John Taylor was tried and convicted of malice murder and
related offenses in connection with the February 2011 death
of Gene Musgrave and aggravated assault of Robert
Sauls. Taylor appeals, alleging that he received
ineffective assistance of counsel, that the trial court erred
during closing argument, and that his indictment was fatally
defective. Finding no reversible error, we affirm.
in the light most favorable to the jury's verdict, the
evidence adduced at trial established that, on February 25,
2011, Taylor was being driven from Warner Robins to
Jeffersonville, Georgia, by a friend. During their drive,
Taylor was acting strange, asked where he could obtain a gun,
and talked about killing someone. The friend became
uncomfortable with the conversation, dropping Taylor off on
the side of the road and leaving. Taylor then made his way to
the Ambassador Inn in Twiggs County, Georgia, where he
checked in and was assigned to Room 120. Later that same
evening, Taylor returned to the check-in counter and
requested the key to Room 118, which was occupied by longtime
patron Gene Musgrave; the hotel's owner refused
several times throughout the evening, the hotel's video
surveillance system captured a man (later identified as
Taylor) wearing a brown jacket walking around the property
and eventually entering a black 2007 Chrysler 300 that
belonged to Musgrave. Between 3:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m. on
February 26, 2011, video cameras captured Taylor as he
approached Musgrave's room; the video showed Musgrave
answer the door and be pushed back inside by Taylor.
men spent several minutes in the room together before the
video showed Taylor exiting Musgrave's room, getting into
the victim's vehicle and leaving the premises. Taylor
returned to the hotel in Musgrave's car around 4:45 a.m.
and went back to Room 120.
9:30 and 10:00 that same morning, two hotel employees, Robert
Sauls and Fannie Clark, arrived for work. While cleaning,
Clark saw Taylor move Musgrave's vehicle from the parking
space in front of Room 118 to a space near Room 120 and then
stand near the trunk of the car. Shortly thereafter, Taylor
entered the room where Sauls was cleaning and began
repeatedly beating and stabbing Sauls with a tool. Clark
witnessed the attack and called the hotel manager who
immediately ran to the scene in an attempt to stop the
assault; he could not enter, however, as Taylor had blocked
the doorway. The hotel manager left the scene to call 911
and, when he returned, he found Taylor in Room 120 wiping his
hands on a paper towel. Officers responded to the scene and
found Sauls lying on the bathroom floor covered in blood.
Sauls was taken to the hospital where doctors were able to
save his life.
reviewing the surveillance footage from the prior evening,
officers went to Room 118 where they found Musgrave lying on
the floor, his blood and brain matter scattered throughout
the room. Musgrave had sustained numerous blunt force
injuries to the head and face, consistent with being beaten
with a crowbar or pipe. The medical examiner opined that
blunt force trauma to the head caused Musgrave's death.
was arrested at the scene and, while conducting a pat down
search, officers located a set of keys in Taylor's
pocket, which included keys to Musgrave's car and to a
safe inside Musgrave's room. During their investigation,
law enforcement also found numerous tools in the trunk of
Musgrave's car. In Room 120, they located a blood-soaked
paper towel, a pair of shoes, and a blood-spattered brown
jacket; DNA testing revealed the presence of blood on
Taylor's shoes which matched the DNA of both victims, and
Musgrave's blood was also found on Taylor's jacket.
Though not enumerated by Taylor, we find that the evidence as
summarized above was sufficient to enable a rational trier of
fact to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that Taylor was
guilty of the crimes for which he was convicted. Jackson
v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307 (99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d
During its case-in-chief, the State called Deputy James Faulk
to provide, among other things, testimony regarding the video
surveillance footage obtained from the hotel. On many
occasions during the deputy's testimony, the prosecutor
asked Deputy Faulk to identify the person depicted on the
surveillance video as Taylor. Deputy Faulk, without objection
from trial counsel, identified the suspect in the video as
Taylor. Taylor claims that trial counsel was ineffective for
failing to object to Deputy Faulk's testimony as improper
opinion testimony. We disagree.
establish ineffective assistance of counsel, a defendant must
show that his counsel's performance was professionally
deficient and that, but for such deficient performance, there
is a reasonable probability that the result of the trial
would have been different. See Strickland v.
Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (104 S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed.2d
674) (1984). "A reasonable probability is a probability
sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome."
Id. at 694. "If the defendant fails to satisfy
either prong of the Strickland test, this Court is
not required to examine the other." (Citation omitted.)
Propst v. State, 299 Ga. 557, 565 (788 S.E.2d 484)
(2016). "In reviewing the trial court's decision,
'[w]e accept the trial court's factual findings and
credibility determinations unless clearly erroneous, but we
independently apply the legal principles to the
facts.'" (Citation omitted.) Wright v.
State, 291 Ga. 869, 870 (734 S.E.2d 876) (2012).
even if we were to assume that counsel acted deficiently by
failing to object to Deputy Faulk's testimony identifying
Taylor as the suspect on the surveillance video, because the
evidence of Taylor's guilt was overwhelming, he has
failed to show that he was prejudiced by counsel's
alleged deficient performance. Accordingly, his claim of
ineffective assistance of counsel is without merit.
Next, Taylor alleges that the trial court erred by failing to
rebuke the prosecutor during closing arguments for
impermissibly commenting on Taylor's right to remain
silent. The relevant facts supporting this enumeration show
that, at trial, while cross-examining the State's lead
investigator, the following exchange occurred between defense
counsel and the witness:
Q: Okay. So my question is: the two times in ten years of
having the Magistrate meet you, which you just testified to,
all this, would you, is the reason, was everyone focused on
that one person ...