Jones ("Jones") appeals his convictions for malice
murder and theft by taking in connection with the shooting
death of his cousin, Tradae Jones. Jones contends that the
evidence was insufficient to sustain his convictions and that
the trial court erred in instructing the jury during the
separate trial on the issue of Jones's mental competency,
in excluding statements Jones made to police by telephone
after the shooting and before his arrest, and in not
including the lesser offenses of voluntary manslaughter and
involuntary manslaughter on the verdict form. We disagree,
and therefore affirm.
in the light most favorable to the verdicts, the evidence
presented at trial showed the following. At the time of
Tradae's death, Jones and Tradae lived with other family
members, including Jones's mother, Cassandra Jones, and
Tradae's mother, Sheri Adebayo, in a house in Marietta,
Georgia. Late in the afternoon on November 3, 2009, while
Tradae was out with his girlfriend, Cassandra noticed that
her CD player was missing. She became upset and said that
Tradae had stolen it. Jones also became upset; Adebayo called
Tradae, and Jones angrily accused him of stealing the CD
player. Tradae denied stealing the CD player and said he was
the phone call with Tradae, Jones went out to a shed in the
back yard and got a sawed-off shotgun that belonged to
Tradae. Jones's brother, Aderami "Remi" Jones,
went out to the shed and saw Jones holding the shotgun. Jones
was visibly upset and angry. When Remi asked Jones what he
was going to do with the gun, Jones responded, "What do
you think?" Later that afternoon, Remi went back out to
the shed and continued to press Jones about what he was
planning to do, finally asking if Jones was going to shoot
Tradae. Jones answered, "Yeah." Tradae's mother
Adebayo also encouraged Jones to let the matter drop,
emphasizing that the two men were cousins and the CD player
was not valuable, but Jones responded, "No, auntie, I
got something for Tray [referring to Tradae] this time."
Tradae returned to the house with his girlfriend, Jones ran
out to meet him and the two argued in the front yard. Tradae
suggested they take the argument to the back yard, and Jones
agreed. Jones went through the house and out to the shed.
Tradae went around the side of the house and, when Jones
emerged at the door of the shed holding the shotgun, Tradae
approached him saying, "So you're going to shoot me
bra? You're going to shoot me?" Jones pointed the
shotgun at Tradae, and Tradae grabbed the barrel and pointed
it at his own chest. The two continued to argue and after a
minute, Jones's arm moved back and forth as though
operating the pump action. The shotgun discharged, and the
shot blew a hole in the left side of Tradae's chest,
obliterated the base of his heart, and penetrated his
diaphragm and liver. Tradae's hands were not touching the
shotgun when it discharged. Tradae nonetheless continued to
stand, and after a moment, Jones knocked him out of the way
with the gun and fled. Tradae died from the gunshot wound
within a couple of minutes after the shooting, despite the
efforts of his mother and his girlfriend to resuscitate him.
threw down the gun, ran around the side of the house, and
jumped over the fence. He got into Tradae's
girlfriend's Ford Explorer, which was parked in the
driveway. She tried to hang onto the door of the Explorer,
but Jones backed out and drove away. He was arrested several
hours later in Tennessee, after leading police on a
high-speed chase in the Explorer.
Bureau of Investigation firearms examiners tested the shotgun
used to shoot Tradae, and found that it functioned normally.
A trigger pull test was performed and showed that an average
of 7.75 pounds of force was required to pull the trigger, a
typical value for that type of gun-not a "hair trigger,
" in other words. The weapon also had a trigger guard.
There was no indication that simply knocking or bumping into
the shotgun could have fired it. Moreover, the weapon was a
pump-action shotgun, meaning that it must be pumped in order
to chamber a shell before it can be fired. And Jones's
own expert in forensics and crime scene investigation, while
also opining that the gun could have discharged accidentally
if Tradae had jerked the gun back while Jones's finger
was on the trigger, conceded that the evidence was also
consistent with an intentional trigger pull.
contends that the evidence introduced at trial was
insufficient to permit the jury to find him guilty beyond a
reasonable doubt of the crimes of which he was convicted.
Specifically, he argues that the verdicts were
"decidedly and strongly against the weight of the
evidence" and "contrary to law and the principles
of justice and equity." That, however, is not the
relevant standard for sufficiency of the evidence on appeal.
Rather, that is the standard that trial judges apply when
deciding a motion for new trial on the "general
grounds" set out in OCGA §§ 5-5-20 and 5-5-21.
See Smith v. State, 300 Ga. 532, 534 (796 S.E.2d
671) (2017) (decision on a motion for new trial on the
"general grounds" set out in OCGA §§
5-5-20 and 5-5-21 is solely within the discretion of the
trial court). When the sufficiency of the evidence is raised
on appeal, this Court's review is limited to an
evaluation of whether the evidence, viewed in the light most
favorable to the verdicts, is sufficient to authorize a
rational trier of fact to find beyond a reasonable doubt that
Jones 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); Nichols v. State, 292
Ga. 290, 290 (736 S.E.2d 407) (2013). Here, the evidence
easily meets that standard.
prove the crime of malice murder, the State was required to
present evidence showing that Jones acted with express or
implied malice in killing Tradae. See OCGA § 16-5-1 (a).
Jones argues that the evidence supported his defense that the
shooting was accidental, pointing to testimony by his brother
Remi that Jones said before the argument that he did not know
if the shotgun was loaded. But there was ample evidence to
support a finding that Jones deliberately fired the shotgun
with the specific intent to kill Tradae, including evidence
that Jones was angry about the stolen CD player, went out to
the shed to get the shotgun before Tradae arrived home, told
his aunt that he had "something for Tray this time,
" told his brother Remi that he planned to shoot Tradae,
deliberately pointed the shotgun at Tradae, and worked the
pump to chamber a shell while the two continued to argue.
Even if there were not evidence of specific intent to kill,
which there was here, malice may also be inferred by conduct
which demonstrates "such a reckless disregard for human
life as to show an abandoned and malignant heart."
Bozzie v. State, 302 Ga. 704, 706 (808 S.E.2d 671)
(2017) (citation and punctuation omitted). Accordingly, and
at the very least, the jury was authorized to find that Jones
acted with reckless disregard for human life by pointing the
shotgun at Tradae and, after Tradae grabbed the barrel of the
gun and pointed it directly at his own chest, working the
pump action to chamber a shell. It is the jury's role
rather than this Court's to resolve any conflicts in the
evidence, and "the resolution of such conflicts
adversely to the defendant does not render the evidence
insufficient." Graham v. State, 301 Ga. 675,
677 (804 S.E.2d 113) (2017) (citation omitted).
challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence supporting
Jones's theft conviction also fails. Theft by taking is
committed when a person unlawfully takes the "property
of another with the intention of depriving him of the
property." OCGA § 16-8-2. Evidence admitted at
trial showed that Jones drove away from the scene of the
shooting in Tradae's girlfriend's Ford Explorer
without her permission and despite her attempts to stop him.
Jones drove the Explorer to Tennessee, and was still in
possession of the vehicle when he was apprehended after a
high-speed chase. In short, the evidence summarized above was
legally sufficient to support the jury's finding beyond a
reasonable doubt that Jones was guilty of the crimes of which
he was convicted and sentenced. See Jackson, 443
U.S. at 318-319; Clark, 283 Ga. at 235.
also contends that the trial court erred by failing to give
his requested instruction on the form of the verdict in his
separate trial on the issue of mental competency. On ...