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Collins v. State

Supreme Court of Georgia

August 5, 2019

COLLINS
v.
The STATE.

Page 766

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 767

         Superior Court, Cobb County, A. Gregory Poole, Judge

          Justin Wyatt, M. Joel Bergstrom, for appellant.

         John S. Melvin, District Attorney, Michael S. Carlson, John R. Edwards, Assistant District Attorneys; Christopher M. Carr, Attorney General, Paula K. Smith, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Scott O. Teague, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          OPINION

         Nahmias, Presiding Justice.

          Appellant Casey Collins was convicted of malice murder and other crimes in connection with the strangling death of his 78-year-old grandfather, Edward Ronald Smith. On appeal, he contends that his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance by failing to investigate and present evidence that he was sexually abused by Smith and by failing to withdraw as counsel after Appellant filed a bar complaint alleging ethical violations. We conclude that these contentions are meritless, so we affirm.[1]

          1. Viewed in the light most favorable to the jury’s verdicts, the evidence presented at trial showed the following. Smith was a drug dealer who ran a prescription pill scheme. As part of the scheme, he would take Appellant and other family members to different doctors to obtain prescriptions for pain medicine. Smith would then give the family member half of the prescribed pills and keep the remaining half to sell. Appellant and his girlfriend, Sarah Cook, were addicted to opiates and would often dissolve the pills in water and inject the resulting solution. They also bought pills from Smith almost daily for about $20 per pill, and Smith would occasionally "front" them pills when they did not have enough money. Appellant and Cook lived together in her grandmother’s house on Kemolay Road in Mableton.

          On May 2, 2013, the couple woke up "dope sick," experiencing withdrawal symptoms and in need of another pill. They called Smith [306 Ga. 465] to ask for more pills. When he arrived at the house, he refused to front Cook any pills because she already owed him about $700. Cook then took her grandmother’s bank card, and Smith drove Appellant and Cook to an ATM, but the bank account was empty.

Page 768

When they returned home, the couple begged Smith to front them some pills. He refused, which made them angry. Appellant and Cook went inside while Smith waited in his pickup truck in the carport. Appellant told Cook to ask Smith one more time to front them pills; if Smith refused, they would rob him. Appellant gave Cook a pocketknife and told her that he "had [her] back" and that "I want to f* *king kill him." Cook understood that Appellant would give her a signal and then she was to start stabbing Smith.

          When they walked outside, Smith was still sitting in the driver’s seat of his truck. Cook got in the passenger’s seat, and Appellant stood beside the open driver’s side door. Cook again asked Smith to front them some pills, and Smith again refused. Cook looked at Appellant, who gave her a nod; she then began stabbing Smith in the chest with the pocketknife. Smith tried to defend himself, but Appellant took his belt off, wrapped it around Smith’s neck, and twisted the belt as he pulled it tight, strangling Smith for two to four minutes until Smith died. Appellant then took Smith’s wallet and pills, shoved his body behind the truck’s seats, and covered it with the built-in tarp.

          Appellant and Cook drove the truck around town for the rest of the day, injecting dissolved pills and spending about $1,000 that they found in Smith’s wallet at two gas stations, a Walmart, two Targets, and a GameStop. Around 8:20 p.m., the couple abandoned the truck in a condominium complex, ...


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