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Co-Defendant Statement in Georgia Criminal Cases

Posted by Ben Sessions | Jun 11, 2015 | 0 Comments

In many Georgia criminal defense cases involving co-defendants, developing a coherent plan for dealing with statements by co-defendants becomes a large part of the defense strategy. As with most pieces of evidence that are potentially hurtful, the best way to address the evidence is to make it inadmissible through a motion or objection, and the fallback plan is to incorporate the co-defendant's statement into our theory of defense. The Norwood case addresses the general governing the admissibility of co-defendant statements, which was established by the United States Supreme Court's ruling in Bruton:

As an initial matter, it cannot be said that trial counsel did not object to the admission of Lucas' statement, as he specifically joined co-defendant Allen's motion in limine that sought to exclude Lucas' statement on Confrontation Clause grounds pursuant to Bruton v. United States, supra. In any event, in response to the motion in limine, Lucas' videotaped confession was not played at trial. The State only asked a detective about Lucas' statement, and none of the testimony relating to the statement mentioned Norwood in any way. Furthermore, the trial court gave a limiting instruction to the jury to ensure that any voluntary out-of-court statement made by a co-defendant after the crime could only be considered against that co-defendant.

A co-defendant's statement meets the Confrontation Clause's standard for admissibility when it does not refer to the existence of the defendant and is accompanied by instructions limiting its use to the case against the confessing co-defendant. The fact that the jury might infer from the contents of the co-defendant's statement in conjunction with other evidence, that the defendant was involved does not make the admission of the co-defendant's statement a violation of the Confrontation Clause.

(Citation omitted.) Hanifa v. State, 269 Ga. 797, 803–804(2), 505 S.E.2d 731 (1998). Because trial counsel did object to any inadmissible evidence on Confrontation Clause grounds, and because the evidence that was actually admitted at trial was, in fact, admissible, Norwood's claim of ineffective assistance is without merit.

Norwood v. State, No. S15A0379, 2015 WL 3447912, at *2 (Ga. June 1, 2015)

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Ben Sessions

I work to provide exceptional service, attention, and results to each of my clients. Most of clients come to me because they are in a completely overwhelming situation. They need someone that will do more than address their legal problems.


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