Willie Morris was found guilty of felony murder and other
crimes in connection with the July 2004 shooting death of
Fabian Miller. Morris now appeals, asserting various
evidentiary and jury instruction errors, ineffectiveness of
his trial counsel for several reasons, and that the trial
court failed to properly exercise its discretion as the
thirteenth juror in denying his motion for a new trial.
Finding no error, we affirm.
in the light most favorable to the jury's verdict, the
evidence at trial showed that on the evening of July 26,
2004, Willie Morris discovered that his bedroom door had been
kicked in and $200 was missing. There were no signs of forced
entry elsewhere in his apartment. Morris believed that his
roommate, Fabian Miller, had stolen the money.
exited his apartment and saw Miller arriving in the complex
in a vehicle driven by O.J. Thomas and also occupied by
another passenger, Deondray Little, who resided at the same
apartment as Morris and Miller. Thomas remained in the car,
while Miller and Little got out and began traversing a
walkway that led around to the back of the apartment
building. Miller and Little began talking to some other
people who were hanging out beside the apartment building
when Morris came around the corner of the building and
confronted Miller about the stolen money. Words were
exchanged, and witnesses heard Morris say to Miller "I
thought we were homeboys." Morris then shot Miller in
the abdomen and ran away. Miller managed to get back in the
car, and Thomas drove him to the gas station they had just
come from because they had seen a police officer there.
Although Thomas was able to get the attention of the officer,
who tried to assist, Miller died from the gunshot wound
within minutes. Detective Michael Willis arrived at the gas
station, observed the gunshot wound in Miller's lower
right abdomen, and found $201 in cash and various other items
on Miller's person- but no gun.
next day, Morris called Detective Willis's office and
said that he did not mean to shoot Miller in the stomach; he
only meant to shoot him in the leg. Morris did not mention
self-defense or anything about Miller having or reaching for
a gun at that time. Two days after the shooting, Morris also
called Miller's mother and said that he did not mean to
kill Miller and meant only to shoot him in the leg. Again,
Morris made no mention of self-defense or Miller having or
reaching for a gun. Morris also called the Atlanta Police
Department and said that he meant to shoot Miller in the leg.
On August 2, Morris turned himself in to Atlanta Police.
Morris gave a statement, claiming for the first time that he
shot Miller in self-defense because it appeared that Miller
was reaching for a gun. Morris claimed that when he came
outside to ask Miller about the money, Miller said
"Y'all f n*****s going to stop playing with me,
" and then reached toward his left hip, leading Morris
to believe that Miller was reaching for a gun and causing
Morris to shoot Miller in self-defense.
testified at trial that he had his gun with him because he
had been robbed and jumped in the past. Morris also testified
that he had approached Miller to ask what happened regarding
his broken-into room and stolen money. According to Morris,
he was in fear for his life when Miller reached toward his
hip because he knew what Miller "was capable of."
Morris again stated that he was trying to shoot Miller in the
leg, and also that he was unaware that a single shot could be
fatal. Other defense witnesses testified as to Morris's
good character. Several witnesses for the State, on the other
hand, testified that they did not see Miller reach for a gun
before the shooting or see him with a gun at any point that
Morris has not challenged the sufficiency of the evidence
supporting his convictions, we have independently examined
the record according to our usual practice in murder cases
and conclude that the evidence admitted at trial was
sufficient to authorize a rational trier of fact to find
beyond a reasonable doubt that Morris was guilty of the
crimes of which he was convicted. See Jackson v.
Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 318-319 (99 S.Ct. 2781, 61
L.Ed.2d 560) (1979).
asserts that the trial court erred in preventing the defense
from questioning Little on cross-examination about
Miller's reputation for violence and carrying a gun, in
refusing to bring Little back into court for further
examination by Morris to develop his justification defense,
and in denying Morris's motion for a short continuance to
get Little back into court to testify. We find no reversible
error as to any of these contentions.
general, "a murder victim's reputation for violence
is irrelevant and inadmissible in criminal proceedings."
State v. Hodges, 291 Ga. 413, 416 (728 S.E.2d 582)
(2012). But a murder victim's reputation for
violence "may be offered as evidence by the accused upon
the accused making a prima facie showing that the victim was
the aggressor and was assaulting the accused, who was acting
to defend himself." Id. (citing Woods v.
State, 269 Ga. 60, 63 (495 S.E.2d 282 (1998)). "If
such showing is made, evidence of the victim's reputation
for violence is then admissible to corroborate the
accused's story." Id.
was only the second witness called to testify by the State,
and the defense had not yet even begun establishing a prima
facie case of self-defense. The trial court, therefore,
properly prevented Little from being questioned about
Miller's reputation for violence and carrying a gun at
that point in trial.
conclusion of Little's testimony during the State's
case-in-chief, the defense stated "We reserve the right
to recall this witness, your honor, " and the trial
judge responded "All right. Mr. Little. You are going to
be on call still." There is no support in the record,
however, for Morris's enumeration of error that the trial
court refused to bring Little back into court for further
examination by Morris to develop his justification defense.
The closest semblance of any such refusal was the trial
court's denial of Morris's motion for a continuance
to get Little back into court to testify, which Morris
enumerates as a separate error. But "[w]hether to grant
a motion for continuance is entirely within the sound
discretion of the trial court and will not be disturbed
absent a clear abuse of discretion." Carter v.
State, 285 Ga. 394, 398 (677 S.E.2d 71) (2009)
fundamental flaw in all of Morris's contentions regarding
the testimony he hoped to elicit from Little is that Morris
has failed to show what that testimony would have been. See
OCGA § 17-8-25 (application for continuance due to
absence of witness must show that witness's testimony is
material). Presumably, Morris believes Little would have
testified that Miller had a reputation for violence and for
carrying a gun, and that Miller had a prior firearm
possession conviction. Morris never made any proffer as to
the substance of that testimony, however, nor did he call
Little to testify at the hearing on Morris's motion for a
new trial. See, e.g., Leston v. State, 236 Ga.App.
340, 341 (512 S.E.2d 55) (1999) (no abuse of discretion in
denying continuance because defendant failed to substantiate
his claim that absent witness would have provided material
testimony by failing to call that witness at motion for new
trial hearing); see also Wells v. State, 281 Ga.
253, 255 (637 S.E.2d 8) (2006) (rejecting ineffective
assistance claim based on failure to request continuance to
locate potential exculpatory witness because defendant
"did not make any proffer whatever to show that the
testimony of such witness would have been relevant and
favorable, and thus, would have resulted in a different
verdict"). Morris cannot obtain a new trial based on his
speculation about what else Little would have testified to.
the jury heard evidence of Miller's reputation for
violence during Morris's testimony and also saw
Miller's certified weapons conviction, which was admitted
over the State's objection, so any additional testimony
from Little on these points would have been cumulative. See
Nix v. State, 280 Ga. 141, 144 (625 S.E.2d 746)
(2006) (no reversible error because excluded testimony was
cumulative of other evidence ...