Scott Bozzie was convicted of malice murder and other crimes
in connection with the death of Richard Morgan. Bozzie appeals
and argues that the evidence was insufficient to support his
malice murder conviction, the trial court made numerous
evidentiary errors, he should be granted a new trial due to
alleged juror misconduct, he received ineffective assistance
of trial counsel, and the trial court erred in refusing to
secure his attendance for the motion for new trial hearing.
Because none of these claims is meritorious, we affirm
in the light most favorable to the verdict, the trial
evidence showed the following. On a night in June 2013,
Jennifer Verner was with Morgan at a bar when she met and
talked to Bozzie. Within days, Verner and Bozzie began a
romantic relationship, and she soon agreed to move in with
him. Verner quickly decided to move out, however, finding
Bozzie controlling. Not wanting to reveal her true plans to
Bozzie, Verner asked him for a ride to her parents'
house, telling Bozzie that she was going out with her cousin.
Verner actually planned to meet Morgan and Richard Holbrook,
a man Verner had previously dated intermittently. Bozzie
became angry when Verner asked him for a ride, but he
drove Verner to her parents' house and initially refused
to leave until Verner's cousin arrived. Verner tried to
convince Bozzie to leave and began to tell him that she
didn't think their relationship was working, but stopped
when she sensed he was getting angry. After Bozzie left,
Verner called Morgan and Holbrook, who picked her up and took
her to Morgan's house.
returned to Verner's parents' house later that night,
expecting to pick up Verner. He waited for Verner until the
following morning, attempting to reach her by phone and
exchanging several text messages with her. Verner told Bozzie
that she didn't want to be with him and asked him to pack
up her things. Bozzie begged her to return and said that he
loved her and that he was hurting. Seeking to quell his
anger, Verner replied that she loved him, she would never
leave him, and she would see him soon.
drove around looking for Verner after he left her
parent's house. Bozzie went to Morgan's residence,
got into a physical altercation with Morgan, and learned from
Morgan that Verner and Holbrook had gone to a nearby
McDonald's. Bozzie drove to the restaurant and, when he
saw Holbrook and Verner sitting in Morgan's van, rammed
his truck into the driver's side door, hitting the side
where Holbrook was sitting. Holbrook rushed to exit through
the passenger's door because he thought Bozzie was going
to ram the van again. Bozzie got out of his truck carrying a
baseball bat and walked around the van. Verner, who was out
of the van at this point, asked Bozzie to stop, but he struck
her in the mouth and moved toward Holbrook. Bozzie swung the
baseball bat at Holbrook, struck him twice, and briefly
followed Holbrook as Holbrook ran away. Bozzie then returned
to the van and smashed a window. Bozzie told Verner to get in
his truck and left in his vehicle when she refused.
returned to the van once he saw Bozzie leave and drove Verner
to Morgan's house. Standing on the driveway of
Morgan's house, Verner and Holbrook told Morgan about
their violent encounter with Bozzie. Morgan called 911. While
Morgan was on the phone, Bozzie drove onto Morgan's
driveway. Morgan asked Bozzie to leave and shook a bat at
Bozzie when he got out of his truck. Bozzie returned to his
truck and began revving the engine. Morgan started to run
away, but Bozzie chased him down, hit him with his truck, and
dragged him under his truck for about 32 feet before trees
stopped the vehicle's movement.
who went across the street when Morgan called 911,
immediately ran back to assist Morgan and noticed that the
wheels of Bozzie's truck were still spinning. Holbrook
grabbed the baseball bat that Morgan had dropped and tried to
hit Bozzie through the window. Holbrook ran away when it
appeared that Bozzie was reaching for a gun. Bozzie exited
his truck, tried unsuccessfully to open the front door of
Morgan's house, and then fled on foot. Police arrived and
attempted to lift the truck off Morgan, but were too late.
Morgan died as a result of asphyxiation.
Bozzie argues that the evidence was insufficient to support
his malice murder conviction, because the evidence does not
show that he had the intent to kill Morgan. We disagree.
crime of malice murder is committed when the evidence shows
either an express or implied intent to commit an unlawful
homicide. Kitchen v. State, 287 Ga. 833, 834 (700
S.E.2d 563) (2010); see also OCGA § 16-5-1 (a).
"This meaning of malice murder is consistent with the
general rule that crimes which are defined so as to require
that the defendant intentionally cause a forbidden bad result
are usually interpreted to cover one who knows that his
conduct is substantially certain to cause the result, whether
or not he desires the result to occur."
Kitchen, 287 Ga. at 834 (citation and punctuation
omitted). Thus, a specific intent to kill is express malice,
whereas an intent to commit acts with such a reckless
disregard for human life as to show "an abandoned and
malignant heart" amounts to implied malice. OCGA §
16-5-1(b); see Browder v. State, 294 Ga. 188, 190
(1) (751 S.E.2d 354) (2013).
the evidence was sufficient for the jury to find that Bozzie
intended to strike Morgan with his vehicle, an act that was
substantially certain to cause Morgan's death.
Eyewitnesses testified that Bozzie revved the engine of his
truck several times while Morgan was standing in front of it.
Although Morgan tried to run away, Bozzie chased Morgan down,
hit him with the truck, and then dragged him for 32 feet.
Although Bozzie testified at trial that he simply lost
control of his truck, the jury was free to reject
Bozzie's version of events, especially where the evidence
showed that Bozzie kept his foot on the gas pedal while
dragging Morgan, even after his truck crashed into trees and
could no longer move forward. See Brannon v. State,
266 Ga. 667, 667 (469 S.E.2d 676) (1996) (the jury determines
witness credibility and is free to reject a defendant's
testimony, including the denial of intent). The evidence was
therefore sufficient to authorize a rational trier of fact to
find beyond a reasonable doubt that Bozzie was guilty of
malice murder, as well as the other 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).
Bozzie argues that the trial court erred in its admission of
photographs of Morgan - an in-life photograph and numerous
photographs of his dead body - and certain hearsay
statements. As Bozzie concedes, no objection was made when
this evidence was introduced at trial, so we review his claim
only for plain error. See OCGA § 24-1-103 (d). To
establish plain error,
[Bozzie] must point to an error that was not affirmatively
waived, the error must have been clear and not open to
reasonable dispute, the error must have affected his
substantial rights, and the error must have seriously
affected the fairness, integrity or public reputation of
Lupoe v. State, 300 Ga. 233, 243 (4) (794 S.E.2d 67)
(2016) (citation and punctuation omitted). To show that the
error affected his substantial rights, Bozzie is required to
show that error probably affected the outcome of his trial.
See Jones v. State, 299 Ga. 40, 43 (2) (785 S.E.2d
Relying primarily on our opinion in Ragan v. State,
299 Ga. 828 (792 S.E.2d 342) (2016), Bozzie argues that the
trial court erred in admitting a single photograph of Morgan
with his wife and grandchildren, because Morgan's
existence or identity was not in question and the State
failed to show, as a condition of admission, that it made
every effort to proffer a photograph of the victim alone. The
error in Ragan, however, was the admission of
five in-life photographs of the victim depicting her
alone or with her children. Ragan, 299 Ga. at 833
(3) ("With no serious question as to the victim's
existence or identity, any probative value of the photographs
was outweighed ...