SUMMARIES OF OPINIONS
Published Monday, June 29, 2015
Please note: Opinion summaries are prepared by the Public Information Office for the general public and news media. Summaries are not prepared for every opinion released by the Court, but only for those cases considered of great public interest. Opinion summaries are not to be considered as official opinions of the Court. The full opinions are available on the Supreme Court website at www.gasupreme.us .
SAVAGE V. STATE OF GEORGIA ET AL. (S15A0277)
PELLEGRINO V. STATE OF GEORGIA ET AL. (S15A0278)
HOBGOOD V. STATE OF GEORGIA ET AL. (S15A0279)
The Supreme Court of Georgia has unanimously upheld a superior court judge’s ruling that authorized up to $397 million in bonds to build a new Braves baseball stadium.
In today’s 43-page opinion, Justice David Nahmias writes for the Court that “we conclude that the intergovernmental contract is valid; that the issuance of the bonds will not violate the Georgia Constitution’s debt limitation clause, gratuities clause, or lending clause or Georgia’s revenue bond laws; and that the process used to validate the bonds was not deficient. We therefore affirm the trial court’s judgment validating the stadium project bonds.”
According to briefs filed in the case, in 2013, representatives of Cobb County, the Cobb-Marietta Coliseum and Exhibit Hall Authority, and the Atlanta National League Baseball Club, Inc. began discussing plans to build a 41,500-seat stadium for the Braves. On May 27, 2014, the Cobb County Board of Commissioners approved the issuance of the bonds by the Authority, and the parties signed several agreements which are the basis of the project. The new stadium will be built on land acquired by the Authority and will be a public-private partnership with an estimated cost of $622 million. The Authority will issue up to $397 million in bonds to pay the public share of building the new stadium, which will be located in the Cumberland area near the interchange of I-75 and I-285 in northwest Atlanta. The new “SunTrust Park,” as it has been named, will replace Turner Field located in downtown Atlanta. In addition to borrowing up to $397 million to cover $368 million in construction costs plus borrowing costs and interest on the debt, the County plans to raise $14 million for transportation improvements and $10 million from businesses in the Cumberland Community Improvement District. The Braves will contribute $230 million. As issuer of the bonds, the Authority will retain title to the stadium, the stadium site and certain parking areas until the bonds are fully retired and then it will convey title to the County. Under the agreements, the Braves have an exclusive license to use the stadium for 30 years, with the option to renew for an additional five. At the end of that period, the Braves would have an option to purchase the stadium at 50 percent of fair market value. Total debt service for the bonds is estimated to be about $25 million annually. For the first 30 years, the Braves will pay $6.1 million each year in licensing fees, which will be contributed to bond payments.
Three Cobb residents – attorney T. Tucker Hobgood, Larry Savage, and Richard Pellegrino – opposed the authorization of the bonds and were permitted to intervene in the bond validation hearing. They argued a number of things, including that authorization of the bonds first required approval by taxpayers. Following a July 7, 2014 bench trial – before a judge with no jury – the Cobb County Superior Court validated the bonds, finding that a referendum was not a prerequisite to the Authority’s issuance of the bonds and that the bond proposal was sound, feasible and reasonable, which is the standard to be met in a bond validation proceeding. Hobgood, Savage, and Pellegrino then appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court, arguing the trial court erred in validating the bonds. While each submitted briefs enumerating various errors, their primary contentions on appeal were that the agreement in which the County agrees to pay for the bonds and the Authority agrees to issue the bonds is not a valid intergovernmental agreement; that validating the bonds violates the debt clause and gratuity clause of the Georgia Constitution; that the project is an improper use of public tax money for a private facility; and that the bonds cannot be authorized without a public referendum.
Today’s opinion addresses each of their challenges, including that the Intergovernmental Agreement is invalid. But Hobgood, Savage, and Pellegrino are wrong, the high court concludes. For a number of reasons, “the Intergovernmental Agreement is valid under the intergovernmental contracts clause of the Constitution,” the opinion says.
The opinion points out that “it is evident that the lawyers and officials for Cobb County, the Cobb-Marietta Coliseum and Exhibit Hall Authority, and the Braves parties relied on the prior decisions of this Court interpreting Georgia’s Constitution and revenue bond law when structuring the financing for the new Braves stadium project, including in particular the issuance of revenue bonds by the Authority secured in part by an intergovernmental contract. There is nothing wrong with that,” the opinion says. And while “aspects of the deal structure at issue may push the law about as far as it can go, it does not cross the line into illegality.”
