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Cheeves v. State

Supreme Court of Georgia

August 5, 2019

CHEEVES
v.
The STATE.

          Superior Court, Spalding County, W. Fletcher Sams, J.

          Michael W. Tarleton, for appellant.

         Benjamin D. Coker, District Attorney, Marie G. Broder, E. Morgan Kendrick, Assistant District Attorneys; Christopher M. Carr, Attorney General, Patricia B. Attaway Burton, Deputy Attorney General, Paula K. Smith, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Matthew M. Youn, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          OPINION

         Melton, Chief Justice.

          Following a jury trial, Kendrick Cheeves was found guilty of malice murder and various other offenses in connection with the shooting death of Quinton Henderson.[1] On

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appeal, Cheeves contends only that the trial court erred by failing to charge the jury on involuntary manslaughter. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

         1. Viewed in the light most favorable to the jury’s verdict, the evidence presented at trial reveals that, on April 11, 2014, Henderson drove to his uncle’s house with Meshari Brown and Marshall Westmoreland. Several other individuals, including Nathaniel Wellmaker, also joined the men at Henderson’s uncle’s house. When Henderson arrived at the house, Cheeves, a convicted felon, walked up to Henderson’s car. Henderson got out of his car and spoke to Cheeves. Brown observed that, although he could not hear what Henderson and Cheeves were saying to each other, Henderson was not being aggressive when he initially interacted with Cheeves. Nevertheless, Henderson and Cheeves began arguing, and Wellmaker [306 Ga. 447] separated Henderson from the confrontation by pulling him back to Henderson’s car. But Henderson walked back over to where Cheeves was standing. Cheeves pulled out a gun and started waving it around, and he pointed the gun in Henderson’s face. Henderson continued to argue with Cheeves. Cheeves then shot Henderson while angrily saying, "F**k this ni**er. F**k that ni**er." The wounded Henderson turned and tried to run away from Cheeves, but Cheeves followed him and continued to fire at him, hitting him at least six times. Some of the gunshots occurred after Henderson had already fallen to the ground. Henderson suffered nine gunshot wounds, including one behind his right ear and one in his upper back shoulder; he died at the scene. Cheeves got into a car and fled. When police arrived, witnesses to the incident informed them that Cheeves had shot Henderson.

         Although Cheeves has not challenged the sufficiency of the evidence in this case, it is our customary practice to review the sufficiency of the evidence in murder cases. See, e.g., Wainwright v. State, 305 Ga. 63 (1), 823 S.E.2d 749 (2019). Having done so, we conclude that the evidence presented at trial was sufficient to authorize a rational jury to find Cheeves guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the crimes of which he was convicted. Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560 (1979).

         2. In his sole enumeration of error, Cheeves contends that the trial court erred by failing to give his requested jury instruction on involuntary manslaughter based on reckless conduct. See OCGA � 16-5-3 (a) (involuntary manslaughter based on commission of an unlawful act other than a felony) and OCGA � 16-5-60 (b) (misdemeanor reckless conduct).

         While the record does not entirely support Cheeves’s contention that he clearly requested a charge on involuntary manslaughter, even if we assume from the record that he did request such a charge, there is no error. "A person commits the offense of involuntary manslaughter in the commission of an unlawful act when he causes the death of another human being without any intention to do so by the commission of an unlawful act other than a felony ..." (Emphasis supplied.) OCGA � 16-5-3 (a).

[T]he essential elements of the crime of involuntary manslaughter in the commission of an unlawful act are, first, intent to commit the unlawful act [other than a felony]; and secondly, the killing of a human being without having so intended but as the proximate result of such intended unlawful act.

[306 Ga. 448] (Citation, punctuation, and emphasis omitted.) Paulhill v. State, 229 Ga. 415, 418 (2) (a), 191 S.E.2d 842 (1972).

         Here, the evidence at trial revealed only a killing resulting from felony aggravated assault with a deadly weapon (see OCGA � 16-5-21 (a) (2)), not a death that proximately resulted from Cheeves "consciously disregarding a substantial and unjustifiable risk that his act or omission w[ould] cause harm or endanger the safety of [Henderson] and [that] the disregard constitute[d] a gross deviation from the standard of care which a reasonable person would [have] exercise[d] in the ...


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