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Haney v. State

Supreme Court of Georgia

May 6, 2019

HANEY
v.
THE STATE. JACKSON
v.
THE STATE.

          Bethel, Justice.

         Gregory Haney and Ledarius Jackson appeal from the denial of their motions for new trial after a jury found them guilty of malice murder, felony murder, and armed robbery in connection with the death of Gregory Smith.[1] In Case S19A0351, Haney argues that the evidence presented against him at trial was insufficient for the jury to find him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt as to each of the charged offenses and that his defense counsel was ineffective for failing to object to certain opinion and identification testimony offered by two of the State's witnesses. In Case S19A0352, Jackson challenges the sufficiency of the evidence presented against him by the State as to each count of the indictment. Additionally, he argues that his defense counsel was ineffective for failing to raise an objection, pursuant to Bruton v. United States, 391 U.S. 123 (88 S.Ct. 1620, 20 L.Ed.2d 476) (1968), to certain statements made by State witnesses who recounted statements made by Haney implicating Jackson in the crime and for failing to object to the introduction of an audio tape of a conversation between Jackson and his girlfriend. Finding no merit in any of these enumerations, we affirm the convictions of both Haney and Jackson.

         1. Construed in the light most favorable to the verdicts, the evidence presented at trial showed that Gregory Smith worked as a manager at a restaurant in Fayetteville. Smith was dating Katasha Wilson, and the two had an infant daughter. On the night of June 6, 2015, Smith, who was working an evening shift, called Wilson around 9:00 p.m. from the restaurant to let Wilson know he would be working late. Wilson woke up around 5:00 a.m. on June 7, and she saw that Smith had not returned to their home. Wilson called Smith's cell phone, but he did not answer. Wilson then drove to the restaurant with their daughter, and as she pulled into the parking lot, she saw that Smith's car lights were on. Wilson saw a bullet hole through Smith's car window, and she went up to the car, opened the driver's side door, and saw that Smith was dead and "slumped to the side." Wilson called 911. Police responded to the scene, and after talking with Wilson, officers discovered that Smith's car key fob, iPhone, iPad, and military knife were missing.

         The officers who examined the scene discovered one spent shell casing underneath Smith's car and a second spent shell casing about ten feet away from the car. One projectile was found inside Smith's vehicle lodged in the area under the driver's seat. A second projectile passed through Smith's torso and was recovered from his right arm during his autopsy. There was a bullet hole in the glass of the window on the driver's side of Smith's car, and there were bullet holes in both the driver's seat and the pocket of Smith's pants.[2] The projectiles and shell casings recovered from the scene and from Smith's body during the autopsy were nine-millimeter Blazer-brand ammunition, and the crime scene investigator testified that the shell casings recovered from the scene were consistent with having been fired from a nine-millimeter Jimenez handgun.

          The State obtained surveillance videos from the restaurant and from a different business in an adjacent building. The restaurant surveillance video showed that Smith left the front door of the restaurant at 2:51 a.m. and moved toward the location in the parking lot where his car was later found. That video also showed a different vehicle, a Chevrolet sedan, pass behind the restaurant with its headlights off at approximately 2:56 a.m. Video from the adjacent building showed the Chevrolet turn its headlights on, drive through the parking lot, and then turn its headlights off again. The video also showed a person sitting in the passenger seat of the Chevrolet with the window down. The Chevrolet's license plate could not be seen in any of the surveillance videos. With the assistance of a local Chevrolet dealer, the police identified the vehicle in the video as a Chevrolet Malibu.

         On June 21, 2015, Haney saw Shakerra Carson at a Father's Day party Haney's mother, Alicia Paschal, was hosting. Carson was a friend of Haney's sister, and she had previously dated Haney. At the party, Haney told Carson that he and his friend "had went somewhere, and something went wrong because somebody got shot." Haney elaborated that he and Jackson went to the restaurant to commit a robbery, and Haney shot the person they robbed because he "flinched" and appeared to be trying to get away.

