Justia Juvenile Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Georgia
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Jermontae Moss was convicted of felony murder, possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime, and theft by receiving stolen property in connection with the 2011 shooting death of Jose Marin. At the time of the crime, Moss was 17 years old and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. On appeal, he contended he received ineffective assistance of trial counsel, and that the court erred in imposing that sentence. Finding no merit to either contention, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed Moss' conviction and sentence. View "Moss v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Appellant Kelvin Hurston and his co-defendant Dextreion Shealey were convicted of felony murder and other crimes in connection with the gang-related shooting death of Daven Tucker. Appellant contended the trial court violated his constitutional right to be present during his trial and that his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance by failing to request a ruling on his motion to sever his trial from Shealey’s, failing to request a ruling on his motion to suppress evidence derived from a search warrant, failing to request a jury instruction on accomplice corroboration, and failing to request a proper limiting instruction on other-act evidence. Finding no merit to any of these claims, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed Appellant's convictions. View "Hurston v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Layton Lester was convicted of malice murder and other crimes in connection with the shooting death of Lorrine Bozeman. Bozeman, who lived in a house with her mother and who was fifteen-year-old Lester’s great aunt, received a large amount of cash that she was planning to use to buy a piece of property. On the evening of April 29, 2007, Lester was at co-indictee Shurrod Rich’s house. Rich’s brother was present and heard Lester suggest to Rich that they “go rob” Bozeman, telling Rich that they could get $5,000 from the robbery. Between 10:00 and 10:30 p.m. on the same evening, Bozeman’s front door was kicked in and she was shot twice. Bozeman’s sister, Vernel Clay, who lived several houses away, heard the gunshots and saw two people running through her backyard afterwards. When Rich and Lester returned to Rich’s house, Rich’s brother observed that Lester had changed into black clothes, was breathing hard, was nervous, and later had cash to spend for food. Rich and Lester told Sean Ross, a friend of theirs who lived in the area, that they had robbed and shot Bozeman and that she had screamed. After Lester’s mother overheard Lester talking on the phone and noticed that he was acting nervous and scared, she grew concerned and approached law enforcement. The jury would find Lester guilty on all counts, and he was ultimately sentenced to life in prison for malice murder, a concurrent term of 20 years for armed robbery, and terms of 20 years for burglary to run consecutively to the murder sentence and 5 years for the firearm count to run consecutively to the burglary sentence. The felony-murder counts were vacated by operation of law. On appeal, Lester contends that the trial court erred in admitting statements he made to law enforcement after Bozeman’s death and in denying his “motion for mistrial” arising from the presence of an alternate juror during jury deliberations. Finding no reversible error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed. View "Lester v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Antavian Love was convicted of malice murder and other crimes in connection with the shooting death of Enrique Trejo. On appeal, Love, who was 16 years old at the time the crimes were committed, argued the trial court erred in denying the motion to suppress his statements to law enforcement and in sentencing him as a juvenile to serve life without parole. Finding no reversible error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed his convictions. View "Love v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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In 2013 when he was 17 years old, Dantazias Raines was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole (“LWOP”) for malice murder. The Georgia Supreme Court affirmed Raines' convictions and sentences in part, reversed Raines' convictions for misdemeanor obstruction of a police officer, and vacated his sentence in part. On remand, Raines filed a motion for a jury to make the requisite determination under Veal v. Georgia, 784 SE2d 403 (2016). The trial court denied his motion and certified its order for immediate review. The Supreme Court granted Raines' request for interlocutory review to consider whether a defendant facing a sentence of life without parole for an offense committed when he was a juvenile had a constitutional right to have a jury (as opposed to a judge) make the requisite determination of whether he was “irreparably corrupt” or “permanently incorrigible.” Raines argued in favor of having a jury make the determination prior to imposition of a LWOP sentence; the State argued a defendant did not have a right under the Sixth Amendment for the jury to make the "specific determination" outlined in Veal. The Supreme Court held a defendant convicted of committing murder as a juvenile did not have a federal constitutional right to have a jury determine, in accordance with Veal and the Sixth Amendment, whether he was irreparably corrupt or permanently incorrigible such that he may be sentenced to LWOP, thereby affirming the trial court. View "Raines v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Vas Coleman was arrested at his home in Huntsville, Alabama on charges related to the 2015 death of Jose Greer in Fulton County, Georgia. Although Coleman was sixteen years old at the time of his arrest, the Fulton County Superior Court had exclusive jurisdiction over his case pursuant to OCGA 15-11-560 (b) (1) because he was accused of murder. After his arrest, Coleman was held at the Fulton County Youth Detention Center until he was granted a bond on March 24, 2016, and subsequently released. On April 8, 2016, Coleman was indicted by a Fulton County grand jury, along with four co-defendants, for felony murder and burglary in relation to Greer’s death. Almost two years later, on March 20, 2018, Coleman and his co-defendants were re-indicted on the same charges. After the State nolle prossed the April 2016 indictment, Coleman filed a motion to transfer his case to juvenile court, arguing that, because the March 2018 indictment was returned outside the 180-day time limit set by OCGA 17-7-50.1, the Superior Court no longer had jurisdiction. Relying on the Court of Appeals’ decisions in Edwards v. Georgia, 748 SE2d 501 (2013) and Georgia v. Armendariz, 729 SE2d 538 (2012), the trial court granted Coleman’s motion to transfer. The State appealed, arguing that the trial court granted the motion in error. “Reading the statute in its most natural and reasonable way,” the Georgia Supreme Court concluded the 180-day time limitation in OCGA 17-7-50.1 did not apply to a juvenile who was released and remained on bond prior to the running of 180 days. The Court overruled Edwards, and further concluded the trial court erred in transferring Coleman’s case to the juvenile court. View "Georgia v. Coleman" on Justia Law

