HUFF v. The STATE.
-- March 04, 2013
Frances C. Kuo, Decatur, for appellant.Daniel J. Porter, Dist. Atty., John Arthur Warr, Asst. Dist. Atty., Office of the District Attorney, Paula Khristian Smith, Sr. Asst. Atty. Gen., Katherine Lee Lannuzzi, Asst. Atty. Gen., Department of Law, for appellee.
Appellant Marcus DeWayne Huff was convicted of malice murder for the stabbing death of Daniel Aftowski.1 He appeals, asserting the evidence was insufficient to authorize appellant's conviction. Finding no error, we affirm.
1. Huff fatally stabbed Aftowski 34 times in the neck and torso with a kitchen knife. The likely death blow—which severed Aftowski's subclavian artery—was struck with such force it shattered the victim's collarbone into three pieces. The details of the incident emerged during Huff's police interview and through statements he made to a friend, Lewis Brown.
Aftowski and Huff drank heavily together at Aftowski's apartment on the night in question. At some point, Aftowski told Huff that on a previous occasion when the two of them had been drinking, they engaged in a homosexual act. Aftowski also told Huff he videotaped the act, published the video on the internet, and sent the video to Huff's girlfriend. Huff told Brown he became “furious” because he felt “like [he] was less of man” and was afraid he had contracted AIDS. An altercation ensued. Huff went “berserk,” “lost it,” and stabbed Aftowski to death. Huff left the apartment to purchase cigarettes and bleach, using Aftowski's credit card; then he returned, moved Aftowski's body and attempted to clean the apartment.2 Huff fled the scene in Aftowski's automobile, but not before taking Aftowski's wallet and hard drive.
Huff eventually turned himself in to authorities. In his police interview, he admitted stabbing Aftowski, adding “I know what I did wasn't right. It was wrong.”
A defendant commits malice murder when he acts with either an express or an implied intent to commit an unlawful homicide. Stahl v. State, 284 Ga. 316, 319, 669 S.E.2d 655 (2008). Weighing the evidence in a light most favorable to the verdict and deferring to the jury's assessment of the weight and credibility of the evidence, we find the evidence sufficient to enable a rational trier of fact to find Huff guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of malice murder. Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 326, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560 (1979).
Huff asserts the evidence demanded a verdict of voluntary manslaughter, in lieu of malice murder, because Aftowski provoked him. In this regard, Huff presented the testimony of a clinical and forensic psychologist who opined that Huff suffered from a brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of a previous gunshot wound to the head;3 and that Huff's condition made it difficult for him to control his impulses.
“[W]hen the evidence raises the offense of voluntary manslaughter, the question is whether the defendant acted out of passion resulting from provocation sufficient to excite such passion in a reasonable person. It is of no moment whether the provocation was sufficient to excite the deadly passion in the particular defendant. OCGA § 16–5–2(a); Nelson v. State, 254 Ga. 611, 614(2), 331 S.E.2d 554 (1985).” (Emphasis deleted.) Lewandowski v. State, 267 Ga. 831, 832, 483 S.E.2d 582 (1997).
The trial court charged the jury on voluntary manslaughter. Whether the evidence showed only voluntary manslaughter resulting from a serious provocation was a question for the jury. See Todd v. State, 274 Ga. 98, 549 S.E.2d 116 (2001) (jury authorized to find malice murder where accused claimed he “snapped” because wife told him she was leaving him). It cannot be said the jury was required to return a verdict of voluntary manslaughter under the facts of this case.
2. Because we find the evidence sufficient for malice murder, we need not address Huff's assertion that the evidence was insufficient to support the jury's felony murder verdict.
THOMPSON, Presiding Justice.
All the Justices concur.