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Reid v. State

Supreme Court of Georgia

September 9, 2019


          Bethel, Justice.

         Jameshia Reid appeals from the denial of her motion for new trial after a jury found her guilty of malice murder, felony murder, and cruelty to children in the first degree in connection with the death of her three-year-old son, Jakarie Reid.[1] On appeal, she argues that the evidence against her was insufficient to support the jury's verdicts, that the trial court erred by admitting a recording of an interview Reid gave to a DFCS investigator at the detective bureau, and that the trial court erred by admitting a jail recording of a telephone conversation between Reid and her mother in which they discussed Reid's trial strategy. Finding no error, we affirm.

         1. Viewed in the light most favorable to the verdicts, the evidence presented at trial showed the following. Reid and Latonya Sanders moved into a house in Macon with two of Reid's three children on Sunday, May 19, 2013. Reid's third child resided with Reid's mother in Warner Robins.

         Reid and Sanders were both unemployed, and the house they moved into had no running water, no natural gas service, and no air conditioning. Reid and Sanders were out of money and had been pawning personal items to come up with cash in order to pay rent and activate utility service to the house. Adding to the stress of the move, their living conditions, and their financial situation, Reid had grown frustrated and impatient with her two young children and had become especially "tired of" potty-training her three-year-old son, Jakarie. On Tuesday, May 21, 2013, Jakarie had been particularly difficult, and Reid spanked him.

         The following morning, Reid called Sanders to the kitchen after she found Jakarie with a bottle of acetone. Reid did not seem alarmed that Jakarie had the bottle, but Sanders took it from him and threw it across the room. Neither Reid nor Sanders immediately disciplined Jakarie, but later that morning Reid spanked Jakarie for playing with the acetone bottle and for taking some items out of the refrigerator. Sanders testified that Reid told Jakarie "not to pee on" himself. Sanders testified that while Reid spanked Jakarie, she was outside the house sitting on the front porch with her head in her hands. Sanders could hear Jakarie crying.

         Several of Reid's neighbors testified that, at various times that morning, they could hear angry shouting from an adult female, the sounds of a child being struck, and the sounds of a child screaming and crying in pain. Several of the neighbors also saw Sanders sitting outside on the front porch, while they heard a woman inside the house yelling at and striking a young child, who was screaming. One of the neighbors testified that Sanders appeared to be worried and distraught.

         Just before noon, Sanders was sitting on the front porch of the house making a phone call to a utility company when she heard a commotion in the back of the house. Reid called out to Sanders, and Sanders walked through the house and saw Jakarie unconscious in Reid's arms. Sanders immediately attempted to perform CPR, and she told Reid to call 911.

         Reid called 911 and told the dispatcher that Jakarie's heart had stopped. Reid then took Jakarie from Sanders and continued CPR. Emergency response teams were dispatched and arrived at the home shortly thereafter. The law enforcement officers observed that Jakarie was unresponsive and took over CPR and called an ambulance. The officers also observed bruises and scratches on Jakarie's arms and chest. Reid spoke with officers at the house and indicated to them that Jakarie had consumed acetone before passing out in the home.[2]

         Paramedics took Jakarie to a nearby hospital's pediatric intensive care unit, where he was examined by a pediatrician who specialized in examining children suspected of suffering from abuse. The pediatrician observed that Jakarie had suffered a forehead hematoma and had marks and bruises "everywhere" on his body. Several of the marks appeared to have been caused by a "loop shaped object." The pediatrician concluded that these marks and bruises were the result of "inflicted trauma" and recent child abuse. Jakarie also suffered retinal hemorrhaging and a subdural hematoma, the latter of which had caused blood to gather on his brain. The pediatrician was also concerned that Jakarie's liver and spleen were lacerated. The pediatrician testified that there was no evidence that Jakarie had ingested acetone and that none of his injuries were consistent with having resulted from an accident, as the result of playing with a dog, or from jumping rope, as Reid would later claim.

         Following Jakarie's admission to the hospital, an investigator from the Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) who was not a sworn law enforcement officer, William Herndon, interviewed Reid at the hospital. A physician had notified Herndon's office that Jakarie had been hospitalized and that child abuse was a suspected cause of his injuries.

         Just before speaking with Reid, Herndon observed Jakarie in the hospital's trauma bay and noted that he had "loop marks all about his abdomen" and that he had a "big knot" on his forehead. Herndon introduced himself to Reid and indicated that DFCS and law enforcement would be working the case "jointly." There were no law enforcement officers with Herndon at the time.

         In her interview with Herndon at the hospital, Reid initially claimed that the contusions and abrasions on Jakarie's stomach were a result of Jakarie playing with the dog and playing jump rope the day before. She also indicated that she was solely responsible for disciplining Jakarie. Reid told Herndon that she had discovered Jakarie playing with acetone and other chemicals in the kitchen that morning, after which she took him outside, "popped" him on the forehead, and then sent him back inside. She said that she did not spank Jakarie. Reid then told Herndon that, after Jakarie went back inside, he "fell." According to Reid, she then began performing CPR while Sanders called 911.

         While Reid and Herndon were speaking at the hospital, they learned that Jakarie was being transferred to a children's hospital. Herndon stopped his interview with Reid at that time, left the hospital, and went back to his office. He saw Reid again later that afternoon at the Macon Police Department detective bureau, where he conducted a second interview with her.

         During the interview at the detective bureau, Reid told Herndon that Jakarie suffered the knot on his head when he fell on the back porch after he ingested the acetone. Herndon noted that this contradicted her earlier statement to Herndon in which she told him that Jakarie fell inside after Reid sent him in from the porch. She also told Herndon that she had "anger issues," and admitted to whipping Reid with a jump rope the day before he was taken to the hospital, although she maintained that some of Jakarie's injuries occurred while playing with a dog.[3]

         No detectives or law enforcement officers were present when Herndon interviewed Reid at the detective bureau. Recordings of Herndon's conversations with Reid at the hospital and detective bureau were played for the jury.

         Jakarie later died, and his autopsy revealed that the cause of death was blunt force head trauma. He suffered multiple blunt force injuries, including bruises and abrasions to his torso, back, arms, and legs and internal injuries to his head. Each of those injuries had been suffered recently. The patterns of some of his injuries were consistent with a number of household objects that police removed from Reid's home. The injuries were not consistent with being the result of an accident, ...

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