the jury finds that the defendant acted with both criminal intent and criminal negligence at the same instant regarding the same victim involving the same act. ...

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