However, the Court emphasizes that “we do not discount the concerns [Hobgood, Savage, and Pellegrino] have raised about the wisdom of the stadium project and the commitments Cobb County has made to entice the Braves to move there. But those concerns lie predominantly in the realm of public policy entrusted to the County’s elected officials for decision, not in the realm of constitutional or statutory law. And to the extent the concerns affect whether the bond proposal is sound, feasible, and reasonable, we defer to the trial court’s findings on those factors, which were supported by evidence in the record.”
“If the stadium deal does not fulfill the high expectations that have been set for it, there may be a significant political price to pay for those who negotiated and signed onto it,” today’s opinion concludes. “But under the law of Georgia as construed in the precedents of this Court, we cannot say that the trial court erred in validating the bonds or that the validation process was deficient. Accordingly, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.”
Attorneys for Appellants (Hobgood, Savage, Pellegrino): T. Tucker Hobgood, David Rutherford, Larry Savage (representing himself “pro se”), Gary Pelphrey
Attorneys for Appellees (County, Authority): Thomas Curvin, Matthew Nichols, J. Kevin Moore, John Moore, Deborah Dance, Linda Brunt, Blake Sharpton, Lesly Murray
O’CONNELL V. THE STATE (S15A0344)
The Supreme Court of Georgia has unanimously upheld the murder conviction and life prison sentence given to Brenda O’Connell, who was 15 years old when she and her sister, Catherine O’Connell, were charged with killing their adoptive mother.
In this high-profile Gwinnett County case, Justice Carol Hunstein writes for the Court that the evidence “was sufficient to authorize a rational jury to find appellant [i.e. Brenda] guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the crimes of which she was convicted.” On Jan. 21, 2014, this Court also upheld the murder conviction and life prison sentence given to Catherine.
According to the facts at trial, Catherine was 11 years old when Muriel O’Connell adopted her from a Guatemalan orphanage. A few years later, Muriel adopted a second daughter, Brenda, from the same orphanage. The girls were the same age, had known each other at the orphanage, and quickly formed a strong bond with each other. But their relationship with their mother gradually deteriorated. According to briefs filed in the case, there were confrontations over cell phone bills and boyfriends, and Muriel told friends she feared for her life. State prosecutors said Muriel believed the girls were trying to poison her by putting diethyl ether, a compound found in car starter fluid, in her vodka bottle.
The night of Aug. 6, 2006, the girls went to a neighbor’s house. The neighbor later testified that when he answered the door, Brenda, who had a brown and green sash tied around her neck, collapsed on the floor gasping for air. He said her actions “seemed kind of staged.” After Catherine told him their mother had tried to choke Brenda, the neighbor went to the girls’ home where he found Muriel’s body on the bathroom floor with a butcher knife in her hand. When police arrived, both Brenda and Catherine gave statements saying their mother had attacked Brenda with a knife, and Catherine had intervened to defend her sister. They said Catherine had grabbed her mother around the neck, causing Muriel to faint. The girls claimed Muriel had abused and mistreated them since they came from the orphanage. But Brenda eventually admitted to police that she had placed the knife in Muriel’s hand after she was dead. An autopsy revealed that Muriel had sustained multiple head injuries while still alive, and had died from strangulation. A medical examiner who had evaluated both girls testified he found no injuries substantiating their claim of self-defense. Brenda did not have injuries consistent with strangulation, and Catherine’s minor scrapes and bite marks appeared self-inflicted.
In October 2008, the girls were tried as adults, a jury convicted them of murder and aggravated assault, and they were sentenced to life in prison.
In today’s unanimous 6-page opinion, which involves Brenda’s appeal to the state Supreme Court, the high court rejects the first two arguments raised by Brenda’s attorney, which are identical to those raised by Catherine’s attorney in her appeal: that during jury selection, the State racially discriminated by striking a prospective juror, and that the trial court erred by refusing to allow in evidence of her traumatic upbringing in Guatemala.
“For the same reasons that we concluded that Catherine’s enumerations of error were without merit, we conclude that these two enumerations of appellant are without merit,” the opinion says.
In her appeal, Brenda’s attorney additionally argued that the trial court erred in refusing to instruct jurors that they could consider whether she was guilty of involuntary manslaughter as opposed to the more serious charge of murder. Under Georgia Code § 16-5-3, a “person commits involuntary manslaughter in the commission of an unlawful act when he causes the death of another human being without any intention to do so by the commission of an unlawful act other than a felony.”
