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Bryant v. State

Supreme Court of Georgia

February 2, 2015


Page 58

Murder. Fulton Superior Court. Before Judge McBurney.

Judgment affirmed.

Robinson & Associates, Thomas S. Robinson III, for appellant.

Paul L. Howard, Jr., District Attorney, Paige Reese Whitaker, Lenny I. Krick, Assistant District Attorneys, Samuel S. Olens, Attorney General, Patricia B. Attaway Burton, Deputy Attorney General, Paula K. Smith, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Ryan A. Kolb, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

BLACKWELL, Justice. All the Justices concur.


Page 59

Blackwell, Justice.

Ray Bryant was tried by a Fulton County jury and convicted of murder and other crimes, all in connection with the fatal shooting of Jurell Williams. Bryant appeals, contending that the evidence is legally insufficient to sustain his convictions and 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 60

[296 Ga. 457] 1. Viewed in the light most favorable to the verdict, the evidence shows that on the evening of October 18, 2006, Bryant drove his wife's red car to the apartment complex in which Williams lived, and Bryant stopped the car near Williams, who was standing in the parking lot. Larry Foster saw Paul Mathis approach Williams and ask for " the money." When Williams denied having any money, Mathis struck Williams in the face with a gun, knocking out two teeth. Williams fell to the ground, and Mathis stood over him and asked: " You think we playing with you?" While Williams was on the ground with his hands up, Mathis fired about three shots at him. After the shooting, Bryant -- who had approached Williams during the altercation -- and Mathis searched Williams thoroughly, removing some of his clothing. Both Bryant and Mathis then fled in the red car, with Bryant driving. As Williams lay dying, he identified Bryant and Mathis by their nicknames, " Payday" and " Ray-Ray." And Foster later identified both Bryant and Mathis by the same nicknames, provided physical descriptions of them, and selected both from photographic lineups. A few days before the shooting, Williams told a friend that " Ray-Ray" and " Payday" had been threatening to kill him for selling marijuana in the apartment parking lot, and Bryant called and left a message laced with obscenities on Williams's phone.

We previously considered the evidence in this case when we heard an appeal by Mathis, whose convictions were affirmed. See Mathis v. State, 291 Ga. 268, 269-270 (1) (728 S.E.2d 661) (2012). We now consider this evidence anew with respect to Bryant. Bryant points to certain inconsistencies in the evidence that might call into question the credibility of certain witnesses. But when we consider the legal sufficiency of the evidence, " we must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict and leave questions of credibility and the resolution of conflicts in the evidence to the jury." [296 Ga. 458] Edenfield v. State, 293 Ga. 370, 372 (1) (744 S.E.2d 738) (2013) (citation and punctuation omitted). Bryant also insists that the evidence failed to show that he shared Mathis's intent to shoot Williams. " A person who does not directly commit a crime may be convicted upon proof that a crime was committed and that person was a party to it." Powell v. State, 291 Ga. 743, 744 (1) (733 S.E.2d 294) (2012) (citations and punctuation omitted). See also OCGA § 16-2-20 (b) (defining parties to a crime). " Although mere presence at the scene of a crime is not sufficient to prove that one was a party to the crime, presence, companionship, and conduct before and after the offense are circumstances from which one's participation in the criminal intent may be inferred." Powell, 291 Ga. at 744-745 (1) (citations omitted). The fact that Bryant was merely the driver and did not actually fire the gun does not undermine the legal sufficiency of the evidence against him. See Teasley v. State, 288 Ga. 468, 469 (704 S.E.2d 800) (2011). The evidence showed that Bryant threatened Williams before the shooting, drove to Williams's apartment complex, approached Williams during the altercation with Mathis, searched Williams's clothing after the shooting, and drove Mathis away from the scene. It was for the jury to assess the credibility and weight of the evidence. See Powell, 291 Ga. at 745 (1). One reasonably might infer from the evidence that Bryant and Mathis shared a criminal intent with respect to the attempted robbery and shooting, and for this reason, the evidence was sufficient to authorize a rational trier of fact to find beyond a reasonable doubt that Bryant was a party to the crimes of which he was convicted. Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 319 (III) (B) (99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560) (1979). See also Metz v. State, 284 Ga. 614, 615 (1) (669 S.E.2d 121) (2008), overruled on other grounds, State v. Kelly, 290 Ga. 29, 32 (1) (718 S.E.2d 232) (2011); Hill v. State, 281 Ga. 795, 797 (1) (a) (642 S.E.2d 64) (2007); Conway v. State, 281 Ga. 685, 687 (1)

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(642 S.E.2d 673) (2007); Jordan v. State, 272 Ga. 395, 396 (1) (530 ...

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