Qutravius Palmer and his codefendant Zion Wainwright were
convicted of murder and other crimes in connection with the
December 2013 shooting death of Xavier Arnold. On appeal,
Palmer argues that the trial court erred by failing to order
an unprompted evaluation of his competency to stand trial and
by denying his motion to sever the codefendants' trials.
He also asserts that his trial counsel provided ineffective
assistance. Finding no error, we affirm.
in the light most favorable to the jury's verdict, the
evidence at trial showed that on December 26, 2013, Xavier
Arnold and his girlfriend Xenia Aimes, both art students,
decided to drive to the Kirkwood neighborhood of Atlanta to
take pictures of graffiti near a bike path. They picked up
their friend Ibrahim Sanusi on the way, and arrived at the
site in Kirkwood around 4:45 p.m.
the friends parked and began walking down the bike path, they
noticed that two young men had begun to follow them, and
stepped to the side of the path to let the men pass.
Initially, the two men passed by, but when the group of
friends tried to turn around and walk back towards their car,
they were approached by Palmer's codefendant Zion
Wainwright, who was just 14 years old at the time. Wainwright
rushed toward the friends and yelled in Arnold's face
"What's up? Why are you acting so hard?" while
Palmer stood behind him. Arnold replied that the group of
friends was leaving and asked for Wainwright to "chill,
" but the confrontation continued. Wainwright pulled out
a gun and pointed it at Arnold while Palmer grabbed Arnold
under the arms, immobilizing him. Arnold fought back, and he
and Palmer fell to the ground where the two wrestled as
Arnold tried to escape. In the meantime, Wainwright pointed
the gun at Aimes and Sanusi and told Sanusi to empty his
pockets, which he did. Wainwright then shot Sanusi in the leg
and pointed the gun at Arnold. Aimes ran in front of the gun,
screaming, while Wainwright repeatedly yelled at her to move.
After Wainwright pushed Aimes out of the way, Sanusi heard
Palmer instruct Wainwright to "shoot
him." Wainwright complied, and shot Arnold in
the back of the head as he began to stand up. Palmer then
snatched Aimes's phone away from her, and the two men ran
off together in the same direction. Neighbors who heard
gunshots called 911. One neighbor actually saw the encounter
from her porch and described it to police. Following the
calls, Arnold was taken to Grady Hospital by ambulance but
died shortly after his arrival.
their investigation, the police learned that Aimes was unable
to get a good look at Palmer because he was wearing a hood
throughout the incident,  but it appeared to her that the two men
were working together as a "unit, " with the older
one in charge. A woman who was familiar with both defendants
told law enforcement that she saw Palmer and Wainwright
together near the bike path running from the direction of the
crime scene shortly after the murder. She said that she heard
Palmer ask Wainwright if Wainwright shot the victim, and
Wainwright reply that he shot the victim because Palmer told
him to.  She also identified Palmer from a
photographic lineup as the person she saw running from the
murder scene with Wainwright.
days after the murder, Palmer showed up at his neighbor's
apartment in the morning before she left for work, repeatedly
banging on the door until she answered. Palmer appeared
frantic and asked to use the phone. He did so, and then
looked up a news article about the murder online. He
confessed to the neighbor that he was running from the
police, that he had been walking with Wainwright (whom he
referred to as his cousin) on the day of the murder, and that
the two of them were involved in the murder.
records confirmed that Palmer and Wainwright's cell
phones were in the area of the murder at the time that it
occurred, and that there was a phone call between the two
shortly after the murder. Palmer, however, terminated his
phone line the next day.
Palmer has not challenged the sufficiency of the evidence
supporting his convictions, we have independently examined
the record according to our usual practice in murder cases,
and we conclude that the evidence admitted at trial was
sufficient to authorize a rational trier of fact to find
beyond a reasonable doubt that Palmer 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).
contends that the trial court erred in going forward with his
trial because doubts existed regarding his competency to
stand trial. We disagree.
18, 2014, about ten months prior to trial, Palmer filed a
plea of mental incompetency to stand trial and a motion for
psychiatric evaluation. Palmer's motion noted that he had
been assaulted in jail and had become increasingly withdrawn
and unwilling to communicate with counsel, and that he had
made statements to counsel regarding his belief that somebody
was "switching his spirit." The trial court ordered
a mental evaluation, and Palmer was evaluated by a
psychologist with the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health
and Developmental Disabilities.
evaluating psychologist was not convinced. She found that
Palmer's "description of seeing things and hearing
things during this evaluation was not consistent with
descriptions or symptoms of a true psychotic disorder, "
and that "Palmer exhibited no symptoms of mental illness
during this evaluation." The psychologist identified
"no symptoms of a psychotic disorder or mental condition
that negatively influenced his cognition or ability to relate
to me during this evaluation, " and concluded that there
was "no reason he should not be able to work with his
attorney or meaningfully participate in his defense."
The psychologist ultimately advised that Palmer was competent
to stand trial because he "was able to demonstrate
functional capacity with respect to the legal proceedings[, ]
. . . understood the nature and object of the proceedings
against him, [and] could discuss his charge and demonstrate
an understanding of general courtroom procedure."
evaluation was performed and submitted during September of
2014, and the court found Palmer competent to stand trial
based on the psychologist's findings. On appeal, however,
Palmer argues that the court should have ordered a new
competency evaluation, sua sponte, based on his subsequent
behavior during trial. Palmer points to several instances
when he tried to communicate directly with the trial court or
appeared confused about the trial process. But in denying
Palmer's motion for new trial on this ground, the court
found that in addition to the pre-trial evaluation
determining that Palmer was competent to stand trial,
"during the trial neither Defendant's behavior nor
his demeanor was such to raise a bona ...