“The trial court declined to give the charge, and appellant now contends that Catherine’s testimony that she strangled her mother in an attempt to pull her off appellant, without any intent to kill her, was evidence of the misdemeanors of reckless conduct and simple battery, requiring the trial court to give the requested charge on unlawful act involuntary manslaughter,” the opinion says. “We conclude, however, that even if the trial court erred in failing to charge on felony involuntary manslaughter, with battery and reckless conduct as the underlying misdemeanors, the error was harmless, because there was overwhelming evidence that was inconsistent with the co-defendants’ version of events that they caused their mother’s death unintentionally.” Rather the evidence “supports the State’s case that the co-defendants acted with malice in killing their mother,” the opinion says. “Judgment affirmed.”
Attorney for Appellant (O’Connell): Edwin Wilson
Attorneys for Appellee (State): Daniel Porter, District Attorney, Daniel Mayfield, Chief Asst. D.A., Christopher Quinn, Asst. D.A.
JONES V. BOONE (S15A0521)
The Supreme Court of Georgia has unanimously ruled that Mayor Mary Ann Whipple Lue of Gordon, GA did not have the authority to appoint a new city attorney following a vote to fire the man who had held the position for more than 35 years.
Today’s decision in this locally high-profile Wilkinson County case is the second this month issued by the Georgia Supreme Court in a case involving a contentious dispute over several actions Lue has taken since becoming mayor last year.
According to the Gordon City Charter, the local government’s authority “shall be vested in a city council to be composed of a mayor and six council members.” The mayor has the power to “appoint and remove, for cause,” all officers, department heads, and employees of the city “with confirmation of appointment or removal by the council.” The City Charter states that “the affirmative vote of four councilmembers shall be required for the adoption of any ordinance, resolution, or motion.” The mayor is permitted to vote in the case of a tie. At a May 21, 2014 city council meeting, Lue made a motion to remove Joseph A. Boone, who had served as city attorney for several decades. Three city council members voted in favor of the motion, two against, and one abstained. After determining she had a vote because the abstention counted as a negative vote, the mayor voted in favor of terminating Boone, bringing the vote to the four affirmative votes required by the City Charter. Subsequently there was a motion to give the mayor the authority to appoint an interim attorney, and the vote was the same: three in favor, two against, and one abstention. Again the mayor determined she had a vote and cast a yes. The next day, the mayor sent out a letter announcing the appointment of Ronny E. Jones as the new interim city attorney.
In September 2014, Boone sued, filing a petition for what is called a “writ of quo warranto,” which is used to challenge an individual’s right to hold a public office. Boone argued he was still city attorney because Jones was never confirmed by the city council as required by the City Charter and the mayor did not have the authority to vote because there was no tie. Jones responded that Boone was no longer city attorney as he had resigned from that position at the May 21, 2014 city council meeting when he was voted out of office. Following a hearing, the Jasper County trial judge ruled in favor of Boone, finding that Jones “is not the appropriately appointed city attorney of Gordon, Georgia.” The judge ruled that the question of whether Jones appropriately holds the appointment of city attorney “is a question of law and, therefore, a jury trial is not required under the laws of the State of Georgia.” And, the judge stated: “It is the finding of this court that the city attorney serves at the pleasure of the city council and the mayor’s vote was used inappropriately and was not valid under the Code of the City of Gordon.” Because the judge determined Lue did not have the power to appoint Jones as city attorney, he granted Boone’s petition for a writ of quo warranto.
In today’s decision, Justice Carol Hunstein writes that “we affirm the order granting the writ of quo warranto,” and “we find no authority permitting the mayor to count the council member’s abstention from voting as a negative vote, thereby creating a tie.”
In its 2007 decision in Merry v. Williams, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that the requirement of a specific number of affirmative votes exhibits a legislative intent that abstentions not be counted with the majority of votes cast. The high court further determined they could not be counted as negative votes. While Jones argued in his appeal that the mayor had the authority to treat an abstention as a negative vote, he “cites no act, law, charter provision, or rule of procedure granting either the mayor or the city council such authority,” today’s opinion says.
“Accordingly, in the absence of any clear statutory, charter provision, or rule of procedure authorizing the mayor to treat an abstention as an actual vote by a council member, either in the affirmative or negative, we hold that the council member’s abstention from voting on the May 21, 2014 motion to delegate to the mayor the power to appoint a city attorney was, in fact, no vote at all. Therefore, there was no tie vote on the motion and Mayor Lue was not authorized to cast a vote in its favor. The sole authority to appoint a city attorney thus remained in the city council.” The Court finds no merit in Jones’ other challenges.
