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Taylor v. State

Court of Appeals of Georgia, Fifth Division

December 20, 2017



          Bethel, Judge.

         Anthony Bernard Taylor appeals from the denial of his motion for a new trial after a jury convicted him of conspiracy to commit burglary, two counts of burglary in the first degree, criminal damage to property in the first degree, battery, two counts of home invasion in the first degree, armed robbery, aggravated assault, aggravated assault with intent to rob, kidnapping, false imprisonment, and four counts of possession of a weapon during the commission of a crime. . On appeal, Taylor argues that the evidence presented by the State on a number of the charges was insufficient to support a verdict of guilt beyond reasonable doubt. Taylor also argues that the verdict rendered by the jury was decidedly and strongly against the weight of the evidence and that the trial judge erred by not granting him a new trial on this basis. Taylor argues that the evidence in the case was thus sufficiently close so as to warrant the trial court's exercise of its so-called "thirteenth juror" power pursuant to OCGA §§ 5-5-20 and 5-5-21, and that the trial court erred by not granting him a new trial on that basis. Finally, Taylor argues that the trial court erred by providing an erroneous definition of the offense of possession of a weapon during a crime in its charge to the jury. Because we find each of these enumerations to be without merit, we affirm.

         On appeal, the defendant "is no longer presumed innocent and all of the evidence is to be viewed in the light most favorable to the jury verdict." Batten v. State, 295 Ga. 442, 443 (1) (761 S.E.2d 70) (2014) (citation omitted). So viewed, the evidence shows that, on October 8, 2014, Clayton County police responded to a 9-1-1 call placed from an apartment complex in College Park. Upon arrival, at about 10:30 pm, the responding officer was met by the victim at the door of her apartment unit. Upon entering the apartment, the officer noted that it appeared to have been "rummaged through" and that things were tossed around, out of place, and out of order.

         Earlier in the evening, Taylor and three accomplices had driven to the apartment complex in a white Nissan Altima. One of the accomplices, the only female[1] in the group, walked to the apartment unit rented by the victim and knocked on the door, receiving no response from inside.

         At the time, the victim was in the apartment alone. She heard the knock at the door just after she had finished taking a shower. After a second knock at the door, the victim looked through the peephole in her door and saw a woman standing at the door who she did not recognize. The victim ignored the knock on the door and turned to go back to her bedroom. As she turned away from the door, her front door was rammed open, striking her on the head and causing swelling to her forehead. Immediately, three men ran through the doorway. Upon entering the apartment, the men began screaming at the victim and demanding money while one of the men pointed a handgun at her face.

         While one of the men held the victim at gunpoint at the door of the apartment, the other two men began running through the apartment, again demanding money. After closing the door to her apartment, the men demanded that the victim disarm her security alarm, which had begun going off. After she complied, they dragged her at gunpoint to the bathroom in the back of the apartment, pushed her to the floor, and closed the door. Minutes later, the men returned to the bathroom and dragged the victim at gunpoint into the closet of her bedroom, shutting the door behind them. Later, they opened the closet, pulled the victim from it, and threw her onto her bed. They proceeded to ransack her closet, again demanding money. When the victim told them she had no money, they found a trash bag and began throwing numerous items in the room into it, Additionally, they dumped the contents of a jewelry box into the bag and took clothes, shoes, and other items that were visible in the closet. The victim testified that she was held at gunpoint while all of these items were taken.

         As they continued ransacking her room, the largest of the men began speaking to one of the other men, referring to him as "Ant." The victim stated that the man referred to as "Ant" had been the one who held the gun directly in her face after the men first came in the apartment and the one who ordered her into the bathroom. The victim stated that "Ant" told her that if she called the police that he would come back and kill her. "Ant" also told the victim to "tell your boyfriend to stop playing, I know he has money in here, stop playing."

