MILLER, P. J., DOYLE and REESE, JJ.
Gwinnett County jury found Mary Puckett guilty of kidnapping,
felony theft by taking a motor vehicle, and two counts each
of armed robbery and false imprisonment. She appeals from
the denial of her motion for new trial, contending that the
evidence was insufficient to support her convictions, that
the evidence was insufficient to support a felony sentence on
the theft by taking charge, and that she received ineffective
assistance of counsel. For the reasons set forth, infra, we
in the light most favorable to the jury's verdict,
record reveals the following facts. On April 2 and 3, 2015,
two incidents involving armed robbery, false imprisonment,
kidnapping, and theft by taking occurred at the Red Roof Inn
on Lawrenceville Suwanee Road in Gwinnett County. The parties
to the crimes included Kayla Folds, Andy Ulysse, Teddy
Williams, Cornelius Cupsa, and the Appellant, Mary Puckett.
The Appellant was Ulysse's girlfriend, and the couple
lived with Folds and Williams.
the first incident occurred on April 2, Ulysse told the
Appellant to get some bullets and bring them to him in Room
232 of the Red Roof Inn, and the Appellant complied. The
Appellant then left the room and waited in Williams' car
in the motel's parking lot.
first incident involved a man named Joshua Smith, who called
Folds, a prostitute, and made an appointment for her
services. Folds instructed Smith to come to Room 232 of the
Red Roof Inn. When he arrived at the motel, Smith noticed a
car with its headlights on in the parking lot, parked so it
was facing the street and could exit quickly. Smith knocked
on the door to Room 232 and, when Folds answered the door,
she mouthed the words "I'm sorry." As Smith
took a step into the room, he was struck in the head by
Ulysse, who had been standing behind the door. Williams and
Cupsa then came out of the bathroom carrying guns and forced
Smith to the floor, threatened to kill him, and demanded his
wallet, credit cards, phone, and car keys.
informed Ulysse that he had already withdrawn the maximum
amount of cash allowed from the ATM because he was going on
vacation, but told him there was more money at his apartment.
Ulysse forced Smith down the motel's stairs at gunpoint
and made him get into the driver's seat of Smith's
car. The Appellant, who was sitting in Williams' car and
saw the men walk to Smith's car, called Ulysse to ask for
the address of where they were going. Smith drove Ulysse to
Smith's apartment. The Appellant followed them in
Williams' car, accompanied by Folds, who was in the front
passenger seat, and Williams, who was in the seat directly
behind the Appellant. During the trip, however, the Appellant
got lost and called Ulysse for directions.
the Appellant, Folds, and Williams were lost, Ulysse and
Smith arrived at Smith's apartment. Ulysse took $1, 200
in cash and other items from the apartment. Ulysse then
called the Appellant and told her to come pick him up from
Smith's apartment. The Appellant eventually found her way
to Smith's apartment complex, picked up Ulysse, and drove
back to the Red Roof Inn.
did not call the police after the armed robbery, explaining
to the jury at the Appellant's trial that he was happy to
be alive and had only lost material things that could be
replaced. Police officers subsequently interviewed him,
however, as a result of their investigation of the second
incident at issue in this case. During the interview, Smith
told the officers that the people who attacked and robbed him
knew where he lived and he was terrified of them.
second incident occurred later the same night when another
man, Duane Gardner, called Folds and arranged to meet her at
the same Red Roof Inn. Upon entering Room 232, Gardner saw
Folds and the Appellant. The two claimed they were sisters,
and the Appellant left the room shortly after Gardner
arrived. However, before the Appellant left, Folds gave her
the room key to give to Ulysse and Williams.
Appellant went downstairs to Williams' car, where Ulysse
and Williams were waiting, and sat in the back seat of the
car. Williams drove to the other side of the motel and parked
so the car was facing Room 232. Ulysse and Williams then left
the car while the Appellant remained in the back seat.
after the Appellant had left Room 232, Gardner and Folds were
on the bed when there was a knock on the door. Folds told
Gardner that it was her sister, and she opened the door.