Attorney for Appellant (Jones): Ronny Jones, pro se
Attorney for Appellee (Boone): James Green
DAVID STONE V. ANNA STONE (S15F0064)
Under a 5-to-2 decision by the Georgia Supreme Court, only parents may share legal custody of a child.
With today’s decision, the high court has reversed a Gwinnett County juvenile court ruling that granted joint custody of a now 10-year-old boy to his father and his maternal grandmother. The boy’s mother struggled with drug addiction following his birth, and the child has lived with his grandmother most of his life.
But in 2013, after a court found that his father was a fit parent, the father petitioned the court for sole custody, arguing that Georgia law does not authorize joint custody between a parent and a non-parent third party and challenging the grandmother’s right to continue to have physical custody of the child. Today, the high court has ruled in his favor, finding that under the law, only parents who are deemed fit have the legal right to raise their child.
“Because Georgia statutory law supports joint custody arrangements only between parents, we must reverse the award of joint legal custody in this case,” Justice Harold Melton writes for the majority.
According to the facts of this case, which has involved several courts, in 2005 David and Anna Stone had a baby boy. The parents, who were not married, moved in with Anna’s mother, Sandra Webb. The mother had a history of drug abuse, and the Department of Family and Children Services became involved in protecting the child. Six months after moving in with Webb, the couple married and moved with their baby into their own home. But they struggled; he worked out of state and she continued abusing drugs and was arrested. Webb became the child’s primary caretaker. In March 2011, the couple divorced and Anna was awarded primary physical custody of her little boy; mother and son lived with Webb. In October of that year, Webb was granted temporary guardianship of the boy with the consent of both David, because he worked out of state, and Anna, because she needed inpatient drug treatment. In March 2013, Webb petitioned for custody in Gwinnett Superior Court. Meanwhile, Anna left Georgia to be with David, instead of attending outpatient drug treatment following her inpatient treatment. In April 2013, David and Anna remarried. But two months later, David filed for divorce in Gwinnett County Superior Court. The court allowed Webb to intervene in the custody case, which was transferred to the juvenile court. Throughout all this, the child remained with his grandmother, who remained his primary caretaker. In January 2014, the Gwinnett juvenile judge awarded joint legal and joint physical custody to the child’s father and grandmother. The father then appealed to the state Supreme Court. (On appeal, a guardian ad litem assigned to represent the child has argued that it is in his best interest that his grandmother be awarded either joint or sole custody.)
In today’s majority opinion, the high court finds that “our legislature has clearly indicated that joint custody arrangements do not include third parties when one or both parents are suitable custodians.” Georgia Code § 19-9-3, which lays out general guidelines for custody arrangements, “shows that joint custody considerations remain with the parents of the child.” The statute states: “In all cases in which the custody of any child is at issue between the parents, there shall be no prima-facie right to the custody of the child in the father or mother. There shall be no presumption in favor of any particular form of custody, legal or physical, nor in favor of either parent.” The majority points out that the same statute “goes on to state an express desire to preserve sharing of rights between parents and visitation with parents and grandparents. “Quite explicitly, the statute includes grandparents with parents for purposes of contact (visitation) with the minor child, but, when rights and responsibilities (custody) are in consideration, the statute excludes grandparents and encourages sharing between the parents only,” the majority opinion says. Throughout, the statute “pairs ‘rights and responsibilities’ solely with the parents, and grandparents are excluded.”
A separate statute, Georgia Code § 19-7-1, does permit a grandparent to win custody of a child if his parent or parents lose their parental rights and the court “determines that an award of custody to such third party is for the best interest of the child.” The statute says: “There shall be a rebuttable presumption that it is in the best interest of the child or children for custody to be awarded to the parent or parents of such child or children, but this presumption may be overcome by a showing that an award of custody to such third party is in the best interest of the child or children.”
“This statute indicates that there are only three groups capable of exercising parental control: a parent, parents or third parties of a limited class,” today’s majority opinion says. “A group comprised of a parent and a third party is not mentioned because it is not a combination who may be empowered with joint control over a child.” Furthermore, “construing the Code as authorizing the State to require a fit and capable parent to share custody of his child with anyone except the child’s other parent would raise significant constitutional concerns.”
