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Brown v. State

Supreme Court of Georgia

October 7, 2019

BROWN
v.
The STATE.

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          Superior Court, Chatham County, Louisa Abbot, Judge.

         Steven Lee Sparger, for Appellant.

         Patricia B. Attaway Burton, Deputy Attorney General, Paula Khristian Smith, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Christopher M. Carr, Attorney General, DEPARTMENT OF LAW, Margaret Ellen Heap, District Attorney, Christine Sieger Barker, A.D.A., EASTERN JUDICIAL CIRCUIT DISTRICT ATTORNEY’S OFFICE, Scott Orion Teague, Assistant Attorney General, DOUGLAS COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY OFFICE, for Appellee.

          OPINION

         Benham, Justice.

         Appellant LaQuan Brown appeals her convictions for the murder of Ivory Carter, the armed robbery and aggravated assault of George Jackson, and the attempted murder and attempted armed robbery of Frederick Knight.[1] Appellant contends that the evidence

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was insufficient to sustain her convictions, that the trial court erroneously ruled on a number of evidentiary matters, that the rule of lenity should be applied to her sentences, and that trial counsel was ineffective in eight different ways. Finding no reversible error, we affirm.

          Reviewing the facts in a light most favorable to the verdicts, the evidence adduced at trial established as follows. On July 27, 2014, Appellant contacted Prince Owens for a ride, asking to be picked up near an apartment complex. Owens arrived at the location and waited for Appellant, but she never appeared and never answered his telephone calls. When Owens returned to his home, he discovered that it had been burglarized.

          On July 30, the same telephone number that Appellant had used to contact Owens was used to contact Ivory Carter, a sales manager at a local car lot who drove a dealership-owned Nissan Murano. Numerous telephone calls occurred between Appellant and Carter that day, including one just minutes before a witness observed three individuals surround an SUV and then heard a number of "pops." That witness then observed a man, later identified as Carter, run toward him for help; Carter, who had been shot, collapsed in front of the witness and subsequently died of his injuries. Days later, Appellant and one of her co-indictees, Rashard Mosley, went to stay with Appellant’s cousin, Mary Singleton. The pair arrived at Singleton’s residence driving a Nissan Murano, and Appellant later confided in Singleton about Carter’s shooting. Singleton ultimately learned that the murder occurred because a planned robbery had gone awry.

          On August 3, Appellant used Singleton’s telephone number to contact George Jackson, who was driving in the area of Singleton’s residence. According to Jackson, he heard someone call out his name and then saw people on bicycles steer in front of his vehicle; when he stopped, two individuals jumped into his SUV. One of the individuals, a woman, brandished a weapon and demanded that Jackson turn over his keys. Following a struggle for the firearm, Jackson escaped on foot; his cellular telephone and car keys were taken from the vehicle. Jackson would later point out Appellant in a photo array, indicating that she "favored" the woman from the incident.

          The next day, Appellant used Singleton’s telephone to arrange a meeting with Frederick Knight, who was acquainted with Appellant from a previous romantic encounter. Knight drove to a location near Singleton’s residence, and Appellant met him on the street, positioning herself halfway into the vehicle. As the pair were talking, Mosley walked up to Knight and pointed a gun at him, telling Knight not to do anything. In response, Knight pressed the accelerator; Appellant jumped out of the truck, and Mosley fired numerous shots at Knight’s fleeing vehicle. Singleton would testify at trial that, after this incident, she overheard Appellant and Mosley remark that they "didn’t get anything" from the incident.

          After Knight reported the shooting to police, Appellant and Mosley were arrested at Singleton’s residence. A Nissan Murano with a shattered windshield was recovered in an adjacent lot, and a subsequent search of Singleton’s residence yielded the firearm used against Knight, as well as vehicle keys for both the Murano and Jackson’s vehicle. The jury learned that Appellant’s DNA was found on the key to the Murano; that Appellant had sent inculpatory letters from jail acknowledging her involvement in the crimes and comparing herself and Mosley to "Bonnie and Clyde"; and that Appellant ultimately gave a statement to police admitting her involvement in Carter’s murder, which, she explained, resulted from a botched robbery.

         1. Appellant first contends that the State failed to adequately prove Count 25 - criminal attempt to commit a felony (attempted armed robbery of Knight) - as that crime was alleged in the indictment and, thus, that there was a fatal variance between the indictment and the proof at trial. This claim has no merit.

         Criminal attempt is accomplished "when, with intent to commit a specific crime, [a person] performs ...


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