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Stallings v. State

Court of Appeals of Georgia, First Division

October 12, 2017



          Mercier, Judge.

         Sierra Stallings was indicted in the Superior Court of Bibb County along with Jarvis Williams and Diondra Walker for offenses related to a series of armed robberies in Macon in 2012. Following a bench trial in which her co-defendant Williams testified as a witness for the State, Stallings was found guilty of one count of armed robbery and one count of aggravated assault, and not guilty on three other counts. Stallings appeals the convictions and trial court's denial of her motion for new trial, contending that the evidence was insufficient to support her convictions and that the trial court erred in denying her motion to suppress oral and written statements she gave to law enforcement officers. For the reasons that follow, we affirm in part, vacate in part, and remand the case with direction.

         1. Stallings was charged jointly with Williams and Walker with attempted armed robbery and two counts of aggravated assault relating to an attempted armed robbery at a Sunrise store in Macon on April 18, 2012 (Counts 1, 2, and 3 of the indictment, respectively), and with armed robbery and aggravated assault relating to a robbery at a Kwik Trip store in Macon on April 30, 2012 (Counts 6 and 7, respectively).[1]Stallings was found not guilty on Counts 1, 2, and 3, and found guilty on Counts 6 and 7. She contends that the evidence was insufficient to support her convictions because the testimony of Williams, her co-defendant, was not sufficiently corroborated.

         "On appeal the evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to support the verdict, and [Stallings] no longer enjoys a presumption of innocence; moreover, an appellate court determines evidence sufficiency and does not weigh the evidence or determine witness credibility." Short v. State, 234 Ga.App. 633, 634 (1) (507 S.E.2d 514) (1998). "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 . . verdict." Williamson v. State, 285 Ga.App. 779, 780 (1) (648 S.E.2d 118) (2007) (citation omitted).

Every person concerned in the commission of a crime is a party thereto and may be charged with and convicted of commission of the crime. . . .A person is concerned in the commission of a crime only if he . . . [i]ntentionally aids or abets in the commission of the crime; or . . . [i]ntentionally advises, encourages, hires, counsels, or procures another to commit the crime.

OCGA § 16-2-20 (a), (b) (3) and (4). In "felony cases where the only witness is an accomplice, the testimony of a single witness shall not be sufficient. Nevertheless, corroborating circumstances may dispense with the necessity for the testimony of a second witness." OCGA § 24-14-8.

         Williams's testimony at trial demonstrated the following. On April 18, 2012, while Williams was with Stallings, he called Walker (also known as "Little Donkey") and discussed robbing a store. Williams told Stallings that he was going to rob a store, and Stallings loaned her car (a white Chevrolet Caprice) to him. At the Sunrise Store, Walker shot a clerk, and Williams and Walker tried unsuccessfully to take money. The two fled the scene in Stallings's car and returned her car to her. Later that day, Williams and Walker committed a robbery at H&R Food Mart and took approximately five hundred dollars. Williams gave some of the stolen money to Stallings.

         Later that same day, Williams was driving Stallings's car again, and approached a Georgia State Patrol roadblock. There were three firearms in the car, including the one used by Walker in the attempted armed robbery at the Sunrise Store, and Williams was afraid of being caught with firearms because he was a convicted felon. He abandoned the car and fled. Williams tried to telephone Stallings, and eventually another (unidentified) person reached her and instructed her to report that her car had been stolen.

         On April 30, 2012, Williams, Walker and Stallings carried out a robbery at a Kwik Trip store. Williams and Stallings encountered Walker at a store, and while the three were talking, Stallings said, "we need to do something. We need to get some money." Williams understood her comment to refer to carrying out a robbery, because Stallings was aware that robbery was "what [Williams and Walker] did." Walker joined Williams and Stallings in Stallings's car and retrieved a pistol that was in the console. The three went to Williams's home, changed clothes, got some masks, and discussed which store to rob.

         They went to a location near the Kwik Trip store, and Stallings decided to go "check out the scene at the store." She came back, said "it was clear, " and stayed in the car, planning to be the getaway driver. Williams testified that he was "the watch out man, " and that Walker carried out the robbery in the store using the pistol he had retrieved from Stallings's car. He described how he went into the store first, bought some items, and lingered inside, and then Walker came in with the gun that he took from Stallings's car and said "give it up." Williams and a woman in the store "got down on the floor." Walker left the store while they were still on the floor. After the robbery, Williams called Stallings to tell her where to pick him up, and when she arrived, Walker was already in the car. Williams, Walker and Stallings split the money from the robbery three ways. Williams testified that neither he nor Walker ever threatened Stallings. He also testified that neither he nor Walker intended to carry out a robbery that day until Stallings decided that she wanted to do it, and then the three of them planned it together.

         A state trooper testified that he was conducting a road check on April 28, 2012 and he noticed a white Chevrolet Caprice approach the check point, then turn abruptly into a private drive. He saw someone run away from the car. An inventory search of the car revealed a nine-millimeter handgun and a ski mask. The car was registered to Stallings, and while officers were conducting their inventory search, the car was reported stolen. The trooper testified that he spoke with Stallings that evening, and she said that her car had been stolen while she was unloading laundry and taking it to her apartment.

         A patrol officer with the former Macon Police Department testified that Stallings's car was abandoned at the road check on April 28, 2012 at approximately 10:00 p.m. The patrol officer was dispatched at approximately 11:00 p.m. to take the theft report from Stallings, and she told him that the theft occurred at approximately 10:00 p.m. The patrol officer asked Stallings why she waited an hour to report the car stolen, and "[s]he didn't have an answer for that."

         Security video footage from the Sunrise Store demonstrated various details of the attempted robbery which were consistent with Williams's testimony. A crime scene technician testified that a bullet and a spent cartridge case from a 9-millimeter gun were found at the Sunrise Store, and that the gun recovered from Stallings's car was a 9-millimeter caliber handgun. A forensic firearms scientist testified that, based on his tests, the bullet and cartridge case recovered from the Sunrise Store crime scene were fired from the gun that was recovered from Stallings's car.

         Detective David Patterson was employed by the Macon Police Department in the Criminal Investigations Division in April 2012, and reviewed the case files of the armed robberies at the Sunrise Store, H&R Food Mart, and Kwik Trip. Because of the items found in Stallings's car and the circumstances of her theft report, Patterson thought that there might be some connection between her car and the robberies. He, Sergeant Kenneth Chapman and Investigator Carlos Stokes went to Stallings's home. Patterson asked Stallings to come to the detective bureau, and she agreed; she rode there with Chapman and Stokes, and Patterson "followed right behind them." At the detective bureau, Stallings told Patterson that she was scared when she reported the car stolen, and had lied to the patrol officer about the theft. She said that she had loaned her car to Williams and to someone known as "Little Donkey, " but she did not know "Little Donkey's" real name. She said that Williams called her later on that ...

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