Instead of the Appellant, however, it was Ulysse and
Williams; both men were carrying guns. Ulysse and Williams
entered and immediately demanded Gardner's money, car
keys, cell phone, and debit card pin number. Ulysse forced
Gardner to lie down in a corner of the room and threw a sheet
over his head. Ulysse warned Gardner that, if the pin number
did not work, "my friend is going to shoot you, "
and then left.
went downstairs and told the Appellant, who was still waiting
in Williams' car, to get out and follow him. The
Appellant and Ulysse got into Gardner's 2002 Honda
Accord, and the Appellant started to drive. They heard a
gunshot coming from the direction of Room 232, however, so
the Appellant parked the car in front of the Red Roof Inn.
The Appellant and Ulysse got out of Gardner's car and
walked to the parking lot of the Super 8 motel next door.
Ulysse told the Appellant to go back to the Red Roof Inn to
see if the police were there, and the Appellant complied.
When the Appellant returned to Ulysse, they hid in some
nearby bushes for about five minutes. Ulysse and the
Appellant then separated briefly before meeting up again at a
nearby Chevron gas station.
shortly after Ulysse had left the hotel room, Williams'
shotgun went off. Gardner jumped up, scuffled with Williams,
and escaped the motel room. Gardner ran outside and into the
street, where he encountered an officer who was conducting a
traffic stop. Gardner told the officer that he had just been
robbed by two men with guns. The officer had Gardner sit in
the patrol car and called for backup assistance. While
waiting, Gardner suddenly saw the Appellant and Ulysse
outside the Chevron station, and he alerted the officer.
other officers went to the Chevron station, where they saw
the Appellant and Ulysse standing outside a car, talking to
the car's driver. One of the officers asked the Appellant
and Ulysse to step over to the patrol car so he could talk
with them, while the other officer spoke with the driver. The
driver said that the Appellant and Ulysse had approached her
car and asked if they could use her phone. During a
subsequent search of a nearby area of trees and overgrown
brush, an investigator found a sweatshirt that matched
Gardner's description of one worn by one of his
assailants, along with a hat, a loaded handgun, and car keys.
The car keys belonged to Gardner. Further, at the time the
Appellant and Ulysse were detained by officers outside the
Chevron station, Ulysse was not wearing a shirt.
officers transported the Appellant and Ulysse to a police
station, where an investigator interviewed them separately.
The Appellant admitted to him that she had been in Room 232
of the Red Roof Inn earlier that night to smoke marijuana,
but she repeatedly denied any knowledge about the armed
robbery. Officers released both the Appellant and Ulysse
after their interviews, but, following further investigation
of both incidents, including a second interview of the
Appellant, police officers arrested the Appellant on the
instant crimes. The State ultimately charged the Appellant
with the armed robberies of Smith and Gardner, the false
imprisonment of Smith and Gardner, the kidnapping of Smith,
and the felony theft by taking of Gardner's car.
Appellant's jury trial, in addition to presenting the
above evidence, the State played a patrol car
"dashcam" recording of Gardner's encounter with
the police officer in the street immediately after the armed
robbery and the resulting detention of the Appellant and
Ulysse at the Chevron station. The recording at the Chevron
station showed the Appellant laughing and joking with Ulysse
and two police officers while they waited outside the patrol
car for information about the investigation that other
officers were conducting at the Red Roof Inn. After the
officers put Ulysse in the backseat of the patrol car, the
recording shows that the Appellant continued to laugh and
chat with the officers outside the car. Despite being
physically separated from Ulysse and in the presence of two
police officers, however, the Appellant never told the
officers that she was afraid of Ulysse, that she was being
coerced by him, or that she needed their protection from him.
Instead, she consistently expressed complete ignorance about
any crimes that had been committed at the Red Roof Inn. The
State also played an audio-recording of a phone call from the
Appellant to Ulysse that she made while incarcerated on the
instant charges, as well as surveillance tapes from the Red
Roof Inn and the Super 8 motel next door that showed, among
other things, the Appellant driving away in Gardner's car
and the Appellant's attempt to flee the area with Ulysse
after they heard the gunshot that preceded Gardner's
Appellant's defense at trial was that she did not know
that Ulysse and the others were planning to commit the crimes
before they occurred, she did not know that crimes were being
committed at the time they happened, and she did not
participate in the armed robberies and false imprisonments of
Smith and Gardner. Regarding the other crimes (the kidnapping
of Smith and the theft of Gardner's car), she claimed
that her participation was the result of being coerced by
Ulysse and, to a lesser extent, Williams. She testified
that Ulysse often threatened and was violent toward her and
that she believed he would hurt her if she refused to do what
he told her to do during the commission of the crimes. Based
upon this evidence, the trial court instructed the jury on
the affirmative defense of coercion during its jury charge at
the end of the trial.
jury found the Appellant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt on
all of the charges, and the court sentenced her to 30 years
of imprisonment, to serve 12, with the balance on probation.
