Superior Court, Emanuel County, Kathy Palmer, Judge.
Joseph Walker, Georgia Public Defender Council, Appellate
Division, for Appellant.
H. Altman, District Attorney, Courtney McGowan Patterson,
A.D.A., Middle Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office,
Patricia B. Attaway Burton, Deputy Attorney General, Paula
Khristian Smith, Senior Assistant Attorney General,
Christopher M. Carr, Attorney General, Department of Law,
Scott Orion Teague, Assistant Attorney General, Douglas
County District Attorney Office, for Appellee.
Appellant Jacquez Laquan Worthen appeals his 2014 conviction
for felony murder in connection with the shooting death of
Robert Lee Parrish, Jr. He contends that the evidence was
insufficient to support his conviction as a party to the
shooting and that the trial court abused its discretion in
admitting gang evidence over his objection. We
Viewed in the light most favorable to the prosecution, the
evidence at trial showed the following. Appellant, Jhakeem
Armstrong ("Armstrong"), Armstrong’s older brother
Jeremy Armstrong ("Armstrong’s brother"), and
Reginald Young, Jr. were all members of the "Circle of
Ten" sub-group of the Crips street gang. On April 5,
2012, which was the Thursday before Easter, Armstrong’s
brother attended a house party across the street from East
Georgia State [306 Ga. 601] College with a man nicknamed
"Big Man." Parrish’s son and his friends Darshan
Habersham and Jakolby Williams were students at the college
and attended the same party. "Big Man" twice
deliberately bumped into Parrish’s son, prompting Habersham
to intervene. Habersham ended up in an argument with
Armstrong’s brother, which escalated into a fist fight
outside the house in front of other people. Habersham won the
fight decisively, with Parrish’s son and Williams eventually
having to pull Habersham off Armstrong’s brother.
evening of Easter Sunday, April 8, 2012, Parrish’s son went
to a park for a cookout with friends. Numerous people were in
the park, including Appellant, who was there with Armstrong,
Armstrong’s brother, and Young. At some point, Appellant
approached Parrish’s son and accused him of
"jumping" Armstrong’s brother with Habersham at the
house party in an unfair two-on-one fight; Parrish’s son
denied the charge. Appellant said that he had "some boys
coming" to the park, and "we’re going to find out
what really happened" at the party. Parrish’s son viewed
Appellant’s statements as a threat and called his father for
rushed to the park, found his son, and told him to step aside
while he discussed the problem with Appellant. Appellant said
to Parrish, "[Y]o, your son jumped my homeboy,"
meaning Armstrong’s brother. Parrish invoked his and his
son’s family ties with Appellant and told Appellant that he
therefore should not be fighting with Parrish’s son.
Appellant replied that he knew they were related but that he
still would fight Parrish.
that point, a crowd of 20 to 30 people had gathered around.
Armstrong, who had a blue bandanna hanging out of his back
pocket, twice said to Appellant, "let’s just go on and
do this n**ger," referring to Parrish. As the argument
continued and Parrish turned away, Appellant loudly asked
Armstrong, "you got that heat cuz[?]" Armstrong
immediately pulled out a gun and shot Parrish in the back of
the head. Parrish fell to the ground, and Armstrong stood
over him and shot him twice more, once in the upper chest and
once in the face, killing him. Appellant and Armstrong then
fled in the same direction as the crowd scattered.
Although Parrish brought his loaded nine-millimeter handgun
with him to the park, he kept it holstered with the safety
on. At no point did Parrish threaten to hurt anyone or point
his gun at anyone.
addition to testimony about what happened at the house party
and in the park, the State presented testimony by Charles
Whitaker, an expert in gang investigations. Whitaker
testified that the Crips [306 Ga. 602] street gang has a
presence in Georgia; that gangs are associated with certain
colors; that the color blue is predominantly associated with
the Crips; and that he has seen Crips members in Georgia
wearing blue bandannas, or sometimes black. He identified
certain hand signs associated with the Crips, including two
that Appellant and Armstrong regularly made, as well as
gang-affiliated tattoos in a photograph of Armstrong.
Whitaker also testified that respect is an important aspect
of gang culture; that throughout the course of his long
career, nine times out of ten, an incident of gang violence
started "over somebody being disrespected"; that in
gang culture, disrespect ...