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Williams v. State

Supreme Court of Georgia

August 14, 2017

WILLIAMS
v.
THE STATE.

          PETERSON, JUSTICE.

         Joseph Scott Williams was convicted of malice murder and other crimes in connection with the shooting death of Adiren Thompson.[1] Williams appeals and argues that the trial court erred in: (1) denying his motion to shuffle the jury pool; (2) excluding evidence supporting his claim of self-defense; (3) denying his motion for a mistrial when the State questioned him about allegations of jury tampering by a third party; and (4) failing to charge the jury on involuntary manslaughter. Williams also argues that (5) his trial counsel was ineffective. We affirm because the court was not required to shuffle the jury pool, any error in excluding the evidence in support of Williams's self-defense claim was harmless, the court's instruction to the jury cured the prejudicial effect of any improper questioning, the evidence did not support a jury charge on involuntary manslaughter, and Williams has failed to show that trial counsel was ineffective.

         Viewed in the light most favorable to the verdict, the trial evidence showed the following. Williams and Thompson were friends until Williams went to prison and Thompson started dating Williams's wife Chassity. Chassity divorced Williams in early 2010 while he was still incarcerated. When Williams was released from prison later that year, he showed considerable animosity toward Chassity and Thompson. In April 2010, he visited Chassity's home to retrieve some personal belongings, told her that she "wasn't going to be with" Thompson, and destroyed her cell phone. Williams at some point told Chassity that he did not want to see Thompson and preferred that she handle any custodial exchange of their son J. T. Chassity married Thompson in late 2010.

         In early June 2013, a visit between J. T. and Williams increased tensions. On June 1, Williams and Chassity exchanged heated text messages about Williams taking J. T. to get a haircut.

         The next day, Chassity and Thompson went to pick up J. T. at Williams's home, parking their car on the lawn. Chassity sent a text to Williams to send out J. T. After they left, Williams and Chassity exchanged the following text messages:[2]

Williams: Ya disrespectful ass. I'm not even gone feed into that. But tell him when he ready for that gangsta s**t get at me. We can get it popping. Coach J.
Chassity: [W]hat are you talking about[?]. He pulled in the grass so [J. T.] wouldn't get wet.
Williams: If you bring him or send him back over here, I put that on his brother D Rock. I'm going to change his life forever. Play with it and think it's [a game]. Coach J.

         Chassity testified that she interpreted Williams's reference to Thompson's brother "D Rock, " who was dead, as a threat to put Thompson in the grave with his brother. When Chassity responded that Thompson took care of their son while Williams had not and that Williams should be "stepping up to the plate, " the following exchange occurred:

Williams: I'm through talking. You got the message.
Chassity: [A]'int nobody scared of you. You don't put no fear in my heart. The only thing I fear is my god, and you best do the same. Now you and yours have a good night and we will too.
Williams: Get you [a] lot on standby. Pick you [a] good preacher. Try me. I pray you do.
Chassity: I promise you, all I have to do is pray and you'll be in the worst predicament of your life. It happens every time.
Williams: You can't touch me. F**k, n***a, I don't worship the devil. If you keep playing, I'm a ...

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