“In light of the foregoing, the trial court in this case had no power to grant joint custody to Husband and Grandmother, and that award must be vacated,” the majority concludes. However, today’s opinion emphasizes that Georgia statutes promote the interaction of “loving grandparents” with a minor child, and provide “a mechanism for a grant of visitation rights to grandparents when necessary to ensure and preserve this contact.” “However, in situations where a parent is suitable to exercise custody over a child, the statute does not allow that parental custody to be limited by a joint custody arrangement with a grandparent or, for that matter, any other person.”
In the dissent, Justice Carol Hunstein argues that the majority’s “strict reading of the statute” ignores the statutory requirement that the “sole issue” for determining “any action involving the custody of a child between the parents or either parent and a…grandparent” is “what is in the best interest of the child.” “According to the evidence presented to the trial court, the best interests of the child mandated joint legal custody to Husband and Grandmother,” says the dissent, which is joined by Justice Robert Benham.
The dissent points out that the number of grandparents raising their grandchildren has steadily increased and that in 2011, grandparents were the primary caregiver for about 3 million children. “As I have previously recognized, ‘In reality, many children today are being raised not by their parents but by other family members with a strong attachment to the child and who have lovingly and responsibly acted in the role of the child’s parent.’ In light of this trend, it is impractical and shortsighted to conclude that joint legal custody must be limited to parents.”
“The result of the majority’s opinion is that a grandmother, who has been the primary caretaker and the sole source of stability and security for almost the entire life of her grandson, will no longer have any legal right to participate in his care,” the dissent says. “It is apparent from the trial court’s order that custody in Husband would only be in the child’s best interest, and not cause long-term harm, if it were predicated on the concurrent exercise of legal custody by Grandmother.” The dissent urges the Legislature to “reconsider its limited definition of ‘joint legal custody’” as stated in Georgia Code § 19-9-6 (5).
Attorney for Appellant (Father): Alan Mullinax
Attorney for Appellee (Grandmother): Lawrence Washburn, III
ESHLEMAN V. KEY (S14G1173)
The Supreme Court of Georgia has reversed a Georgia Court of Appeals decision and ruled that a DeKalb County police officer cannot be held liable for injuries suffered by a neighborhood boy who was bitten by her police dog because she is protected by official immunity.
In November 2011, 11-year-old Chandler Key was playing football in the front yard of his neighbor’s home when he was bitten by a police dog. The dog, trained to apprehend criminal suspects, was owned by the DeKalb County Police Department and assigned to Officer Lynn Eshleman after she completed canine handler school. Under department policy, canine handlers were responsible for the care and maintenance of the dogs. Eshleman, who lived in Walton County in Key’s neighborhood, kept the dog, named Andor, at her home when she was not working. After noticing that neighborhood children were peering over the fence into her yard, Eshleman spoke with them and their parents, cautioning them not to look over the fence because the act antagonized Andor, according to briefs filed in the case. She also warned them that if they “ever…see him out, he happens to escape the fence or something, to just stand still.” When she was later asked what it was about the children’s actions that could put them in danger, Eshleman replied, “Well, when you run, you become prey to a dog.”
On Nov. 6, 2011 Eshleman, who was off-duty, was preparing to take Andor with her to visit a friend. She placed the dog in a kennel in the back of her truck, swung the door of the kennel shut and “assumed” it was closed. But she had neglected to secure the crate’s door. When she stepped away to retrieve a water bottle, Andor jumped from the truck and ran into the yard where the boys were playing. As Key tried to run away, the dog chased him, latched onto his arm and dragged him to the ground, injuring him.
Key’s father sued Eshleman, alleging she was liable for negligence because she had failed to properly restrain the canine. According to Chandler’s father, the boy suffered a gaping laceration and puncture wound and had to be treated at the hospital with injections and stitches. Clearly visible scars remain. The boy has also suffered mental trauma, his father claims. In response, Eshleman argued she was entitled to official immunity because in caring for the canine, she had been performing her duties as a police officer. Eshleman admitted she had not securely closed the door of the kennel and that the canine had gotten out of her truck. She did not deny that the dog then bit the boy. However, she argued Key could not recover damages because of the official immunity. Eshleman filed a motion for “summary judgment,” which a trial judge grants upon concluding there is no need for a jury trial because the facts are undisputed and the law clearly falls on the side of one of the parties. The trial court, however, denied her motion. Eshleman then appealed to the Court of Appeals, which upheld the trial court’s ruling.
