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Law School Case Brief

Bryant v. State - 832 S.E.2d 826 (Ga. 2019)

Rule:

The specific form of a terroristic threat is not important. It need not take any particular form or be expressed in any particular words, and may be made by innuendo or suggestion. A communication is sufficient to constitute a threat if a reasonable person could conclude that it was a threat under the circumstances. Courts look therefore to the circumstances surrounding the utterance at issue.

Facts:

Following a jury trial in Georgia state court, defendant Jason Bryant was convicted of the malice murder of his wife, Angelina Bryant, the aggravated assault of Trina Nwoke, and making a terroristic threat. Bryant appealed, challenging the sufficiency of the evidence as to the offense of making a terroristic threat. Bryant  contended that the State presented no evidence that he committed the offense of making a terroristic threat as charged in Count 6 of the indictment, which alleged that he "did threaten to commit murder, a crime of violence, with the purpose of terrorizing" his wife. Specifically, Bryant contended that the only evidence of any threat offered by the State was testimony that, during his final phone call to his wife, he told her, "you will regret this," which, he argued, was not an explicit threat to murder. Bryant further argued further that the jury was not authorized to consider his violent conduct after the final phone call as retroactively imbuing "you will regret this" with the requisite threatening meaning. He contended hat the evidence failed to establish an implicit threat to murder Bryant because the circumstances surrounding the making of the threat included neither any mention of violence nor any acts of violence at the time the words were spoken.

Issue:

Was Bryant's statement "you will regret this" sufficient to support his conviction under former O.C.G.A. § 16-11-37 (a) for making a terroristic threat?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The court affirmed in part and reversed in part the trial court's judgment. The court ruled that the evidence was not sufficient to authorize the jury to find that a reasonable person could conclude that, when the communication, expression, or declaration "you will regret this" was made to Bryant's wife, Bryant was threatening to kill wife, as opposed to inflicting some other harm. Bryant's shooting of his wife, albeit only ten minutes later, was not part of his communication to her in that final phone call. Because Bryant's conduct after the phone call was not part of his communication to her in that phone call, the shooting was not relevant to the determination whether a reasonable person could conclude, under the circumstances at the time he said "you will regret this," that Bryant threatened to murder his wife. Accordingly, Bryant's conviction on for making a terroristic threat was reversed. Bryant's murder convictions were affirmed.

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