Murder. Camden Superior Court. Before Judge Harrison.
Jimmonique R. S. Rodgers, Michael W. Tarleton, for appellant (case no. S15A0612).
Clare Nolan, for appellant (case no. S15A0613).
Jacquelyn L. Johnson, District Attorney, Andrew J. Ekonomou, Rocky L. Bridges, Assistant District Attorneys; Samuel S. Olens, Attorney General, Patricia B. Attaway Burton, Deputy Attorney General, Paula K. Smith, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Clint C. Malcolm, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.
Following a joint trial, Roderick Taylor and Abdul Bessent were found guilty for
the felony murder of Michael Key and Phyllis Frazier, the aggravated assault of Roney Wilson and Meagan Molix, conspiracy to commit armed robbery, and conspiracy to possess cocaine. Both defendants appeal, contending, among other things, that the evidence was insufficient because the testimony of a co-defendant linking them to the crimes was not sufficiently corroborated. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm Taylor's convictions, but we must reverse the judgment in Bessent's case.
1. In the light most favorable to the verdict, the record shows that Robert Brown, a co-defendant of Bessent and Taylor, testified that, during the day on December 21, 2008, Brown and Taylor were playing football in Jacksonville, Florida. At some point, Taylor told Brown that Bessent " needed to get something up in Georgia." Brown understood this to be a trip to purchase drugs, and Brown agreed to drive Taylor, Bessent, and Joseph Stuckey from Florida to Kingsland, Georgia. According to Brown, Bessent used Stuckey's cell phone to make calls to Michael Key, the dealer, and told Brown, who was driving the vehicle, how to get to Key's apartment. Phone records later obtained by police proved that phone calls were made from Stuckey's cell phone to Key's cell phone at 5:54 p.m., 6:16 p.m., and 6:32 p.m. A call was also made from Key's cell phone to Stuckey's cell [297 Ga. 133] phone at 6:37 p.m., and one last call from Stuckey's cell phone to Key's cell phone at 6:39 p.m., shortly before the shootings in Key's apartment.
At the apartment complex, again according to Brown, Bessent, Taylor, and Stuckey, who had an AK-47 assault rifle with him, went inside. After a few minutes, Brown, who stayed in the car, heard shots fired, and he then saw Bessent, Stuckey, and Taylor run out of the apartment. At that point, a pickup truck had pulled up next to Brown's vehicle in the parking lot, and Brown testified that, when Stuckey saw the truck, Stuckey began shooting at it. Jermaine Banks, who was in the truck, testified that, when he and Jamie Riddle pulled into the parking lot, Banks heard gunshots and then noticed someone running down from Key's apartment with a gun. Banks then saw two other individuals run down from Key's apartment.
Meagan Molix was roommates with Key, Frazier, and Wilson. On the date in question, Molix and Wilson were in bed in their bedroom and heard voices in the hallway. At that time, Key and Frazier were in the kitchen. Molix recounted that a short male with a gun opened the bedroom door and turned on the light. The short male entered the room with a taller male. According to Molix, the shorter male kept asking where " it" was, while the taller one searched the closet and around the foot of the bed. At trial, Molix identified Taylor as the taller guy, but, on cross-examination, she expressed considerable uncertainty about the identification. The two males then left the room, and Molix observed the taller one start searching inside the hallway closet. Molix then heard another voice, belonging to a third person, ask Key, " Where's it at ... . Where's the drugs at," and she heard Key say he did not have anything. At this point, she heard shots fired and called 911.
Medical personnel and law enforcement officers were dispatched to the apartment around 6:45 p.m. Upon arrival, they found the deceased bodies of Key, Frazier, and Jamie Riddle, the driver of the truck who had pulled up next to Brown in the parking lot. They also identified Banks, a passenger in Riddle's truck, who had been shot in the ...