At issue in this case is the difference between “discretionary” and “ministerial” duties. Discretionary acts are those requiring personal deliberation, decision-making, and judgment. Ministerial duties, on the other hand, are absolute, simple, and involve merely the execution of a specific task or direction. Under the doctrine of public official immunity, officials are afforded greater protection when they are faced with a situation that requires them to make a judgment call, so that they can make that decision without fear of being sued. They are offered less protection when they are performing simple, automatic tasks governed by clear rules. Under the Georgia Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Roper v. Greenway, county law enforcement officers such as Eshleman are entitled to official immunity for the negligent performance of discretionary acts within the scope of their authority, but they have no immunity if they act with malice or intent to injure, or if they negligently perform a ministerial act.
While the Court of Appeals agreed with Eshleman that her actions at the time of the incident in caring for Andor were within the scope of her official duties, “she has not shown that the act from which the alleged liability arose – proper restraint of the canine by securely closing the kennel door – was discretionary.” Furthermore, the Court of Appeals found, there was some evidence that Eshleman’s duty to properly restrain the dog was ministerial. The appellate court held that a ministerial duty may be established by a statute, and that under Georgia Code § 51-2-7, a “person who owns or keeps a vicious or dangerous animal of any kind and who, by careless management or by allowing the animal to go at liberty, causes injury to another person,” may be liable to the injured person. “Because Andor was a police canine, specially trained to apprehend suspects, there was some evidence that ‘the animal had a propensity to do the act which caused the injury and that the defendant knew of it,’” the Court of Appeals opinion says. “Where the relevant facts pertaining to official immunity are in dispute, resolution of the factual issues is for the jury.” Therefore, under the Court of Appeals opinion, the lawsuit against Eshleman could go forward. Eshleman then appealed to the state Supreme Court, which agreed to review the case to determine whether the Court of Appeals was wrong in ruling that § 51-2-7 creates a ministerial duty in this case.
In today’s unanimous opinion, Justice Keith Blackwell writes that the Court of Appeals was wrong.
“[W]e will assume that Eshleman, having been assigned responsibility for the care and maintenance of Andor, knew the dog to be a ‘vicious or dangerous animal,’” the opinion says. “Assuming these things, it follows that Eshleman absolutely owed a duty to manage and restrain Andor so as to prevent the dog from injuring others.” However, “the important question in the context of official immunity is not merely whether an officer owed a duty of care, but rather, whether the official owed a duty that is particularized and certain enough to render her duty a ministerial one.”
“The duties that Eshleman was alleged to have violated were not ministerial ones because, although the duties reflected in [state law] and the county ordinance may be definite, they do not require merely the carrying out of a specified task,” the opinion says. “They require instead an exercise of personal deliberation and judgment about what is reasonable in the particular circumstances presented. The trial court, therefore, erred when it denied the motion for summary judgment on the ground of official immunity, and the decision of the Court of Appeals affirming that denial must be reversed.”
Attorneys for Appellant (Eshleman): Duane Pritchett, Kendrice Smith
Attorneys for Appellee (Key): Andrew Jones, M. Chase Swanson
SIMS V. THE STATE (S15A0182)
The Supreme Court of Georgia has upheld the murder conviction and life prison sentence given to James Revera Sims, II in connection with the death of his girlfriend’s 3-year-old son, Cayden Allen, in Rockdale County.
In today’s unanimous opinion, Justice Carol Hunstein writes for the Court that the “evidence is sufficient to enable any rational trier of fact to find appellant [i.e. Sims] guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the crimes for which he was convicted.”
According to the facts of the case, on the afternoon of April 8, 2011, Cayden’s mother left for work, leaving her 3-year-old son in Sims’ care. At 6:10 p.m., Sims called 911 and requested an ambulance for the little boy. City of Conyers firemen, police and emergency medical staff were dispatched to Sims’ apartment on South Main Street in Conyers where they found the little boy lying on his back on the living room sofa, in his underwear. His eyes were open, there was a lump on his forehead, and he was unresponsive. He was breathing in a shallow, labored fashion that sounded like snoring. By the time the ambulance got him to Rockdale Medical Center, Cayden was completely unresponsive and in a coma. Doctors found bruises on his forehead and a CT scan confirmed that Cayden had suffered multiple brain injuries consistent with an inflicted injury. Within an hour, he was airlifted to Egleston Children's Hospital in Atlanta, where he remained on life support. There, physicians found numerous bruises and scrapes on Cayden's scalp, forehead, and face, a