MCFADDEN, P. J., RICKMAN and MARKLE, JJ.
convicted Ricky Lewis Thompson of one count of sale of a
controlled substance. He now appeals, arguing the trial court
erred in its denial of his motion for new trial, as amended,
because (1) the evidence was insufficient; (2) the trial
court made an improper comment on the evidence; and (3) he
received ineffective assistance of counsel. For the reasons
that follow, we affirm.
reviewing a defendant's challenge to the sufficiency of
the evidence, we view the evidence in the light most
favorable to the verdict. Jackson v. Virginia, 443
U.S. 307 (99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560) (1979).
viewed, the record shows that in April 2011, a captain with
the Walton County Sheriff's Office narcotics unit opened
an investigation into possible drug sales at Thompson's
home following citizen complaints about traffic to and from
the residence and that pills were being purchased there.
During the course of the investigation, officers conducted
four trash pulls at Thompson's residence, finding pill
bottles, full prescriptions, and doctor's notes. A search
of Thompson's residence uncovered a large number of
2011, a sergeant with the Walton County Sheriff's Office,
who was involved in the investigation, subsequently
encountered Jeremie Moorehead leaving Thompson's
residence. Police stopped Moorehead's vehicle and, with
Mooreheads's consent, searched the vehicle, finding a
green pill bottle containing an Oxycodone pill. Moorehead
admitted he was a middleman for Thompson's drug sales and
he agreed to serve as a confidential informant in the
27, 2011, Moorehead assisted police in orchestrating a
controlled buy from Thompson. Moorehead arranged to meet
Thompson at a gas station to purchase ten pills. This was not
the first time Moorehead purchased drugs from Thompson in
this manner. Moorehead was fitted with an electronic
monitoring device, and the buy was recorded on video and
audio and monitored by police. Police gave him the money to
purchase the pills. Moorehead went inside the gas station,
but he did not see Thompson; instead, he saw another man he
did not know. Moorehead gave this man the money and picked up
the Lortab pills "at the usual spot."
trial, Marcus Lackey testified that, on the same day of the
controlled buy, he met Thompson at his home to pick up cash
Thompson owed him, but Thompson paid him with Lortab pills
instead of cash. He testified that Thompson told him to take
the pills and drop them off at the gas station where someone
would be waiting to pick them up. Lackey testified that when
Moorehead came into the gas station, they exchanged the pills
a trial in April 2013, the jury convicted Thompson on one
count of sale of a controlled substance based on the July 27,
2011 controlled buy. He was sentenced to 10 years to serve in
confinement. He filed a motion for new trial, as amended,
arguing the evidence was insufficient to convict him of sale
of a controlled substance, the trial court improperly
commented on the evidence, and that he received ineffective
assistance of counsel. The trial court denied the motion.
This appeal followed.
Thompson contends there was insufficient evidence to
authorize the jury to convict him of sale of a controlled
substance because the circumstantial evidence supports the
alternate theory that Lackey was guilty of selling pills to
Moorehead without Thompson's knowledge or aid. This
argument is without merit.
When reviewing a defendant's challenge to the sufficiency
of the evidence, we view the evidence in the light most
favorable to the jury's verdict, and the defendant no
longer enjoys the presumption of innocence. We do not weigh
the evidence or determine witness credibility, but only
determine if the evidence was sufficient for a rational trier
of fact to find the defendant guilty of the charged offense
beyond a reasonable doubt.
(Citations omitted.) Lancaster v. State, 291 Ga.App.
347, 348 (662 S.E.2d 181) (2008). "Further, to sustain a
judgment of conviction based upon circumstantial evidence,
the evidence need not exclude every inference or hypothesis
except the guilt of the accused, but only reasonable
inferences and hypotheses, so as to justify the inference,
beyond a reasonable doubt, of guilt." (Citation,
punctuation and emphasis omitted.) Marsengill v.
State, 275 Ga.App. 840, 841 (622 S.E.2d 58) (2005).
"The determination of whether an alternative hypothesis
raised by the evidence is reasonable is a job for the
factfinder, who is authorized to reject a hypothesis that he
considers implausible." (Citation omitted.) Id.
at 841. Moreover, the jury decides whether the evidence
excluded every reasonable hypothesis but for the
defendant's guilt. Id.
to OCGA § 16-13-30 (b), "[i]t is unlawful for any
person to manufacture, deliver, distribute, dispense,
administer, sell, or possess with intent to distribute any
Moorehead testified he spoke with Thompson and arranged to
meet him at the gas station to purchase ten pills. He also
testified he bought pills from Thompson at this gas station
before. He testified that, when he went inside the gas
station, he did not see Thompson. Instead, there was another
man there, and he exchanged the money for the drugs with this
person. The controlled buy was electronically monitored by a
sergeant and recorded on audio and video, confirming that the
sale of prescription pills took place.
Lackey testified that Thompson arranged for him to exchange
the drugs with Moorehead to cover a debt Thompson owed
Although a conviction cannot rest solely on the
uncorroborated testimony of an accomplice, corroboration
requires only slight evidence from an extraneous source
identifying the accused as a participant in the criminal act.
Corroborative evidence may be circumstantial and based on the
testimony of other accomplices. And it does not have to be
sufficient to warrant a conviction. Rather, the
corroboration, which may include the defendant's conduct
before and after the crime, need only connect and identify
the defendant with the crime.
(Citations, punctuation, and footnotes omitted.) Clark v.
State, 294 Ga.App. 331, 333 (670 S.E.2d 131) (2008).
Here, Lackey gave a detailed account of the sale, including
Thompson's planning and execution of the crime. His
testimony is corroborated by the testimony of Moorehead. It
is further corroborated by the four trash pulls at
Thompson's residence, yielding pill bottles, full
prescriptions, and doctor's notes, and the search of
Thompson's residence, yielding a large number of
prescription pills. Based on the foregoing, there was
evidence from which the jury could exclude any reasonable
inference or hypothesis but for Thompson's guilt.
Marsengill, 275 Ga.App. at 841. Accordingly, the
evidence was sufficient to support Thompson's conviction.
Lancaster, 291 Ga.App. at 348.
Next, Thompson argues the trial court erred by improperly
commenting on the evidence three separate times during trial.
However, before addressing the alleged error, we must first
determine our standard of review.
current OCGA § 17-8-57, "[i]t is error for any
judge, during any phase of any criminal case, to express or
intimate to the jury the judge's opinion as to whether a
fact at issue has or has not been proved or as to the guilt
of the accused." OCGA § 17-8-57 (a) (1). The
Supreme Court of Georgia recently held that OCGA §
17-8-57 applies to cases ...