Lucas was tried by a Cobb County jury and convicted of
murder, armed robbery, and other crimes in connection with
the fatal shooting of Samuel Steward and the wounding of
Demarco Tyler. Lucas appeals, claiming that the trial
court erred when it limited his cross-examination of two
witnesses for the prosecution. We find no merit in these
claims and affirm.
Viewed in the light most favorable to the verdict, the
evidence at trial shows that, on the evening of July 22,
2008, Lucas and an unidentified male companion robbed Steward
and Tyler at gunpoint and then shot the two victims. Steward
died from a gunshot wound to the head, but Tyler escaped with
a relatively minor wound - the bullet only grazed his head.
The State's main witness was Quatney Sapee, who was
Lucas's girlfriend at the time of the incident. Sapee
testified that on the day in question, she drove Lucas and
two other men - Kirkland Smith and a man known to Sapee only
as "Dreads" - in a Ford Explorer to Marietta, where
they apparently planned to visit a "liquor house"
"to drink and get high." Lucas and Dreads both were
armed with handguns. As they neared the liquor house, Lucas
asked to be dropped off, and he and Dreads exited the
and Smith continued to the liquor house, waited in the liquor
house driveway for a few minutes, and then returned to the
location at which they had dropped off Lucas and Dreads.
There, Sapee saw Lucas and Dreads holding two young men at
gunpoint. Smith yelled for Lucas and Dreads to stop what they
were doing. Sapee saw Steward shake his head at Lucas,
"as if he was saying no or stop." At that point,
"the guns went off" and Steward collapsed. Tyler
ran, but another shot went off, and he fell also. Sapee
testified that she saw Lucas fire the shot that hit Steward.
the shooting, Lucas and Dreads hopped back into the car.
Smith announced that he was on parole and did not want to go
back to jail, but Lucas told him to shut up and ordered Sapee
to drive. Lucas also told Smith and Sapee that, if they told
anyone about the shooting, he would kill them. As they were
driving, Lucas threw a cellphone that he had taken from
Steward out the window. He told Sapee that he
"couldn't believe [Steward] only had $3" and
that Steward would not have been shot if he had more money.
After they dropped off Dreads and Smith at their homes, Lucas
again told Sapee that if she informed on him, he would kill
her. He repeated that threat to Sapee a "hundred"
times over the course of their relationship.
kept quiet about the shooting for close to three years, until
an investigator from DeKalb County interviewed her about
another crime committed by Lucas. During that interview,
Sapee volunteered information about the murder of Steward,
but her statements to the investigator differed somewhat from
her trial testimony. Specifically, Sapee told the
investigator that, on the day in question, she, Lucas, Smith,
and Dreads were riding around looking for someone to rob - an
activity she termed "free-picking." The four drove
to Marietta, where they came across Steward and Tyler. Lucas
told Sapee to pull over, and when Lucas and Dreads got out,
Smith told her to drive on because he did not want to be
involved. Sapee then drove around the block, and coming back
around, saw Lucas and Dreads accosting the two young men. She
heard one of the young men say, "I don't have
anything, " and then saw Lucas shoot him in the head.
eyewitness, A.L., testified that during the relevant time
period, he lived within sight of the scene of the shooting.
On the night in question, as A.L. and his wife were driving
home, they saw Steward and Tyler standing on the street
corner. When A.L. and his wife parked in their driveway, A.L.
observed Lucas and another man approach Steward and Tyler.
A.L. saw Lucas hit Steward in the back of the head, pull out
a gun, and shoot him. At that point, a Ford Explorer drove by
and picked up Lucas and his companion. At trial, A.L.
positively identified Lucas as the man who shot Steward.
A.L.'s wife also testified - she saw one of the
assailants knock Steward unconscious and then shoot him while
he was lying on the ground - but she could not identify the
shooter in court.
evidence presented at trial includes the following. Smith
testified for the prosecution, but in contrast to Sapee's
testimony, he denied riding in the vehicle with Sapee or
being present at all during the incident. Rather, Smith
asserted that Lucas later confessed to him that Lucas and
Dreads committed the robbery and shooting. Tyler testified
that the assailants took his phone and identification card
during the course of the robbery. Furthermore, the parties
stipulated that Lucas was a convicted felon at the time of
the incident, having been previously convicted of a felony
involving the use of a firearm.
does not dispute that the evidence is sufficient to sustain
his convictions. But consistent with our customary practice
in murder cases, we independently have reviewed the record to
assess the legal sufficiency of the evidence. We conclude
that the evidence presented at trial was sufficient to
authorize a rational trier of fact to find beyond a
reasonable doubt that Lucas was guilty of the crimes of which
he was convicted. See Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S.
