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Heard v. State

Supreme Court of Georgia

March 2, 2015

HEARD
v.
THE STATE

Page 918

Murder. Clayton Superior Court. Before Judge Benefield.

Judgment affirmed.

Stephenson Law Group, Pamela S. Stephenson, Whatley & Associates, Lynn H. Whatley, for appellant.

Tracy Graham-Lawson, District Attorney, Elizabeth A. Baker, Assistant District Attorney, Samuel S. Olens, Attorney General, Patricia B. Attaway Burton, Deputy Attorney General, Paula K. Smith, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Andrew G. Sims, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

HUNSTEIN, Justice. All the Justices concur.

OPINION

Page 919

Hunstein, Justice.

Appellant Eric Tramaine Heard was convicted by a jury of murder and related offenses in connection with a July 2009 burglary and attempted robbery culminating in the shooting death of Shereecka Pitts in the presence of her two young daughters and her sister. Appellant appeals the denial of his amended motion for new trial, contending that the evidence was insufficient for a jury to find him guilty; his trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance; and the trial court erred with regard to certain witness testimony and by not giving a specific jury instruction. Finding no error, we affirm.[1]

Page 920

[296 Ga. 682] Viewed in the light most favorable to the jury's verdict, the evidence adduced at trial established as follows. On the morning of the crimes, Pitts, her daughters, and her sister, Lachauda Pitts, were at Pitts' house watching television when they heard the doorbell ring; they saw no one at the door. After going back to Pitts' bedroom, they heard people coming in the house and saw two men approaching them. The two women ran towards the garage in an effort to escape. Behind her, Lachauda then heard one of the men say, " You move I'll blow your mother f****** brains out." She turned to see one of the men holding a .40 caliber firearm and the other holding a firearm she could not identify. The women stopped and retreated towards the bedroom where the two young girls were located. The gunmen followed.

The two men demanded money, and the women replied that they did not have any. Pitts told the assailants to take anything in the house, and Lachauda got on the ground. Lachauda watched as Appellant opened the closet door, pushed Pitts inside, and demanded that she find money. The other man pointed a gun in Lachauda's face and repeatedly said that he would shoot her, while she begged for her life. Lachauda then observed Appellant shoot Pitts in the abdomen and saw her fall to the ground. Lachauda watched as Appellant shot Pitts again in the leg. Pitts' daughters began jumping and crying hysterically upon seeing their mother shot. Appellant then put his hand around Lachauda's throat and said, " I'll just do you how I just did your mother f****** sister [sic] where the money at?" Appellant pointed a gun in Lachauda's face and told her to get the two girls off of the bed before he shot them. Lachauda gathered the girls off of the bed and tried to calm them. Appellant demanded cell phones from Lachauda, but she could not locate them. Appellant and the other gunman then ran out of the front door.

[296 Ga. 683] When police arrived on the scene, they found Pitts unresponsive, with gunshot wounds to her right thigh and abdomen. She died of these wounds at the hospital. The bullet recovered from her body matched another bullet that investigators found on the bedroom carpet. Investigators also recovered a .40 caliber shell casing in the bedroom.

Lachauda was able to give a description of both gunmen to the lead detective at the scene. Approximately two hours later, Lachauda spoke further with this detective at police headquarters and gave descriptions of the two gunmen to a sketch artist. Based on tips received after the media published the sketches, investigators identified Appellant as one of the assailants. Four days later, the lead detective showed Lachauda a photographic lineup. Upon seeing Appellant's photograph in the lineup, Lachauda immediately began crying and shaking, and she identified Appellant as the shooter and the gunman that had demanded money, ...


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