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Danforth v. Chapman

Supreme Court of Georgia

April 20, 2015

DANFORTH
v.
CHAPMAN; and vice versa

Habeas corpus. Telfair Superior Court. Before Judge Mullis.

Judgment affirmed in Case No. S15A0147. Appeal dismissed in Case No. S15X0148.

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; Daniel M. King, Jr., for appellant.

Bondurant, Mixson & Elmore, Emmet J. Bondurant II, John H. Rains IV, Michael A. Caplan; Hogue & Hogue, Franklin J. Hogue, for appellee.

BENHAM, Justice. All the Justices concur.

OPINION

Page 887

Benham, Justice.

Justin W. Chapman was convicted of arson and felony murder regarding a 2006 fire that was intentionally set outside the front door of his duplex apartment, resulting in the death of a resident who lived on the other side of the duplex. We affirmed Chapman's conviction in Chapman v. State, 290 Ga. 631 (724 S.E.2d 391) (2012). Chapman filed a petition for habeas relief, asserting six substantive claims: ineffective assistance of trial counsel; ineffective assistance of appellate counsel; Brady/Giglio violations; [1] Crawford v. Washington violations; [2] prosecutorial misconduct; and actual innocence. The habeas court granted relief, finding that there were three Brady/Giglio violations and a violation of Crawford v. Washington. In addition, the habeas court found Chapman's appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to investigate the case and for failing to raise the Brady and Crawford violations on appeal. The habeas court did not reach Chapman's remaining habeas claims. The Warden appeals, and Chapman has filed a cross-appeal. For reasons set forth below, Case No. S15A0147 is affirmed, and Case No. S15X0148 is dismissed.

Case No. S15A0147

1. The Warden complains that the habeas court denied its request to submit a post-hearing brief. The Warden has failed to set forth any authority that requires the habeas court to allow the filing of post-hearing briefs. This allegation of error is without merit.

2. The Warden argues that the habeas court erred when it determined Chapman was entitled to a new trial as relief for the prosecutor's suppression of certain evidence that was helpful to the defense. " [T]he suppression by the prosecution of evidence favorable to an accused upon request violates due process where the evidence is material either to guilt or to punishment, irrespective of the good faith or bad faith of the prosecution." Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 87 (83 S.Ct. 1194, 10 L.Ed.2d 215) (1963). This includes the suppression of impeachment evidence that may be used to challenge the credibility of a witness. See Giglio v. United States, 405 U.S. 150, 154-155 (92 S.Ct. 763, 31 L.Ed.2d 104) (1972). See also Schofield v. Palmer, 279 Ga. 848 (2) [297 Ga. 30] (621 S.E.2d 726) (2005). To prevail on a Brady claim, Chapman was required to show that

(1) the State possessed evidence favorable to his defense; (2) he did not possess the favorable evidence and could not obtain it himself with any reasonable diligence; (3) the State suppressed the favorable evidence; and (4) had the evidence been disclosed to the defense, a reasonable probability exists that the outcome of the trial would have been different. [Cit.]

Walker v. Johnson, 282 Ga. 168 (2) (646 S.E.2d 44) (2007).

The record shows that Joseph White was in the same cell block of the Haralson County jail with Chapman a few days following Chapman's arrest. At trial, White testified that Chapman admitted starting the fire that killed the victim. White was the only State witness who testified that Chapman had confessed to arson. It is uncontroverted that at the time White testified, ...


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