[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
Aggravated assault. Bibb Superior Court. Before Judge Christian, Senior Judge.
Robert M. Bearden, Jr., for appellant.
K. David Cooke, Jr., District Attorney, Myra H. Tisdale, Assistant District Attorney, for appellee.
Travis Taylor was indicted jointly with Shawn Kitchens, Edward Collier, Shamarques Watkins, and Jerald Johnson on two charges of aggravated assault and one charge each of murder, felony murder, participation in criminal street gang activity, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. These charges arose out of a confrontation that erupted into crossfire on July 27, 2010 in Macon, Georgia. Tavish Faulks and Rodrion Gary were shot during that incident, and Gary's injuries were fatal. Collier and Watkins, who was also injured in the incident, each entered guilty pleas before the jury was selected and sworn, and Johnson entered a guilty plea at trial during the second day of testimony. Taylor and Kitchens were tried jointly, and the jury convicted both men on the charges of aggravated assault, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, and participation in criminal street gang activity. The jury also convicted Kitchens on the charge of felony murder but acquitted him of malice murder. Taylor was acquitted of any murder charges. The Supreme Court of Georgia recently affirmed Kitchens' convictions in Kitchens v. State, 296 Ga. 384 (768 S.E.2d 476) (2015). Taylor now appeals his convictions, following the trial court's denial of his motion for new trial.
Viewed in the light most favorable to the verdict, the evidence at trial showed that the " Unionville Crips" (a/k/a the " Westside Crips" ) and " Bloomfield" (a/k/a the " Black Team" ) were rival Macon gangs. At the pertinent time, Collier lived with his wife at 2696 Village Green Lane, off Bloomfield Road in Macon. The day of the shooting, Collier told Tamiko Waller that " Unionville [was] coming to invade Bloomfield." Collier then drove his van to retrieve Taylor, Watkins, Kitchens, Kitchens' cousin, " P-Dub," and another man and brought them back to his house, which was in the Bloomfield neighborhood. Kitchens, Watkins, Taylor, and P-Dub were identified at trial as associating with the Unionville Crips. When Collier picked the men up that day, Taylor was carrying a little black tote bag. Following the shooting, that bag was found in a shed behind Collier's house, with a gun inside.
[331 Ga.App. 578] Collier and his wife, who was known as the " Candy Lady," ran a business out of their house selling chips, candy, cold drinks, and cigarettes; people came to their back porch to purchase these items. Taylor, Kitchens, Watkins, and Johnson stayed at the Colliers' house that afternoon, playing cards in the backyard. Waller and her friend Jakira Slaughter were also at the Colliers' house that day. At some point, Tavish Faulks and Emanuel Stroud came to the Colliers' house to purchase cigars. After they arrived, Waller saw one of the Unionville men pull out a gun and pet it in his lap. Faulks testified that while he was still on the porch, he saw Kitchens and everyone but Taylor with their guns out and visible. Other people associated with Bloomfield came to the street in front of the Colliers' house, and when Waller saw the " Bloomfield boys" arrive, she believed that " something was about to go wrong."
After Faulks and Stroud made their purchases and left the Colliers' back porch, Kitchens confronted Stroud about a MySpace post in which Stroud had referred to Kitchens as a " crab," a term Stroud used when he did not like someone. Kitchens challenged Stroud to fight him and later told the others in his group, " If [Faulks] jumps in, shoot." The evidence indicated that Faulks tried to defuse the situation by urging Stroud to walk away, which he did. When Collier overheard the argument begin, he told Stroud, Faulks, and Kitchens to take their dispute elsewhere. Although they began to move away, shooting erupted before they left the property. After one person began shooting, Collier said " the rest of them started running and shooting." When the shooting began, Waller and her friend ran inside the Colliers' house and hid. Collier heard approximately seven to eight gunshots; Faulks said he heard about seventeen shots. During the exchange of gunfire, Faulks was hit in the head and the wrist, Watkins was shot in the foot, and Gary, who had arrived on the scene, was shot in the chest and killed.
Collier, Watkins, Waller, and Slaughter all stated that they saw Taylor with a gun at the time of the shooting. Waller said that after the shooting ended, she saw Taylor come into the Colliers' house holding a gun and wiping it off on his shirt. Although at trial, Faulks said that he saw everyone but Taylor with a gun on his lap before the shooting began, he admitted that he told police shortly after the shooting, that Taylor had a gun that day, a chrome .380. The State presented forensic evidence that .380-caliber semi-automatic shell casings were found in the Colliers' yard.
[331 Ga.App. 579] Detective Sedrick Pinson of the Macon Police Department's Gang Investigation Unit testified about the Unionville Crips and Bloomfield gangs. He said that gangs in Macon were not like the " Girl Scouts of America." They engaged in activities involving acts of violence, such as murder, shootings, drive-by shootings, and carjackings. He described social media websites such as MySpace as " the fuel that sparks the energy" for the violence between gang members and said that in almost every major gang-related case, the police investigated social media outlets.
Additionally, Collier testified that bringing Taylor and the others to his home had been " wrong," and had " started [the] whole thing." Watkins testified that it was " not a very smart idea" and was also " quite dangerous" to go into Bloomfield territory because the Unionville ...