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Frazier v. State

Court of Appeals of Georgia, First Division

March 14, 2019

FRAZIER
v.
THE STATE

          BARNES, P. J., MCMILLIAN and REESE, JJ.

          MCMILLIAN, JUDGE.

         Rolando Dupree Frazier was convicted on one count of conspiracy to commit aggravated assault on a police officer but acquitted on four other counts.[1] Frazier appeals the trial court's denials of his motion for directed verdict on the conspiracy charge and his motion for new trial. Because we find that the evidence did not support Frazier's conviction for conspiracy to commit an aggravated assault on a police officer, we reverse.[2]

         Frazier was indicted, along with six other individuals, [3] in connection with an incident in which multiple gunshots were fired at, and at least two struck, an Albany Police Department vehicle driven by an officer with the department. Viewed in the light most favorable to the verdict, [4] the evidence at trial showed that in the early morning hours of August 23, 2011, the officer responded to a call reporting shots fired at an address in Dougherty County. When the officer arrived on the scene, he saw approximately eight to ten males on the street, and after he shone his spotlight on them, they fled. A short time later, while the officer was still on the scene, someone shot at his police car multiple times, with what he said sounded like an automatic weapon, striking the body of the car and shooting out the car's rear window.

         At trial, the State elicited testimony from five of Frazier's co-indictees: David Stephens, Cortavis Davis, Roger Farmer, Steve Washington, and Michael Stephens. When David Stephens was called to the stand, he exercised his constitutional right to remain silent. The trial court then allowed the prosecutor to read his sworn testimony from an earlier court hearing to the jury. At that hearing, David Stephens testified that on the night in question, after leaving a club together, Frazier, Sean Frazier, Michael Stephens, and he were having an argument about his girlfriend when Davis fired a couple of shots into the air to break up the fight. Frazier walked away, and when David Stephens later saw him, he was holding an assault rifle. David Stephens then left the area because he was afraid he would be shot, but as he was running down an alley, he saw a police car and, about two minutes later, he heard multiple gunshots.

         Davis similarly testified at trial that Frazier and David Stephens got into a fight and admitted that he tried to break up the fight by firing a handgun in the air. He testified that once the police arrived on the scene, Frazier told everyone to run and they all did. He said he did not remember his prior court testimony or his prior statements to police. Although he initially testified that he did not see Frazier with a gun that night, he eventually admitted on re-direct that he, in fact, saw Frazier with an AK-47, although he said he did not see him shoot it. However, he said that right after he began running, he heard gunshots. Davis also admitted that he had previously testified that Frazier went into a dark spot, knelt down, and shot 11 to 12 rounds of bullets. An Albany police detective later testified that shortly after the shooting, Davis told him that Frazier had an assault rifle and said that he was about to shoot at the officer, telling the others to run. Davis told the officer that after he ran, he heard gunshots.

         Farmer, Washington, and Michael Stephens also testified regarding the verbal altercation over David Stephens' girlfriend and Davis' shooting a handgun in the air to break up the fight. They each also testified that they saw Frazier with an AK-47 that night, but did not see him shoot the gun because they ran. However, Farmer admitted that he had previously testified that he saw Frazier low to the ground and aiming the gun. And at trial, Washington testified that he knows Frazier fired the shots because he had the gun. Farmer, Washington, and Michael Stephens testified that Frazier announced that he was going to shoot the police, and Farmer and Michael Stephens said that everyone told Frazier not to shoot at the police car. Washington and Michael Stephens testified that they heard gunshots as they were running away. Michael Stephens also stated that he originally told police that Farmer had the AK-47 first.

         Frazier's trial attorney called co-indictee Sean Frazier as a witness for the defense, but he invoked his constitutional right not to testify. Frazier did not take the stand in his own behalf, but during the State's case, the prosecution presented evidence through two Albany police officers that when questioned by police about the incident, Frazier told them about the altercation and Davis' shooting a gun in the air, but he said that Farmer had the rifle and Sean Frazier took it away from Farmer and shot the police car.

         Frazier argues on appeal that the trial court erred in (1) denying his motion for directed verdict as to the charge of conspiracy; (2) denying his request not to submit the conspiracy charge to the jury after the State expressly abandoned the count in its closing argument; and (3) denying his motion for new trial.

         (1) We turn first to Frazier's contention that the trial court erred in sending the charge of conspiracy to the jury because the State failed to present evidence to support a conspiracy. In reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence on a criminal conviction, "we must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict, and we inquire only whether any rational trier of fact might find beyond a reasonable doubt from that evidence that the defendant is guilty of the crimes of which he was convicted" (Citation and punctuation omitted.) Walker v. State, 296 Ga. 161, 163 (1) (766 S.E.2d 28) (2014).

Count 1 of the indictment charged that Frazier
did . . . conspire with [his other co-indictees] to commit the crime of aggravated assault on a peace officer, and in furtherance of such conspiracy [they] did the following overt acts, to wit:
A) Roger Farmer retrieved a rifle from the trunk of his ...

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