MCFADDEN, C.J., MCMILLIAN, P.J., and GOSS, J.
MCMILLIAN, PRESIDING JUDGE
Michael Charles Ward was acquitted of stalking, he was tried
and convicted by a jury of aggravated stalking against the
same victim. He appeals, pro se, following the denial of his
motion for new trial, as amended, raising claims of double
jeopardy, prosecutorial misconduct, a biased judiciary,
ineffective assistance of counsel, a defective and improper
indictment, and improper and insufficient evidence to support
his conviction. As more fully set forth below, we now
so as to support the jury's verdict, the record shows
that Ward and the victim began dating in 2005 and had an
on-again, off-again relationship for the next several years.
During this time, Ward lived in Marietta, Georgia, and the
victim lived alone in a house located in a somewhat remote
area in Oconee County, and she also had a vacation home on a
lake in another county. By the summer of 2007, the victim and
Ward were once again having problems, and the victim told him
she did not want to continue seeing him. Over the summer,
Ward showed up at the victim's various residences
unannounced, and on at least one occasion he brought a
handgun that he told the victim he planned to use to shoot
whomever he found her with.
early August 2007, the victim told Ward not to call her
anymore, but Ward came to her home while she was out of town.
Later in August, the victim sent an email to Ward reiterating
that their relationship was over and that he needed to come
pick up his belongings, and Ward showed up at her house
unannounced a few days later. The victim helped him pack up
his things and then told him once again that the relationship
was over. However, the victim kept receiving long emails from
Ward reiterating his love for her, and he showed up at her
home again in early September in hopes of a reconciliation
but the victim once again told him they were through and
requested he leave. And on September 6, 2007, the victim sent
Ward another email with the subject line "NO MORE,"
in which she emphatically told him not to contact her in any
way. Nevertheless, around September 18, 2007, Ward showed up
at her house with gifts and asked her to marry him. She
declined and told him to leave. However, he was waiting for
her when she came home the night of October 2, 2007, and she
told him he was frightening her with his behavior and asked
him to leave.
this time frame, the victim also detected signs that someone
had been in her home while she was away. Because of her
concerns about Ward's behavior, the victim contacted an
attorney she knew in early October 2007. The attorney
called Ward and told him that the victim did not want to have
any further contact with him and that he would be sending him
a letter to that effect, which he sent shortly afterwards;
this letter was read to the jury at trial. On October 22,
2007, the victim's housekeeper and teenage
daughters saw a man dressed in camouflage walking
around the outside of the victim's Oconee County house
and in the nearby woods. The housekeeper called police and
showed them a picture of Ward and "suggested" it
might be him. At the responding officer's suggestion, the
victim made a request for a security check, which alerted
officers of the need to patrol her property more frequently,
and which contained a specific notation that Ward was not
allowed to be on the property.
telephone call with Ward at the end of October during which
he called the victim a "whore" and was screaming at
her, the victim went to the Oconee County Sheriff's
office and talked to a Detective. On November 2, 2007, the
Detective contacted Ward and told him that he had talked to
the victim and she had made it clear that she did not want
any further contact with Ward of any kind whatsoever. He said
that Ward told him that he had already ended all contact with
days later, on November 5, 2007, the victim's nephew,
spotted a car on property near the victim's house and
noticed it was registered to the county where Ward lived at
the time. The nephew called the police and then noticed Ward
walking out of the woods wearing camouflage. The Detective
came to the scene where he recovered a number of items from
Ward's car, including a number of personal items that
appeared to be taken from the victim's home, information
about her friends, phone numbers taken from the caller
identification on her phone, and various tools that could be
used to break into her house, which Ward admitted to police
he planned to use to gain access to the victim's
this incident, Ward was arrested and then released on a
"no-contact" bond on Tuesday, November 6, 2007. On
November 20, 2007, a multi-count indictment was returned
against Ward charging him with multiple counts of burglary,
computer theft, theft by taking, possession of tools in the
commission of a crime, and stalking. In early December 2007,
Ward ordered a book called "Redeeming Love" off
Amazon.com and had it delivered to the victim's
house. Ward was arrested for violating his
no-contact bond and subsequently indicted on the felony
offense of aggravated stalking on January 24, 2008.
August 2009, Ward was tried on the first indictment charging
him with misdemeanor stalking and various other crimes.
Despite the evidence of Ward's unsolicited and alarming
contacts with the victim, a jury acquitted him of all charges
except for possession of tools in the commission of a crime.
Ward did not appeal that conviction.