         To aid the ongoing investigation of Smith's murder, the surveillance video taken from the adjacent building was released to local media on June 24, 2015. Paschal, Haney's mother, saw the video the next day. She recognized the car shown in the video and knew that it belonged to Jackson's girlfriend, Keshunta Wright.[3]Paschal later told the police that she recognized Haney as the passenger in the vehicle because of a distinctive way he slumped down when he sat in a car. Paschal was familiar with the restaurant where the shooting occurred because Haney had previously worked there. When Paschal saw the initial news of the shooting, she attempted to call Haney and left him a message. She then left another message to say that there had been a murder at the restaurant where Haney had worked. Haney called back and was upset, telling Paschal not to leave messages "like that." According to Paschal, in a later conversation between the two, Haney became irate and screamed at Paschal, saying that the message Paschal left on his phone was "incriminating."

         Carson also saw the news report, and she called Paschal to talk to her about what Haney told Carson about the shooting. Paschal and Carson decided to talk to police about what they had learned. Paschal later confronted Haney, asking him "did you do it?" He replied, "Yeah, Momma." Haney then told Paschal that they had planned only to rob Smith but that he shot Smith because Smith flinched. Haney told Paschal that he and Jackson took Smith's iPhone and destroyed it.

         Paschal asked Haney if there was anything she needed to be worried about at her home, and Haney replied, "Nah. Betty is dead, but the children are living." Paschal understood that statement to mean that "Betty" was the gun and that "the children" were the bullets. In his conversation with Paschal, Haney also mentioned that he was concerned about Jackson.

         Several days later, Paschal spoke with Jackson. Jackson said that he did not "do it" but admitted that he and Haney went to the restaurant together. Jackson said that "it just went wrong" and that they did not go to kill someone. Jackson told Paschal that he and Haney had taken a phone from Smith. Paschal relayed this information to the police. She also provided police with assorted possessions belonging to Haney, including a pistol magazine and a box of nine-millimeter Blazer ammunition. The officer who examined the materials Paschal provided also found Haney's employment documentation from the restaurant, old pay stubs, a trigger guard for a nine-millimeter Jimenez gun, and a receipt for the gun. Haney's fingerprint was identified on the Blazer ammunition box.

         Carson was also interviewed by the police. She told the police that Haney confessed to her that he shot Smith and that Jackson was with him when the shooting occurred.

         At the time of Smith's killing, Jackson did not own a car and would use Wright's car, which was a 2007 Chevrolet Malibu. Jackson was arrested on June 25, 2015, at his workplace. He had driven Wright's car that morning. Police impounded the car and kept it as evidence.

         After his arrest, Jackson made a phone call from the jail to Wright. During the call, Jackson asked Wright what exactly was on the surveillance video that had been aired on the local news, and whether the vehicle's license plate was visible. Wright read portions of a news story about Smith's killing to Jackson over the phone. Concerning the video, Jackson said to Wright, "So you know that is your car," and Wright responded, "Yes, yes." In the same call, Jackson told Wright that she did not have to let the police search her home.

         At trial, an employee of a pawn shop in Jonesboro testified that, on February 28, 2015, Haney's then-girlfriend, Letasha Fortson-Coats, bought a Jimenez J.A. nine-millimeter handgun, a box of Blazer-brand ammunition, and a holster. Three days later, on March 2, Fortson-Coates returned the first Jimenez nine-millimeter gun and bought another Jimenez J.A. nine-millimeter handgun from the pawn shop. Haney was present with Fortson-Coates when she purchased the first Jimenez nine-millimeter gun in her name on February 28, and he was present when she exchanged it for the second Jimenez nine-millimeter gun on March 2. Fortson-Coates testified at trial that she bought the gun and ammunition for Haney. Fortson-Coates did not know what Haney did with the box of ammunition. She later asked Haney for the gun back, and Haney refused. Officers from the Fayetteville Police ...


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