MILLER, P. J., ANDREWS and SELF, JJ.
Harris was convicted of criminal attempt to commit armed
robbery, entering an auto with intent to commit theft, and
three counts of armed robbery. He appeals, asserting that he
received ineffective assistance of counsel at trial. He also
claims that the trial court erred in excusing a prospective
juror from the jury panel and in failing to inquire whether
he wished to poll the jury following the verdict. For reasons
that follow, we affirm.
in the light most favorable to the verdict, see Edwards
v. State, 299 Ga. 20, 21 (1) (785 S.E.2d 869) (2016),
the evidence shows that around 1:30 or 2:00 a.m. on June 13,
2014, two masked gunmen approached three young men in a park.
With guns drawn, the masked men ordered the three to empty
their pockets, take off their clothes, and lie on the ground.
One victim moved too slowly, and a gunman struck him in the
head. The robbers picked up the victims' possessions,
threw their clothes into a nearby pond, and fled towards the
parking lot where the victims had parked their car. The
victims later discovered that money had been taken from the
detective assigned to the case interviewed the victims, but
had few leads as to the robbers' identities. A few days
later, however, the detective began investigating another
incident in which two masked men robbed the manager of a
convenience store at gunpoint, taking the manager's
wallet and approximately $2, 500 in cash belonging to the
store. During the robbery, the gunmen ordered the manager to
remove his clothing and hit him in the head with a gun. The
two men fled when the store's alarm sounded.
eventually became a suspect in the crimes, and police
obtained a search warrant for his residence. Inside, police
discovered a gun, as well as a pair of shoes linked to the
crimes. Harris subsequently admitted to police that he took
part in both robberies.
on the evidence presented, the jury found Harris guilty of
criminal attempt to commit armed robbery, entering an auto
with intent to commit theft, and three counts of armed
robbery. He filed a motion for new trial, which the trial
court denied, and this appeal followed.
Harris first argues that he received ineffective assistance
of counsel at trial because trial counsel failed to make an
adequate opening statement or closing argument, did not
cross-examine the robbery victims, and offered no mitigation
evidence before sentencing. To prevail on these claims,
Harris must show that trial counsel performed deficiently and
that the deficiency "so prejudiced his defense that a
reasonable probability exists that the result of the trial
would have been different but for that deficiency."
Bazin v. State, 299 Ga.App. 875, 876-877 (683 S.E.2d
917) (2009) (punctuation and footnote omitted). He cannot
meet this burden here.
contends that counsel's opening statement was inadequate
because he presented no theory or defense concept for the
jury to consider and did not ask jurors to "keep an open
mind." During his opening, however, trial counsel
asserted that Harris was "not the one who did it"
and that he only confessed because he was dehydrated during
the lengthy interrogation and "just start[ed] agreeing
with [the police]." Counsel further stated: "[W]e
ask you just to hold off until the case is over before you
make up your mind." Trial counsel thus presented two
defense theories - identity and false confession - and asked
jurors not to prejudge the case. Although the opening
statement was short, Harris has not overcome the "strong
presumption . . . that trial counsel's performance was
reasonable and that counsel's decisions and choices at
trial fell within the broad range of professional conduct as
assessed from counsel's perspective at the time of trial
and under the specific circumstances of the case."
Jones v. State, 296 Ga. 561, 564 (2) (769 S.E.2d
contends that trial counsel's closing argument was
insufficient because counsel did not explain the basic
principles of law, such as reasonable doubt and the
presumption of innocence. But "the fact that another
attorney might have made a different closing argument does
not show ineffectiveness." Bazin, supra at 877
(2). Trial counsel presented Harris's defense theory
during closing argument, and the trial court fully charged
the jury on the legal principles governing the case. Under
these circumstances, Harris has not demonstrated that
counsel's closing argument was deficient or prejudiced
his defense. See id.
counsel did not ask the four robbery victims any questions at
trial. Harris now challenges this decision, asserting that
counsel should have exploited inconsistencies in the
victims' testimony. At the motion for new trial hearing,
however, trial counsel explained that he did not
cross-examine the men robbed in the park because their direct
testimony failed to support the indictment's aggravated
assault charges, which alleged that Harris had discharged a
weapon near each victim, and he did not want to give them an
opportunity to testify further. Ultimately, the trial court
directed a verdict for Harris on those counts. The record
further shows that none of the robbery victims identified