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Porter v. State

Court of Appeals of Georgia, Second Division

June 8, 2017


          DOYLE, C. J., MILLER, P. J., and REESE, J.

          REESE, JUDGE.

         Following a jury trial, Tomeka Porter was convicted of armed robbery[1] and sentenced to serve 20 years in confinement. She appeals from the denial of her motion for new trial, arguing that the evidence was insufficient to support her conviction, and that the trial court erred in admitting her custodial statement and the witness' show-up identification of her as one of the offenders. For the reasons set forth, infra, we affirm.

         Viewed in the light most favorable to the jury's verdict, [2] the record shows the following facts. On August 9, 2013, the Appellant was in a DeKalb County hotel selling drugs when Ladarius Clark, Teneshia Harvey, Theophilus Porter ("Porter"), [3]and Sir Charles Wood came to her hotel room. The Appellant voluntarily drove Clark, Harvey, Porter, and Wood (collectively, the "co-defendants") to Gwinnett County so the Appellant could sell cocaine. While the Appellant drove, the co-defendants consumed drugs and alcohol.

         After arriving in Gwinnett County, the Appellant's phone rang and she spoke to the caller in Spanish while she stopped at a couple of residences. After the conversation, the Appellant told the co-defendants that the caller "had some nice things, " he would "pay well, " and he was an "easy target." They discussed a plan to travel to the caller's home, "see[ ] what all he had"and steal items from the house.

         On the night of the robbery, the caller, "A. H., " and his two roommates, "P. C." and "R. J., " were at A. H.'s home.[4] The Appellant and her co-defendants arrived at the house around 1:00 a.m. The Appellant and her female co-defendant, Harvey, exited the vehicle and went inside, stayed about ten to fifteen minutes, and returned to the car.

         During that visit to A. H.'s house, P. C. was asleep in the living room. The Appellant, Harvey, and A. H. went to A. H.'s room for a few minutes. Before leaving the residence, the Appellant woke up P. C., kissed him, and said "I'll come back for you." Upon returning to the car, the Appellant told the co-defendants, "[A. H.] ha[d] nice things" but did not pay what he owed her.

         The Appellant and her co-defendants drove to the end of the street, but then decided collectively to return to the house and steal some things. The Appellant and Harvey returned to the house around 1:30 a.m. P. C. saw them through a window adjacent to the door, but did not notice the three male co-defendants hidden in the bushes around the side of the house. When P. C. opened the door, the male co-defendants appeared in the doorway and "jump[ed] inside" the home, in front of the Appellant and Harvey. Once the Appellant and her co-defendants were all inside, P. C. saw that one of the men had a gun.

         The male co-defendants punched and beat P. C. and took him to another room occupied by A. H. They asked for the victims' wallets, keys, and cell phones. A. H. grabbed a chair to fight back, but one of the men shot him in the shoulder. The male co-defendants took the victims' cell phones and a car key.[5]

         While the male co-defendants were inside the residence, R. J. slept in his bedroom. He awoke upon hearing a "ruckus" in the home and opened his bedroom door. R. J. saw one of the male co-defendants holding a gun. R. J. closed his bedroom door and climbed out of his bedroom window to the street.

         The Appellant and Harvey exited the house, returned to the vehicle, and the Appellant drove away. While leaving the neighborhood, the Appellant and Harvey saw a man, later identified as R. J., "frantically walking" down the street with a cell phone. Harvey told the Appellant to stop the car, after which she told the man, "I just want your phone." R. J. gave Harvey the phone, and she and the Appellant returned to A. H.'s residence. Once there, Wood got into the car's backseat and the Appellant started driving "[b]ack to DeKalb County."

         At 3:07 a.m., a DeKalb County police officer initiated a traffic stop of the Appellant's car because it had a "cardboard tag." After the Appellant gave the police officer a driver's license that was not hers and a date of birth that did not match the license, the officer arrested her for identity fraud. Because neither Harvey nor Wood had a valid driver's license, several officers conducted an inventory search in preparation for impounding the vehicle. After discovering a handgun, the officers contacted neighboring precincts to determine if any crimes, such as entering autos or armed robberies, had recently occurred. The Gwinnett County Police Department responded that there had just been a home invasion during which someone was shot. Gwinnett County officers brought two of the home invasion victims, P. C. and R. J., to the site of the traffic stop. P. C. identified the Appellant, Harvey, and Wood as being involved in the robbery, and R. J. identified Harvey. The Appellant was taken into custody.[6]

         1. The Appellant argues that the evidence was insufficient for a rational trier of fact to find her guilty of armed robbery. We disagree.

Generally, on appeal from a criminal conviction, the appellate court view[s] the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict and an appellant no longer enjoys the presumption of innocence. [The] Court determines whether the evidence is sufficient under the standard of Jackson v. Virginia, [7] and does not weigh the evidence or determine witness credibility. Any conflicts or inconsistencies in the evidence are for the jury to resolve. As long as there is some competent evidence, even though contradicted, to support each fact necessary to make out the State's case, [the Court] must uphold the jury's verdict.[8]

         The standard of Jackson v. Virginia is met if the evidence is sufficient for any rational trier of fact to find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the crime charged.[9]

         A person commits armed robbery "when, with intent to commit theft, he or she takes property of another from the person or the immediate presence of another by use of an offensive weapon, or any replica, article, or device having the appearance of such weapon."[10] OCGA § 24-14-8 states, in part, "[t]he testimony of a single witness is generally sufficient to establish a fact."[11] "[A] defendant may not be convicted on the uncorroborated testimony of an accomplice. The corroboration must be independent of the accomplice's testimony and it must connect the defendant to the crime or lead to the inference that he [or she] is guilty."[12]

         At trial, the jury heard the testimony of victims P. C. and R. J. and the Appellant's co-defendants, Porter and Harvey. Both Porter and Harvey testified that the Appellant told them that the victims' home had "nice things, " and that the Appellant had actively participated in the planning and implementation of the robbery. Both testified that the Appellant drove the co-defendants to the victims' home for the purpose of committing the robbery. P. C. corroborated the co-defendants' testimony by testifying that he was " a hundred percent" sure that the Appellant was the woman who kissed him and, later, came into the house with the co- defendants. We ...

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