Murder. Gwinnett Superior Court. Before Judge T. Davis.
Edwin J. Wilson, for appellant.
Daniel J. Porter, District Attorney, Christopher M. Quinn, Dan W. Mayfield, Assistant District Attorneys; Samuel S. Olens, Attorney General, Patricia B. Attaway Burton, Deputy Attorney General, Paula K. Smith, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Andrew G. Sims, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.
HUNSTEIN, Justice. All the Justices concur.
Appellant Brenda O'Connell and her adoptive sister, Catherine O'Connell, were jointly tried for malice murder, felony murder, and aggravated assault stemming from the strangulation death of their adoptive mother, Muriel O'Connell. A jury found the two sisters guilty on all counts, and we have already affirmed Catherine's convictions. See O'Connell v. State, 294 Ga. 379 (754 S.E.2d 29) (2014). For the reasons that follow, we affirm appellant's convictions as well.
1. Viewed in the light most favorable to the jury's verdict, the evidence presented at trial showed the following.
The victim adopted [Catherine] from a Guatemalan orphanage when [Catherine] was eleven years old. A few years later, the victim adopted a second daughter, [appellant], from the same orphanage. [Appellant]
and [Catherine] quickly formed a strong bond with one another, but their respective relationships with the victim began to deteriorate. Over time, the two girls developed substantial behavioral issues. After a number of confrontations with both [appellant] and [Catherine], the victim began to fear for her life.
On the night of the murder, the victim's daughters went to a neighbor's house and knocked on the door. The neighbor testified that [appellant] had a cloth tied around her neck [297 Ga. 411] and was gasping for air, but noted that these actions appeared to be staged. After [Catherine] contended her mother tried to choke [appellant], the neighbor went to the victim's house and found the victim dead on the bathroom floor with a butcher knife in her hand. When police arrived, both [Catherine] and [appellant] gave statements alleging the victim attacked [appellant] with a knife. According to the girls, Catherine came to [appellant's] rescue by grabbing the victim around the neck and causing her to faint.
Although [appellant] initially denied staging the crime scene, she eventually admitted to police that she placed the knife in the victim's hand after she was dead. In addition, a medical examiner evaluated both girls and was unable to find injuries to substantiate their claims of self-defense. [Appellant] did not have injuries consistent with strangulation and [Catherine] had only superficial scrapes that were possibly self-inflicted. An autopsy of the victim revealed she sustained multiple head injuries while she was still alive, but the medical examiner determined the cause of death to be strangulation.
O'Connell, 294 Ga. at 379-380.
Viewed in the light most favorable to the verdict, the evidence presented at trial and summarized above was sufficient to authorize a rational jury to find appellant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the crimes of which she was convicted. See Jackson v. ...