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Boyd v. State

Supreme Court of Georgia

June 24, 2019


          Warren, Justice.

         Kevin Boyd was convicted of felony murder and other crimes in connection with the shooting death of Ray Murphy.[1] On appeal, Boyd contends that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions and that the trial court erred in several ways. Finding no error, we affirm.

         Viewed in the light most favorable to the jury's verdicts, the evidence presented at trial showed the following. On the night of August 10, 2013, Ray Murphy and his friend Eric Mann went to a house at 718 Reed Street in Monroe, Georgia, to purchase methamphetamine. Earlier that day, Murphy had contacted B.J. Crutchfield to arrange the buy. Rather than conduct the drug deal himself, Crutchfield passed it off to Kevin Boyd and Blake Harris. Boyd then spoke on the phone with someone about a drug deal. According to Adrian Ansley, Boyd's girlfriend at the time, she, Boyd, Harris, and Crutchfield were all members of the 9 Trey Gangstas, a sub-group of the Bloods gang.[2] Sometime after overhearing Boyd's phone discussion, Ansley drove Boyd and Harris to pick up the drugs and, after that, drove them to Reed Street. At some point, Boyd told her that he was going to give the purchasers less drugs than the agreed-upon amount; in other words, Boyd planned to short-change the deal. Ansley observed that Boyd had a gun while in her car, but by the time Boyd and Harris got out of her car, Harris had taken possession of the gun.

         The house on Reed Street was Jurshia Jones's, who was at that time pregnant with Boyd's child. Boyd arrived while Jones was in the shower, and, shortly after that, he told Jones's young daughter to leave the living room and go to Jones's room. Around this time, Murphy and Mann showed up; Mann's wife had driven them there.

         Boyd exited the house and approached the car to escort Murphy and Mann inside. Once inside the house, they all sat down in the living room. While conversing with Murphy, Boyd pulled out a bag and at least twice said the phrase "baby mama" as an apparent signal to Harris because Harris (not Jones, who was pregnant with Boyd's child and whom he would refer to as "baby mama") then entered the room and pointed a gun at Mann and Murphy. Boyd then said, "y'all already know what it is," which Mann understood as meaning that he and Murphy were being robbed.

         According to Mann, Boyd and Harris started digging through Mann's and Murphy's pockets and telling them to "give it up." Pushing Boyd's hands away from Mann's pockets, Mann tried to escape through the front door. As Mann began opening the door, Harris approached him from behind and hit him across the side of the head with a gun, which then fired.

         Upon hearing the gunshot, Murphy tried to escape by jumping through a window. According to Mann, Harris turned to Murphy and shot at him, hitting him in the buttocks. Mann then escaped through the door and ran toward his wife's car. Shots were being fired at Mann as he ran away, but he made it to the car without being hit and his wife drove away quickly. Murphy, already wounded, made it out of the house, but Harris followed him into the yard and shot him in the shoulder.[3] Harris attempted to get money from Murphy, not knowing that Boyd had already done so. Murphy died shortly thereafter at the hospital. A state medical examiner testified at trial that either of the two gunshots could have been fatal, but the shot to Murphy's buttocks hit the femoral artery and caused fatal bleeding. Additionally, Murphy had injuries consistent with jumping through a window, which, based on other testimony, appeared broken from the inside out. From the crime scene, investigators recovered spent 9-millimeter shell casings in the house and the front yard, a spent 9-millimeter bullet lodged into the wall inside the house near the door, and an unspent 9-millimeter bullet.

         After the shooting, Boyd's cousin drove Boyd and Harris to a night club in Monroe, then to a night club in Gwinnett County. From there-and at the behest of Terry Brown, who described himself as having "seniority over" Boyd within the 9 Trey Gangstas-Boyd and Harris went to a house in Atlanta that was a Bloods "hang out," where Boyd stayed to "get away" from Monroe until being arrested three days later. Harris returned to Monroe before Boyd's arrest. Ansley also went to the Atlanta house and stayed there until she was arrested shortly before Boyd. When Ansley was arrested, police recovered a Smith & Wesson 9-millimeter handgun from her purse that she testified was the gun Boyd possessed the day of the shooting. A GBI firearms expert later examined and tested the Smith & Wesson 9-millimeter handgun that had been recovered from Ansley, and also the spent shell casings and bullets that police recovered during their investigation of the crime scene. The expert testified that all of the shell casings and bullets were of the same caliber and from the same manufacturer, and that the spent rounds were all fired from the Smith & Wesson 9-millimeter handgun that police recovered from Ansley's purse.

