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State v. Crews

Court of Appeals of Georgia, First Division

October 24, 2017

THE STATE
v.
CREWS.

          BARNES, P. J., MCMILLIAN and MERCIER, JJ.

          MERCIER, JUDGE.

         Tyler Roderick Crews was found guilty by a Pierce County jury on October 21, 2008, of one count of armed robbery, two counts of aggravated assault, one count of burglary and one count of terroristic threats arising from a robbery. Crews filed a motion for new trial on October 29, 2008. Crews's motion for new trial was denied, and he appealed. Crews's appeal of the denial of his motion for new trial was assigned Case No. A09A1921.

         In that appeal, Crews filed his brief claiming two enumerations of error: first, that the evidence was insufficient to support the verdict; and second, that the defendant was prejudiced by wearing leg shackles during trial. After the State filed its brief, Crews filed a motion to remand to raise an ineffective assistance of counsel claim. On August 19, 2009, this Court remanded the matter to the trial court "to allow appellant to file a motion for new trial raising the issue of the alleged ineffectiveness of trial counsel[.]"

         Crews filed a motion for new trial on August 24, 2009, claiming that there was insufficient evidence to support the verdict and that he received ineffective assistance of trial counsel. Crews filed an amended motion for new trial on August 14, 2014, claiming that he received ineffective assistance of counsel and that he had been denied the right to a fair trial because he was shackled at trial, without cause. The trial court granted Crews's motion for new trial on September 27, 2016, stating that Crews received ineffective assistance of trial counsel and his right to a presumption of innocence was violated when jurors witnessed him shackled and escorted into the courthouse by sheriff deputies. The State filed the present appeal, Case No. A17A0672, pursuant to OCGA § 5-7-1 (a) (8), regarding the trial court's order granting Crews's motion for new trial. In its two enumeration of errors, the State contends that the trial court erred in finding trial counsel ineffective and that the trial court did not have jurisdiction to consider the issue of whether Crews's right to a fair trial was violated due to his legs being shackled during the trial. We agree and reverse.

         Viewed in the light most favorable to the verdict, the record reveals that Mr. and Ms. D. R. were home on January 21, 2007 when someone knocked on their door. Ms. D. R. believed that their neighbor was knocking, and told the individual to come inside. A white man entered their home wearing a gray ski mask, which mask left only the man's eyes, mouth and apparently bleached blond hair exposed.

         The man stated "[Mr. D. R.], I've been hired to kill you, and I've done been paid" and said that Mr. D. R. owed money to someone in Brunswick. Mr. D. R. told the man that he did not owe money to someone in Brunswick and gave him approximately $30 to $80 cash that he had in his wallet

         While the man was in the home, Ms. D. R. stood up and walked toward the man, who then pointed the gun at her and told her to sit down before he shot her. Ms. D. R. stated that she recognized the man, and the individual then seemed to act nervous and tried to tuck his hair into his mask.

         Mr. and Ms. D. R.'s son J. R. then came into the living room. The individual pointed his gun at J. R. and told him to go back to his bedroom. However, J. R. grabbed his cell phone, ran out of the back door of the home and called 911. The individual then left the home.

         At trial S. G. testified that Crews told him that he had committed an armed robbery in a home that was interrupted when "some guy walked out in the hall[.]" S. G. reported the conversation to the police in September 2007. S. G. had a prior relationship with Mr. and Ms. D. R. S. G. had previously worked for Mr. D.R. and Mr. and Ms. D. R.'s daughter and son-in-law and, while working for them, had "forged stuff, charged stuff on [Mr. D. R.'s] account at Hoboken, " and stolen mobile home tires from Mr. D. R.

         The detective who took S. G.'s statement testified at trial that in September 2007, S. G. told him that Crews had told S. G. that he had gone to a house on Mr. and Ms. D. R.'s street, with a gun and robbed them. However, S. G. reported to the detective that Crews said he was not able to get much money because he left the house quickly after a boy entered the room with a cell phone in his hand. The detective stated that the fact that a boy interrupted the home invasion had not been released to the media. Due to S. G.'s statement, the detective arrested Crews, who had "long and shaggy" hair four to six inches in length that, at the time of the arrest, was "dyed bleach-blonde[sic]" on the ends; this was approximately nine months after the date of the home invasion.

         At the close of the State's case, Crews moved for a directed verdict. After hearing Crews's argument, the trial judge stated "Well, I'll say this. It's about as thin as I've ever seen. And it's probably deserving of the motion being granted . . . I can't recall having seen a case with much less evidence." Ultimately, the trial court denied the motion stating "we're going to let the jury decide whether or not they want to believe what [the detective] tells them that [S. G.] told them, and we'll go from there."

         After the directed verdict ruling, the parties discovered that Crews was wearing leg shackles. Crews moved for a mistrial, and the Court reserved the ruling until after the jury returned its verdict. Following the jury's verdict, the trial court polled the jurors individually regarding the leg shackles. Two jurors stated that they had seen that Crews was wearing leg shackles. The trial court denied the motion for mistrial.

         "The first grant of a new trial shall not be disturbed by an appellate court unless the appellant shows that the judge abused his discretion in granting it and that the law and facts require the verdict notwithstanding the judgment of the presiding judge." OCGA § 5-5-50. "However, the first grant of a new trial on special grounds involving a question of law is reviewable in a proper appeal. We review such a question of law de novo and reverse if the trial court ...


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