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West v. State

Supreme Court of Georgia

March 11, 2019

WEST
v.
THE STATE

          ELLINGTON, JUSTICE.

         Following a jury trial, Reco Dehaven West, a/k/a Rico Dehaven West, was found guilty of malice murder and other offenses arising out of a home invasion that resulted in the shooting death of Nicolas Jackson II.[1] On appeal, West contends that the trial court erred in admitting evidence that he conspired and attempted to improperly influence a juror in his trial. He also claims that the evidence was insufficient to enable a rational trier of fact to find him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of armed robbery and of felony murder predicated on the armed robbery. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.

         Viewed in a light most favorable to the verdict, the evidence shows the following. On the afternoon of February 2, 2012, Nicolas and his sister, Nikia Jackson, drove from school to their Gwinnett County residence. No one else was home. After they entered through the basement door, Nicolas went to his room in the basement and Nikia went to her room upstairs. While she was watching television, Nikia heard what she thought was the sound of a bouncing basketball. She left her room and called for her brother, but she heard no response.

         When Nikia got to the living room on the main floor, she looked out the window and saw a van full of men. Another man carrying a black bag got into the vehicle, which sped away. Nikia found Nicolas lying against his bedroom door, bleeding and not speaking. The day after the shooting, Nikia identified West from a photographic lineup as one of the men in the van.

         A lieutenant with Gwinnett County fire emergency services responded to a 911 call from the Jackson home, where he discovered that Nicolas had no pulse and was not breathing. His attempt at CPR was unsuccessful. According to the medical examiner, Nicolas died as a result of a gunshot wound to the chest.

         Apparently as a result of Nikia's 911 call, a City of Norcross police officer was advised of a burglary in process at the Jackson home and that a silver van was being used in the burglary. En route to the Jackson home, the officer saw, and then followed, a silver van. The van stopped after the officer activated his blue lights and turned on his siren. Two men, West and Anthony Lumpkin, got out and ran. When backup arrived, officers ordered the four men who remained in the van out of the vehicle and then placed them in handcuffs. Another responding officer located and arrested West and Lumpkin.

         Timothy Johnson, the driver of the van, testified at West's trial after entering a negotiated plea of guilty to charges related to the shooting. According to Johnson, a cocaine dealer named Kevell Ross wanted Johnson to find someone to burglarize the Jackson residence with the understanding that Ross would take 15 % of the proceeds. Ross promised they would find at least $1 million in cash.

         Johnson further testified that he and Darrez Chandler, Jason Dozier, Lumpkin, and Eddie Green were involved with planning the burglary. After they conducted surveillance of the residence, and following an aborted attempt in December 2011, Dozier called Johnson on February 2, 2012, and told him that he and Chandler were "going back up there this morning." Johnson then met with Dozier, Chandler, and Lumpkin. Green arrived with the van, and Johnson eventually agreed to drive.

         According to Johnson, he and Green left to pick up the "young guys" to assist in the crime. West and his co-defendant, Michael Davis, got into the van when they pulled up. West and Davis were both armed, and Lumpkin had already told them about the planned burglary.

         Johnson further testified that he drove to the Jackson residence with West, Davis, Dozier, Lumpkin, and Green in the van. Chandler drove a Pontiac and served as a lookout. When they arrived, West, Davis, Dozier, and Lumpkin got out of the van and walked down the driveway to the basement door. Johnson circled the block, and he heard gunfire when he came back to the house. He quickly circled around a second time, and, before he could stop the van, he saw the four men exiting the home and running towards him. Dozier was carrying a laptop computer bag. After the men got in the van, Lumpkin said that he "had to shoot" someone inside the house. Shortly thereafter, a police car followed the van and activated its blue lights. When Johnson stopped, he saw his passengers handing guns to Green, who threw them out of the vehicle.

         A Smith & Wesson .40 caliber handgun and a Jiminez Arms 9 mm handgun were discovered on the ground in the vicinity of the van. Police found two more handguns, including a Kel-Tec .380, inside the van, as well as a laptop computer taken from the Jackson residence.

         Following the arrest of West, Davis, Dozier, Green, Johnson, and Lumpkin, an officer used gunshot residue kits on them. Examination of the kits by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation ("GBI") showed gunshot residue on West, Davis, Dozier, and Lumpkin, the four men identified by Johnson as having entered the Jackson residence. The kits did not show gunshot residue on Johnson or Green.

         Nine millimeter and .380 shell casings were recovered from inside the Jackson home. Investigators found that the basement door of the Jackson home had been kicked in from outside, and that there was a shoe impression on the door. That shoe print was consistent with Lumpkin's shoes. Dozier's DNA and fingerprints were found on the Kel-Tec .380. The testimony of a GBI firearms examiner showed that the bullet recovered from Nicolas's body was fired by the Jiminez Arms 9 mm.

         The State introduced recordings of several incriminating telephone calls made by West while he was in jail. In one call, West spoke with a man who identified himself as Ball. Before the call recording was played for the jury, a detective testified that the parties to the call used "condom" as a coded reference for gun. Johnson had previously testified that Lumpkin was known as "Cat Eyes." During the call, after Ball asked about the "little homie," West explained, in apparent reference to the victim, that "[h]e closed the door ...


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