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The Georgia Supreme Court granted certiorari in this case to address whether Georgia’s new Juvenile Code required a party to follow the interlocutory appeal procedures laid out in OCGA 5-6-34 (b) when appealing an order concerning the transfer of a case from juvenile to superior court. The Court held that it did not and, in so doing, reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals and remanded the case to be decided on the merits. View "In the Interest of K.S., a child" on Justia Law

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Robert Veal was convicted for crimes committed in the course of two armed robberies on November 22, 2010. After a jury found Veal guilty of malice murder and other offenses charged in the indictment against him, the trial court sentenced him to imprisonment for life without parole (“LWOP”) for malice murder; six consecutive life sentences for rape, aggravated sodomy, and four armed robbery convictions; and sentences totaling 60 consecutive years for other convictions involved in the case. Veal argued in his first appeal that because he was under 18 years of age at the time of his crimes, his LWOP sentence was improperly imposed. The Georgia Supreme Court agreed; the trial court made no determination on the record with respect to whether Veal was “irreparably corrupt or permanently incorrigible, as necessary to put him in the narrow class of juvenile murderers for whom an LWOP sentence was proportional under the Eighth Amendment.” Accordingly, the Court vacated the LWOP sentence and remanded the case for resentencing on that count. At the sentencing hearing the trial court conducted on remand, the State announced it would forgo seeking LWOP and, instead, asked the court to impose two additional consecutive life with parole sentences (for the malice murder conviction and one of the armed robbery counts that the trial court previously incorrectly merged with the murder conviction) in addition to the other consecutive life sentences already imposed. Veal introduced published life expectancy tables to support his assertion that the recommended sentence would exceed his life expectancy. The trial court, however, rejected Veal’s assertion that this would amount to a de facto life without parole sentence, and imposed the State’s recommended sentence without making an individualized determination regarding the appropriateness of the sentence pursuant to Miller. Finding no reversible error to this sentence, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Veal v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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This case presented the issue of whether a trial court has authority to dismiss a prosecutor’s notice of intent to seek the death penalty prior to trial. Appellant Tracen Franklin was eighteen years old at the time of the events involved in this case. He was one of four young men indicted for malice murder and felony murder (predicated on aggravated assault) for beating and kicking to death Bobby Tillman after a teen party. Several trial witnesses identified Franklin as one of three others who joined in, and the four men severely beat, kicked, and stomped Tillman, who was later pronounced dead at the hospital as a result of a ruptured right ventricle of the heart caused by blunt impact. After a period of jury deliberation, the trial court declared the jury to be deadlocked on the issue of punishment. The trial court then sentenced Franklin to life without parole. The trial court denied Franklin’s motion for new trial. On appeal, Franklin claimed the prosecutor sought the death penalty in this case in bad faith, in an attempt to improve the odds of a conviction by seating a death-qualified jury. Even though the death penalty was not imposed, Franklin argued the Georgia Supreme Court should have granted a new trial where a bad-faith purpose for seeking the death penalty is shown. He argued that bad faith was demonstrated in this case because, pursuant to the notice of statutory aggravating circumstances and the evidence the State could (and ultimately did) present in support of these circumstances, he was not eligible for the death penalty as a matter of law. The Supreme Court determined the issue raised by Franklin’s appeal had been decided adversely to appellant’s position, and the Court was not persuaded to change its longstanding ruling on the issue. View "Franklin v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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The Georgia Supreme Court found that appellant Avery Bryant’s trial counsel was ineffective for failing to challenge the sufficiency of the police warrant leading to Bryant’s arrest. The warrant in question did not adequately describe the items police intended to seize, therefore the search was presumptively unreasonable and unconstitutional, “the warrant here did not simply omit a few items from a list of many to be seized, or misdescribe a few of several items . . . , the warrant did not describe the items to be seized at all.” Bryant had been convicted by jury of malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, and possession of a pistol by a person under age 18. On appeal, he argued ineffective assistance of counsel, and that the trial court erred in instructing the jury. In light of the ineffective assistance claim, the Georgia Supreme Court did not address Bryant’s remaining claims of error, and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Bryant v. Georgia" on Justia Law