the partial denial of his motion for new trial, as amended,
Nicholas Wilson appeals his convictions and sentences for
malice murder and other crimes in connection with the
November, 2009 robbery of Cassandra James and her fatal
stabbing in December, 2009. His sole challenge is that the
trial court erroneously excluded an out-of-court declaration
regarding certain evidence in the case. For the reasons that
follow, we affirm.
to support the verdicts, the evidence showed the following.
Wilson was incarcerated on August 21, 2009 and released from
jail on November 19, 2009. While in jail, he shared a room
with Ernesto Powell, Cassandra James's then boyfriend.
The men discovered that they both knew James as Wilson had at
one time dated her. During the time that Wilson and Powell
were cell mates, Powell and James talked daily and wrote
letters to each other; James received monthly disability
checks and she weekly transferred money into Powell's
jail account. Wilson was eventually moved into a different
room and Powell did not see him again.
noon on November 20, 2009, as Powell was having a telephone
conversation with James, Wilson arrived at James's
apartment located in Fulton County. Powell asked to speak
with Wilson and Wilson told him that he had been released
early from jail and that he was going to go with James to
transfer money into Powell's jail account. Powell never
received the money. Later that day, Atlanta Police got a call
to come to James's apartment in connection with
"someone being bound in a home" and unable to
escape. The responding officers found the apartment doors
locked, but managed to enter the apartment through a window.
Inside, the police found James on the bedroom floor with her
wrists partially bound and her ankles duct-taped together; a
phone, which had been under the bed, was on the floor next to
her. She told the police that her ex-boyfriend Wilson had
robbed her and taken her credit card, EBT card,
identification card, money, and keys to her apartment. In
addition, Wilson forced her to disclose her PIN number. James
further told the officers that she was "very
fearful" of Wilson returning to her apartment because he
had threatened to kill her if she called the police. While
the officers were on the scene, James called the bank about
her stolen credit card; she learned of multiple unauthorized
transactions made that day, including two sales at retail
stores and an ATM withdrawal. The bank determined that James
was the victim of $1, 160.04 in fraudulent transactions and
credited her with that amount.
the robbery, James told her close friend, Janice Kemp, that
Wilson had come to her apartment, choked her until she passed
out, and duct-taped and robbed her; during the incident,
Wilson told her that Powell had "a big mouth, "
talked too much, and related "all of [James's]
business, " including that she received disability
checks. James changed the locks on her apartment and obtained
a new cell phone.
a telephone conversation on December 14, 2009, a crying and
angry James told Kemp that Wilson's girlfriend had come
to her apartment and told her that Powell had impregnated
another woman. Concerned about James, Kemp called her phone
the next morning, but no one answered. Kemp persisted and
eventually a man answered James's phone; loud music was
playing in the background. Kemp repeatedly asked the man to
speak with James but he hung up the phone and did not answer
Kemp's subsequent repeated calls.
following day, December 16, 2009, Kemp went to James's
apartment to check on her; she was accompanied by the
apartment maintenance man. They knocked on the doors and
called out to James but got no response. The front door was
unlocked but the maintenance man could not push it open; the
man then unlocked the patio door and Kemp entered. Kemp found
James dead, blindfolded and slumped in her water-filled
bathtub. The crying Kemp left the apartment and the
maintenance man called the police.
had been blindfolded with two bandannas, which were wrapped
around her eyes, nose, and mouth. She was stabbed seven times
in her neck, puncturing her jugular vein and carotid artery.
She also sustained a cut on her right forefinger extending
from the knuckle to the web of the hand, which wound was
characteristic of people trying to defend themselves while
detectives called to the crime scene discovered that the
front door to the apartment had been barricaded with a sofa,
table, and two kitchen chairs. No weapons consistent with
James's wounds were found in the apartment. There were
drops of blood on and around the bathroom sink, which tested
positive for James's DNA. The front door to James's
apartment appeared to have been kicked in; the door framework
was splintered and fractured, the deadbolt was rendered
useless, and there was a noticeable footprint on the outside
of the door. Detectives were also unable to locate
James's cell phone or keys inside the apartment, leading
them to suspect a robbery.
were informed by United States Marshals with the Fugitive
Task Force that they were searching for Wilson in relation to
the November crimes against James, and that they had tracked
him to a nearby apartment leased by Wilson's then
girlfriend, Monica Russell. When marshals attempted to take
Wilson into custody, he tried to jump from the balcony of
Russell's apartment. During a subsequent search of
Russell's apartment, pursuant to a search warrant,
investigators found James's apartment keys and cell
phone; call logs revealed calls between James's and
Russell's cell phones December 14, 2009 through December
16, 2009. Photographs of Wilson's shoes were taken and
the sole print was found to match the pattern of the print
found on James's damaged front door.
police investigation also revealed a 2006 incident in which
Wilson choked a female acquaintance until she lost
consciousness and then left with her vehicle; the abandoned
vehicle was later recovered. Subsequently, as the woman and
her daughter were leaving their home, the woman heard someone
scream, "Bitch, you called the police." She turned
around and saw Wilson, who then began to shoot at them; they
ran and called police. Wilson was ultimately convicted in
connection with the case.
Wilson does not contest the legal sufficiency of the evidence
of his guilt. Nevertheless, in accordance with this
Court's general practice in appeals of murder cases, this
Court has reviewed the record and we conclude that the
evidence at trial was sufficient to enable a rational trier
of fact to find Wilson guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of
the crimes of which he was convicted. Jackson v.
Virginia, 443 U.S. 307 (99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560)
contends that the trial court erred in excluding evidence
that the footprint on James's door was days old at the
time of her death. But, the contention is unavailing.
opening statement at trial, defense counsel told the jury
that it would hear from James's property manager that a
few days prior to James's death, she had gone to the
rental office to report that someone had kicked in her door
and to give her 30 days notice. After opening statements, the
State raised a hearsay objection to the anticipated evidence,
arguing that its admissibility would have to be considered
under the residual exception to hearsay. See OCGA §
24-8-807. The trial court deferred ruling on
admissibility until further discussion of the matter and
until the property manager could be contacted. Later during
trial, the State informed the trial court that the property
manager had been contacted, and the State maintained that the
alleged statement by James would not be admissible under the
residual exception to hearsay in that it ...