William Speziali was convicted of the malice murder of Jimmy
Breedlove and other related crimes. On appeal, he contends,
among other things, that his trial counsel was
constitutionally ineffective and that the evidence presented
at trial was insufficient to support his convictions. For the
reasons that follow, we affirm.
Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the
verdicts, the evidence presented at trial showed that, in
December 2010, the victim asked for a pre-warrant hearing in
the local magistrate court, telling the judge that appellant
had forged three checks on the victim's account. The
judge testified that the victim and appellant reached an
agreement regarding the dispute before a hearing was held.
The agreement was supposed to be completed by February 1, but
was not. The judge added that the victim called her numerous
times in early 2011, including several times in February,
saying that appellant was threatening him and that the victim
was afraid that appellant was going to harm him. The last
such call was at the end of February or early in March. The
judge said that, during the calls, she could hear the fear in
the victim's voice.
Rowland, a friend of appellant, testified that, on March 29,
2011, he and appellant spent several hours running errands
and visiting people in appellant's car. Their last stop
was the victim's home. It was dark when they drove into
the victim's driveway. Appellant parked so that the
driver's door of the car was very close to the front door
of the victim's mobile home. Appellant got out of the
car, told Rowland that he would be right back, and knocked on
the door. Rowland then "heard [appellant] say, it's
Will. Apparently, [the victim] asked who it was. But I heard
[appellant] say, Will, and I heard the door close when he
went [in]." Rowland dozed off for a short period of
time, and when he woke up, he went to knock on the door. Just
before he did, he heard glass breaking. When he knocked,
appellant answered and told Rowland that he would be out
shortly. Rowland got back in the car and "waited and
waited, " and "just before" he was going to
knock on the door again, appellant came out and was wearing a
different shirt. He got in the car and drove off at a
"really excessive speed." Rowland asked appellant
why he was driving so fast, and appellant said, "I just
beat his ass." Appellant dropped Rowland off at his
sister's house. Before appellant drove away, he said,
"Greg, don't tell nobody we went to [the
victim's] house, and I mean it."
March 31, a deputy sheriff responded to a burglary call at
the victim's home. When he arrived, one of the
victim's neighbors was sitting on his front steps. She
told the deputy that she had not seen the victim in a few
days and was concerned about him. The door to the mobile home
was unlocked, so the deputy opened it and looked in. He saw
the victim, who appeared to be dead, lying on the floor. The
deputy called for backup and secured the scene. A medical
technician arrived shortly thereafter and pronounced the
victim dead. He had suffered multiple facial and skull
fractures, multiple lacerations of the face and scalp,
several fractured ribs, and a nine-inch laceration of his
neck that cut his jugular veins and his right carotid artery
and would have caused his death within a minute. The victim
also had a number of defensive wounds on his arms, hands, and
trial, appellant and the State stipulated that a stain near
the gearshift of appellant's car contained the
victim's DNA and that the victim's blood was found on
the driver's seat of appellant's car. Moreover, the
owner of a local automobile sales company testified that he
had sold appellant the car he was driving on the day of the
crimes. According to him, around 3:30 p.m. on Friday, March
31, appellant called him, said that the gas fumes in the car
were so bad that he was afraid to drive it, and asked the
automobile dealer to come get the car. The dealer did so, and
he testified that he did not smell gas fumes in the car.
Later that same day, the GBI contacted him and asked him if
he had done anything to the car. The dealer had not and
stored the car over the weekend. On Monday morning, the GBI
retrieved the car.
March 31 and April 15, 2011, an investigator with the
sheriff's office and a GBI agent interviewed appellant.
On March 31, appellant denied being at the victim's home
on March 29. During the April 15 interview, the investigator
and the GBI agent asked appellant about finding the
victim's blood in his car. Appellant said that the victim
had never been in his car, and he added that he had never had
a physical altercation with the victim and had not been at
the victim's home on March 29. He said that he was last
there on February 9, 2011. The GBI agent testified that he
did not notice any defensive wounds to appellant's hands
or any bruises on his face.
testified at trial, claiming that he acted in self-defense.
According to appellant, although he and his wife had lived
with the victim for three days in early February 2011, his
son had stayed with appellant's parents. According to
appellant, he owed the victim about $300 or $400, and they
discussed appellant doing some work at the victim's home
to satisfy the debt. Appellant said that he made partial
payments to satisfy the agreement that he and the victim
reached in court, but he had not repaid all the money.
Appellant maintained that he was not mad at the victim
because the victim had helped him by letting him stay at his
house and by giving him some money for his truck payments.
March 29, when he and Rowland drove to the victim's home,
appellant knocked on the door, and the victim let him in.
Appellant told the victim that he wanted to work to make some
money; that his family was surviving on very little food; and
that, when his son got out of the shower recently, appellant
noticed that he was "looking like skin and bones."
The victim then said that he would pay "to see a picture
like that." This upset appellant, and he told the victim
that, if they were "anywhere else, [he] would beat his
ass." The victim jumped up, asked him why he thought he
could "just come over here and just get whatever you all
want and not give nothing back, " and approached
appellant with a knife drawn. The victim tried to stab him,
and, as appellant was backing up, he tripped and fell down.
The victim jumped on him, and they struggled over the knife.
Appellant pushed the knife up and cut the victim "across
the victim dropped the knife, and appellant picked it up and
hit the victim in the back with it. Appellant then dropped
the knife and ran towards the front door, but the victim
picked up the knife, ran after him, and blocked his way.
According to appellant, he next ran into the kitchen and
tripped and a piece of particle board fell. They fought in
the kitchen, with appellant trying to escape but the victim
successfully blocking him. The victim was bleeding
everywhere, and appellant told him that he was hurt badly and
needed help. The victim, however, who still had the knife,
continued to attack him. Appellant picked up the particle
board and hit the victim with it numerous times. The victim
fell down and did not get back up. Appellant washed himself
off at the sink and left the house.
contends that the evidence was insufficient to support his
convictions. However, we conclude that the evidence presented
at trial and summarized above was sufficient to authorize a
rational trier of fact to find appellant guilty beyond a
reasonable doubt 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).
Appellant contends that trial counsel provided
constitutionally ineffective assistance. We disagree.
prevail on this claim, appellant must show both that his
counsel performed deficiently and that, but for the
deficiency, there is a reasonable probability that the
outcome of his trial would have been more favorable. See
Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (104
S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed.2d 674) (1984). "While the test
imposed by Strickland is not impossible to meet, the
burden is a heavy one." Wiggins v. State, 295
Ga. 684, 686 (763 S.E.2d 484) (2014).
To prove deficient performance, one must show that his
attorney performed at trial in an objectively unreasonable
way considering all the circumstances and in the light of
prevailing professional norms. Courts reviewing
ineffectiveness claims must apply a strong presumption that
counsel's conduct fell within the wide range of
reasonable professional performance. Thus, decisions
regarding trial tactics and strategy may form the basis for