         The victim testified that, as the men began to leave the apartment, "Ant" picked up the victim's television and carried it out of the apartment along with the victim's laptop computer and laptop bag. In addition to those items, upon inspection, the victim later learned (and later reported to the police) that the men had taken her cell phone, purse, credit cards, work bag, a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball cap, a Playstation 3, jewelry, watches, and clothing.[2]

         After the men left her apartment, the victim saw a white compact sedan parked outside. The female accomplice, who was seated in the driver seat of the car, later testified that the men returned to the car carrying a television and some shoes. She testified that one of the men had a gun tucked onto his pants when he returned to the car. After the men placed the items they had taken from the victim's apartment in the car, the female accomplice drove the car away from the apartment complex.

         The victim called 9-1-1 from her neighbor's apartment across the hall. She provided descriptions of the men and the white vehicle to the responding officer and also indicated that one of the men had been referred to as "Ant." In a later report to the police, she estimated that the total value of the items that were stolen was over $20, 000.

         Another witness who knew Taylor through a mutual acquaintance testified at trial that Taylor regularly drove a white compact sedan. That witness identified Taylor in a photo lineup and in court. Taylor's former girlfriend also testified at trial and stated that she and Taylor shared a white 2010 Nissan Altima. When asked if she recognized the vehicle in a photograph taken from a security camera at the scene of the incident, she responded, "It looks like mine." She recalled that Taylor was driving the car the day of the incident. Security videos at the apartment captured footage of a white car entering and leaving the apartment complex around the time of the incident. One of the camera angles captured the vehicle's license plate number. The vehicle was found to be registered to Taylor's girlfriend.

         The victim spoke with police several times after this incident and participated in several line-up identifications. In her trial testimony, she indicated that she identified Taylor in one of the lineups. She indicated that Taylor was the person who held the gun in her face during the incident.

         Another witness stated that, on the night of the incident, Taylor gave him a credit card number (that belonged to neither Taylor or the witness) so that the witness could pay a cell phone bill. That witness testified at trial that he had heard Taylor referred to as "Ant, " and the witness referred to Taylor as "Ant" in his testimony.

         Another witness, whose boyfriend is Taylor's cousin, testified that she had previously heard Taylor referred to as "Ant." That witness testified about text messages she received from Taylor the day after the incident which contained a long series of digits, an expiration date, and a code. A subsequent message, sent from the witness to Taylor, stated, "It's not saying decline, it's saying incorrect card info." The witness testified that she understood the message from Taylor to contain a credit card number, with its accompanying expiration date and security code and that the card associated with those numbers did not belong to her.

         Taylor's former girlfriend testified that, the day following the incident, she saw Taylor in his apartment with what appeared to be credit cards. She stated that she had never seen those particular cards before.

         The victim told police investigators that she had several fraudulent charges on the credit cards that were stolen. For one of the fraudulent charges, the email account "" was listed in the order. That order was placed on October 9, 2014, the day after the incident. For each of the fraudulent charges that resulted in goods being shipped, the goods were all sent to the same address. Tracking this address prompted the police to construct the photo lineup that was presented to the victim in which she identified Taylor. When the police searched Taylor's apartment, they found belts, a Pirates baseball hat, Playstation games, ID cards belonging to the victim and her boyfriend, and a store receipt with the victim's boyfriend's name on it in Taylor's bedroom.

          Taylor was arrested and participated in a series of interrogations while in police custody. In one of those interviews, Taylor admitted to the police that he had been involved in the invasion of the victim's home, that he was present in her home on the date of the incident, that he entered her home, that he had a gun, that he entered with intent to burglarize the home, and that he stole numerous items from the victim. Taylor admitted to police that he used the email address "". He also told the questioning officer that he did not expect anyone to be home when he went to the victim's apartment but that he and the other men went ahead with their plans once they discovered the victim was home.

         Taylor was later indicted on numerous counts stemming from this incident. Following his conviction, Taylor filed a motion for a new trial, asserting the same grounds enumerated as error here. The trial court denied that motion, and this appeal followed.

         1. Taylor first contends that the evidence presented by the State was insufficient to support several of the counts for which he was convicted. For each of the offenses for which Taylor was convicted, he claims that the State failed to ...

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