Murder. Clayton Superior Court. Before Judge Simmons.
Brian Steel, for appellant.
Tracy Graham-Lawson, District Attorney, Elizabeth A. Baker, Kathryn L. Powers, 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.
HUNSTEIN, Justice. All the Justices concur.
Appellant Wisdom Jeffrey was convicted of murder and related crimes in connection with the August 2010 shooting death of his wife. Jeffrey appeals, arguing in his sole enumeration of error that his trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance by failing to request a jury instruction on the lesser included offense of voluntary manslaughter. [296 Ga. 714] Though we find no error in the verdicts, we do find error with respect to the trial court's merger of some offenses, and we therefore must vacate and remand to the trial court for proper merger and resentencing.
Viewed in the light most favorable to the jury's verdicts, the evidence adduced at trial established as follows. Jeffrey's wife, Corrissa Friends Jeffrey, was shot and killed in the early morning hours of August 11, 2010 in her Clayton County apartment. Jeffrey and the victim had begun dating in 2007, moved in together in 2008, and married in 2009, shortly after the victim gave birth to a daughter. The couple's relationship was tumultuous, with both Jeffrey and the victim accusing each other of infidelity.
Ashley Layfield, the victim's best friend, testified to witnessing arguments between the couple and, on one occasion, to observing the victim with a swollen eye, which the victim admitted Jeffrey had caused. Layfield further testified that in April 2010, she received a call from the victim and overheard in the background an altercation between the couple during which Layfield heard the victim tell Jeffrey to " get off of me" and " stop it ... this hurts." The next morning, the victim told Layfield that Jeffrey was " boxing her like a man" and " bashing her head into the couch," and that afterward he refused her pleas to go to the hospital. The victim confided to Layfield that she feared for her life.
The victim's uncle testified that on one occasion in 2010 he had observed the victim with a black eye and scratches on her neck and shoulder and that the victim reluctantly admitted that Jeffrey had hit her. The uncle also testified that Jeffrey owned a shotgun, which the uncle saw at the couple's apartment.
A neighbor of the couple testified that, in June 2010, he witnessed Jeffrey dragging the victim through the apartment complex parking lot by her hair and punching her in the face. The neighbor intervened, the victim ran away, Jeffrey threatened the neighbor while appearing to reach for something in his pants, and the neighbor [296 Ga. 715] called the police. Police arrived and arrested Jeffrey for family violence battery; Jeffrey was later released on bond, a condition of which was that he have no contact with the victim.
On August 10, 2010, Jeffrey contacted the victim's grandmother and told her, in an agitated state, that he believed the victim was being unfaithful and their daughter had been conceived by another man. Also on that day, Jeffrey contacted his friend Keisha McZick and expressed concern that he had not seen the victim in a few days.
Around 11:00 p.m. on August 10, shortly after the victim had left her place of employment, a male co-worker saw a man knock on the front door of the office building and walk away when no one opened the door. Shortly after midnight, police responded to a 911 call from the victim at her apartment and found Jeffrey there. Jeffrey acknowledged he was bound by a no-contact order, and the officer escorted Jeffrey away but did not arrest him. Approximately an hour later, police were again dispatched to the ...