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Floyd v. State

Supreme Court of Georgia

January 13, 2020


          Bethel, Justice.

         A Dougherty County jury found Louis Floyd, Jr. and Tara Lee Harrell guilty of murder and other offenses in connection with the death of William Jackson.[1] Floyd and Harrell now appeal. Floyd argues that the trial court erred by not granting his motion to sever the trial and by failing to charge the jury on justification. He also claims that his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance. Harrell argues only that the evidence presented by the State against her was insufficient to support the verdicts and that the trial court should have granted her motion for directed verdict. Finding no error, we affirm.

         1. The evidence presented at trial showed the following. Floyd and Harrell lived together for two years beginning in September 2011, during which time they were in a romantic relationship. Floyd is a black male, and Harrell is a white female.

         Harrell also had a relationship with William Jackson, whom she and others knew as "TV Man."[2] Harrell and Jackson met in 2011 while Harrell's sister, Donna Timbes, was living at the Dollar Inn in Dougherty County. Jackson also lived at the Dollar Inn. Harrell and Jackson had a sexual relationship, and they had a child together who was born in early 2013.

         The relationship between Floyd and Harrell became strained and sometimes violent after Floyd learned that Harrell had started seeing Jackson. Floyd and Harrell had daily arguments about Harrell's relationship with Jackson, which were sometimes observed by others. They also argued because Floyd had begun sleeping with Timbes. Harrell would regularly go to the Dollar Inn to see Jackson after she and Floyd argued.

         Jessica Arnold testified that she spoke with Floyd and Harrell at the gas station where Arnold worked. When Harrell mentioned Jackson in the context of being the father of Harrell's child, Floyd began to get angry and told Harrell that if he ever caught her around Jackson again, he would kill Jackson.

         Another friend, Brandi Luke, testified that she had also been around Floyd and Harrell several times when Jackson came up in conversation. Luke testified that, through those conversations (which occurred while Harrell was pregnant), she learned that Floyd did not like Jackson because Jackson might have been the father of Harrell's child. Luke testified that Floyd spoke very badly about Jackson, and that Floyd "let it be known very clearly" on multiple occasions that if Harrell went to see Jackson, there would be "repercussions."

         Timbes also testified that Floyd and Jackson did not get along, and that Floyd said that he did not like Jackson because Jackson was seeing Harrell. Timbes testified about an incident in 2011 in which police were called to Floyd's house after he and Harrell got in an argument and punched each other when Floyd refused to take Harrell to the Dollar Inn. Timbes also testified that she had previously heard Floyd tell Harrell that if he ever saw her with Jackson again, he was going to kill Jackson.

         Another sister of Harrell, Stephanie, testified that Floyd sometimes came to her house with Harrell. Stephanie testified that Floyd would regularly bring up Jackson in conversation and say that Floyd wanted to kill Jackson for getting Harrell pregnant.

         Harrell testified that, on August 14, 2013, she drove herself and Floyd to the Dollar Inn to meet someone called "Georgia Boy" to buy drugs and alcohol. Harrell parked the car behind the building near a laundry room.

         When they realized that Georgia Boy was not in his room, Harrell and Floyd walked to the front of the Dollar Inn and saw Shelby Royal (who was in a relationship with Timbes, Harrell's sister) and Carl Grant standing near a dumpster. Harrell said to Royal, "Have you heard what your girlfriend has been doing?" This angered Floyd because it was apparently in reference to Timbes trying to sleep with Floyd. Floyd knocked a drink from Harrell's hand and pushed her down because he thought she was trying to sleep with Royal. Floyd then waved a knife at Royal and Grant and threatened to kill them, after which Grant left and walked to his room on the corner of the Dollar Inn.

         Floyd and Harrell walked back to their car. A man who had been sitting inside the laundry room heard some loud talking, came outside, and saw Floyd and Harrell standing outside their car. When he asked them to be quiet, Floyd told Harrell, "Come on, b****. Let's go. Shut up and get in the f***ing car." They got back in the car, and Harrell began to drive away. According to Harrell, Floyd then hit her in the face, causing her nose to bleed. She stopped the car, parked in front of the Dollar Inn, and got out. Seeing that Jackson's door was open, Harrell ran into Jackson's room so that she could use his bathroom.

         According to Harrell, Jackson was sitting on a chair inside the room repairing an electronic device. Harrell told him she needed some tissue because Floyd had hit her, and Jackson let her go to his bathroom where Harrell began washing her hands. As Harrell moved back toward the door, Floyd ran in and said, "B****, what you in here for?" Harrell attempted to pull Floyd out of the room as he and Jackson began to fight, but Floyd pushed Harrell through the door of the room out onto the sidewalk. Outside, Harrell called out for help. Floyd and Jackson continued to "wrestle" inside the room, and Jackson tried to force Floyd out of the room. Their struggle continued against one of the walls of the room, and Harrell then saw Floyd stab Jackson in the stomach. Floyd then ran out of Jackson's room and yelled, "Come on, b****. Let's go." Harrell testified that she got into the passenger seat of the car, and that Floyd drove away.

