The Georgia Supreme Court recently reversed the murder conviction of an Athens man who fatally shot another man at a Super Bowl party four years ago, according to an opinion released by the court on Monday.
Marvin Lewis Brown Jr., then 29, fatally shot 24-year-old Javious Cordez Tucker on Feb. 2, 2014, during an argument that started over Brown’s refusal to share a bag of pork skins with the victim, Athens-Clarke County police said.
Brown was tried and convicted of murdering Tucker and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The Supreme Court overturned Brown’s conviction because it determined the trial judge wrongfully allowed the jury to hear about two unrelated shooting incidents in 2005 in which Brown was convicted of aggravated assault.
The fatal shooting occurred the afternoon of Super Bowl Sunday. Brown and others had gathered at a home on Lombardy Circle to watch the Denver Broncos battle the Seattle Seahawks in the NFL championship game.
Tucker went to that house to borrow an air pump, according to reports. When he saw Brown outside of the residence, he asked Brown if he could have some pork skins, but Brown told Tucker there weren’t enough left to share.
An argument between the two turned physical, but was broken up, noted reports. Tucker drove away when told to leave, but he later crossed paths with Brown, who was down the street with some friends.
When a second altercation ensued, Tucker opened the trunk of his car and took out a tire iron, but then got back into the car and began to drive away. Brown got a gun from his car and ran after Tucker, firing nine shots into the victim’s car, seven of which struck the victim, according to police. Tucker died at the scene.
Brown fled after the fatal shooting, but was arrested two days later in Gwinnett County after a tipster informed Athens-Clarke County police as to his whereabouts. Gwinnett County police arrested Brown during a traffic stop on a vehicle he was in as it approached an apartment complex.
The jury found Brown guilty of malice murder and felony murder, aggravated assault, use of a firearm by a convicted felon during the commission of a crime and related offenses.
A Clarke County grand jury indicted Brown in April 2014 for malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, terroristic acts, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, and possession of a firearm during commission of a crime. Prior to trial, prosecutors filed a notice of intent to introduce “other acts evidence,” and a hearing was held on the matter. Acts of evidence is a legal term for evidence of other crimes.
Specifically, the other acts of evidence was Brown’s guilty pleas to being the gunman in two separate shootings in late 2005.
The previous shooting convictions should not have been allowed as evidence in the murder trial, according to the Supreme Court’s ruling.
“The fact that [Brown] had committed an assault on another person … [nine] years earlier had nothing to do with his reason for … shooting the victim” and “really has no purpose other than to show [Brown’s] propensity toward violence,” according to the ruling. In fact, “the State had other admissible evidence available to rebut Brown’s self-defense claim without the introduction of the prior aggravated assaults.”
The evidence underlying Brown’s guilt “is not overwhelming,” the opinion says. There were no eyewitnesses to the shooting other than Brown, and “while the forensic evidence indicates Brown took steps toward and shot into the car multiple times, there is ample conflicting evidence concerning whether he acted in self-defense. … In light of the entirety of the evidence presented at trial, we cannot say that it is highly probable that the error did not contribute to the verdict. Accordingly, we must reverse Brown’s convictions.”
In their unanimous ruling, the high court justices stated that there was nothing in the ruling that prevents the state from retrying Brown.
Follow Criminal Justice reporter Joe Johnson at www.facebook.com/JoeJohnsonABH or www.twitter.com/JoeJohnsonABH.