Ward's acquittal on the misdemeanor stalking charge, the
State moved to dead docket the pending aggravated stalking
charge, but Ward objected and the trial court denied the
State's request. In January 2010, just five months after
his acquittal on the stalking and other charges, a jury
convicted Ward of aggravated stalking,  and he was
sentenced to the maximum of ten years with credit for time
served. Ward filed a motion for new trial on February 3,
2010, and following several amendments and a lengthy delay, a
hearing was held on the motion on September 21, 2017. The
trial court denied the motion on December 14, 2017, and Ward
timely filed a notice of appeal to this Court on January 8,
first address the issue of the troublesome delay in this case
between the time of trial and the ruling on the motion for
new trial, which delayed the docketing of this appeal. As
noted above, well over seven years passed between the time
Ward filed his motion for new trial and when the trial court
held the hearing on the motion such that Ward's timely
notice of appeal was not filed in this case until almost
eight years after his conviction. Ward was in jail from the
time he was re-arrested on the aggravated stalking charge,
and according to his brief, he completed serving his sentence
and was released from prison in February 2018.
This sort of extraordinary post-conviction, pre-appeal delay
puts at risk the rights of defendants and crime victims and
the validity of convictions obtained after a full trial. It
is the duty of those involved in the criminal justice system,
including trial courts and prosecutors as well as defense
counsel and defendants, to ensure that the appropriate
post-conviction motions are filed, litigated, and decided
without unnecessary delay. That duty unfortunately was not
fulfilled in this case.
Robinson v. State, 334 Ga.App. 646, 647 (1) (780
S.E.2d 86) (2015).
several related enumerations of error, Ward argues that his
prosecution on the aggravated stalking charge violated
principles of double jeopardy and that the trial court should
have have granted his motion in limine to exclude admission
or reference to the evidence introduced during Trial 1.
Specifically, he argues that because he had been acquitted of
stalking in Trial 1, evidence from trial had been "used
up" and could not be introduced to convict him of
aggravated stalking in Trial 2. He also asserts that the
crimes should have been prosecuted together under OCGA
§§ 16-1-7 (b) & 16-1-8 (b) (1). Under the facts
of this case, we agree that reversal is
begin our analysis by stating our standard of review.
"The appellate standard of review of a grant or denial
of a double jeopardy plea in bar is whether, after reviewing
the trial court's oral and written rulings as a whole,
the trial court's findings support its conclusion."
(Citation and punctuation omitted.) Garrett v.
State, 306 Ga.App. 429, 429 (702 S.E.2d 470) (2010).
However, "we review de novo the trial court's
application of the law to undisputed facts." (Citation
and punctuation omitted.) Id.
Double Jeopardy Clause in the Fifth Amendment to the United
States Constitution provides: "[N]or shall any person be
subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of
life and limb." Likewise, the Georgia Constitution and
Georgia statutory law prohibit the government from placing a
defendant in jeopardy twice for the same offense following
either an acquittal or a conviction and also prohibit
multiple punishments for the same offense.
Supreme Court of the United States has recognized that the
Double Jeopardy Clause of the federal Constitution protects
two vital interests. Yeager v. United States, 557
U.S. 110, 117 (II) (129 S.Ct. 2360, 174 L.Ed.2d 78) (2009).
First, the State is prohibited from making repeated attempts
to convict an individual for the same offense, thereby
subjecting him to the ordeal and anxiety of successive
prosecutions. Id. at 117-18 (II). In particular,
"[t]he Double Jeopardy Clause forbids a second trial for
the purpose of affording the prosecution another opportunity
to supply evidence which it failed to muster in the first
proceedings. This is central to the objective of the
prohibition against successive trials." Burks v.
United States, 437 U.S. 1, 11 (98 S.Ct. 2141, 57 L.Ed 2d
1) (1978). "The second interest is the preservation of
the finality of judgments." (Citation and punctuation
omitted.) Yeager, 557 U.S. at 118 (II).
Supreme Court has similarly recognized that under the shield
of double jeopardy
[a] defendant is protected . . . from attempts to re-litigate
the facts after an acquittal and from attempts to secure
additional punishment after a prior conviction and sentence.
In addition to the risk of enhanced punishment for the same
offense, successive prosecutions allow the State to unfairly
rehearse its presentation of the evidence and hone its trial
strategy, while also incrementally increasing the burden on
the defendant to defend himself.
(Citations and punctuation omitted.) Perkinson v.
State, 273 Ga. 491, 493-94 (1) (542 ...