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Frazier v. State

Court of Appeals of Georgia, Second Division

October 1, 2019


          MILLER, P. J., RICKMAN and REESE, JJ.

          Reese, Judge.

         A Chattooga County jury found James Frazier ("the Appellant") guilty of multiple offenses, including four counts of burglary, [1] arising from actions that occurred from August 9, 2002, through August 11, 2002. The trial court sentenced the Appellant to serve 40 years in confinement, consecutive to sentences imposed by the Superior Court of Murray County and the Superior Court of Whitfield County, without the possibility of parole. The Appellant appeals from the denial of his motion for new trial, arguing that there was insufficient evidence to convict him of burglary as set forth in Count 4 of the indictment, and that the trial court erred in permitting correctional officers to provide courtroom security. For the reasons set forth infra, we affirm.

         Viewed in the light most favorable to the jury's verdict, [2] the record shows the following. The victim ("R. J.") kept a 22-foot, "pull behind[, ]" one-room camper on Dry Creek Road in a deer camp in Chattooga County in which he stayed during deer season. R. J. averred that he had parked the camper at the deer camp for "[a]bout four years[, ]" and he camped there about six or seven times a year for "two or three days at a time[, ]" although the camper did not have a bathroom, electricity, or refrigeration. He kept mattresses, a propane lantern, a tent, touch-operated lights, medical supplies, and a "12[-]volt light" in the camper.

         On August 11, 2002, an investigator notified R. J. that his camper had been broken into around August 9, 2002. R. J. went to the deer camp to inspect the camper the next day. When he arrived on the morning of August 12, R. J. saw that the "[pad]lock had been shot off the door, holes had been shot through the windows [in] the back, the inside had been ransacked and stuff was missing." He testified that he kept valuable hunting supplies in his camper and that his sleeping bag, propane lantern, tent, and 12-volt light were missing from the camper. He further testified that he did not know the Appellant or the Appellant's co-defendant Shellan Lawson, and had not given either of them permission to enter his camper.

         Shellan Lawson testified that she met the Appellant through a friend and decided to buy the Appellant's car for $500. The Appellant asked her to go camping with him, and she agreed because she wanted to swim and planned to stay with a friend overnight, after dropping the Appellant off at the camp. Sometime during the weekend of August 9 through August 11, 2002, Lawson and the Appellant traveled to the deer camp in Chattooga County.

         Lawson testified that the Appellant brought some camping supplies and a gun, and she initially thought that the Appellant had permission to stay in the campers on the campground. She testified that the Appellant told her at some point that he had broken into the campers. Lawson admitted that she and the Appellant stole "camping stuff, sleeping bags, [and] chairs" from the campers. Further, on or about August 11, 2002, men from a neighboring campsite asked Lawson and the Appellant whether "[they] had seen anybody that had stolen stuff[ ]" from the campers. Lawson testified that the Appellant and the men "[got] into a confrontation[, ]" and she ran into the woods and stayed there overnight. The next day, she left the woods and was arrested. Lawson testified that she pled guilty to charges, including burglary and theft, and was sentenced to serve twenty years, with six years in confinement, and had promised to testify truthfully in the Appellant's case.

         The jury found the Appellant guilty of burglary as to R. J.'s camper.[3] The trial court granted the Appellant's motion for an out-of-time appeal, and the Appellant filed a motion for new trial. After an 11-year delay, [4] the trial court conducted a hearing, after which it denied the Appellant's motion. This appeal followed.

On appeal from a criminal conviction, we view the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict and an appellant no longer enjoys the presumption of innocence. This Court determines whether the evidence is sufficient under the standard of Jackson v. Virginia, [5] and does not weigh the evidence or determine witness credibility. Any conflicts or inconsistencies in the evidence are for the jury to resolve. As long as there is some competent evidence, even though contradicted, to support each fact necessary to make out the State's case, we must uphold the jury's verdict.[6]

         "The standard of Jackson v. Virginia[7] is met if the evidence is sufficient for any rational trier of fact to find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the crime charged."[8] With these guiding principles in mind, we turn now to the Appellant's specific claims of error.

         1. The Appellant argues that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction for the burglary of R. J.'s camper. Specifically, the Appellant contends that the State did not show that the camper was "designed for use as a dwelling[, ]" as charged in Count 4 of the indictment. We conclude that there was sufficient evidence for the jury to conclude, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the use of the camper was established as a dwelling, as indicted.

         Former OCGA § 16-7-1 (a) provided that a person committed burglary when,

without authority and with the intent to commit a felony or theft therein, he enters or remains within the dwelling house of another or any building, vehicle, railroad car, watercraft, or other such structure designed for use as the dwelling of another or enters or remains within any other building, railroad car, aircraft, or any room or any part thereof.

         The State charged the Appellant in Count 4 of the indictment with burglary, for alleging that he "unlawfully, without authority and with the intent to commit a theft therein, enter[ed] the camper ...

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