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Rai v. State

Supreme Court of Georgia

July 6, 2015

RAI
v.
THE STATE

Page 130

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Murder. Fulton Superior Court. Before Judge Bedford.

Law Firm of Shein & Brandenburg, Elizabeth A. Brandenburg, for appellant.

Paul L. Howard, Jr., District Attorney, Paige Reese Whitaker, Lori L. Canfield, Assistant District Attorneys; Samuel S. Olens, Attorney General, Patricia B. Attaway Burton, Deputy Attorney General, Paula K. Smith, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Vicki S. Bass, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

HUNSTEIN, Justice. All the Justices concur.

OPINION

Page 133

Hunstein, Justice.

Appellant Chiman Rai was convicted of murder, burglary, and related offenses in connection with the April 2000 death of his daughter-in-law, Michelle " Sparkle" Reid Rai. Rai appeals his convictions and sentences on grounds of insufficiency of evidence, ineffective assistance of trial counsel, evidentiary error, and erroneous jury instructions. Finding no error, we affirm.[1]

[297 Ga. 473] Viewed in the light most favorable to the jury's verdicts, the evidence adduced at trial established as follows. Sparkle married Rai's son, Rajeeve (then known as " Ricky" ) in March 2000, having given birth to the couple's daughter months earlier in October 1999. Rai, a native of India, did not approve of Ricky's relationship with Sparkle, an African-American woman whom Ricky met when she was employed as the front desk clerk at a Louisville, Kentucky hotel owned by the Rais. Rai did not attend the couple's wedding, nor has he ever met his granddaughter.

On the afternoon of April 26, 2000, Ricky returned from work to his Union City apartment to find Sparkle dead, having been stabbed and strangled in the presence of their infant daughter. There were no signs of forced entry, and nothing appeared to have been stolen from the apartment. Ricky had a credible alibi, and police were unable to identify any plausible suspects at the time. The case went cold.

In January 2004, the investigation was revived when Clinique Jackson, who had been arrested on unrelated charges, told Atlanta police that she had information regarding a murder in Atlanta. Jackson ultimately revealed to investigators that she and a friend, Jammie Tatum, had witnessed Sparkle's murder.

Both Jackson and Tatum, who were teenagers at the time of the murder, testified that on the day of the murder they had been enticed by Tatum's cousin, Cleveland Clark, to accompany him to an apartment complex in Union City. Once at the apartment complex, Clark asked the girls to knock on the door of a particular apartment to see who was there. Jackson and Tatum reported to Clark that a woman was present with her baby. Clark then directed them to go back to the apartment and ask to use the bathroom; when they did, Clark followed, and, upon their entry into the apartment, Clark

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entered as well. Clark asked the victim if her name was Sparkle, and, after she responded affirmatively, he forced her to the floor, strangled her with the cord of a vacuum cleaner, and stabbed her repeatedly in the neck and chest. Clark made the girls promise to keep quiet about what they had seen. Later that day, after returning to Tatum's mother's home, [297 Ga. 474] Tatum picked up the phone and overheard Clark say that " it ...


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