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Black v. State

Supreme Court of Georgia

March 2, 2015

BLACK
v.
THE STATE

Murder. Fulton Superior Court. Before Judge Adams.

Judgment affirmed.

Michael W. Tarleton, James C. Bonner, Jr., for appellant.

Paul L. Howard, Jr., District Attorney, Paige Reese Whitaker, Peggy R. Katz, Lyndsey H. Rudder, Assistant District Attorneys, Samuel S. Olens, Attorney General, Patricia B. Attaway Burton, Deputy Attorney General, Paula K. Smith, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Michael A. Oldham, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

BLACKWELL, Justice. All the Justices concur.

OPINION

Blackwell, Justice.

Appellant D'hari Black was tried by a Fulton County jury and convicted of the murder of her 11-month-old son, Keith Black III, as well as aggravated assault and child cruelty as to her two-year-old daughter, Kyara Black. Appellant now contends that the evidence is insufficient to sustain her convictions and that she was denied the effective assistance of counsel. Upon our review of

Page 899

the record and briefs, we see no error, and we affirm.[1]

[296 Ga. 659] 1. Viewed in the light most favorable to the verdict, the evidence shows that around 5:30 on the morning of December 14, 2008, Appellant and her husband arrived at South Fulton Medical Center with both of their children. Their son (who weighed only 11 pounds) was not breathing and was unresponsive. Medical staff identified substantial bruising, lacerations, and contusions on the son's head. Attempts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful, and he was pronounced dead soon after the Blacks arrived at the hospital.

Meanwhile, a hospital nurse conducted a wellness check on the Blacks' daughter and identified multiple injuries on her buttocks, hips, and lower abdomen. Appellant claimed that the girl had sustained the injuries on a playground the previous summer, but that explanation was not consistent with the medical evidence, which indicated that some of the wounds likely were caused by an electrical cord or looped belt or rope and that other wounds were caused by being struck with a square- or rectangular-shaped object. The examination of the daughter also revealed other past injuries, including that eight of her ribs had been fractured, that she had sustained numerous burns, and that she had broken her collarbone.[2]

When questioned by police investigators, Appellant offered numerous, and sometimes conflicting, excuses about how her children had been injured. Those excuses were not supported by the medical evidence, and witness testimony revealed that Appellant previously had been untruthful about the causes of other injuries sustained by her children. And a search of the Blacks' home led to the discovery of bloodstains and vomit in several places in their son's bedroom.

Autopsy results revealed that the Blacks' son died of non-accidental, blunt force trauma to the head and that his injuries were severe enough that he would not have survived long after sustaining them. The medical examiner concluded that the son likely was injured (either by being struck with something or having his body [296 Ga. 660] struck against something) sometime after midnight on the morning of December 14. And evidence was presented that Appellant was alone with her children from around 9:30 on the evening of December 13 until her husband and his friend arrived at the home around 4:30 on the morning of December 14, which was about an hour before the Blacks showed up at the hospital with their children.

Appellant claims that this evidence is insufficient to sustain her convictions because, she argues, some of the evidence could have supported her theory that her husband committed the crimes acting alone. As a result, Appellant argues, the State failed to exclude every reasonable hypothesis save that of ...


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