Walker County jury found Jesse Lee Swims guilty of malice
murder and other crimes in connection with the death of
Deborah "Debbie" Leigh Clemenson. Swims appeals,
contending that the trial court erred in denying his motion
for mistrial. For the reasons stated below, we affirm.
Viewed in the light most favorable to the jury's verdict,
the evidence presented at trial showed that Clemenson was
last seen on the evening of Saturday, June 26, 1999. Janet
Clemenson, Clemenson's mother, testified that around 6:30
or 7:00 p.m. that evening, Clemenson helped her bring
groceries into their house and put them away before returning
outside to her friends. Janet last saw Clemenson as Clemenson
was getting into a "darker older model car" with a
"long front end." Janet tried to yell for Clemenson
not to leave, but the car was already driving away by the
time she got to the front door. Joseph Holt, Clemenson's
next-door neighbor, testified that, on that same night, he
also saw Clemenson crossing the street to get into an
"early eighties two tone Thunderbird." Holt
recognized the driver of the vehicle as Adam Hamrick, but
could not identify the vehicle's passenger.
testified that on the day Clemenson disappeared, he was with
Swims and Swims's sister, Ruby, at Swims's
parents' house. Hamrick testified that he argued with
Ruby and that she left her parents' house. After Ruby
left, Swims told Hamrick he had a cooler of beer and some
marijuana and that Hamrick could spend the day with him.
Swims and Hamrick drove around town smoking marijuana and
drinking beer in Hamrick's car, an older model, two-tone
Thunderbird. After driving around for a while, Swims asked
Hamrick to take him to a girl's house that Swims knew so
he could try to "get me some," referring to sex.
Hamrick and Swims drove to a pool hall that was across from
Clemenson's house. Swims went inside the pool hall and
returned to the car with Clemenson. Swims and Clemenson
previously knew each other from watching the Super Bowl at
another individual's house. Swims, Hamrick, and Clemenson
then continued to ride around town while smoking and
Swims suggested they drive up to John's Mountain. Once
there, Swims directed Hamrick down a long dirt road until
they reached a barricade. At the barricade, Hamrick stopped
the vehicle, and Swims got back in the front passenger's
seat. Swims told Hamrick that he had been in the backseat
with Clemenson trying "to do things with her."
Swims told Hamrick that Clemenson was too nervous to do
anything while Hamrick was in the car and that Swims was
going to take Clemenson outside with him to "try to get
some." Swims handed Hamrick some marijuana and told him
to roll some joints to have ready when Swims returned.
about 15 to 20 minutes, Swims returned to the vehicle without
Clemenson. Swims had Clemenson's clothes balled up.
Hamrick asked why Clemenson was not with Swims, and Swims
responded that he took Clemenson in the woods and tried to
"get some from [her]" and when she refused, Swims
raped and killed her. Swims held a knife to Hamrick's
throat and told him if he said anything, Swims would kill him
or have him killed.
told Hamrick to drive to the nearby Conasauga River so Swims
could dispose of the clothes and the knife. As they
approached the bridge over the river, other vehicles were
around, so Swims told Hamrick to go down the road and turn
around. On the way back over the bridge, Swims threw the
clothes and knife out of the vehicle and into the river.
17, 1999, military personnel located a partially decomposed
body in a section of the Chattahoochee National Forest within
Walker County. The body was unclothed other than shoes and
socks. The cause of death was determined to be "homicide
or violence associated with a rectangular perforated injury
of the sternum not otherwise specified." At first, the
identity of the body was unknown. However, the shoes found on
the body were consistent with a pair of shoes Clemenson had
borrowed from a friend. Fiber testing revealed that fibers
taken from the shoes matched fibers of the floorboard
carpeting of Hamrick's vehicle. A DNA comparison between
samples from the body and samples from Clemenson's
toothbrush confirmed that the body was Clemenson's.
August 1999, investigators approached Hamrick about the case
while he was in West Virginia, where he, Swims, and Ruby had
moved sometime after the events on John's
Mountain. After speaking with Hamrick, investigators
located Swims in West Virginia and spoke with Swims about the
case. Investigators showed Swims the reward poster for the
case, but Swims acted surprised and stated he did not know
Swims told investigators that he had been with Hamrick on
only two occasions, one evening partying on John's
Mountain, and then going swimming at Carters Lake together
the next day. After further questioning, Swims told
investigators there was another instance when he was with
Hamrick. Swims stated that Hamrick had been in a fight with
his girlfriend, Swims's sister Ruby, and that Hamrick and
Swims went first to the house of Swims's boss to drink
beer and smoke marijuana, then to Swims's cousin's
house, and finally back to the house of Swims's boss. The
investigator testified at trial that Swims's last story
was similar to one of the stories Hamrick initially told the
2005, while awaiting trial in the Walker County Jail for
Clemenson's murder, Swims spoke to Chelsey Owens, another
inmate in the jail, about attempting to escape incarceration.
Owens testified that Swims wanted him to hold a corporal at
the jail while Swims stabbed the corporal a few times so that
the staff at the jail would let them leave. Knowing Swims was
charged with a girl's murder, Owens asked Swims if he
killed that girl, to which Swims responded, "why do you
think I want to get out of here so bad."
Swims has not challenged the sufficiency of the evidence, it
is our customary practice to review the sufficiency of the
evidence in murder cases, and we have done so here. After
reviewing the record of Swims's trial, we conclude that
the evidence presented against him was sufficient to
authorize a rational jury to find beyond a reasonable doubt
that Swims was guilty of malice murder. See
Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 318-319 (99 S.Ct.
2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560) (1979); see also Brown v.
State, 302 Ga. 454, 456 (1) (b) (807 S.E.2d 369) (2017)
("It was for the jury to determine the credibility of
the witnesses and to resolve any conflicts or inconsistencies
in the evidence." (citation and punctuation omitted)).
his only enumeration of error, Swims contends that the trial
court erred in denying his motion for mistrial after his
character was improperly placed into evidence during Chelsey
Owens's testimony. When the State asked Owens if Swims
offered any reasoning for why he wanted to escape, Owens
I asked [Swims] why would he do that, I said, why would you
want to do that, [Swims] said, he had told me because they
did not honor his fast and speedy trial. He was looking at
getting off on a technicality because they didn't honor
that. He didn't have that for his defense. He said he was
doing time, he ...