NAHMIAS, PRESIDING JUSTICE.
Jonah Lay was convicted of two counts of felony murder and a
firearm offense in connection with the shooting death of
Jason Abram. Appellant contends that the evidence presented
at his trial was insufficient to support his convictions,
that venue was not sufficiently proved, that his trial
counsel was ineffective in failing to object to certain
testimony, and that he was not given the proper amount of
time for his closing argument. As explained below, we reject
Appellant's contentions, but because the trial court
erred by entering convictions and sentences against him on
two counts of felony murder for killing one victim, we vacate
those convictions and remand the case for
Viewed in the light most favorable to the verdicts, the
evidence presented at Appellant's trial showed the
following. On January 31, 2001, Appellant lived at 1014 Dill
Avenue, and Carol Smith lived down the street at 852 Dill
Avenue, which is in Fulton County. Appellant and Smith had
recently ended their romantic relationship, and Smith was
dating Abram. That morning, Appellant called Smith's
house. Abram, who was visiting Smith, answered the phone.
Appellant asked to speak to Smith and then told her and Abram
to get their guns ready because he was on his way to confront
them. Appellant then went to his room and got
his revolver. He gave it to his cousin, Marcus Brown, and
they walked out of the house together. When they got outside,
Brown gave the gun back at Appellant's request. Brown
stopped walking with Appellant before they reached
Smith's house, because Brown knew Appellant "had a
beef" with Abram and Appellant said he was "getting
ready to do something."
the street at Smith's house, Smith told Abram about
Appellant's threat, and Abram said he was going to go
outside to meet Appellant on the street to "keep him
from coming to the house and talk to him." Smith's
niece Erica, who was also in the house, asked Abram if he had
a gun; he said, "yeah," pointed to his back pocket,
and went outside. Smith also went outside, while Erica stayed
inside and watched from the window. Smith and Erica both saw
Appellant run down the street toward Abram carrying a gun.
Smith heard gunshots, and she ran back into the house and
looked out the window; she then saw Abram fall to the ground.
She did not see either man fire. Erica saw Appellant fire his
gun, hitting Abram and causing him to fall to the ground. She
did not see Abram fire.
heard three shots.
was hit twice, once in the arm and once fatally in the lower
abdomen. First responders found him lying in the front yard
of the house at 860 Dill Avenue; that house is the next house
on Dill Avenue after Smith's house, although Graham
Street runs between them. Abram was taken to a hospital,
where he died. The police did not find a gun on or around
Abram. The medical examiner concluded that both shots were
fired at Abram from at least two feet away. The two bullets
that struck Abram were .38-caliber metal-jacketed bullets
fired from the same revolver. A .38-caliber metal jacket
fragment, which matched the bullets removed from Abram, was
found at the scene, as were eight 9mm cartridge cases.
after the shooting, Appellant and Brown ran to a cousin's
car nearby and drove away. In the car, Appellant said that he
hoped he hit Abram but did not kill him. Some time later that
day, Appellant called his brother and his brother asked if
Appellant knew that he had killed Abram. Appellant answered,
"I did? I hit him? Good. Good." The police spoke to
Appellant's family and encouraged them to have him turn
himself in, which he did later that evening. About a week
before trial, Appellant sent his brother a letter asking him
to recant his statement to the police that Appellant told
Smith and Abram that Appellant was on his way and they should
did not testify at trial. His defense was that Abram shot at
him first and he was defending himself.
Appellant argues that the evidence presented at trial
required the jury to find that he acted in self-defense, but
there was sufficient evidence for the jury to conclude that
he was in fact the aggressor in the confrontation with Abram.
See OCGA § 16-3-21 (b) (3) (stating that "[a]
person is not justified in using force [in self- defense] if
he . . . [w]as the aggressor"); Mosby v. State,
300 Ga. 450, 452 (796 S.E.2d 277) (2017) ("An aggressor
is not entitled to a finding of justification.").
Appellant warned Smith that he was coming to the house where
she was with Abram and that they should be ready with guns.
Then he armed himself and hurried down the street to confront
Abram, telling Brown that he was "getting ready to do
something." Smith and Erica saw Appellant approach Abram
carrying a gun, and Erica then saw Appellant fire first.
After killing Abram, Appellant fled the scene, expressed
satisfaction that he had shot Abram, and tried to get his
brother to lie about the events leading to the shooting.
Brown testified that Abram drew and pointed his gun first and
Appellant's friend testified that Abram fired the first
shot, that testimony would not necessarily mean that
Appellant was not the initial aggressor, and the jury was
entitled to disbelieve that testimony entirely. Indeed, Brown
had changed his story about being able to see who fired
first, and Appellant's friend seemed to change his story
about Abram falling down before he fired back at Appellant.
See Lowe v. State, 298 Ga. 810, 812 (783 S.E.2d 111)
(2016) (explaining that a jury is free to disbelieve the
defendant's evidence of self-defense); Vega v.
State, 285 Ga. 32, 33 (673 S.E.2d 223) (2009)
("'It was for the jury to determine the credibility
of the witnesses and to resolve any conflicts or
inconsistencies in the evidence.'" (citation
omitted)). See also Mosby, 300 Ga. at 455
("That [the appellant] fired the fatal shot while trying
to get away from the gunfight she started does not change the
analysis regarding the lack of justification of a defendant
who was shown to be the aggressor."). When viewed in the
light most favorable to the jury's verdicts, the evidence
presented at trial was legally sufficient to authorize the
jury to find Appellant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of
the crimes of which he was found guilty. See Jackson v.
Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 319 (99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d
Appellant also argues that the State did not sufficiently
prove that the crimes happened in Fulton County.
"'[V]enue is a jurisdictional fact the State must
prove beyond a reasonable doubt in every criminal
case.'" Worthen v. State, 304 Ga. 862, 865
(823 S.E.2d 291) (2019) (citation omitted).
discussed earlier, the evidence at trial showed that Smith
lived at 852 Dill Avenue, which is in Fulton County, and the
deadly confrontation occurred very near that address; Abram
was found lying in the front yard of 860 Dill Avenue, which
is across a street from Smith's house. Although there was
no direct testimony that the location where the fatal injury
was inflicted is also in Fulton County, "[t]he State may
meet its burden at trial using either direct or
circumstantial evidence." Id. The jurors could
reasonably infer from the proximity of the crime scene to 852
Dill Avenue that it too is in Fulton County, particularly as
there was no evidence or even argument that the crime scene
is near a county line. See id. at 874. "Ordinary
Georgians understand from their everyday experience that it
is highly unusual to cross a county line when they merely
walk across the street." Id. at 868
Accordingly, the evidence presented at trial was sufficient
to prove that Appellant's crimes were committed in Fulton
County as charged.
trial, the lead detective on the case, Jim Rose, testified
that he was not at the police station when Appellant turned
himself in, but Detective Michael Anthony called to brief him
on the situation. Detective Rose gave this account of the
call, without objection:
[Detective Anthony] asked me if I was going to come in, and
at first I told him yes, I would come in, because [Appellant]
had signed a waiver, which meant waiver of counsel, that he
wanted to speak to - to us in reference to this incident. And
then I received, I believe, a second phone call a minute or
two after that, and I was advised by Detective Anthony that
[Appellant] had changed his mind, and he did not want to
speak to us, he wanted to speak to his attorney first. At
that point ...