Reno Byron was found guilty of malice murder and other crimes
in connection with the shooting death of Virgil White. He
claims that the evidence presented at his trial was
insufficient to support the jury's guilty verdicts and
that his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance.
Neither of those claims has merit, so we
Viewed in the light most favorable to the verdicts, the
evidence presented at trial showed the following. On the
night of July 3, 1999, White was at a club in Tifton with his
brother Jason and three other friends. At 1:30 a.m., they
attempted to leave the club, but Jason's truck was
blocked in by other cars in the parking lot. Appellant, his
friend Ricky Jackson, and five others were sitting on the
back of a car next to the truck. As Jason attempted to
maneuver the truck out, Jackson put his feet on the truck.
Jason asked Jackson to take his feet off, but Jackson
refused. Jason then got out of his truck, and a fight began
between Jason and Jackson.
and Jason's friends attempted to intervene, and Appellant
shot his Tec-9 pistol in the air in an attempt to stop the
fighting. Jackson grabbed the Tec-9 from Appellant and began
chasing Jason around. Jackson shot at but missed Jason, who
ran away and down the street, with Jackson following and
continuing to shoot until the gun jammed. White shot his gun
in the air to try to stop Jackson from chasing his brother.
Appellant then approached White from the back and shot at him
with another gun, hitting him five times. White died from a
gunshot that entered his back and struck his heart and lung.
Later investigation showed that White was killed with a
.380-caliber gun. Appellant was seen earlier that day
carrying both a Tec-9 and a .380-caliber gun.
did not testify at trial. His defense was that he was not the
shooter; the defense suggested that Jackson shot White,
although Jackson testified and denied that.
Appellant contends that the evidence summarized above was not
legally sufficient to support his convictions. We disagree.
On the day of the shooting, a witness saw Appellant carrying
the kind of gun that killed the victim, and three other
witnesses saw Appellant shoot at the victim, including one
who said Appellant shot the victim from behind. This
testimony was sufficient to authorize a rational jury to find
Appellant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of malice murder
and possession of a gun during the commission of a felony.
See Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 319 (99 S.Ct.
2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560) (1979); Vega v. State, 285 Ga.
32, 33 (673 S.E.2d 223) (2009) ("'It was for the
jury to determine the credibility of the witnesses and to
resolve any conflicts or inconsistencies in the
evidence.'" (citation omitted)).
Appellant claims that his trial counsel provided ineffective
assistance in four ways. To succeed on these claims,
Appellant "must prove both that [his] lawyer's
performance was professionally deficient and that [he was]
prejudiced as a result." Gomez v. State, 301
Ga. 445, 457 (801 S.E.2d 847) (2017). See also Strickland
v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (104 S.Ct. 2052, 80
L.Ed.2d 674) (1984). If Appellant fails to prove one element
of this test, we need not address the other one. See
Gomez, 301 Ga. at 457.
first claim - that his trial counsel failed to adequately
prepare for the testimony of a defense witness who was
impeached on cross-examination - was not preserved for
appellate review, because Appellant did not raise it with new
counsel in his amended motion for new trial. See id. at 460.
His second claim - that trial counsel should have requested a
jury charge for a lesser included offense - has been
abandoned. See Supreme Court Rule 22 ("Any enumerated
error not supported by argument or citation of authority in
the brief shall be deemed abandoned."). In his brief to
this Court, Appellant merely mentions that he raised this
contention in his motion for new trial, but he offers no
argument to support the contention; he does not even identify
what lesser included offense he believes trial counsel should
third claim is that his trial counsel failed "to conduct
an investigation into the use of guns" in the case.
Appellant says that showing which guns were used and by whom
around the time of the fatal shooting was an important part
of the trial. We do not disagree, and neither did trial
counsel. He called and questioned multiple witnesses about
the guns used and who used them. Appellant has not shown what
further investigation about the guns "'would have
revealed or how any additional information would have
improved [his] position.'" Brown v. State,
301 Ga. 728, 735 (804 S.E.2d 16) (2017) (citation omitted).
Accordingly, he has failed to prove that he was prejudiced by
the alleged failure of counsel to investigate the use of
guns. See id. at 735-736 ("To show prejudice on a claim
that trial counsel failed to adequately investigate the case,
[the defendant] had to at least make a proffer as to what
additional investigation would have uncovered, and not merely
speculate that such information exists and would have made a
Appellant claims that his trial counsel should have
"asserted a defense that involved justification"
because there was testimony that White was armed. To prove
that counsel performed deficiently in making such a decision
about trial strategy, Appellant must show that the decision
was "so patently unreasonable that no competent attorney
would have chosen [that path]." Gomez, 301 Ga.
at 459. At the motion for new trial hearing, Appellant
testified that he consistently told his trial counsel that he
did not shoot White. In fact, even at the hearing, Appellant
maintained his position that he did not shoot White. In light
of Appellant's position and the evidence presented at
trial, it was reasonable for trial counsel to focus the
defense on the theory that Appellant was not the shooter. See
Morrison v. State, 300 Ga. 426, 428 (796 S.E.2d 293)
(2017). For these reasons, Appellant has failed to show that
his trial counsel was ineffective.
outlined in footnote 1 above, this is yet another criminal
case with an inordinate delay between the trial and the
direct appeal reaching this court. See Owens v.
State, Case No. S17A1905, slip op. at 11-13 (decided
March 5, 2018); Morris v. State, Case No. S17A1402,
slip op. at 22-23 (decided March 5, 2018). Appellant's
trial counsel apparently died in 2004, but the record shows
no activity in the case whatsoever in the 14 years from April
2000 until March 2014. And after the motion for new trial was
finally decided and the notice of appeal was filed, the case
sat in the superior court for over two more years. Appellant
has enumerated no error arising from the delay, and it
therefore does not affect the outcome of this appeal. See id.
at 10. Nevertheless, while we appreciate the efforts of those
who got this case moving, we express our disapproval of the
neglect shown this case for so long. We trust that the rule
that will emerge from Owens will help eliminate
these sorts of unjustified delays. See id. at 13-14.