MELTON, CHIEF JUSTICE.
a jury trial, Justin Cody Tuggle was convicted of murder and
related offenses in connection with the stabbing and beating
death of Kevin Harmon. Tuggle appeals, alleging, among other
things, that the trial court erred in admitting a hearsay
statement of a co-defendant at trial, and erred in denying
his motion for mistrial. We affirm.
in the light most favorable to the jury's verdict, the
evidence presented at trial established that, on February 14,
2011, officers responded to the residence of Monica Martin in
Griffin after receiving a call from Martin's nephew,
Tuggle, reporting a robbery and an assault. Upon their
arrival, officers encountered Tuggle, Todd Jones, and William
Moore; the men were covered in blood. Tuggle had a swollen
spot on his head and an inch-long cut near his left thumb.
Moore was being treated for a stab wound to the leg. Tuggle
told officers that he and Moore had been the victims of a
their initial investigation, officers found blood inside and
outside the vehicle the men had been driving, and located a
knife sheath on the back passengers-side floorboard of the
car. A bloody knife was recovered from behind a refrigerator
inside the Martin residence; it was later identified as
belonging to Moore. Tuggle's aunt also located $40
underneath a rug inside her home, a bloody aluminum baseball
bat in the woods behind the residence, and some of Jones'
clothes in a burn pile on the side of the home.
providing several conflicting stories and inconsistent
information regarding the location of the alleged robbery,
Tuggle confessed that he, Jones, and Moore were the
perpetrators, not the victims, of the robbery and assault.
Tuggle told officers that the men were at a gas station when
they observed Harmon withdraw money out of an ATM;
thereafter, the group decided to rob him. After withdrawing
money, Harmon approached the group looking to buy drugs, and
Tuggle volunteered to drive Harmon to a spot where he could
make a purchase. Surveillance video from the gas station
showed Harmon get into a vehicle with the three men. Tuggle
stated that they first drove Harmon to a friend's house
in the Runaway Lakes Subdivision in Spalding County with the
intention of robbing Harmon in the front yard. When the
homeowner refused to allow the robbery to occur, the group
left, driving Harmon to a vacant lot within the same
exited the vehicle and smoked some marijuana. At some point,
Moore grabbed Harmon from behind, and Tuggle took $40 from
Harmon's pocket. During a struggle, Harmon obtained a
knife from Moore's person and stabbed him in the leg.
Thereafter, Tuggle stabbed Harmon in the right buttock and
then Jones struck Harmon with a baseball bat. The group left
Harmon in the vacant lot and drove to the Martin residence,
home of Tuggle's aunt. There, Tuggle admitted to his aunt
that the three men had tried to rob someone of drugs and
money and further stated, "I think I hurt him."
the same time, Jones called a family friend, Brenda Maddox.
He asked Maddox not to tell anyone that they had spoken and
then stated that he, Tuggle, and Moore were involved in a
robbery; the victim stabbed Moore during the robbery; he hit
the victim with a baseball bat; and that "they" had
killed the victim. Jones also requested that Maddox bring him
a new pair of shoes because his current shoes had blood on
them and his shoe prints were at the crime scene.
eventually led law enforcement to the vacant lot of the
Runaway Lakes subdivision where Harmon's body was found
covered in blood. His left pocket was turned inside out and
his wallet and a bloody knife were located nearby. The
medical examiner testified that Harmon had suffered
fifty-eight total injuries, including blunt and sharp force
wounds to the head and neck; a stab wound to the right
buttock; defensive wounds to the hands; and several skull
fractures. The medical examiner explained that the stab wound
to Harmon's right buttock was not a fatal injury and
further determined that the multiple blunt and sharp force
injuries to Harmon's head and neck caused his death.
samples taken from the car, the two knives, and the baseball
bat were sent to the GBI for testing; Moore's DNA was
located inside the car, on the baseball bat, and on both
knives, and Harmon's DNA was found on the outside of the
vehicle and on the baseball bat.
Though not enumerated by Tuggle, we find that the evidence as
summarized above was sufficient to enable a rational trier of
fact to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that Tuggle was
guilty of the crimes for which he was convicted. Jackson
v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307 (99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d
First, Tuggle claims that the trial court erred in admitting
the hearsay statements of co-indictee Jones through lay
witness Brenda Maddox at trial. Tuggle argues that, when
Jones spoke to Maddox about beating a man with a baseball bat
and needing new shoes, the conspiracy between Tuggle and his
co-indictees had already ended, thereby rendering Jones'
statements inadmissible against Tuggle under Georgia's
old Evidence Code.
the question of whether the admission of Jones'
statements was erroneous, any error in the admission of the
statements was harmless. First, prior to Maddox's
testimony, the State called the lead investigator on the case
as a witness. He testified, on both direct and
cross-examination, and without any objection, that Jones
requested Maddox bring him a new pair of shoes and further
told her that "they" had beaten a man with a
baseball bat. Accordingly, Maddox's subsequent
testimony was cumulative of other evidence already admitted
at trial. Furthermore, the evidence establishing Tuggle's
guilt, which included Tuggle's own admission of being
involved in the stabbing and beating, was overwhelming. Based
on the foregoing, we conclude it is highly probable that any
error did not contribute to the jury's guilty verdict.
See Timmons v. State, 302 Ga. 464 (2) (b) (807
S.E.2d 363) (2017); Boothe v. State, 293 Ga. 285 (2)
(b) (745 S.E.2d 594) (2013).
Next, Tuggle contends that the trial court erred in denying
his motion for mistrial and in failing to give the jury a
curative instruction during closing arguments after the
prosecutor improperly commented on Tuggle's decision not
to testify. However, because there is no transcript of
closing arguments, and because the trial court made no
finding as to what the State argued, this claim also fails.
record shows that the court reporter did not transcribe
closing arguments, only the objections lodged by the parties.
And, while the prosecutor conceded that she had argued that
Tuggle "never . . . accepted any responsibility or never
showed any remorse," the parties and the trial court
went back and forth attempting to recall exactly what the
prosecutor said and in what context the comment was made -
i.e., whether the prosecutor was referring to Tuggle's
failure to testify at trial or to Tuggle's numerous
statements to law enforcement and his lack of an emotional
response during the same. Indeed, though the trial court
thought it heard the prosecutor say that, "[Tuggle]
never said he was sorry," the court noted that,
"unfortunately, we don't have a recording of it. So
we're all depending on what we think [the prosecutor]
said." Because the parties' closing arguments were
not transcribed, and because the trial court made no findings
as to what the State argued, Tuggle cannot show that ...