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Mann v. State

Supreme Court of Georgia

May 11, 2015

MANN
v.
THE STATE

Murder. Fulton Superior Court. Before Judge Russell.

King & Spalding, Kendall W. Carter, for appellant.

Paul L. Howard, Jr., District Attorney, Paige Reese Whitaker, Joshua D. Morrison, Assistant District Attorneys; Samuel S. Olens, Attorney General, Patricia B. Attaway Burton, Deputy Attorney General, Paula K. Smith, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Christian A. Fuller, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

OPINION

Page 666

Melton, Justice.

Following a jury trial, Willie Lee Mann was found guilty of the felony murder and aggravated assault of Dennis Bennett.[1] On appeal, Mann contends that, among other things, the trial court erred by failing to suppress one of his statements and trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.

[297 Ga. 108] 1. In the light most favorable to the verdict, the record shows that, after work, on January 26, 2000, Bennett and Duke Gravitt went to a local bar in Gravitt's red truck. After a while, Bennett told Duke that he wanted to " pick up a little smoke." Duke allowed Bennett to borrow his truck to drive to the nearby Leila Valley Apartments. When Bennett arrived, he drove to a back corner and asked Tyrone Robinson if anyone had marijuana to sell. Robinson called out to Mann, who happened to be sitting outside with Rontae Smith. Mann and Smith approached the truck. After some negotiation, Mann left momentarily and returned. Mann and Bennett exchanged words, and then gunshots were fired. Mann fled the scene of the shooting. When police arrived later, they found Bennett fatally wounded by a gunshot to the back. Investigators processed the truck for fingerprints, and discovered Mann's palm prints on the driver's door. Two eyewitnesses were later found by police. Tamara Johnson testified that she heard shots, went to her window, and saw Mann standing by the driver's side of the truck. In her original statement, she said that she also saw Smith nearby. Gweenda Ward testified that, while standing outside, she witnessed Mann walk up to the driver's side of the truck, she heard gunshots, and then she saw Bennett slump over in the truck. Neither Johnson nor Ward testified that they actually saw Mann holding a weapon, although Ward stated that, before the shooting, she heard Mann ask Robinson to bring him a gun.

This evidence was sufficient to enable the jury to find Mann guilty of the crimes for which he was convicted beyond a reasonable doubt. Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307 (99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560) (1979).

2. Mann contends that the trial court erred by charging the jury on the law of parties to a crime. Specifically, Mann argues that, because the indictment accused Mann of personally committing the crime, his due process rights were violated when the jury was also instructed that he could be found guilty as merely a party to the murder of Bennett. We disagree.

OCGA § 16-2-21 does not require that one who is a party to the crime be indicted as a party; rather, it provides that one who is a party to the crime may be indicted, convicted and punished for that crime upon proof that he was a party to the crime. Brinson v. State, 261 Ga. 884 (1) (413 S.E.2d 443) (1992). See also Byrum v. State, 282 Ga. 608, 609-610 (2) (652 S.E.2d 557) (2007). In the present case, the jury was satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that these [three] offenses were committed and that [Mann] was[, at least,] party to their [297 Ga. 109] commission. That is all that is required under Georgia law, and, therefore, the convictions were proper.

Young v. State, 290 Ga. 392, 395 (3) (721 S.E.2d 855) (2012). There was no error in the trial court's instruction.

3. Mann contends that the trial court erred by denying a motion to suppress his post-arrest statement that he was not at the scene of the crime when the murder occurred. Specifically, Mann contends that he unequivocally invoked his right to counsel

Page 667

and the investigating police officer improperly continued to ...


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