Shelton v. LeeAnnotate this Case
Appellant William Shelton was tried by a jury in the Pike County Superior Court and convicted of malice murder and robbery by force. He was sentenced to life in prison. On direct appeal in 2005, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed Shelton’s convictions and rejected, among other things, an evidentiary challenge to venue in Pike County, because, even though conflicting evidence was presented regarding where the injury causing death was inflicted, the body was discovered there. In 2013, Shelton filed a petition for habeas relief, arguing that his due process rights were violated by the instruction to the jury which closely tracked language found in OCGA 17-2-2 (c). Shelton argued that the statute's language instructed the jury to consider the cause of death to have occurred where the body was found and unconstitutionally shifted the burden of proving venue to the defendant. The habeas court found this issue was barred by res judicata because the issue of whether venue was established in Pike County was raised and ruled upon in the direct appeal. The Supreme Court agreed with Shelton that a due process challenge to the jury instruction on venue was neither raised nor ruled upon in his direct appeal. However, the Court concluded that the challenge to the venue instruction as burden-shifting was meritless, and the failure of Shelton's trial and appellate counsel to raise the challenge was neither deficient nor did it cause Shelton prejudice.