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Dugger v. State

Supreme Court of Georgia

May 11, 2015

DUGGER
v.
THE STATE

Page 696

Murder. Bibb Superior Court. Before Judge Simms.

Robert M. Bearden, Jr., for appellant.

K. David Cooke, Jr., District Attorney, Nancy S. Malcor, Jason M. Wilbanks, Assistant District Attorneys; Samuel S. Olens, Attorney General, Patricia B. Attaway Burton, Deputy Attorney General, Paula K. Smith, Senior Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

OPINION

Page 697

Nahmias, Justice.

Appellant Maurice Dugger was convicted of felony murder and armed robbery in connection with the shooting death of Leonard Cox. On appeal, he disputes the sufficiency of the evidence and asserts double jeopardy violations and errors in the trial court's jury instructions. We affirm.[1]

1. Viewed in the light most favorable to the verdicts, the evidence at trial showed the following. Maya Wilson testified that on the night of April 1, 2012, she and Cox were on the back porch of his house in Macon, where Cox had been selling crack cocaine throughout the day. As Wilson walked toward the edge of the porch, she heard a noise in the bushes. She then saw a man approach Cox, and she ducked inside the house to avoid being seen. The back porch was dimly lit, but from her position inside, Wilson heard the man tell Cox to " give it up" and saw the man's shadow and the silhouette of a gun in his hand. She watched Cox empty his pockets and give everything he had on him to the man. The man then told Cox, " You must not think I'll kill you." Cox told the man that he had more inside the house and moved toward the [297 Ga. 121] door. Once inside, Cox tried to slam the door behind him, but the man blocked the door with his foot, stuck the gun around the door, fired one shot, and ran away.

The bullet entered Cox's left side and pierced his heart and lungs; he died from the wound moments later. When the police interviewed Wilson, she told them that she was able to clearly see the man's face when he tried to follow Cox into the house. She said that she had seen the man before but could not remember his name. She gave the police a physical description of the man, which matched Appellant, and she later identified Appellant as the shooter in a photo lineup and at trial. The police also interviewed a woman to whom Cox had given crack cocaine earlier that day. She said that a man she knew as " Eater" approached her about 15 minutes before the shooting, asking whether Cox had drugs available. Her description of " Eater" matched Wilson's description

Page 698

of the shooter, and Appellant admitted that he went by that name.

Appellant was arrested and interviewed four days after the shooting, and the videotape of the interview was played for the jury. During the interview, Appellant first denied being at the scene of the shooting. He then said that he went to buy drugs from Cox, they got into an argument, Cox pulled a gun on him, and Cox's gun went off as they struggled. Appellant then admitted that he brought a gun to the scene and never saw Cox with a gun, but he claimed that he fired in self-defense. At trial, Appellant further altered and embellished his story. He testified that he approached Cox to purchase crack cocaine after winning between $800 and $900 gambling, but Cox had been drinking and began accusing Appellant of trying to sleep with Wilson. Appellant claimed that Cox then attacked him and began dragging him into the house, where he feared Cox would kill him. Appellant said that he pulled his gun out after he managed to position the door between himself and Cox, and claimed that he begged Cox to let him leave before firing the gun as they struggled for control of it.

2. Appellant contends first that the evidence presented at trial was legally insufficient to support his convictions. He argues that the jury could not reasonably believe Wilson's testimony, because she admitted to drinking alcohol immediately prior to the shooting and the dim lighting on the back porch impaired her ability to see the incident. Appellant also asserts that the jury had to accept his testimony because it was not contradicted by any physical evidence.

Whether a witness's testimony should be believed is, however, " a matter to be decided by the jury that saw and heard the testimony, not by an appellate court reviewing a transcript." Walker v. State, 295 Ga. 688, 690 (763 S.E.2d 704) (2014). See also Vega v. State, 285 Ga. 32, 33 [297 Ga. 122] (673 S.E.2d 223) (2009) (" 'It was for the jury to determine the credibility of the witnesses and to resolve any conflicts or inconsistencies in the evidence.' " (citation omitted)). When viewed in the light most favorable to the verdicts, the evidence presented at trial and summarized above was sufficient to authorize a rational jury to find Appellant guilty ...


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