Birdow appeals from his convictions for malice murder and
other crimes in connection with the 2010 death of Angela
Woods. He argues that the State failed to produce
sufficient evidence at trial to overcome his claim of
self-defense, that the trial court erred by excluding the
testimony of an expert psychologist Birdow planned to call to
testify about his behavior following Woods' death, that
the trial court failed to provide him with appropriate
technology that would have allowed him to hear the trial
proceedings, and that his trial counsel was ineffective in
several regards. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.
Construed in the light most favorable to the verdict, the
evidence presented at trial showed that, on July 30, 2010,
Angela Woods was reported missing by her family. On August
28, 2010, two teenagers found her dead and decomposing body
wrapped in a blanket and lying under a blue plastic container
across the street from a Hapeville apartment complex. Her
autopsy revealed that the cause of her death was homicide,
likely caused by blunt force trauma to the head. The
condition of Woods' body when the autopsy was performed
was consistent with death occurring around July 30, 2010.
Woods' body was discovered, law enforcement officers
questioned residents of the apartment complex across the
street. The residents who were interviewed reported that
Birdow had lived there but had recently moved away. Multiple
witnesses recalled that, while Birdow lived in the complex,
they smelled a bad odor in the apartment building. One
resident also recalled seeing flies gathered near
Birdow's bathroom window but noted that the flies were
not present once Birdow was no longer living at the
apartment. The neighbors and another witness also recalled
seeing Birdow with extensive bandaging on both hands and both
arms. At that time, Birdow had told one of the neighbors that
he had injured his hand by "fooling with a
bicycle." He also told a former co-worker whom he
encountered that he injured his hands by "cutting some
meat with a chainsaw."
enforcement officers obtained a search warrant for
Birdow's former apartment. The officers conducting the
search located large amounts of blood in various places in
the apartment as well as a bloodstain on the exterior door.
The officers swabbed several samples of the blood and
collected several knives during their search of the
officers then visited Birdow at his mother's home in
Atlanta, where he had moved. The officers did not mention
that he was a suspect in Woods' death and instead
questioned him about the blood they had found in his
apartment. At that time, the officers observed that Birdow
had thick bandages on both of his hands, which Birdow
explained were covering wounds he suffered while trying to
cut frozen chicken a month earlier. Birdow had also told his
mother that this was how he sustained the wounds to his
hands. The officers confirmed that Birdow had called for an
ambulance on or about July 31, 2010, and that he was admitted
to the hospital for a short time thereafter to treat the
wounds to his hands.
next day, Birdow went to the police station and admitted that
he had lied to the officers about the cause of his injuries.
He told the officers that, on the date Woods was killed, he
had solicited sex from her. When Birdow and Woods went to his
apartment, the victim asked him for a glass of water. Birdow
claimed that, when he returned with the water she had
requested, she attacked him with a knife-slicing his
hands-and tried to rob him. He stated that he then grabbed a
metal broom handle and struck her head with it at least
twice. She then fell to the bed where he hit her head with
the broom handle one additional time and then stabbed her
once with a knife. He told police that when he was sure Woods
was dead, he placed her in his bathtub, called an ambulance,
and went to the hospital so the injuries to his hands could
be treated. When he returned from the hospital, he placed
Woods' body in a plastic container which he then left
across the street from the apartment.
trial, the medical examiner testified that Woods suffered ten
blunt force injuries to her head, which resulted in multiple
skull fractures. She also suffered three sharp force injuries
to her torso, likely as the result of stabbing. The medical
examiner determined the cause of death to be homicide
resulting from multiple head traumas.
State also presented testimony from Dr. Pravin Reddy, the
plastic and reconstructive surgeon who treated the
lacerations to Birdow's fingers on July 31, 2010. Dr.
Reddy testified that Birdow's injuries were not
characteristic of defensive wounds and that, upon sustaining
those injuries, Birdow would have been unable to grip
anything. When Dr. Reddy was treating Birdow, Birdow informed
him that he had sustained the cuts while cutting a frozen
chicken. Dr. Reddy stated that it was "improbable"
that Birdow could have suffered those injuries from that act
and that such injuries were "incongruous" with what
argues that the evidence presented by the State was
insufficient to overcome his claim of justification pursuant
to OCGA § 16-3-21 (a). We disagree.
person is justified in using deadly force only if he
"reasonably believes that such force is necessary to
prevent death or great bodily injury to himself. . . or to
prevent the commission of a forcible felony." OCGA
§ 16-3-21 (a). When a defendant presents evidence that
he was justified in using deadly force, the State bears the
burden of disproving the defense beyond a reasonable doubt.
Andrews v. State, 267 Ga. 473, 474 (1) (480 S.E.2d
29) (1997). Although statements made by Birdow to law
enforcement suggested that he acted in self-defense when he
hit and stabbed Woods, evidence presented by the State
contradicted this account and called his credibility into
question. Because it was for the jury to determine the
credibility of witnesses as well as whether the use of deadly
force was necessary under the circumstances of the case, the
evidence presented by the State was sufficient to authorize a
rational trier of fact to find beyond a reasonable doubt that
Birdow did not act in self-defense in attacking Woods. See
Russell v. State, 267 Ga. 865, 866 (1) (485 S.E.2d
717) (1997). Moreover, our review of the record shows that
the evidence presented by the State was sufficient to
authorize the jury to find beyond a reasonable doubt that
Birdow was guilty of each of the crimes for which he was
convicted. Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307 (99
S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560) (1979).
Birdow argues that his trial counsel was ineffective for
failing to call an expert witness to testify regarding the
allegedly defensive nature of the wounds to Birdow's
hands. We disagree.
first hearing on Birdow's motion for new trial, Birdow
called a hand injury expert, Dr. Burton, to the stand. Dr.
Burton testified that in his opinion, the wounds on
Birdow's hands "could have been" defensive
wounds. He also disagreed with Dr. Reddy's conclusion
that the wounds to Birdow's hands did not have the
characteristics of defensive wounds. Dr. Burton did state,
however, that, once such wounds occurred, Birdow would have
been unable to hold anything in the wounded hand.
second hearing on the motion for new trial, Birdow's
trial counsel testified that, before trial, she retained Dr.
Burton to look into the injuries that Birdow sustained during
the altercation to elicit his opinion as to the cause of
those injuries, specifically whether the injuries were
defensive in nature. Counsel noted that Dr. Burton had not
been able to "definitively" state that the wounds
were defensive. After interviewing Dr. Reddy before trial,
trial counsel determined that the two experts'
anticipated testimony was essentially the same-that it was
not clear whether the wounds were defensive. Following that
interview, trial counsel elected not to call Dr. Burton to
testify. At the hearing on the motion for new trial, counsel
stated that she believed the jury would be able to understand