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Blackmon v. State

Supreme Court of Georgia

June 3, 2019


          Nahmias, Presiding Justice.

         Appellant Danny Blackmon, Jr. was convicted of felony murder and other crimes in connection with the shooting death of his wife Bobbie Blackmon. Appellant contends that the trial court abused its discretion by admitting certain hearsay statements into evidence during his trial, and that in its order denying his motion for new trial, the court improperly relied on facts that were not in evidence. Both of those claims are meritless, so we affirm.[1]

         1. Viewed in the light most favorable to the verdicts, the evidence presented at Appellant's trial showed the following. On April 28, 2015, Appellant argued with his wife Bobbie about photographs of a sexual nature that were on her cell phone; Appellant believed that she had sent the photos to another man. Appellant took some pills, drank a bottle of cold medicine, cried, and yelled at Bobbie. He then left the mobile home that he shared with Bobbie, their daughter Leigh Ann Hathcock, and her children.

         Around 8:00 p.m., Bobbie asked her niece Christina Turner, who lived in a camper just outside the mobile home, to drive her to her mother's house because she and Appellant were arguing. Shortly after Bobbie and Turner turned onto the road from their driveway, Appellant passed them in his car. He then turned his car around, flashed his lights to signal Bobbie and Turner to stop, and pulled up beside their car. He told Turner that she "better get [her] ass back down to the house and [she] better not leave, [she] better not take [her] aunt nowhere." Appellant then threatened to shoot the car if Turner did not drive back to the mobile home. Bobbie told Turner to drive them back home.

         As they drove, Bobbie said that she loved Turner and Turner's brother (Bobbie's nephew), that Turner should take care of Bobbie's daughters, and that Turner and Bobbie's daughters needed to "stick together." Bobbie also said that "this is it for her, that she was not leaving the house tonight." When they arrived at the mobile home, Appellant, who also had driven back there, began throwing his tools off the front porch, saying that "he didn't need no tools no more, he wasn't going to be working on nothing no more." Turner asked Bobbie if she wanted Turner to call the police; Bobbie said no, but told Turner, "stay with me, don't leave me."

         Around 9:00 or 10:00 p.m., Appellant wrote letters to each of his three daughters. In one of the letters, he wrote, "I can't be here, I will hurt your mother, y'all split everything three ways." Appellant then went into the woods near the mobile home with a rifle, apparently to kill himself. Bobbie did not attempt to stop him, and eventually he came back inside. Later that evening, Appellant tried to blow up a propane tank that was about 40 feet from the mobile home by turning on the gas and attempting to ignite a lighter. Bobbie yelled for him to stop, and Turner woke up Hathcock and her children and told them to get out of the mobile home because Appellant was "blowing the house up." When Appellant's lighter did not ignite, he said that Bobbie was a witch who had put a spell on it.

         Later that night, Appellant and Bobbie drove together to pick up Appellant's mother, but they turned back when they learned that she had another place to stay. When they returned to the mobile home an hour or two later, they were calm. Bobbie then went to sleep in a chair in the living room. Turner stayed on a couch near Bobbie, who was scared and called out Turner's name several times during the night to make sure she was still nearby. Around 3:30 a.m., Appellant kicked Bobbie's chair and said, "get your ass up, come here, I want to show you something." Bobbie followed him to their bedroom and sat on the bed as Appellant kneeled in front of her. Turner offered to come into the bedroom with them, but Bobbie replied, "No," and closed the door. Turner listened outside the door and heard Appellant and Bobbie talking.

         Around 4:00 a.m., Hathcock heard a gunshot and Appellant's screams for help. She and Turner went into the bedroom and saw Bobbie sitting slumped over on the bed with a large gunshot wound on the left side of her neck. Turner called 911, and Appellant asked Hathcock if Bobbie was dead. Hathcock noticed that Bobbie was breathing and asked for Appellant's help. He, Turner, and Hathcock then drove Bobbie to the end of their long driveway to meet the emergency responders.

         A sheriff's office sergeant and emergency medical providers responding to the 911 call met them as they turned out of the driveway. Bobbie was taken to a hospital, where she later died from her gunshot wound. Appellant told the sergeant that he had not meant to shoot Bobbie and that "he was trying to shoot himself and he shot his wife." The sergeant searched Appellant and found in his pocket a small box that contained 1.69 grams of methamphetamine.

         Near the carport outside the mobile home, investigators found a bloody jacket with a bullet hole in the collar and a bloody, black t-shirt. On the bed in Appellant and Bobbie's room, they found blood stains and five long guns. A 12-gauge pump-action shotgun was leaning against the bed. In the shotgun, there was one spent shell casing for a large solid bullet known as a "slug." Investigators found the slug that had passed through Bobbie's neck in a window frame in the bedroom. A firearms examiner later determined that the shotgun was functioning properly and required 3 and 3/4 pounds of trigger-pressure to fire. Bobbie's autopsy showed that the gun was between a few inches and three feet away when she was shot. The medical examiner also concluded that Bobbie had bleeding in her scalp caused by a blunt impact injury.

         At trial, Appellant admitted to shooting Bobbie but claimed it was an accident. He testified as follows. After Bobbie went to sleep in the living room, he woke her, saying that they needed to talk and carrying the shotgun in his hand. In the bedroom, he kneeled in front of her as she sat on the bed and put the gun, with the butt stock on the floor, under his chin. He pulled the trigger but the gun did not fire, so he opened the slide; Bobbie then pulled the top of the gun away from him, and the slide closed while his thumb was caught in the trigger, causing the gun to fire into Bobbie's neck. As he helped Turner carry Bobbie to the car, her jacket slipped over her head, and he dropped her on the ground.

         Appellant also elicited testimony from the medical examiner that the blunt impact injury to Bobbie's head could have been caused by Appellant's dropping her. To rebut Appellant's accident theory, the State presented a GBI agent's expert testimony that based on the trajectory of the slug found in the window frame, the shotgun was in a "fairly level position" and the butt stock of the gun could not have been on the floor when Bobbie was shot.

         Appellant does not challenge the legal sufficiency of the evidence supporting his convictions. Nevertheless, in accordance with this Court's practice in murder cases, we have reviewed the record and conclude that, when viewed in the light most favorable to the verdicts, the evidence presented at trial and summarized above was sufficient to authorize a rational jury to reject Appellant's accident defense and to find him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the crimes of which he was convicted. See Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 319 (99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560) (1979). See also Jones v. State, 304 Ga. 320, 323 (818 S.E.2d 499) (2018) ("[I]t is the role of the jury to resolve conflicts in the evidence and to determine the credibility of witnesses, and the resolution of such conflicts adversely to the defendant does not render the evidence insufficient." (citation and punctuation omitted)).

         2. Appellant contends that the trial court abused its discretion by admitting Turner's hearsay testimony about certain statements that Bobbie made to her ...

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