Generally, evidence of other criminal acts by a defendant is inadmissible because it tends to place the defendant's character in issue. Ga. Code Ann. § 24-9-20. However, exceptions to this rule have arisen, and evidence of independent crimes is admissible for limited purposes if two conditions are met: First, there must be evidence that the defendant was in fact the perpetrator of the independent crime. Second, there must be sufficient similarity or connection between the independent crime and the offense charged, that proof of the former tends to prove the latter. If these conditions are satisfied, evidence concerning the independent crimes may be admitted for the purposes of showing, among other things, identity, motive, plan, scheme, bent of mind, intent, and course of conduct.
Kilgore was convicted in the Dade County Superior Court on April 29, 1982 for the murder of Roger Norman and was given a life sentence. He appealed his conviction alleging that uncorroborated testimony of an accomplice, as a matter of law, was insufficient to sustain a conviction.
At trial, the state introduced evidence of a conspiracy to kill the victim and evidence of three prior attempts on the victim's life. As to the first attempt, David Oldaker testified that on February 6, 1981 Greg Benton, his cousin, asked him to go with him to Menton, Alabama, Norman's home. He testified that the purpose of the trip was to kill Norman and that Benton told him a crippled man named Tom, who sold pharmaceuticals and lived in Soddy-Daisy, Tennessee, was the man who wanted Norman killed. This testimony was admitted over the hearsay objection of defense counsel. Tom Carden, who died on July 16, 1981, was Norman's brother-in-law and lived in Soddy-Daisy. He was a paraplegic. Oldaker and Benton went to Norman's home, where they unsuccessfully attempted to kill him. Kilgore was in no way implicated in this attempt. Evidence did specifically connect Kilgore with the second attempt. Ed Williams, an employee of a truck stop located just off the interstate near Trenton, Georgia, testified that on the evening of June 8, 1981 he saw two cars traveling close to each other while crossing a bridge over I-59; that he heard sounds like a car backfiring; and that Norman's car pulled into the truck stop while the other car turned north on I-59. Norman, who had been on his way home from work, had been shot in the upper back. Sheriff Steele of Dade County testified that based on what Norman told him, he posted a lookout for a 1962 or 1963 Rambler with a dark bottom, white top, and Tennessee tags.
Are defendant's uncorroborated admissions to a non-accomplice admissible in a murder trial where the facts of the murder acted as corroboration?
The court affirmed the conviction, and held, in part, that although the uncorroborated testimony of an accomplice, as a matter of law, was insufficient to sustain a conviction under Ga. Code Ann. § 24-4-8, defendant's ex-girlfriend was not an accomplice within the meaning of § 24-4-8 and her testimony of defendant's admissions was properly admitted. Defendant's admissions that related specifics of the murder were corroborated by the identical actual facts of the murder. Although evidence of other criminal acts was inadmissible, exceptions existed if two conditions were met: First, there had to be evidence that defendant was in fact the perpetrator of the independent crime, and second, there had to be sufficient similarity or connection between the independent crime and the offense charged, that proof of the former tended to prove the latter. Here, evidence concerning the prior attempts on the victim's life was properly admitted for the purposes of showing, among other things, identity, motive, plan, and scheme.