Effective assistance of counsel. Fulton Superior Court. Before Judge Newkirk.
Paul L. Howard, Jr., District Attorney, Arthur C. Walton, Assistant District Attorney, for appellant.
Zell & Zell, Rodney S. Zell, for appellee.
DILLARD, Judge. Ellington, P. J., and McFadden, J., concur.
A jury convicted Shareef Reynolds of two counts of aggravated assault, two counts of false imprisonment, armed robbery, burglary, theft by taking, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, possession of marijuana less than one ounce, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Thereafter, Reynolds retained new counsel and filed a motion for a new trial, which the trial court granted because it found that he received ineffective assistance of counsel when his trial counsel intentionally elicited testimony about his prior drug convictions. The State appeals, arguing that the trial court erred in granting Reynolds a new trial because his counsel's decision to present evidence of his prior convictions was in furtherance of a reasonable trial strategy. We
agree, and for the reasons set forth infra, reverse.
In the case sub judice, the evidence shows that on July 20, 2007 at around 3:00 a.m., the victims, two female roommates, were asleep in an upstairs bedroom of their home when two men kicked in the balcony door to the bedroom, pointed guns at them, demanded money, and told the victims to give them " everything that [they] had." Then, one of the perpetrators pointed a gun at a victim and asked where she kept her money. The victim grabbed the gun, but the assailant pulled it back and struck her in the face with it. At some point, a third man--later identified as Reynolds--arrived and held the victims at gunpoint while the other men ransacked the home. And when one of the victims began praying out loud, Reynolds told her that " he was trying to make this a robbery, don't make it into a homicide." In the end, the perpetrators stole several items from the victims, including an Xbox, a computer, clothes, a necklace, $800 in cash, and a car. Immediately after the perpetrators left, the victims called 911 to report the robbery. A few minutes later, a police officer arrived, and the victims provided him with a detailed description of their attackers.
Shortly thereafter, an officer with the Palmetto Police Department heard a radio alert to be on the lookout for a " getaway car" connected to a home invasion. Three to four minutes later, the officer observed a vehicle, with two male occupants, that matched the [332 Ga.App. 819] description of the stolen car. The officer activated his flashing lights to stop the vehicle, but instead of stopping, the vehicle slowed down and the men fled from the car. The driver and passenger sprinted in opposite directions, and the officer gave chase to the driver. After the driver--who was later identified as Mark Newsome--was detained, the officer provided a description of the passenger to other officers who arrived on the scene, and eventually, one of them apprehended a man matching that description. The passenger--who was later identified as Reynolds--had mud and debris on his clothes, and was in possession of marijuana. During the investigation that ensued, weapons and items that were taken from the victims were found inside the stolen car. Additionally, a latent fingerprint, which matched Reynolds's right thumbprint, was lifted from the exterior of the stolen car near the right front-door handle.
Reynolds and Newsome were charged, via indictment, with two counts of aggravated assault, two counts of false imprisonment, armed robbery, burglary, theft by taking, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, possession of marijuana less than one ounce, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. And after a joint trial, a jury convicted them of all charges.
Reynolds obtained new counsel and filed a motion for a new trial, arguing, inter alia, that he received ineffective assistance of counsel when his trial counsel presented evidence that he had two prior convictions for possession with intent to distribute cocaine. After a hearing, the trial court granted Reynolds's motion, finding that, instead of presenting evidence of Reynolds's convictions, effective counsel would have objected to the admission of those convictions in the event that the State sought to admit them. The court further noted that, if the State had attempted to introduce Reynolds's prior convictions to impeach him, the convictions would have been inadmissible because the State did not have certified copies. In sum, the court concluded that, having heard the evidence in the case and judged the credibility of the witnesses, there was a probability of a different result if the convictions had not been introduced. This appeal by the State follows.
In its sole enumeration of error, the State argues that the trial court erred in granting Reynolds's motion for a new trial because his trial counsel's decision to present evidence of his prior convictions was in furtherance of a reasonable trial strategy. Specifically, the [332 Ga.App. 820] State ...