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Evans v. State

Supreme Court of Georgia

August 5, 2019

EVANS
v.
The STATE.

Page 819

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 820

         Superior Court, Tift County, Melanie B. Cross, Judge

          Conger & Smith, Gregory D. Smith, for appellant.

         C. Paul Bowden, District Attorney, Jason M. Rea, Assistant District Attorney; Christopher M. Carr, Attorney General, Patricia B. Attaway Burton, Deputy Attorney General, Paula K. Smith, Senior Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          OPINION

         Ellington, Justice.

          A Tift County jury found Ruby Evans ("Appellant") guilty of conspiring with her son to murder her daughter-in-law, Sunday Blombergh, with an overdose of drugs and of committing malice murder as a party to her husband’s subsequent acts of shooting, strangling, and stabbing Blombergh to death.[1] She appeals, contending that the evidence was insufficient to support her convictions and

Page 821

that she was denied the effective assistance of trial counsel. Finding no error, we affirm.

         1. Appellant contends that the evidence was insufficient to prove that she participated in Blombergh’s murder. She argues that it showed that her husband, Herman Evans, was alone with Blombergh when he killed her, and that he was provoked to violence by Blombergh [306 Ga. 404] while arguing with her about her drug abuse. Evans pleaded guilty to murder and received a life sentence. Although Appellant admitted that she had wished Blombergh dead, she contends that her mere approval of Evans’ crime was insufficient to hold her criminally liable.[2] For the following reasons, we disagree.

         "Every person concerned in the commission of a crime is a party thereto and may be charged with and convicted of commission of the crime." OCGA � 16-2-20 (a). As is relevant to this case, Appellant is concerned in the commission of a crime if she "(3) [i]ntentionally aids or abets in the commission of the crime; or (4) [i]ntentionally advises, encourages, hires, counsels, or procures another to commit the crime." OCGA � 16-2-20 (b) (3), (4). Although mere presence at the scene of the crime or mere approval of a criminal act is insufficient to establish that a defendant was a party to the crime, a jury may infer from such evidence - as well as evidence of companionship and conduct before, during, and after the crime - that the defendant shared a common criminal intent with the one who performed the criminal act. See Slaton v. State, 296 Ga. 122, 124 (1), 765 S.E.2d 332 (2014) (A jury could reasonably infer from the evidence concerning defendant’s conduct in calling his fellow gang members to retrieve him from an apartment where someone was threatening him, as well as his celebrating with them that evening after the shooting that enabled him to leave, that he was a party to the crime under OCGA � 16-2-20 (b) (4) by advising, encouraging, counseling, or procuring others to commit the shooting.).

         When evaluating a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence, we view the evidence admitted at trial in the light most favorable to the verdict and ask whether any rational trier of fact could have found the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. McGruder v. State, 303 Ga. 588, 590 (II), 814 S.E.2d 293 (2018) ("Our limited review leaves to the jury the resolution of conflicts in the evidence, the weight of the evidence, the credibility of witnesses, and reasonable inferences to be made from basic facts to ultimate facts." (citations and punctuation omitted)). So viewed, the evidence at trial showed that Theo Conoly (Appellant’s son from a previous marriage) and Blombergh had a child together, I. C., who was born in February 2003. Toward the end of 2009, Conoly and Blombergh separated. Conoly moved to Tallahassee, Florida, and Blombergh and I. C. moved in with the [306 Ga. 405] Evanses in their Tift County home. Appellant disapproved of Blombergh’s substance abuse and frequently complained that she was an unfit mother. She called Blombergh "lazy, selfish, conceited, and a horrible mom," and opined that her granddaughter would be better off without Blombergh. She wished that Blombergh would overdose and die. On a number of occasions, Appellant "told," "ordered," or "screamed at" Evans to kill Blombergh. She said that if he loved her and I. C. and was "any kind of man," he would kill Blombergh to get her out of I. C.’s life.

          In late March 2010, Conoly returned home from Tallahassee to visit his family. Conoly testified that, during a visit with Appellant at her Tifton flower shop, she asked him how much money it would take to buy a fatal drug overdose for Blombergh. Conoly told her it would take about $60. Appellant gave him the money and drove him to Blombergh’s dealer. Conoly bought cocaine with the money, but instead of killing Blombergh with it, he and Blombergh used it ...


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