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Roberts v. State

Supreme Court of Georgia

March 16, 2015


Page 590

Murder. Clayton Superior Court. Before Judge Benefield.

Garland, Samuel & Loeb, Edward T. M. Garland, Amanda R. Clark Palmer, for appellant.

Tracy Graham-Lawson, District Attorney, Elizabeth A. Baker, Kathryn L. Powers, Frances C. Kuo, Assistant District Attorneys, Samuel S. Olens, Attorney General, Patricia B. Attaway Burton, Deputy Attorney General, Paula K. Smith, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Matthew B. Crowder, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

HINES, Presiding Justice. All the Justices concur.


Page 591

Hines, Presiding Justice.

Keith Jerome Roberts appeals the denial of his motion for new trial, as amended, and his convictions for malice murder, kidnapping, and false imprisonment in connection with the death of Carlnell Walker caused by hyperthermia from entrapment inside the trunk of an automobile. Roberts challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to support his convictions and the effectiveness of his trial counsel. Finding the challenges to be without merit, we affirm.[1]

[296 Ga. 720] The evidence construed in favor of the verdicts showed the following. On July 8, 2006, Clayton County police discovered Carlnell Walker's body while performing a " welfare check" at the residence Walker was renting in Clayton County. The police found Walker's decomposing body tied up in the trunk of his car in the closed garage. Walker had been beaten and stabbed with a sharp object, his front tooth was knocked out, and his mouth had sustained blunt force trauma. His mouth was " gagged" with electrical tape, and his hands were tied behind his back with a coaxial cable, a USB cable, and electrical tape. He was barefoot. Walker had been dead for several days. His position when discovered indicated that he was alive when he was placed in the trunk, and it was determined that despite his injuries, had he been able to free himself he could have avoided death by entrapment in the hot car trunk.

Walker, Roberts, and Allen had attended the same college, and Roberts and Allen had been roommates in college. The three men knew each other and socialized together. Walker was involved in a car wreck in 2006, and shortly before his murder, he was advised that he might recover $50,000 in damages

Page 592

as a result of the wreck. He told his landlord, who also had ties to the same college, that he was expecting a settlement check. Walker was viewed as an " entrepreneur," and was seen on his created website holding up " a wad of money." Roberts, Allen, and others referred to Walker by the nickname " C-Money."

When the police arrived at Walker's residence, they found the back door open, and no signs of forced entry. However, the house showed signs of a struggle with debris on the floor and blood throughout. Items, including a pair of scissors and remnants of Walker's hair, were on the living room floor, and they were placed in a pile in a manner indicating that someone intended to burn them. The globe from a hurricane oil lamp was on the floor near the debris and close to dried smeared blood, which blood was determined to be Walker's and part of a pattern of someone actively bleeding. An empty bottle which had contained lamp oil was found near the debris. Roberts's fingerprints were recovered from the lamp globe; no other fingerprints, including Walker's, were on it. The base of the lamp was found undisturbed on top of a television approximately eight feet away from the globe, and there were no usable fingerprints found on the base. [296 Ga. 721] Roberts's fingerprints on the lamp globe were consistent with someone reaching and taking the globe off of the lamp base. Palm prints of Walker's blood were found on the walls, and these prints were determined to have been made by Allen. There were patterns of blood in the bathtub consistent with someone with shoes standing behind someone without shoes who was actively moving. A substance that felt like the lamp oil found in the living room was around the edge of the bathtub. Jeans found in the laundry room contained DNA matching the profiles of Walker and Allen. A claw hammer which appeared to have blood on the metal part was also found in the laundry room. Drawers were pulled out, and the attic access panel was out of place. The blood pattern and locks of Walker's hair on the floor were consistent with one person restraining a body while another was cutting the hair. The blood patterns in the halls suggested two people dragging Walker through the house. The small amount of physical evidence on the bumper of the vehicle in which Walker's body was found was consistent with more than one person lifting Walker's body into the trunk.

When Allen was taken for palm and fingerprinting on July 20, 2006, police observed that he had a healing three-inch-long cut on his right hand which appeared to have been made by a knife. During the warranted search of Roberts's apartment, police ...

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