Sylvester Henderson's pro se appeal from the trial
court's order denying his "Objection to Order
Denying Defendants Motion for Disclosure Grand Jury Testimony
and Evidence, " we address the scope of this Court's
appellate jurisdiction in light of the changes imposed by
OCGA § 15-3-3.1 on appeals filed after January 1, 2017.
We conclude that we have subject matter jurisdiction because
this appeal falls within Ga. Const. Art. VI, Sec. VI, Par.
III (8) as a case "in which a sentence of death was
imposed or could be imposed, " rather than a separate
civil "petition in the nature of mandamus" as
posited in Coles v. State, 223 Ga.App. 491, 491 (1)
(477 S.E.2d 897) (1996). Consequently, we retain jurisdiction
of this appeal, overrule Coles, and dismiss the
appeal because the remedy Henderson seeks here is not legally
procedural history of this case is somewhat complex. In 2011,
Henderson pled guilty to felony murder in the Superior Court
of Rockdale County and was sentenced to life imprisonment. He
did not file a timely direct appeal, but, over two years
later, he attempted to withdraw his guilty plea pro se. That
motion was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. While he did
not file a timely direct appeal, in 2016 Henderson filed a
pro se motion for out-of-time appeal. The trial court denied
the motion, and Henderson appealed to the Court of Appeals,
which transferred the appeal to this Court. In Henderson
v. State, 300 Ga. 526 (796 S.E.2d 681) (2017), this
Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court.
March 7, 2017, under the criminal docket number of his murder
prosecution in Rockdale County Superior Court, Henderson
filed a pro se "Motion to Disclose Grand Jury Testimony
and Evidence, " which was denied in a brief order on
March 13, 2017. On March 22, 2017, Henderson filed an
"Objection to Order Denying Defendants Motion for
Disclosure Grand Jury Testimony and Evidence, " which
the trial court denied on March 28, 2017. In his notice of
appeal, filed April 10, 2017, Henderson appealed to the
Georgia Court of Appeals "from the judgment of denial of
defendants 'Objection To Order Denying [sic] Motion for
Disclosure Grand Jury Testimony And Evidence' filed March
22, 2017." He further directed that nothing be omitted
from the record, and that "[a] transcript of evidence
and proceedings will be filed for inclusion in the
Record on Appeal." By order of June 5, 2017, this appeal
was transferred to this Court.
first address the question of the jurisdiction of this Court,
as it affects this appeal. Ga. Const. Art. VI, Sec. VI, Par.
Unless otherwise provided by law, the Supreme Court shall
have appellate jurisdiction of the following classes of
cases: (1) Cases involving title to land; (2) All equity
cases; (3) All cases involving wills; (4) All habeas corpus
cases; (5) All cases involving extraordinary remedies; (6)
All divorce and alimony cases; (7) All cases certified to it
by the Court of Appeals; and (8) All cases in which a
sentence of death was imposed or could be imposed. Review of
all cases shall be as provided by law.
For all notices of appeal or applications for leave to appeal
filed on or after January 1, 2017,
(a) Pursuant to Article VI, Section VI, Paragraph III of the
Constitution of this state, the Court of Appeals rather than
the Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction in the
following classes of cases: (1) Cases involving title to
land; (2) All equity cases, except those cases concerning
proceedings in which a sentence of death was imposed or could
be imposed and those cases concerning the execution of a
sentence of death; (3) All cases involving wills; (4) All
cases involving extraordinary remedies, except those cases
concerning proceedings in which a sentence of death was
imposed or could be imposed and those cases concerning the
execution of a sentence of death; (5) All divorce and alimony
cases; and (6) All other cases not reserved to the Supreme
Court or conferred on other courts.
OCGA § 15-3-3.1; Ga. L. 2016 p. 883, § 6-1 (c). See
Ga. Assn. of Professional Process Servers v.
Jackson, 302 Ga. 309, 310 n. 1 (806 S.E.2d 550) (2017)
(extraordinary remedies); McCoy v. Bovee, 300 Ga.
759, 759 n. 1 (796 S.E.2d 679) (2017) (equity).
Court traditionally has taken an expansive view of its
jurisdiction over murder cases. See, e.g., Neal v.
State, 290 Ga. 563, 567 (722 S.E.2d 765) (2012)
(Hunstein, C.J. concurring, opinion joined in by all
Justices, reiterating that this Court's constitutional
jurisdiction extends to all direct appeals in murder cases).
In In re Brinson, 299 Ga. 859 (791 S.E.2d 804)
(2016), this Court took jurisdiction of a contempt citation
arising from a murder case. Similarly, an appeal by a
reporter asserting the reportorial privilege under former
OCGA § 24-9-30 in connection with his interview of the
defendant in a murder prosecution, In re Paul, 270
Ga. 680 (513 S.E.2d 219) (1999); a motion to recuse a judge
in a pending murder prosecution, Turner v. State,
280 Ga. 174 (626 S.E.2d 86) (2006); and post-conviction
motions to vacate a void judgment, Wright v. State,
277 Ga. 810, 811 n.2 (596 S.E.2d 587) (2004), or to correct
the transcript in a murder case, Smith v. State, 289
Ga. 839 (716 S.E.2d 143) (2011), have been determined by this
Court to lie within the scope of its murder jurisdiction.
to the enactment of OCGA § 15-3-3.1, if an appeal in a
murder case invoked our equity or extraordinary remedy
jurisdiction, it was not necessary to decide which provision
of the Constitution established jurisdiction in this Court.
We retained such appeals in murder cases without the
necessity of clarifying the provision under which we did so.
But with the transfer of most equity and extraordinary
remedies jurisdiction to the Court of Appeals by OCGA §
15-3-3.1 (2) and (4), some clarification is necessary,
particularly in light of the Court of Appeals' decision
in Coles, supra.
the Court of Appeals considered a prisoner's appeal from
the denial of a post-conviction copy of the transcript of his
murder trial at public expense. Treating the motion as
"a petition in the nature of mandamus, " the Court
of Appeals concluded that, while the denial of a petition for
mandamus is generally directly appealable, that was not the
case when a discretionary appeal was required by the Prison
Litigation Reform Act of 1996, OCGA § 42-12-8. 223
Ga.App. at 492 (1). The Court declared:
Henceforth, if no petition for habeas corpus is pending at
the time an indigent prisoner makes any application for a
transcript of his trial for purposes of collateral attack
upon his conviction or sentence, that application will be
treated as a separate civil action subject to the procedures
and requirements of the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1996.
Id. But, after declaring that the defendant's
post-conviction motion for a transcript was a civil action
subject to the appeal provisions of OCGA § 42-12-8, the
Court of Appeals pretermitted the question of appellate
subject matter jurisdiction, instead dismissing that appeal