a jury trial, Christina Menzies was found guilty of felony
murder, criminal attempt to commit armed robbery, and related
crimes in connection with the shooting death of Menzies's
sister Jennifer during an attempted armed
robbery. On appeal, Menzies contends that the
evidence was insufficient to support the verdicts, that the
trial court erred in denying her motion for directed verdict
at the close of the State's case, that her trial counsel
was ineffective for failing to move for a mistrial in
response to a comment made by the prosecuting attorney in
closing argument, and that the trial court erred in failing
to exclude certain statements Menzies made while alone in an
interview room at the Rockdale County Sheriff's Office.
None of these claims succeed, and we affirm.
in the light most favorable to the verdicts, the evidence
presented at trial showed that Menzies devised a scheme to
steal hair (intended to be used in hair weaves) from Kap Suk
Sims; Menzies knew Sims because she had purchased hair from
her on several prior occasions. Menzies recruited her sister
Jennifer and coindictee Jaquan Mareek House to join her in
the robbery, which she referred to as a "hair weave
jug." House subsequently enlisted his friends,
coindictees Brandon Lamothe and James Edwards, for additional
assistance. The group planned to sell the hair after the
morning of December 11, 2013, Menzies told Sims by telephone
that she wanted to meet her to buy hair, and that Sims should
bring as much hair as possible because Menzies had four
cousins and an aunt who were also interested buyers. Menzies
asked Sims to come alone, but Sims refused. Still, she agreed
to meet Menzies that night.
called her boyfriend, Barry Morton, and requested that he
accompany her to the sale. Morton agreed, and they made
arrangements to meet Menzies later that night in the
recreation area of the Fountain Crest subdivision in Rockdale
meeting at Jennifer's house, Lamothe, Edwards, House, and
Jennifer drove to the meeting place in one car, with Menzies
driving separately in her own car. House, Lamothe, and
Edwards had picked up a gun earlier that evening, and Edwards
had the weapon with him. Menzies parked her car in the
parking lot for the subdivision's swimming pool while
House parked nearby. Menzies walked up to the car where House
and the others sat waiting, and asked if they were ready.
Edwards pulled back the slide to cock his pistol and
confirmed that they were ready, and Menzies walked back to
her car in the pool parking lot. After a few minutes, House,
Edwards, and Jennifer walked toward the swimming pool, while
Lamothe remained in the car in case a quick getaway was
and Morton arrived to find Menzies parked in a dark area of
the pool parking lot. Sims got out of Morton's truck and
opened the rear door, where she had a box of hair packs for
Menzies to look through, while Morton remained in the
driver's seat. Menzies told Sims that she liked the hair
but that she needed to check with her cousins before buying
it. Meanwhile, House, Edwards, and Jennifer had seen that
Sims had a man with her, and were debating whether to go
ahead with the robbery. Menzies pretended that she was
texting her cousins to ask for a second opinion, but actually
texted Jennifer, telling her and the others to "come on
now," and that "the man in the front" was
"big." Jennifer responded, "He got a
gun[?]" and Menzies texted, "Idk [I don't know]
but come on. Let's do this quik."
House, and Jennifer ran toward Morton's truck. Edwards
approached the open passenger door of the truck and pointed a
gun at Morton, ordering him to "drop everything."
Morton put his hands up in response. House thought that
Edwards was pointing the gun at him and fled the scene.
Morton, fearing for his life, grabbed his pistol from the
seat and rolled out of the truck. Edwards shot at Morton as
Morton moved toward the rear of the truck to take cover.
Morton returned fire, and Edwards ran away. Sims, meanwhile,
had dropped to the ground and played dead when the shooting
started, thinking that Morton had been killed.
came around the rear corner of the truck toward Morton. She
was wearing dark clothing and holding up a white plastic bag,
and Morton could not get a good look at her. Fearing that
Jennifer was one of the robbers "coming back to finish
[him] off," Morton shot her twice. Jennifer tried to
crawl away, but Morton knocked her to the ground and told her
not to move. He then called 911. While Morton was on the
phone, Menzies pulled her car around to where Jennifer was
lying and dragged her into the passenger seat. Morton told
Menzies that the police and paramedics were on their way, but
Menzies ignored him; she finished loading Jennifer into the
car and drove away.
on Morton's description of her vehicle, Menzies was
stopped by responding officers. Jennifer was in the front
passenger seat and appeared to be dead. Paramedics took
Jennifer to the hospital, but ultimately confirmed that she
was dead. Menzies told police that she had been a victim of
the robbery, and denied that she knew Jennifer. Sergeant
Daniel Lang asked Menzies to go to the sheriff's office
to give a statement, and she agreed. At that point, Sgt. Lang
considered her to be a victim.
alone in the police interview room, Menzies spoke aloud to
her deceased sister, saying, "Jen Jen, go back into your
soul." Later, after police realized that the victim was
her sister, Sgt. Lang returned to the interview room and read
Menzies her Miranda rights. After Sgt. Lang
departed, Menzies again spoke to her dead sister, saying:
"Jen Jen, if you're here with me, I'm so sorry .
. . I know we didn't have an understanding before, but
today I realize I do love you . . . you had the feeling to
not do it . . . I shouldn't have took you, but I
can't turn back time. I'm so sorry . . . Forgive me,
Jen Jen." She was arrested later the same night.
was found by responding officers as he fled the area, and
they brought him in for questioning. He admitted his
involvement in the robbery after being informed that Jennifer
had died, and he testified for the State at Menzies's
crime scene, police found Edwards's 9 mm pistol, five
matching 9 mm shell casings, and nine shell casings that
matched to Morton's .40 caliber pistol. The medical
examiner testified that Jennifer had suffered three gunshot
wounds caused by two ...