307, 319 (III) (B) (99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560) (1979).
Lucas claims that the trial court erred when it prohibited
him from cross-examining A.L. about his immigration status.
At the time of trial, A.L. was not lawfully present in the
United States. As a result, Lucas argues, A.L. might have
been inclined to shade his testimony in favor of the
prosecution to avoid deportation. By barring any
cross-examination about A.L.'s immigration status, Lucas
contends, the trial court violated his right to establish the
bias of an important witness for the prosecution. We
most questions about the admissibility of evidence, the scope
of cross-examination is committed in the first instance to
the sound discretion of the trial court, and we review a
limitation of cross-examination only for an abuse of that
discretion. See Nicely v. State, 291 Ga. 788, 796
(4) (733 S.E.2d 715) (2012). That discretion is
circumscribed, of course, by our Evidence Code, which
provides that the accused is entitled to a "thorough and
sifting cross-examination" of witnesses for the
prosecution. OCGA § 24-6-611 (b). It also is
circumscribed by the confrontation clauses of the United
States and Georgia constitutions,  which secure, among other
things, the right of the accused to cross-examine the
witnesses against him. See Davis v. Alaska, 415 U.S.
308, 315 (2) (94 S.Ct. 1105, 39 L.Ed.2d 347) (1974);
Miller v. State, 266 Ga. 850, 856 n.1 (472 S.E.2d
74) (1996). And it is settled that this right of
cross-examination includes a right to inquire into the
partiality and bias of witnesses. See Hodo v. State,
272 Ga. 272, 274-275 (4) (528 S.E.2d 250) (2000). See also
OCGA § 24-6-622 ("The state of a witness's
feelings towards the parties and the witness's
relationship to the parties may always be proved for the
consideration of the jury."); Davis, 415 U.S.
at 316-317 (2) ("[T]he exposure of a witness'
motivation in testifying is a proper and important function
of the constitutionally protected right of
cross-examination." (Citation omitted)).
right to inquire into partiality and bias, however, is not
without limits. See Howard v. State, 286 Ga. 222,
225 (2) (686 S.E.2d 764) (2009) ("[T]he right of
cross-examination . . . is not an absolute right that
mandates unlimited questioning by the defense . . . ."
(Citation and punctuation omitted)). As we have explained
before, the accused is "entitled to a
reasonable cross-examination on the relevant issue
of whether a witness entertained any belief of personal
benefit from testifying favorably for the prosecution."
Hampton v. State, 289 Ga. 621, 626 (5) (713 S.E.2d
851) (2011) (citation and punctuation omitted, emphasis
added). "[T]rial courts retain wide latitude to impose
reasonable limits on cross-examination based on concerns
about, among other things, interrogation that is only
marginally relevant." Nicely, 291 Ga. at 796
(4) (citation and punctuation omitted). See also
Kolokouris v. State, 271 Ga. 597, 599 (4) (523
S.E.2d 311) (1999) ("Generally speaking, the
Confrontation Clause guarantees an opportunity for effective
cross-examination, not cross-examination that is effective in
whatever way and to whatever extent, the defense might
wish." (Citation omitted)). On the record in this case,
we cannot say that the trial court abused its discretion when
it disallowed cross-examination of A.L. about his immigration
the trial court disallowed that line of cross-examination, it
permitted Lucas to examine A.L. outside the presence of the
jury. In the course of that examination, A.L. conceded that
he was generally concerned about the prospect of deportation.
But without more, such a generalized concern does not provide
much reason to think that A.L. had cause to shade his
testimony in favor of the prosecution. In the first place,
the State of Georgia - the prosecution in this case - has no
power to deport a person unlawfully present in the United
States. Deportation is a matter reserved to the United
States. Although we do not doubt that some aliens may not
appreciate the distinction between our federal and state
governments, nothing in the record suggests that A.L.
misapprehended that the prosecuting attorneys or
investigating law enforcement officers with whom he dealt had
any power to have him deported or to otherwise affect his
immigration status. Indeed, about that subject, A.L. said:
"I don't know if this has anything to do with
immigration or not."
was asked whether he was concerned that, if he did not
cooperate with the prosecution, "they might call
immigration, " and he said that he was not. There is
nothing to suggest that anyone associated with the
prosecution threatened or intimated anything to A.L. about
deportation, that anyone promised to help A.L. with his
immigration status, or that A.L. had a subjective belief that
cooperating with the prosecution would somehow benefit him
with respect to his status. When A.L. was asked whether
greater cooperation with law ...