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Oduok v. State

Court of Appeals of Georgia, Second Division

July 11, 2018


          ANDREWS and BROWN, JJ.

          ANDREWS, JUDGE.

         Following a jury trial, Inyang Oduok was convicted of failure to yield the right of way. He appeals pro se, raising numerous claims of error. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

         1. In two enumerated errors, Oduok argues that the evidence was insufficient to support the jury's verdict. On appeal from a criminal conviction, we construe the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict, and the defendant no longer enjoys a presumption of innocence. See Nolan v. State, 257 Ga.App. 767 (572 S.E.2d 100) (2002). We do not weigh the evidence or resolve issues of witness credibility, but merely determine whether the evidence was sufficient for the jury to find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. See id. As we have explained:

Conflicts in the testimony of the witnesses, including the State's witnesses, are a matter of credibility for the [jury] to resolve. As long as there is some competent evidence, even though contradicted, to support each fact necessary to make out the State's case, the verdict will be upheld.

Id. (citations and punctuation omitted).

         So viewed, the evidence shows that on February 2, 2016, authorities were called to the scene of a two-vehicle collision at an intersection controlled by a traffic signal in Dekalb County. The responding officer identified Oduok as one of the drivers and took his statement. According to Oduok, he was in the left turn lane just before the collision, waiting to turn left. He commenced his turn when the traffic signal displayed a green left turn arrow, but a car approaching from the opposite direction entered the intersection "trying to beat a yellow [light], traveling straight," and collided with Oduok's vehicle.

         Based on his knowledge of the light cycles at the intersection, the responding officer doubted the accuracy of Oduok's account. After further investigation, the officer determined that Oduok had failed to yield while making the left turn and issued him a citation. At that point, Oduok changed his description of events, insisting to the officer that the other driver was "attempting to run a red light."

         The adverse driver, Tanisha Green, testified at trial that Oduok turned left in front of her as she traveled straight through the intersection on the green light, striking her car. Oduok disputed this testimony, asserting that he was turning left on the green arrow when Green's car "came straight and shot into [his] car." The jury, however, found him guilty of failure to yield the right of way.

         Pursuant to OCGA § 40-6-71, "[t]he driver of a vehicle intending to turn to the left within an intersection or into an alley, private road, or driveway shall yield the right of way to any vehicle approaching from the opposite direction which is within the intersection or so close thereto as to constitute an immediate hazard." The State presented evidence that Oduok turned left at an intersection in front of a car approaching from the opposite direction, causing a collision. Although Oduok asserts that the other driver was at fault, that driver offered contrary testimony, and the jury was authorized to resolve this evidentiary conflict against Oduok. His effort on appeal to characterize the State's witnesses as "highly questionable" essentially asks us "to retry his case, reweigh the evidence, and judge the credibility of the witnesses, which we cannot do." Cook v. State, 238 Ga.App. 341, 342 (1) (518 S.E.2d 749) (1999) (citations omitted). The evidence was sufficient to support the jury's conclusion that Oduok failed to yield, in violation of OCGA § 40-6-71. See Nolan, supra; Cook, supra.

         2. Oduok further argues that his conviction must be vacated because OCGA § 40-6-71 does not regulate "intersections controlled by a traffic light." According to Oduok, his failure to yield violation should have been charged under OCGA § 40-6-21, rather than OCGA § 40-6-71. He thus contends that the accusation was defective.

         As an initial matter, Oduok waived this claim by failing to raise it below through a special demurrer. See Ervin v. State, 298 Ga.App. 409, 411 (680 S.E.2d 448) (2009); Pruitt v. State, 289 Ga.App. 307, 309 (2) (656 S.E.2d 920) (2008). Even absent waiver, however, we find no merit to his claim. The provision cited by Oduok, OCGA § 40-6-21, is a "definitional section" that describes the various traffic signals on the roadway, but does not define a violation of the law. State v. Nix, 220 Ga.App. 651, 653 (1) (469 S.E.2d 497) (1996). Instead, the legislature specifically addressed failure to yield through OCGA § 40-6-71, which by its plain terms requires a driver "intending to turn to the left within an intersection" to yield to oncoming traffic. Nothing in the statutory language restricts its application to intersections without a traffic signal. And we have routinely affirmed convictions under OCGA § 40-6-71 for failure to yield at traffic-light controlled intersections. See Nolan, supra; Cook, supra.

         The State properly charged Oduok with failure to yield pursuant to OCGA § 40-6-71. To the extent any language in Bailey v. Bartee, 205 Ga.App. 463, 463-464 (1) (422 S.E.2d 319) (1992) (physical precedent only), or Corley v. Harris, 171 Ga.App. 688, 689 (3) (320 S.E.2d 833) (1984), suggests a different conclusion, that language is disapproved.

         3. Again asserting that he was charged under the wrong provision, Oduok claims that the trial court improperly instructed the jury on OCGA § 40-6-71. Given our ...

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