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Hites v. State

Supreme Court of Georgia

February 16, 2015

HITES
v.
THE STATE

Page 365

Murder. Atkinson Superior Court. Before Judge McClain.

Judgments affirmed.

Larry M. Johnson, for appellant.

Richard L. Perryman III, District Attorney, Patrick Warren, Assistant District Attorney, Samuel S. Olens, Attorney General, Patricia B. Attaway Burton, Deputy Attorney General, Paula K. Smith, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Christian A. Fuller, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

HINES, Presiding Justice. All the Justices concur, except Hunstein, J., who concurs in judgment only as to Division 2.

OPINION

Page 366

Hines, Presiding Justice.

John Thurston Hites appeals the denial of his motion for new trial, as amended, and his conviction for felony murder while in the commission of aggravated assault in connection

Page 367

with the fatal stabbing of Che Mitchem. He challenges the introduction of evidence of his prior conviction, the refusal to allow him to testify about certain alleged statements of the victim, and the effectiveness of his trial counsel. Finding the challenges to be unavailing, we affirm.[1]

The evidence construed in favor of the verdicts showed the following. At the time of the murder, Che Mitchem was living with his wife, Linda Mitchem Schultz, in Atkinson County. Schultz had previously been married to Hites, and Hites was then dating Schultz's sister, Lisa Hamlin. The day before the murder, on August 21, 2010, Hamlin became upset with Schultz, regarding some remarks Schultz had made concerning Hamlin and Hites's relationship. Hamlin and Hites walked to Schultz and Mitchem's home; before going, Hamlin said that she was " going to beat [Schultz's] ass," and Hites stated that he was accompanying Hamlin and " didn't want to have to kill somebody for hurting [Hamlin]." Hamlin knocked on her sister's front door, and Schultz opened it and came out onto the porch; the two sisters immediately began to fight. Schultz fell to the ground, and [296 Ga. 529] Hamlin got on top of her. Mitchem emerged from the house and pulled Hamlin off of Schultz. Hites then " came over" and began to fight with Mitchem. Hites pulled out a knife and stabbed Mitchem repeatedly. Mitchem fell to the ground, bleeding profusely. Schultz called 911. Hites fled.

Mitchem died as the result of multiple sharp force injuries. At the time of the fatal stabbing, neither Mitchem nor the two women were wielding a knife or other weapon. Agents with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (" GBI" ) arrived at the scene and found a folding knife soaked with Mitchem's blood and located in the grass in the direction in which Hites had fled. That evening, Hites texted former in-laws that he had stabbed Mitchem " because [Mitchem] grabbed a hold of [Hamlin]," and that he was not sure how many times he had stabbed Mitchem, " but several." Hites asked for help getting clean clothes, but then warned them not to come to get him or they would be an " accessory to."

1. The evidence was sufficient to enable a rational trier of fact to find Hites guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the felony murder of Mitchem while in the commission of aggravated assault. Jackson v. ...


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