Isaiah Blackmon challenges his convictions for felony murder
and other crimes in connection with the shooting death of
Edward Cobb and the aggravated assault of Stanton Gilliam.
Appellant contends that the evidence was legally insufficient
to support his convictions and that he was denied the
effective assistance of counsel. We affirm.
Viewed in the light most favorable to the verdicts, the
evidence at trial showed the following. On December 6, 2011,
Briana Abner called Appellant and asked him to get her a
small quantity of marijuana. Later that day, Appellant called
Abner back and told her to pick up co-defendant Dejuan
Spratlin, who had no car, because Spratlin "knew the
weed man." Spratlin called Gilliam, whom he knew from
high school, and arranged to buy a pound of marijuana. Abner
drove Spratlin to Gilliam's house and waited in the car
while the two men negotiated over the price inside. At some
point, Spratlin called Appellant, and Appellant drove to
Gilliam's house. Gilliam felt uncomfortable once
Appellant arrived, because he was expecting to be
"dealing with one person, not two people." Gilliam
called his neighbor Edward Cobb to come over, and after Cobb
arrived, an agreement was reached. Appellant then gave
Gilliam $1, 025 in cash in return for the marijuana.
walked towards the door with Cobb and Gilliam, but as Cobb
started to open the door, Appellant pulled out a gun and
said, "F**k this s**t, you know what it is, go ahead and
give me everything." Gilliam threw the money onto a pool
table near Spratlin as Cobb began struggling with Appellant
for the gun. Gilliam tried to help Cobb at first, but after
Appellant shot Gilliam twice in the leg, he ran to a bedroom
and hid in the closet. Gilliam heard several more shots
before Appellant and Spratlin left, taking with them the
money from the pool table as well as the marijuana.
two house mates, Karalo Jackson and Rikeshia Andrews, were
awakened by the gunfire. Andrews armed himself with an iron,
because there were no guns in the house. Jackson found Cobb,
who had been shot four times, lying on the living room floor
and called 911. Gilliam eventually recovered from his
injuries, but Cobb died from gunshot wounds to his torso.
Three bullets were taken from Cobb's body - two fired
from a .38 caliber gun and one fired from a .40 caliber gun.
Several other bullets, both .38 caliber and .40 caliber, were
found at the scene, along with eight .40 caliber shell
casings. A firearms expert determined that at least two and
possibly three guns were involved in the shooting. Gilliam
identified Spratlin, and ultimately Appellant, to the police
and at trial.
officers later located Appellant and Spratlin together at a
motel in Alabama. Both men ran from the police but were
eventually apprehended. A few days after the shooting, a cell
phone associated with Appellant had received text messages
about the sale of two guns, including a .40 caliber gun.
While in jail, Appellant spoke to his mother and told her
that he "gave the gun to someone to get rid of."
Neither Appellant nor Spratlin testified at trial. Abner
testified that when Spratlin ran out to her car after the
shooting, he said, "They're trying to rob me."
Gilliam testified that he had not tried to rob anyone. The
court charged the jury on self-defense, but the jury rejected
Appellant contends that the evidence was insufficient to
support his convictions. When properly viewed in the light
most favorable to the verdicts, however, the evidence
presented at trial and summarized above was sufficient to
authorize a rational jury to reject Appellant's
justification defense and find him guilty beyond a reasonable
doubt of the crimes for which he was convicted. See
Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 319 (99 S.Ct.
2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560) (1979). See also Anthony v.
State, 298 Ga. 827, 829 (785 S.E.2d 277) (2016)
("The jury is free to reject any evidence in support of
a justification defense and to accept the evidence that the
shooting was not done in self-defense."); Vega v.
State, 285 Ga. 32, 33 (673 S.E.2d 223) (2009)
("'It was for the jury to determine the credibility
of the witnesses and to resolve any conflicts or
inconsistencies in the evidence.'" (citation
Appellant claims that his trial counsel provided ineffective
assistance in several ways. To succeed on this claim,
Appellant must prove both that his attorney's performance
was professionally deficient and that the deficiency resulted
in prejudice to his case. See Strickland v.
Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (104 S.Ct. 2052, 80
L.Ed.2d 674) (1984). To establish deficient performance,
Appellant must show that his counsel's acts or omissions
were objectively unreasonable, considering all the
circumstances at the time and in the light of prevailing
professional norms. See id. at 687-690. To establish
prejudice, Appellant must show "a reasonable probability
that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result
of the proceeding would have been different."
Id. at 694. "This burden, though not impossible
to carry, is a heavy one." Arnold v. State, 292
Ga. 268, 269 (737 S.E.2d 98) (2013). Appellant has not
carried his burden in this case.
points first to his trial counsel's alleged failure to
consult adequately with him before trial. However,
"there exists no magic amount of time which counsel must
spend in actual conference with his client, " and
Appellant "does not specifically describe how additional
communications with his lawyer" would have enhanced his
defense. Henry v. State, 279 Ga. 615, 616 (619
S.E.2d 609) (2005) (citations and punctuation omitted). Thus,
Appellant has not sufficiently alleged, much less met his
burden to show, deficient performance by his trial counsel in
this regard. See Strickland, 466 U.S. at 690
(requiring defendants to "identify the acts or omissions
of counsel that are alleged not to have been the result of
reasonable professional judgment").
points next to his trial counsel's failure to file a
written request for a self-defense instruction, given that
this was his sole defense. But trial counsel orally requested
a self-defense instruction and the trial court ultimately
gave that instruction to the jury. Thus, this claim is
Appellant points to his counsel's failure to seek
severance of his trial from that of his co-defendant. But
trial counsel explained at the motion for new trial hearing
that he made a strategic decision to present a unified
defense of justification with Spratlin, in part to ensure
that the State would not be able to introduce a statement by
Spratlin that was harmful to Appellant. Appellant has not
demonstrated that this strategic decision was unreasonable
under the circumstances. See Thomas v. State, 300
Ga. 433, 438 (796 S.E.2d 242) (2017) (rejecting a claim of
deficient performance for not filing a motion to sever where
defense counsel testified that his strategy was to make the
co-defendants' statements harder to admit due to the
restrictions of Bruton v. United States, 391 U.S.
123 (88 S.Ct. 1620, 20 L.Ed.2d 476) (1968), and that strategy
was not shown to be unreasonable). Appellant therefore has
not shown deficient performance. Nor has he shown that a
severance motion would have been granted if requested - the
trial court indicated it would not have been - or that
separate trials would in reasonable probability have resulted
in a more favorable outcome for him. We note in this respect
that Appellant was acquitted of malice murder, while Spratlin
was convicted of that charge.
these reasons, Appellant has not shown that he received
ineffective assistance from his trial counsel.