         Other accounts of the incident differed from the one given by Harrell at trial. According to Royal and Grant, after Floyd threatened them, Harrell started walking towards Jackson's room at the Dollar Inn. Harrell got about halfway inside the room and was shutting the door when Floyd ran over and "busted the door." Harrell then fell to the ground, and Floyd jumped like he was trying to "get at" someone. Floyd and Jackson began "wrestling," and Floyd yelled, "I knew you been sleeping with her." Harrell then screamed, "Stop, stop, you['re] going to kill him." Floyd and Harrell then came out of Jackson's room, and Floyd was holding a knife. They got into the car, and Harrell drove them away.

         A resident of the Dollar Inn, John Barrentine, testified that he observed a car pull up near the door to Jackson's room. Floyd and a white woman[3] got out of the car and knocked on Jackson's door, and Jackson let them in. A short time later, the woman fell out of the room through the doorway and said, "Help, they are killing each other." Barrentine could see Floyd and Jackson fighting inside the room. Floyd had Jackson pressed against the wall and appeared to be punching him. Floyd then came out of the room, folded up a knife, which appeared bloody, and said, "Let's go" to the woman, who had not re-entered the room while the fight ensued. Floyd and the woman then got back into their car and drove away.

         Another resident of the Dollar Inn, Robert McGee, testified that on the night of the incident, he was sitting on the steps of a stairwell at the Dollar Inn drinking beer. He saw a woman get "pushed down" and knocked out of Jackson's room after which a black man[4] went into Jackson's room and closed the door. McGee could hear arguing coming from inside the room. After about fifteen minutes, the man came out, and he and the woman got in their car and left, heading towards Albany. McGee testified that after the woman was pushed out of the room, the black man and Jackson were the only ones left in the room. The woman stayed on the ground for several minutes and never went back in the room.

         Lorenzo Simpson lived in the room next to Jackson's room at the Dollar Inn. On the night of the incident, Simpson was in his room playing a game when he heard someone say, "B****, what you doing in here?" Simpson then heard someone being struck, and he opened the door to his room. He saw Harrell fall out of the doorway of Jackson's room and begin crying. Simpson then shut his door and went back to playing the game. A couple seconds later, Harrell knocked on Simpson's door and asked him to come over because Floyd and Jackson were fighting. Harrell was saying "Y'all stop. Y'all stop. Somebody is going to get hurt." Simpson came to the door of Jackson's room and saw Jackson push Floyd off of him. Jackson then turned his back to Floyd to go to his sink, and Floyd stabbed Jackson in the back. Floyd came out of the room and said to Harrell, "B****, get up and come on." Floyd and Harrell then drove away. After Floyd and Harrell left, Simpson went to check on Jackson. When Simpson went into Jackson's room, Jackson was holding his stomach. Simpson called the police and was with Jackson when he died. Simpson remained with Jackson's body until police arrived.

         Deedra Johnson, who also lived at the Dollar Inn at the time of the incident, went to the front of the motel to ask the manager some questions that evening. While Johnson was there, she heard someone screaming that Jackson had been stabbed, and she then saw Floyd and Harrell run from Jackson's room and get into a car. According to Johnson, Harrell was driving the car as it left the scene.

         On the night of the incident, Timbes was at her mother's house. Late that night, Harrell called her and said that she was on the way to the house and had to tell her something. Harrell, who was driving the car when it arrived, "barged in" the house before Floyd came in. Harrell's mother and Timbes were there, and Harrell told them that Floyd and Jackson had gotten into a fight. Timbes testified that Harrell appeared nervous and scared. According to Timbes, Harrell told her that Floyd killed Jackson, but that she was going to say that she did it so Floyd would not get in trouble. Harrell told Timbes that Floyd was trying to get her to say that Jackson had punched her in the face and that she stabbed him in self-defense. Timbes testified that Harrell also told her that she stabbed Jackson with a knife. After about 15 to 20 seconds, Floyd came in. He said that he "didn't do it," then walked out of the house. Harrell did not say that Jackson had done anything to her, but she said that Floyd had punched her in the nose.

         Floyd and Harrell then left her mother's house and drove away. Their car broke down, and Harrell then walked to a gas station nearby and called her aunt, Debra Thomas. Floyd told Harrell to tell Thomas that she killed Jackson after Jackson hit her in the face. According to Thomas, Harrell said that she had messed up and that she had stabbed Jackson but that she did not know that she had killed Jackson until she went back by the motel and saw the crime scene tape.

         Harrell then called Jennifer Blount, Floyd's sister, and asked her to come and pick up Floyd because he was in trouble. According to Blount, Harrell said to her, "I F-ed up. I went over to the motel to get some child support money, and TV Man and I got into it because he wouldn't give me any money. He punched me in my nose, and I stabbed him."

         Walter Floyd, Floyd's brother, testified that on August 14, he received a phone call telling him to look at the television to see what was going on at the Dollar Inn. He called Floyd's phone, and Harrell answered and said, "You are not recording my conversation, are you?" Harrell then said, "That motherf***er hit me in my face, and I stabbed him." According to Walter, Harrell's voice was so "disturbed" that he felt that Floyd was in danger. Walter asked Harrell where they were, and she said that the car broke down and they were on the east side of Albany. Walter met Floyd and Blount at the gas station and drove Floyd to his house. Walter testified that Floyd told him that he and Harrell had gone to the Dollar Inn to try to get child support money from ...

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