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Robinson v. State

Court of Appeals of Georgia, Fifth Division

December 4, 2018

ROBINSON
v.
THE STATE

          MILLER, P. J., MCFADDEN, P. J. and RICKMAN, J.

          RICKMAN, JUDGE

         James Michael Robinson was tried by a jury along with two co-defendants, Elmonte Surry and Xavius Bell, [1] and convicted on six counts of armed robbery, one count of criminal attempt to commit armed robbery, seven counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime, and two counts of hijacking a motor vehicle. On appeal, Robinson contends, inter alia, that there was insufficient evidence to support his convictions beyond a reasonable doubt. For the following reasons, we reverse.

On appeal from a criminal conviction, we view the evidence in the light most favorable to support the jury's verdict, and the defendant no longer enjoys a presumption of innocence. We do not weigh the evidence or judge the credibility of the witnesses, but determine only whether the evidence authorized the jury to find the defendant guilty of the crimes beyond a reasonable doubt in accordance with the standard set forth in Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307 (99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560) (1979).

(Citation and punctuation omitted.) Hall v. State, 335 Ga.App. 895 (783 S.E.2d 400) (2016).

         So viewed, the evidence showed that one Saturday night in December 2012, the owner of a convenience store was at the store playing cards with several of his friends. Three young men came into the store and, after walking around, purchased some snacks and left. Approximately ten minutes later, one of the three men came back into the store, purchased a soda and left again. Two of the men then came back into the store, but this time one of them was armed with a handgun.

         The taller of the three men attempted to open the cash register while the shorter gunman, whose face was obscured by a scarf, demanded that the owner and his friends get on the floor. The gunman forced the owner to help the taller man open the cash register, and approximately $200 was taken from the register. The gunman then ordered everyone to take off their pants. The third man came into the store and altogether they stole jewelry, cash, and cell phones from several of the victims, including the owner. The gunman asked for the keys to two vehicles that were parked outside.

         After the three men got the keys, they drove off in the two separate vehicles. One of the victims had a gun with him and gave the gun to another victim who fired at one of the vehicles. That vehicle hit a telephone pole, and its occupant(s) were picked up by the driver of the other stolen vehicle.

         A sergeant with the Richmond County Sheriff's Office testified that one of the victims was able to identify Surry and Bell in a photo line-up as two of the perpetrators. Additionally, Surry's fingerprints were found on a cigar box recovered from one of the stolen vehicles. The sergeant showed a photo line-up containing Robinson's photograph to two of the victims, but neither were able to identify him. Moreover, none of the seven victims who testified at trial were able to identify Robinson as one of the perpetrators.

         The owner testified that after the robbery, a friend of his informed him that he had seen the owner's jewelry in the possession of a man named Carter. After speaking with his friend, the owner called and told an investigator. The owner testified that some of his missing jewelry was returned to him. Carter testified that on the morning after the robbery, he bought a couple of rings and a bracelet from Robinson whose nickname was "Little James." Carter testified that there were several other people "right there" with Robinson when he purchased the jewelry. When Carter found out that the jewelry belonged to the owner, he testified that he "g[o]t rid of it;" but after speaking with law enforcement he was able to arrange the return of the jewelry to law enforcement. Carter was convicted of theft by receiving stolen property as a result of his involvement in this case.

         An investigator with the Richmond County Sheriff's Office testified that there were initially four suspects in the armed robbery: Bell, Surry, Robinson, and Carter. The investigator eliminated Carter as a suspect because Carter was not identified in a photo line-up, [2] and neither his fingerprints nor his DNA were found at the crime scene or in any of the stolen vehicles. The investigator admitted that Robinson, too, was not identified in a photo line-up and his fingerprints and DNA were not found at the crime scene or in the stolen vehicles.

         A retired employee from the department of juvenile justice testified that he had an appointment scheduled with Robinson mid-morning on the day after the robbery. It was his only appointment that Sunday. The employee testified that on the morning of the appointment he received a missed phone call and when he returned the call no one answered, but he "got a voicemail that stated, this is [the owner of the convenience store.]" The employee did not recall what telephone number was associated with this phone call, and he was unsure who had called him from this number. Thereafter, the employee received a phone call from Robinson who stated that he was on the way to the appointment. The employee did not know what telephone number Robinson called from.

         The grand jury returned an indictment charging Robinson with six counts of armed robbery, [3] one count of criminal attempt to commit armed robbery, [4] seven counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime, [5] and two counts of hijacking a motor vehicle.[6] Robinson was convicted on all of the charges. Robinson filed a timely motion for new trial which was denied by the trial court. Robinson appeals from the denial of his motion for new trial.

         Robinson contends that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction beyond a reasonable doubt due to a lack of ...


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