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Goodson v. State

Supreme Court of Georgia

February 18, 2019


          BENHAM, JUSTICE.

         In April 2015, appellant Douglas Goodson was convicted of felony murder and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony related to the shooting death of his relative Rodney Worley.[1] Goodson appeals, asserting that the evidence was insufficient to convict and that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

         Viewed in a light most favorable to the verdicts, the evidence shows as follows. On October 14, 2012, Goodson invited several family members over to his house in White County to shoot targets in his backyard. Approximately 30 minutes after they started shooting, Worley-the victim, Goodson's cousin, and next door neighbor-called the police to complain about the noise. An officer came by both houses, but determined that Goodson and his guests were not breaking any laws and decided to leave.

         Once the officer left, Goodson and his guests began shooting targets again, and this angered Worley. Worley started yelling at Goodson's guests from his property, and Goodson came around to the front of the house to see what was happening. Both Worley and Goodson traded insults from their respective properties while holding long guns, but each refused to go to the other's property. Then, both Worley and Goodson put their long guns down and Worley stepped into the street. Goodson asked Worley if he had a gun and if he intended to shoot Goodson. Worley replied in the negative and took his hands out of his pockets to show he was unarmed.

         Goodson then went to the street to confront Worley, and witnesses testified they believed the two were going to fight. However, Goodson pulled a Glock .45-caliber handgun from his back pocket and shot the entire magazine at the victim from a distance of eight to ten feet. Goodson told investigators that he knew he hit Worley because he saw blood, but decided to re-load and fire another entire magazine at Worley while he was on the ground. Goodson also told investigators that he would have emptied a third magazine into the victim if he had one. In a written statement, Goodson admitted that, to his knowledge, Worley did not have a gun. The police found a can of mace and a pocket knife on Worley's body, but did not find a firearm on or near him.

         Two witnesses testified that they did not see anything in Worley's hands when he went down to the street and they did not see Worley reach into his pocket before Goodson shot him. Mrs. Worley testified that after her husband was first shot, he grabbed his arm and turned away as if he was going to come back to their house. However, Goodson continued shooting as Worley began stumbling away from Goodson and fell. Mrs. Worley stated Goodson then stood over her husband, who was not saying or doing anything, and continued to shoot him.

         A White County coroner identified Worley's cause of death as multiple gunshot wounds. A GBI medical examiner testified that Worley was shot ten separate times, including, three shots in the back and four shots to the back of the head. The shots to the victim's back preceded the shots to the victim's head. The close proximity of the shots to the back of the head indicated they took place one after another in rapid succession. The medical examiner also noted that the victim suffered injuries consistent with falling forward onto a gravel road. A GBI special agent testified that the entry wounds to the victim's back and the shell casing pattern were consistent with Worley moving away from Goodson while being repeatedly shot in the back. The agent also found a bullet lodged in the dirt next to where Worley's head was during the shooting, indicating that Goodson was standing over Worley while continuing to shoot him on the ground.

         1. (a) Goodson argues that the evidence was insufficient to convict him of aggravated assault, felony murder, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, and even if it were sufficient, Goodson was justified in shooting Worley. We disagree. Goodson notes that he and other witnesses believed Worley was reaching into his pocket for a weapon immediately before Goodson shot him. Goodson also claims that Worley was known to carry a pistol and it was reasonable for Goodson to believe Worley was going to kill him.

         However, when reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence, this Court does not reweigh the evidence or resolve conflicts in testimony. Caldwell v. State, 263 Ga. 560, 562 (1) (436 S.E.2d 488) (1993). The defendant is no longer presumed innocent, and all of the evidence is to be viewed in a light most favorable to the jury verdict. Batten v. State, 295 Ga. 442, 443 (1) (761 S.E.2d 70) (2014). There was evidence presented that Worley was first shot in the arm and attempted to retreat as Goodson continued to fire. This was sufficient for a jury to find Goodson guilty of aggravated assault. See OCGA § 16-5-21 (a) (2). The aggravated assault conviction then supports the conviction for felony murder because there was clear evidence Worley died as a result of the shooting, as well as possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony. See Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 324 (III) (B) (99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560) (1979); Waddell v. State, 261 Ga. 529 (1) (407 S.E.2d 742) (1991).

         (b) Goodson's justification argument must also fail. Although several witnesses testified that Worley was known to carry a pistol in his pocket, other witnesses testified they never saw Worley with a pistol. The jury also heard testimony that Worley did not reach into his pocket and never threatened to kill Goodson.

         Questions about the existence of justification are for the jury to resolve, and the jury may reject any evidence in support of a justification defense and accept evidence that a shooting was not done in self-defense. See Anthony v. State, 298 Ga. 827, 829 (1) (785 S.E.2d 277) (2016). Moreover, even if the jury accepted Goodson's version of events, it was still authorized to conclude Goodson did not act in self-defense because he continued shooting the victim after he no longer posed any threat to Goodson. See Jimmerson v. State, 289 Ga. 364, 367 (1) (711 S.E.2d 660) (2011). Thus, the jury was authorized to conclude that Goodson was not justified in shooting Worley. See id.

         2. Goodson also argues that his trial counsel was constitutionally ineffective because counsel never presented expert testimony regarding Goodson's state of mind, counsel withdrew a request for a voluntary manslaughter instruction at Goodson's request, and counsel failed to assert a claim for pretrial immunity pursuant to OCGA § 16-3-24.2. We disagree and, for the reasons below, find that trial counsel provided effective assistance.

         To succeed on an ineffective assistance of counsel claim, a defendant must satisfy both prongs of the Strickland v. Washington test. Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (III) (104 S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed.2d 674) (1984). First, the defendant must show counsel's performance was deficient by showing counsel made errors so serious that it was not functioning as the "counsel" guaranteed the defendant by the Sixth Amendment. See id. "The criminal defendant must overcome the strong presumption that trial counsel's conduct falls within the broad range of reasonable professional conduct." Domingues v. State, 277 Ga. 373, 374 (2) (589 S.E.2d 102) (2003). Second, the defendant must show the deficient performance prejudiced the defense, which requires showing that counsel's errors were so serious that they were likely to affect the outcome of the trial. See id.

         Since a defendant must satisfy both prongs, this Court does not need to "approach the inquiry in the same order or even to address both components of the inquiry if the defendant makes an insufficient showing on one." Strickland, 466 U.S. at 697. The trial court's factual findings and credibility determinations are reviewed under a clearly erroneous standard, but this Court will independently ...

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