Clifford Jacob White was found guilty of murdering his wife,
Linda White. He now appeals, asserting that the
evidence was insufficient to sustain his malice murder
conviction, and that he received ineffective assistance of
trial counsel. For the following reasons, we affirm.
in the light most favorable to the verdict, the evidence
showed that White and his wife Linda were the caretakers for
a baby girl born to a friend of White's sister. At some
point, White developed a romantic relationship with his
neighbor, Adrianna Wray. He told Wray that he and Linda were
not getting along, and that if she tried to leave him and
take the baby, he would kill her. White's sister, April
Sanchez, and her husband Marco Sanchez, lived with the Whites
for some time, but moved out during the week of January 21
because they were not getting along with Linda. When they
moved back into the home a few days later, White told them
that Linda had moved out and left him. He also told them not
to open the freezer on the porch because something was wrong
with it, and that if they saw blood in the house, it was
because his dog had killed a cat in the house.
afternoon of January 23, White went to Wray's workplace
and asked her to cash a $10, 000 check made out to Linda.
White had Linda's purse containing her identification to
assist in cashing the check. White told Wray that Linda had
"gotten in a white car with some guy and drove off"
and was not coming back. He also asked Wray later that night
if he could store some meat in her freezer because his was
not working. White told a relative that Linda had left him
and that she had gone to Alabama. He asked this relative if
he could borrow a backhoe so that he could dig a hole to bury
January 25, White's brother-in-law Marco was attempting
to repair a water pipe at White's home, and when he moved
the freezer that was outside the home, the door opened and he
saw Linda's body inside. He told his wife April, and they
went to the home of an aunt who called police. When officers
arrived at the home, they asked White if he had a freezer.
White first said no, but then admitted that he had a freezer
on the back porch, and gave the officer permission to look
inside. An officer discovered Linda's body in the
freezer. She was partially dressed and had a bag over her
head. White told officers that he had not been at the home
because he had been arguing with Linda, and that she had
called him from Alabama the day before.
found blood in several locations in the home and a hammer
containing blood in a box in the laundry room. They also
collected a pair of gloves that contained Linda's blood.
The medical examiner testified that Linda had four
lacerations to her scalp caused by blunt force trauma,
abrasions and bruises all over her body, including defensive
wounds, multiple skull fractures, and hemorrhages in her
scalp. The cause of her death was blunt force trauma to the
testified at trial and admitted to killing Linda with a
hammer. He explained that he and Linda would argue because he
did not approve of her drinking while taking care of the
baby, and that he observed her "snatch [the baby] up and
be rough with her." White stated further that on Monday
night, January 21, Linda told him she was "going to
leave, " and when he attempted to get his belongings,
she came out of the bedroom and threw the baby at him. White
caught the child, but her head hit him. The next day, he
awoke to the baby crying and went into her room when he
observed Linda holding the child by her arm and shaking her.
White explained that he took the child and laid her back
down, and told Linda that he "was fixing to leave."
Linda responded that she was going to kill White and the
baby. White explained that Linda kicked him in the thigh and
turned to go into the kitchen when he "just lost
it" and picked up a hammer and hit her with it. White
stated that he did not intend to kill Linda, and that he
later cleaned up the blood in the home because he was afraid
of losing the baby. He admitted that he lied to police about
his whereabouts on January 21 and lied to others about
Linda's whereabouts, and admitted he was planning to use
a backhoe to bury Linda and that he tried to cash Linda's
check after her death. White denied telling Wray that he
would kill Linda if she ever tried to take the baby from him.
White argues that the evidence was insufficient to sustain
his conviction for malice murder. Specifically, he contends
that the testimony given at trial did not prove that he acted
with an abandoned and malignant heart in striking his wife
with the hammer, nor did it show that he had a deliberate
intention to take her life.
trial court instructed the jury, a person commits malice
murder when the evidence shows either an express or implied
intent to commit an unlawful homicide. See OCGA § 16-5-1
This meaning of malice murder is consistent with the general
rule that crimes which are defined so as to require that the
defendant intentionally cause a forbidden bad result are
usually interpreted to cover one who knows that his conduct
is substantially certain to cause the result, whether or not
he desires the result to occur. Thus, a specific intent to
kill is express malice, whereas an intent to commit acts with
such a reckless disregard for human life as to show "an
abandoned and malignant heart" amounts to implied
(Citations and punctuation omitted.) Bozzie v.
State, 302 Ga. 704, 706 (1) (808 S.E.2d 671) (2017).
the evidence showed that White struck his wife with the
hammer multiple times, and that she had bruises to her arms
and legs that were consistent with defensive wounds, and
other abrasions on her body. White admitted to hiding her
body in a freezer and leading others to believe that she had
left him. Although he testified at trial that he did not
intend to kill Linda, the jury was free to conclude
otherwise. Id. at 706-707 (1). The evidence
presented here was sufficient for a rational trier of fact to
find White guilty of malice murder.
White argues that he was denied the effective assistance of
trial counsel. To prevail on this claim, White must prove
both that the performance of his counsel was deficient and
that he was prejudiced by the deficient performance.
Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (III)
(104 S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed.2d 674) (1984). To prove that
counsel's performance was deficient, White must show that
he performed his duties at trial in an objectively
unreasonable way, considering all the circumstances, and in
the light of prevailing professional norms. Id. at
687-688 (III) (A). And to prove that he was prejudiced by
counsel's performance, White must show "a reasonable
probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional
errors, the result of the proceeding would have been
different. A reasonable probability is a probability
sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome."
Id. at 694 (III) (B). "Failure to satisfy
either prong of the Strickland test is sufficient to
defeat a claim of ineffective assistance, and it is not
incumbent upon this Court to examine the other prong."
(Citation and punctuation omitted.) Smith v. State,
296 Ga. 731, 733 (2) (770 S.E.2d 610) (2015).
complains that counsel failed to interview and call two
witnesses, his cousin and her husband, who would have
testified about the relationship between him and his wife in
the days before the murder in support of his voluntary
manslaughter defense. The couple testified at the hearing on the
motion for new trial that in the days before Linda's
death, they were at White's home. They testified that
Linda had been drinking and that she and White were arguing
when she threw the baby at him causing the baby's head to
hit White's chin. They explained further that they
witnessed Linda jerk the baby up by her arm and throw her
back down. The couple called the police who told White that
he could not take the baby with him and that he ...