Jamarrcus Rhashad Sullivan was tried and convicted of murder
and related offenses in connection with the shooting death of
Kevin Daniel and aggravated assault of Kamenika
Whatley. Sullivan appeals, claiming that he
received ineffective assistance of counsel. Though we find no
merit in Sullivan's claims of ineffective assistance, we
do find error with regard to his sentences, and, therefore,
we must vacate and remand for re-sentencing.
in the light most favorable to the jury's verdicts, the
evidence adduced at trial established as follows. Sullivan,
Antonio Jones, and Christopher Smith,  a drug dealer,
devised a plan to rob Kevin Daniel, who was a competing
dealer. On June 1, 2013, Smith dropped Jones and Sullivan off
near Daniel's home in Rome, Georgia. As the men
approached the house with Smith's shotgun in tow, Jones
recognized an SUV parked in the driveway as belonging to
Kamenika Whatley. Scared that she would be able to identify
Jones, the men decided that Jones would open the front door,
and Sullivan would handle the rest.
Jones opened the door, Sullivan went inside, aimed the
shotgun at Daniel and Whatley, and demanded drugs and money.
Whatley complied but Daniel ignored the command and charged
toward the intruders. Jones then fled the house and hid
behind Whatley's car in the driveway as Daniel and
Sullivan fought over the shotgun. Shortly thereafter,
witnesses heard gun shots and the sound of glass breaking.
Daniel stumbled outside holding the shotgun, fell off of his
front porch, and landed in the yard; Sullivan followed Daniel
out of the house, stood over him and shot him with a handgun.
Sullivan then grabbed the shotgun, as well as Whatley's
and Daniel's cell phones, and fled the scene with Jones.
Smith picked up Sullivan and Jones in his red Chevy Malibu,
at which time Sullivan explained that he had to shoot Daniel
because Jones "had messed it up."
enforcement arrived on the scene and found Daniel face down
in the front yard somewhat responsive. He was taken to the
hospital and later died from multiple gunshot wounds. A .40
caliber shell casing, approximately $3, 500 and some drugs
were located at the scene. Cell phone records introduced at
trial showed numerous phone calls made between Sullivan and
Smith on the night of the murder. Daniel's blood was
found inside Smith's red Chevy Malibu. Finally, officers
learned that one of Sullivan's friends burned the clothes
he wore on the night of the murder.
they were incarcerated, Sullivan sent Jones numerous letters
regarding the case. Specifically, Sullivan requested that
Jones deny Sullivan's involvement in the crimes and
allege that he was coerced into making statements to law
enforcement. Sullivan also described plans for fellow inmate
and Bloods gang member Kevin Clinckscales to take
responsibility for the crimes. Letters written by Sullivan to
co-indictee Smith were also found in Sullivan's cell
during a routine sweep wherein he discussed the case and
Jones's statements to law enforcement. The State also
introduced evidence that Sullivan was a member of the 9 Trey
Billy Badass gang, which is affiliated with the Bloods.
Though not enumerated by Sullivan, we find that the evidence
was sufficient to enable a rational trier of fact to conclude
beyond a reasonable doubt that he was guilty of the crimes
for which he was convicted. Jackson v. Virginia, 443
U.S. 307 (99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560) (1979).
Sullivan alleges three claims of ineffective assistance of
counsel, averring that his attorney failed to: a) object to
hearsay statements introduced in violation of his Sixth
Amendment right of confrontation; b) object to the
introduction of two photographs; and, c) thoroughly
cross-examine Antonio Jones regarding his potential plea
deal. Further, Sullivan claims that the cumulative effect of
trial counsel's errors substantially prejudiced his
establish ineffective assistance of counsel, a defendant must
show that his counsel's performance was professionally
deficient and that, but for such deficient performance, there
is a reasonable probability that the result of the trial
would have been different. See Strickland v.
Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (104 S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed.2d
674) (1984). "If the defendant fails to satisfy
either prong of the Strickland test, this Court is
not required to examine the other." (Citation omitted.)
Propst v. State, 299 Ga. 557, 565 (788 S.E.2d 484)
(2016). "In reviewing the trial court's decision,
'[w]e accept the trial court's factual findings and
credibility determinations unless clearly erroneous, but we
independently apply the legal principles to the
facts.'" (Citation omitted.) Wright v.
State, 291 Ga. 869, 870 (734 S.E.2d 876) (2012). With
these principles in mind, we review Sullivan's alleged
Failure to Object to Hearsay Statements
first argues that trial counsel was ineffective for failing
to object to alleged hearsay testimony at trial.
Specifically, an officer testified on direct examination
that, two days after the murder, he spoke with a few of
Sullivan's New York relatives who stated that Sullivan
had called and "wanted to come there for a visit."
Sullivan argues now, as he did below, that this qualified as
testimonial hearsay in violation of his Sixth Amendment right
to confrontation under Crawford v.
Washington and that trial counsel's failure to
object constituted ineffective assistance. We disagree.
counsel testified at the motion for new trial hearing that he
made a strategic decision not to object to this testimony.
Counsel explained that he spoke with Sullivan's relatives
in New York, and "they knew nothing about a murder,
robbery, or anything else, " only "that he had just
asked to come visit them." Counsel did not object to the
statement because he believed it to be innocent in nature and
did not believe the testimony was harmful.
defendant who contends a strategic decision constitutes
deficient performance, must show 'that no competent
attorney, under similar circumstances, would have made
it.'" (Citation omitted.) Davis v. State,
290 Ga. 584, 585-586 (723 S.E.2d 431) (2012). In fact,
"[t]rial tactics and strategy, no matter how mistaken in
hindsight, are almost never adequate grounds for finding
trial counsel ineffective unless they are so patently
unreasonable that no competent attorney would have chosen
them." McNair v. State, 296 Ga. 181, 184 (766
S.E.2d 45) (2014) (trial counsel's decision not to object
to hearsay testimony did not constitute deficient performance
when decision made as part of trial strategy). Here, Sullivan
has failed to meet this very high burden.
has also failed to establish prejudice. Though he argues that
this testimony provided the State with an argument that he
attempted to flee after the murder, the record does not show
that the State actually made this argument. Moreover, given
the overwhelming evidence presented, Sullivan cannot show
that the outcome of his trial would have been different had
this testimony been excluded. ...