         At trial, Brown testified that Boyd called on the night of the shooting and told him that he needed to get out of Monroe because he had "committed murder." Brown told Boyd to come to Atlanta to stay in a house there, which he (and Ansley) described as a "hang out" for members of the Bloods. Brown testified that when Boyd showed up, Boyd had a gun and was nervous like "his mind was somewhere else." According to Brown, Boyd's version of events recounted a drug deal gone wrong. Specifically, he told Brown that "he was making a drug deal, that he thought the victim was going to try to rob him first," and that "the man stood up[, so Boyd] stood up, pulled out the gun and when he pulled out the gun the man tried to go out the window and [Boyd] shot him." Brown later went to Monroe and spoke with Harris about what happened. While there, Brown said, Harris told Brown that Boyd shot Murphy in the buttocks, then gave the gun to Harris, who pursued Murphy into the yard and shot him a second time.

         Brown also testified about the gang affiliations of Boyd, Harris, Crutchfield, and Ansley. He testified that Boyd and Ansley were members of the 9 Trey Gangstas, a sub-group of the Bloods. According to Brown, Harris was a member of a different Bloods sub- group, and Crutchfield was not a member of the Bloods, but was a friend of the gang. Crutchfield denied any gang affiliation and testified that he did not remember any of the relevant events. However, investigators discovered on Boyd's cellular phone a text message that Crutchfield had sent Boyd hours before the drug deal and murder that contained the 9 Trey Gangstas oath. Finally, Brown testified that the drug deal was not carried out at the behest of the Bloods.

         1. Boyd first contends that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions. For the reasons explained below, we disagree.

         When evaluating challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence, we view the evidence presented at trial in the light most favorable to the verdicts and ask whether any rational trier of fact could have found the defendant 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); Jones v. State, 304 Ga. 594, 598 (820 S.E.2d 696) (2018). We leave to the jury the resolution of conflicts or inconsistencies in the evidence, credibility of witnesses, and reasonable inferences derived from the facts. Jones, 304 Ga. at 598. "As long as there is some competent evidence, even though contradicted, to support each fact necessary to make out the State's case, the jury's verdict will be upheld." Williams v. State, 287 Ga. 199, 200 (695 S.E.2d 246) (2010) (citation and punctuation omitted).

         (a) To support Boyd's conviction for felony murder, the State was required to prove that Boyd proximately caused, either directly or as a party to the crime, Murphy's death while in the commission of aggravated assault. See OCGA § 16-5-1 (c); Menzies v. State, 304 Ga. 156, 161 (816 S.E.2d 638) (2018). "A person commits the offense of aggravated assault when he or she assaults . . . [w]ith a deadly weapon or with any object, device, or instrument which, when used offensively against a person, is likely to or actually does result in serious bodily injury." OCGA § 16-5-21 (a) (2). And the trial court charged the jury on Georgia's "party to a crime" statute, which provides that "[e]very person concerned in the commission of a crime," including one who "[d]irectly commits the crime" or "[i]ntentionally aids or abets in the commission of the crime" is "a party thereto and may be charged with and convicted of commission of the crime." OCGA § 16-2-20 (a), (b) (1) & (3). "While mere presence at the scene of a crime is not sufficient evidence to convict one of being a party to a crime, criminal intent may be inferred from presence, companionship, and conduct before, during and after the offense." McGruder v. State, 303 Ga. 588, 591 (814 S.E.2d 293) (2018) (citation and punctuation omitted).

         The evidence presented at Boyd's trial showed, among other things, that he agreed to sell methamphetamine; possessed a Smith & Wesson 9-millimeter handgun, which he gave to Harris on the way to the drug transaction; and escorted Murphy and Mann into the house where Harris remained out of sight until Boyd verbally signaled for him to appear. Boyd then said to Murphy and Mann, "y'all already know what it is," which Mann understood to mean they were being robbed. Boyd and Harris then emptied Murphy's and Mann's pockets at gunpoint, telling them to "give it up," before Harris, Boyd, or both men shot Murphy and shot at Mann. Boyd and Harris left the scene together, and after Boyd telephoned Brown-a more senior 9 Trey Gangstas member-and told him that Boyd had "committed murder," Boyd and Harris traveled to the Atlanta safe house together, where Boyd remained until his arrest three days later. This evidence was sufficient to authorize a rational jury to find beyond a reasonable doubt that Boyd was guilty, at least as a party of the crimes of armed robbery and aggravated assault, as charged in the indictment[4]; that the predicate crime of aggravated assault against Murphy proximately caused Murphy's death, thus ...

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