Robert Ware was found guilty of felony murder and other
crimes in connection with the December 2015 shooting death of
his wife, Michelle Ware. On appeal, Ware asserts that the
evidence at trial was insufficient to support his felony
murder conviction, and that the trial court erred in denying
his request for a jury instruction on voluntary manslaughter
and in allowing the State to introduce a piece of "other
acts" evidence under OCGA § 24-4-404 (b). Because
we find no reversible error, we affirm.
in the light most favorable to the verdicts, the evidence
presented at trial showed that Ware spent the afternoon of
December 6, 2015 watching a football game and drinking beer
at a friend's house. When Ware got home that evening, he
was confronted by his wife Michelle, who expressed
frustration about his drinking (an ongoing issue for the
couple) and his lack of employment. Ware expressed remorse,
but Michelle said that she did not think he'd be able to
change. She then said, "Robert, I'm seeing somebody
else that I'm in love with." Ware looked at her
without speaking, and Michelle continued, "It's not
going to work between us because I can't love you no
more." Ware then grabbed a pistol from the drawer next
to him and shot Michelle at close range in the back of the
head. Not wanting their nine-year-old daughter (who was in
the shower) to see him, Ware fled the scene.
Ware fled, Michelle's nineteen-year-old daughter
(Ware's stepdaughter), who was also at the residence at
the time of the shooting, found Michelle lying on the floor,
bloodied and unresponsive. Michelle's older daughter
called 911 and tried, unsuccessfully, to resuscitate her
mother. When police arrived, the older daughter told them
that Ware had killed her mother, and police issued a "be
on the lookout" for Ware.
same night, a Georgia state trooper spotted Ware's
vehicle driving in Washington, Georgia and activated his blue
lights. Ware first increased his speed, but then stopped
after a short, high-speed pursuit. Other officers arrived on
the scene and Ware was arrested. Police recovered a firearm
from Ware's vehicle, and testing later confirmed that it
had fired the bullet recovered during Michelle's autopsy.
admitted to the jury that he shot and killed Michelle after
she told him that she was seeing someone else whom she loved.
He also testified that about two months before the shooting,
he saw Michelle hug and kiss another man at her place of
employment. And he told the jury that about a month later, he
had discovered a receipt from a Florida hospital under the
mattress that he and Michelle shared, but that he had been
unaware that Michelle had traveled to Florida. According to
Ware, when he confronted Michelle about the Florida receipt,
she said "it's nothing." Later, in an
unprompted conversation, Michelle said that when she went to
the hospital in Florida, she was prescribed something that
caused her to have "female issues, " and she asked
Ware if he had been having any issues "downstairs."
These events led Ware to doubt Michelle's fidelity.
Ware's neighbor also testified that Ware had periodically
shared his suspicion that Michelle was cheating on him, and
had said a few months before the killing that he had come
close to shooting and killing her the night before. Forensic
evidence, including the presence of Michelle's DNA on the
firearm recovered from Ware's vehicle and the presence of
gunshot residue on Ware's clothing, further confirmed
that Ware was the shooter.
argues that the evidence supporting his felony murder
conviction is insufficient because he acted on impulse and in
the heat of passion when Michelle told him that their
relationship was over and that she loved another man, thus
showing a lack of evidence that he intended to kill her. This
argument is meritless and misplaced. Felony murder does not
require intent to kill; rather, "[f]elony murder
requires only that the defendant possessed the requisite
criminal intent to commit the underlying felony"-in this
case, aggravated assault, which also does not require intent
to kill. Chapman v. State, 275 Ga. 314, 316 (565
S.E.2d 442) (2002). And in any event, "[c]riminal intent
is a question for the jury and may be inferred from conduct
before, during and after the commission of the crime."
Glenn v. State, 279 Ga. 277, 277-278 (612 S.E.2d
478) (2005) (citation and punctuation omitted). Given
Ware's admission at trial that he shot and killed
Michelle, his prior statements that he suspected her of
"cheating on him" and that he had
"almost" shot and killed her before, his flight
from the scene and subsequent flight from law enforcement,
and the other evidence admitted at trial indicating that he
shot Michelle, the evidence was sufficient to authorize a
rational trier of fact to find beyond a reasonable doubt that
Ware 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); see also Faust v.
State, 302 Ga. 211, 213 (805 S.E.2d 826) (2017)
("[C]onflicts in the evidence, questions about the
credibility of witnesses, and questions about the existence
of justification are for the jury to resolve.")
(citation and punctuation omitted).
more relevant to his claims that he acted out of passion,
Ware argues that the trial court erred in denying his request
for a jury instruction on voluntary manslaughter. Still, we
manslaughter is the killing of another human being under
circumstances that would otherwise be murder when the killer
"acts solely as the result of a sudden, violent, and
irresistible passion resulting from serious provocation
sufficient to excite such passion in a reasonable
person." OCGA § 16-5-2 (a). A jury charge on
voluntary manslaughter "is required only when there is
some evidence that the defendant acted" in this manner.
Graham v. State, 301 Ga. 675, 677 (804 S.E.2d 113)
(2017). "And '[i]t is a question of law for the
courts to determine whether the defendant presented any
evidence of sufficient provocation to excite the passions of
a reasonable person.'" Id. (quoting
Campbell v. State, 292 Ga. 766, 767 (740 S.E.2d 115)
long held that "words alone, regardless of the degree of
their insulting nature, 'will not in any case justify the
excitement of passion so as to reduce the crime from murder
to manslaughter where the killing is done solely on
account of the indignation aroused by use of opprobrious
words.'" Brooks v. State, 249 Ga. 583,
585 (292 S.E.2d 694) (1982) (quoting Coleman v.
State, 149 Ga. 186, 186 (99 SE 627) (1919)) (emphasis in
original) (punctuation omitted); see also Paul v.
State, 274 Ga. 601, 605 (555 S.E.2d 716) (2001);
Pace v. State, 258 Ga. 225, 226 (367 S.E.2d 803)
(1988). We have recognized, however, a limited exception to
this rule for words informing a defendant of "adulterous
conduct." Brooks, 249 Ga. at 585. In that one
circumstance, we have held that words alone may constitute
the "serious provocation sufficient to excite" a
"sudden, violent and irresistible passion"
sufficient to require a jury charge on voluntary
Brooks, for example, we found that because the
victim taunted her husband "with a graphic description
of her sexual activities with other men, " her
"adulterous conduct rather than the words describing
this conduct" authorized a jury charge on voluntary
manslaughter. Id. We reiterated this point in
Lynn v. State, finding that the victim's
statements to the defendant that she "recently had been
unfaithful to him, " was having affairs with other men,
and that she could not be satisfied by only one man
"might properly have formed a basis for the jury to ...