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Scott v. State

Supreme Court of Georgia

October 7, 2019

SCOTT
v.
THE STATE.

          PETERSON, JUSTICE.

         Corduray Keith Scott appeals from his convictions for felony murder and cruelty to children in the second degree in connection with the death of his three-month-old son, Corduray Scott Jr.[1] Scott challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to support his convictions and also argues that the trial court erred in admitting statements he gave during his second interview with law enforcement because, although he was properly advised of and waived his Miranda rights before his first interview, he was not reminded of his rights prior to the start of the second interview. We affirm Scott's convictions because the evidence was sufficient to support them and there was no Miranda violation.

         Viewed in the light most favorable to the jury's verdicts, the trial evidence showed that the victim was born to Scott and Shakeila Jones on September 27, 2009. The couple lived together in an apartment and also had a daughter. The couple alternated taking care of the victim.

         In the early morning hours of January 18, 2010, Jones changed the victim's diaper and put the victim in a swing, where the infant sometimes slept. The victim appeared normal and nothing unusual happened earlier that day. Jones went to sleep for a few hours, and Scott was responsible for watching the victim during this time.

         When Jones woke up later that day, she checked on the victim and noticed that he was unresponsive, his feet were shaking, his arms were stiff, and his eyelids were half-closed. Jones first called a nurse hotline and then 911. Jones accompanied the victim to the hospital, while Scott remained at home with the couple's other child.

         When the victim arrived at the hospital, he was lethargic, experiencing seizures, and having trouble breathing. Dr. Renuka Mehta, a pediatric expert, treated the victim at the hospital. Dr. Mehta observed bruising on the victim's body and, based on his symptoms, believed that the victim had bleeding in his brain. A CT scan confirmed the doctor's suspicions. The victim also presented with severe retinal hemorrhaging, which Dr. Mehta explained was indicative of severe acceleration and deceleration of the victim's head. The victim stopped breathing because of substantial swelling in his brain and was pronounced clinically brain dead within hours of arrival. He was placed on a ventilator for three days before being taken off life support. In her examination of the victim, Dr. Mehta did not observe any congenital or birth defects that would have caused or contributed to his injuries.

         The medical examiner who performed the autopsy observed blunt force trauma that caused bruising under the scalp and a small fracture of the skull, and significant hemorrhaging in the eyes and some hemorrhaging in the victim's neck that were consistent with violent shaking. The medical examiner determined that the victim's cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head and violent shaking. The medical examiner opined that the victim's fatal head injuries occurred mere hours before his admission to the hospital, because the severity of the victim's injuries would have caused the seizures to begin within hours, and the victim began seizing soon after his admission to the hospital.

         The medical examiner also observed older injuries to the victim, including: nine rib fractures at different stages of healing that were consistent with a very forceful squeezing of the victim's chest; a laceration to the liver that could only be caused by a forceful impact to the abdomen; and old bleeding in the lungs indicative of instances of asphyxia. The medical examiner closely examined the victim's bones and found no evidence of rickets or Vitamin D deficiency that could have explained why the victim had so many bone fractures. The medical examiner, Dr. Mehta, and another pediatrician specializing in child abuse all opined that the victim's injuries were intentionally inflicted and non-accidental.

         Police briefly spoke to Jones at the hospital and later brought Jones and Scott into the police station for questioning on January 18, 2010. An investigator read Scott his Miranda rights at the beginning of the interview, and Scott agreed to answer questions after waiving his rights. During the interview, Scott exhibited odd behavior by smiling and laughing and displayed no emotion when told that his child might be dead. Scott claimed that the victim was injured when the swing broke and the baby fell from it.

         The investigator re-interviewed Scott the next day after the investigator talked to the hospital doctors and learned the full extent of the victim's injuries, including evidence of chronic abuse. Before beginning the interview, the investigator reminded Scott of his Miranda rights, although he testified that he did not go back over them in detail, and Scott confirmed that he understood his rights. During the second interview, which was video recorded, Scott recounted several instances where the victim had been hurt: one instance where the victim rolled off the bed; one instance where the victim was found facedown on the couch; and another instance in which the victim hit his head against a doorframe while being carried by Scott. In the instance where the infant victim was found facedown on the couch, Scott explained that he put the infant in the corner of the couch, went to use the restroom, and, when he returned about ten to fifteen minutes later, the infant was facedown and his face had begun to change colors due to a lack of oxygen.

         Using a doll provided by the investigator, Scott also demonstrated how he played "rough" with the three-month old child, which included tossing the infant up into the air, squeezing the infant, and bouncing with the baby. The medical examiner reviewed the video-recorded demonstration and concluded that the actions Scott demonstrated were not "extensive" enough to produce the amount of force that caused the victim's injuries. Dr. Mehta similarly testified that Scott's self-reported actions would have had to be more exaggerated than displayed in the video recording in order to cause the victim's injuries.

         Scott testified in his own defense at trial. He denied ever intentionally hurting the victim and claimed that he was telling the truth when he told the detective that the only thing that happened on the day of the victim's death was that the victim fell when the swing broke. He admitted that he once left the victim unattended on the couch for about ten to fifteen minutes in order to use the restroom and found the victim facedown struggling to breathe and changing color due a lack of oxygen.

         1. Scott argues that the trial court erred in denying his motion for a directed verdict of acquittal on the counts for which he was convicted. We disagree.

         When reviewing the denial of a motion for directed verdict of acquittal, we apply the same standard used to evaluate the sufficiency of the evidence supporting a guilty verdict under Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307 (99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560) (1979). See Smith v. State, 304 Ga. 752, 754 (822 S.E.2d 220) (2018). Under that standard, we view the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdicts and ask whether any rational trier of fact could have found the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the crimes of which he was convicted. See id. (citing Jackson). Questions concerning witness credibility, conflicts in the evidence, and the weight of the evidence are for the ...


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