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Bailey v. State

Supreme Court of Georgia

June 19, 2017


          GRANT, Justice.

         A DeKalb County jury found appellant Stephen Bailey guilty but mentally ill on all thirteen counts of an indictment filed in connection with the stabbing deaths of Ursula Peterson and her adult daughter Dominique Martin, who were his upstairs neighbors.[1] Bailey contends that the trial court erred by denying Bailey's motion to suppress evidence, denying his Jackson-Denno[2] motion, and refusing to give an instruction on voluntary manslaughter. Finding no error, we affirm.


         Viewed in the light most favorable to the verdict, the evidence at trial shows that on November 27, 2010, Bailey says he heard noises coming from the apartment above his; in response, he went upstairs and knocked on the door of Peterson's apartment. Martin answered the door but denied making any noise-two of her three minor children were asleep, and the other was watching a movie with Martin. Bailey became irate, and began to stab Martin with a knife he had brought upstairs. When Peterson attempted to intervene, Bailey pushed her into a wall and began stabbing her too. Despite her injuries, Peterson managed to instruct one of Martin's children to call 911, which the child did.

         Responding officers testified that when they arrived at Peterson's apartment, there was blood throughout the apartment, and the furniture was in disarray. Martin was dead, with cuts to her face and back, and her throat was slit "from ear to ear." Peterson was alive, but struggling to breathe. She suffered cuts to her chest and abdomen; her throat, too, had been slit. Peterson ultimately died from her wounds.

         After noticing blood on the door handle of Bailey's apartment, but seeing no evidence that the victims had left their apartment, the police obtained search warrants for both the victims' apartment and Bailey's apartment. A DeKalb County police investigator then knocked on Bailey's door, and Bailey's mother answered. The investigator saw Bailey sitting on the couch and asked him, "Do you know why we are here?" Bailey responded, "Yes." The investigator then placed Bailey under arrest with no further conversation. Bailey was transported to the DeKalb County Police Headquarters, where he waived his rights before being interviewed. During the interview, which lasted approximately one hour, Bailey admitted that he had become angry when he heard the residents in the apartment above him "stomping and throwing stuff, " that he had gone up to the apartment to confront them, and that he had taken a kitchen knife "just in case" he was attacked by the women. He told the investigator that when he reached the victims' apartment, the daughter had answered the door and initially denied making noise, but then she "got an attitude and I got mad." He stated that he attacked the daughter first and then attacked the mother when she came into the living room. Bailey told investigators he had put the clothes he was wearing in a hamper and put the knife he used in the kitchen sink. During their search of Bailey's apartment, police seized, among other things, a leather jacket and blue jeans; DNA analysis revealed that the blood on the jeans and jacket matched that of Peterson.

         Bailey pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity and testified in his own defense at trial. He admitted to stabbing and killing both victims. He told the jury he wanted revenge "from them [the victims] reading my mind." Four expert witnesses testified about Bailey's mental health. While the experts testified to various-and at times conflicting-diagnoses, none of the experts testified that Bailey was unable to differentiate right from wrong. In fact, Bailey admitted that he knew that what he had done was wrong, and that he likely would not have done it if the police had been present.

         Although Bailey does not expressly challenge the sufficiency of the evidence, we have reviewed the record and conclude that there was sufficient evidence for a rational trier of fact to find Bailey guilty but mentally ill beyond a reasonable doubt of the charges on which he was convicted. Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307 (99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560) (1979).


         Bailey's first contention is that the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress various items, including clothing and a knife, recovered from his apartment. He argues that these items were the fruits of an unlawful search of his home because law enforcement officers lacked probable cause to conduct the search. He is incorrect.

         A search warrant will issue only upon facts "sufficient to show probable cause that a crime is being committed or has been committed." OCGA § 17-5-21 (a). To determine if probable cause exists to issue a search warrant, a magistrate must make a practical, common-sense decision whether, given all the circumstances set forth in the affidavit before him, there is a fair probability that contraband or evidence of a crime will be found in a particular place. Lemon v. State, 279 Ga. 618, 620 (1) (619 S.E.2d 613) (2005) (citation omitted). Appellate courts review a warrant under the totality of the circumstances standard set out in Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213 (103 S.Ct. 2317, 76 L.Ed.2d 527) (1983). See State v. Palmer, 285 Ga. 75, 77 (673 S.E.2d 237) (2009). Our task is to determine "'if the magistrate had a 'substantial basis' for concluding that probable cause existed to issue the search warrant.'" Id. (quoting Sullivan v. State, 284 Ga. 358, 361 (667 S.E.2d 32) (2008)).

         Here, the evidence shows that the officers plainly had probable cause to search Bailey's apartment. In the affidavit accompanying the search warrant application, the investigator stated that there were signs of a struggle in the victims' apartment, that there were two victims with stab wounds, and that there were areas of blood spatter throughout the apartment. The affidavit further stated that fresh blood was located on the entry door handle of Bailey's apartment, which was located directly beneath the victims' apartment.

         After conducting a hearing on Bailey's motion to suppress, the trial court denied the motion. We agree with the trial court, and with the magistrate who issued the warrant. Because there was probable cause to support the search of Bailey's ...

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