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Leslie v. State

Supreme Court of Georgia

August 28, 2017


          HUNSTEIN, Justice.

         Appellant Eugene Leslie was tried and convicted of murder and related offenses in connection with the shooting death of Jason Glenn Wade.[1] On appeal, Leslie claims that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions and further alleges two instances of trial court error. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

         1. First, Leslie argues that the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to support his convictions and sentences. Viewed in a light most favorable to the jury's verdict, the evidence adduced at trial established that, at all relevant times, Wade routinely purchased drugs from Leslie. Prior to his death, Wade allowed Leslie and Leslie's girlfriend, Elizabeth Moore, to stay with him at his apartment in exchange for drugs. After a few weeks, both Wade and his mother asked Leslie and Moore to move out. Initially, Leslie rebuffed this request, but, eventually, he and Moore left and moved into a motel. During this time, Leslie purchased a .40 caliber handgun.

         On August 28, 2008, Leslie and Moore returned to Wade's home under the pretense of providing Wade with drugs. Prior to heading over to the apartment, Leslie placed his handgun and some drugs into Moore's purse. Then they picked up their friend, Jordan Evora, who assumed that the group was all going to do drugs at Wade's house. After arriving, Leslie followed Moore into the bathroom; Leslie subsequently took his gun out of Moore's purse, racked it and, after exiting the bathroom, shot Wade six times. After the first few shots were fired, both Moore and Evora ran from the apartment. Later, Leslie met Moore back at their motel room and told her not to tell anyone about the shooting.

         Law enforcement's investigation lead them to Evora. He provided officers with Moore's name. When Moore spoke with law enforcement, she provided a comprehensive statement identifying Leslie as Wade's killer. Leslie was subsequently apprehended during a traffic stop, after which law enforcement recovered two small, clear plastic baggies containing a substance later determined to be cocaine.

         An autopsy revealed that Wade died as a result of multiple gunshot wounds. The murder weapon was never recovered, and Moore testified at trial that she did not see Leslie's handgun again after the shooting; however, six .40 caliber shell casings were recovered from the scene, all of which were determined to have been fired from the same weapon. Finally, the State tendered a letter written by Leslie instructing a woman named Renatta Lester to establish an alibi for him for the day of the murder.

         Based on the foregoing, the evidence authorized the jury to find Leslie guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the crimes for which he was convicted. See Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307 (99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560) (1979).

         2. Next, Leslie argues that the trial court erred in denying his motion for discharge and acquittal, contending that both his statutory and constitutional right to a speedy trial had been violated. We disagree.

         The record shows that Leslie was arrested for charges related to this incident on August 28, 2008. He was originally indicted on September 9, 2008, and was subsequently appointed counsel from the Houston County Public Defender's Office. On December 5, 2008, defense counsel filed a statutory speedy trial demand in accordance with OCGA § 17-7-171. The original indictment was dismissed, and Leslie was re-indicted on December 16, 2008, which included statutory aggravating circumstances in support of the State seeking the death penalty. During this time, the prosecutor and the public defender discussed that the State would be filing a death notice sometime thereafter. On December 19, 2008, defense counsel withdrew the statutory speedy trial demand that he had filed in the original case.

         In early January 2009, Leslie was appointed new counsel from the Capital Defender's Office. The Capital Defender's Office continued its representation through May 2010 when it was permitted to withdraw from the case because the State had yet to file a formal notice seeking the death penalty. Leslie was again appointed new counsel on June 16, 2010. Two days later, the State filed its "Notice of Intent to Seek the Death Penalty." The Capital Defender's Office re-entered the case at the end of June, and Leslie's other counsel withdrew in August 2010, citing his ineligibility to try death penalty cases.

         Since asserting and then withdrawing his statutory speedy trial demand in December 2008, Leslie took no other action to renew his statutory speedy trial demand or assert his constitutional right to a speedy trial until February 2011, when he filed his motion for discharge and acquittal alleging violations of his statutory and constitutional speedy trial rights, which the trial court subsequently denied in June 2011.

         (a) Statutory Speedy Trial Demand

          Leslie contends, as he did below, that the State violated his statutory right to a speedy trial when the State misled defense counsel by promising to "quickly" file a death notice in his case. He alleges that this misrepresentation caused Leslie's original attorney to withdraw his statutory speedy trial demand. However, the pleading that withdrew the speedy trial demand states no such condition, and Leslie cites no authority in support of his proposition that Georgia law provides for the "conditional" withdrawal of a statutory speedy trial demand. Consequently, the trial court did not err in denying this portion of Leslie's motion for discharge and acquittal.

         (b) Constitutional ...

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