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Bolling v. State

Supreme Court of Georgia

March 6, 2017

BOLLING
v.
THE STATE.

          Peterson, Justice.

         Following a jury trial, Eric Lamont Bolling was convicted of the murder of Parviz Moledina, as well as burglary in the first degree and possession of a knife during the commission of a felony.[1] Bolling appeals and argues that (1) the evidence was insufficient to sustain his convictions, (2) the trial court erred in allowing the State to introduce into evidence prior trial testimony of a co-defendant, and (3) the trial court erred in allowing the State to play the co- defendant's videotaped police interview to the jury. We affirm because the evidence was sufficient to sustain Bolling's convictions, and admission of the prior trial testimony and the video statement was not an abuse of discretion because the witness was unavailable and the State made a reasonable effort to locate him, and the video statement was made prior to the witness's alleged motive to lie.

         Viewed in the light most favorable to the verdict, the trial evidence showed the following:

         Investigation

         On November 21, 2012, Moledina's neighbors returned from a Thanksgiving trip and noticed that Moledina's garage door was open, her car was gone, and there was a hole in the roof where the attic vent had been displaced. One neighbor rang the doorbell at Moledina's house. After Moledina did not answer, the neighbor peered through the bedroom blinds and saw that the room was in disarray, with Moledina motionless on the ground. Neighbors called the police, who found Moledina dead and lying in a pool of her own blood. Moledina had been stabbed 33 times, she had many defensive wounds, and one of her fingers had been completely severed from her hand.

         Searching the house, police found multiple blood patterns, a torn money wrapper with "$5, 000" written on it, and a knife blade separated from its handle. Police officers issued a BOLO for Moledina's 2009 Volvo, which was found at a shopping mall in Gwinnett County. Fingerprints matching Bolling were found throughout Moledina's house and vehicle. Police also found a Metro PCS bag inside Moledina's Volvo, and the bag contained a receipt for a November 21, 2012, purchase listing Bolling's name and address. Police searched Bolling's residence, located on the same street as Moledina's home, and found a key to Moledina's house, Moledina's computer, $1, 500 in cash, two prescription bottles containing hydrocodone and bearing Moledina's name, and a sock and a pair of jeans covered with blood that matched Moledina's DNA. According to a GBI expert who testified at trial, the blood spatter pattern on the jeans indicated that some of the stains were made at the time the blood went airborne.

         Another Metro PCS receipt was found in Bolling's room with the name and address of Justin Eldridge, whose fingerprints also were found on Moledina's car. Eldridge and Bolling were arrested, and Eldridge gave a videotaped statement to police upon his arrest. That said, Eldridge was charged with multiple crimes in connection with his involvement in and concealment of the offenses, and he pleaded guilty under the First Offender Act to one count of theft by receiving stolen property.

         Trial

         As part of his plea deal, Eldridge testified against Bolling at Bolling's first trial. After Eldridge testified, the State moved to admit Eldridge's videotaped statement to police, arguing that Bolling had alleged that Eldridge had an improper motive for testifying against him. The trial court granted the State's motion, and portions of the police interview were played to the jury. Bolling's first trial resulted in a hung jury.

         A few weeks prior to Bolling's second trial, a State investigator attempted to locate Eldridge to secure his attendance as a witness, but was unable to find him. The investigator testified that she contacted Eldridge's probation officer, who gave her an address for Eldridge and informed her that Eldridge had missed his last probation appointment. The investigator visited the address about two weeks before trial and learned that he had moved. The investigator then visited another address listed on Eldridge's Georgia identification card. Eldridge's ex-girlfriend lived at that residence and informed the investigator that Eldridge no longer lived there. A neighbor informed the investigator that he believed Eldridge had moved back to Baltimore. The investigator conducted further research and discovered contact information for Eldridge's mother, grandmother, and siblings who lived in Baltimore. The investigator left messages with these relatives. Eldridge's grandmother responded that she had not seen Eldridge, and was not in current contact with Eldridge's mother. An internet search showed that Eldridge had recently lived at an address that matched his mother's address, but the mother did not respond to the investigator's letter or voicemail. The State moved to admit Eldridge's prior testimony under OCGA § 24-8-804, and the trial court granted the motion over Bolling's objection.

         In the testimony read to the jury at the second trial, Eldridge stated that Bolling had contacted him on Facebook around 4 a.m. one day in November 2012, asked to hang out, and stated that he had a "whip, " referring to a car. Eldridge asked what kind of car Bolling had, and Bolling replied that it was a Volvo. In that Facebook conversation, Bolling told Eldridge that he would give Eldridge some hydrocodone pills, and that he was "going to throw stacks" (a large amount of money) at a woman who had been asking about Bolling. After their Facebook conversation, Bolling picked up Eldridge in the Volvo and the pair went shopping. When Eldridge asked how Bolling got the money and the car, Bolling responded, "It's a lick I hit, " meaning that he robbed someone. Bolling also told Eldridge that he had stabbed someone. At some point, Eldridge began driving the Volvo. Fearing he was being pursued by a police officer, Eldridge left the car at a shopping mall, where it was later found by police.

         As in the first trial, the trial court allowed the State to play Eldridge's videotaped police interview for the jury in order to rebut allegations of improper motive. Bolling was convicted of all charges following the second trial. This appeal follows.

         1. Bolling argues that the evidence was insufficient to sustain his convictions for malice murder and possession of a knife during the commission of a felony.[2] We disagree.

         Bolling testified at trial that he entered Moledina's house to steal some items after he saw that it already had been burglarized, realized Moledina was dead when he knelt down next to her body, and took several things ($5, 000, computers, and prescription bottles) before leaving in Moledina's Volvo. Bolling argues that the only evidence linking him to Moledina's murder was Eldridge's testimony, and Eldridge's testimony could not support the conviction because he was not an ...


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