The Appellant filed a motion for new trial, which the court
denied after conducting a hearing. This appeal followed.
On appeal from a criminal conviction, we view the evidence in
the light most favorable to the verdict and an appellant no
longer enjoys the presumption of innocence. This Court
determines whether the evidence is sufficient under the
standard of Jackson v. Virginia,  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, we must uphold the jury's
these guiding principles in mind, we turn now to the
Appellant's specific claims of error.
Appellant contends that there was insufficient evidence to
prove that she was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of
committing the armed robberies of Smith and Gardner.
Specifically, the Appellant argues that there was no evidence
that she was actually present in the motel room at the time
the armed robberies took place or that she was aware of or
participated in the planning of the armed robberies. She
claims, instead, that she was merely present at the Red Roof
Inn during the commission of those crimes and that such
presence is insufficient as a matter of law to convict her as
a party to the crimes.
A participant to a crime may be convicted although he is not
the person who directly commits the crime. A person who
intentionally aids or abets in the commission of a crime or
intentionally advises, encourages, hires, counsels or
procures another to commit the crime may be convicted of the
crime as a party to the crime. Mere presence at the scene is
not sufficient to convict one of being a party to a crime,
but criminal intent may be inferred from conduct before,
during, and after the commission of a crime.
an initial matter, the Appellant has not offered any argument
or authority in support of an insufficient evidence claim as
to her convictions for the kidnapping of Smith or the theft
of Gardner's car. Regardless,  we find that the evidence
presented at trial was legally sufficient for the jury to
find her guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of those
to the armed robberies and related false
imprisonments of Smith and Gardner that were committed
in Room 232 of the motel, the State presented evidence
showing that the Appellant obtained bullets for Ulysse
shortly before the crimes occurred; waited in a car outside
the room and acted as a lookout during the armed robbery of
Smith; drove Williams' car to Smith's apartment after
Ulysse forced Smith to drive there so he (Ulysse) could steal
more money and other items; picked up Ulysse after that
robbery; and drove Ulysse, Folds, and Williams back to the
Red Roof Inn. Further, Folds specifically testified that,
while she, the Appellant, Ulysse, and Williams were still in
the car after arriving back at the motel, they discussed
robbing Gardner, who was on his way to the motel to have sex
with Folds. After this discussion, the Appellant and Folds
walked up to Room 232 and, when Gardner arrived, Folds gave
the Appellant a room key to give to Ulysse and Williams, who
were waiting outside in Williams' car. The Appellant went
down to Williams' car, talked with Ulysse and Williams,
and again waited in the car as a lookout while the men
committed the armed robbery. Then, while Williams held
Gardner at gunpoint in the motel room, the Appellant followed
Ulysse to Gardner's car and, using the keys Ulysse stole
from Gardner, drove the car away, stopping only after she
heard Williams' shotgun go off. Finally, after abandoning
Gardner's car in a nearby parking lot, the Appellant
started to escape into a wooded area with Ulysse; ran back to
the motel to see if the police had arrived to investigate the
gunshot; waited while Ulysse disposed of his sweatshirt, hat,
and handgun and Gardner's car keys in the brush; and then
went with Ulysse to the nearby Chevron station, where they
were detained by police officers.
issue of whether the Appellant aided or abetted in the
commission of the armed robberies or even knew about the
robberies was a question for the jury to
decide. Furthermore, "[a] jury is
authorized to believe or disbelieve all or any part of the
testimony of witnesses, and it serves as the arbiter of
conflicts in the evidence before it." Given the
overwhelming evidence of the Appellant's conduct before,
during, and after the crimes at issue were committed, the
jury was authorized to reject her testimony regarding ...