Spence v. GeorgiaAnnotate this Case
Mary Ann Spence was convicted of malice murder in connection with the death of Samuel Miller (“Samuel”), a 16-month-old baby left in her care. In 2011, Spence was staying in an apartment in the Carver Homes community in Atlanta with her daughter, Classie Fields, and Fields’ three children: her five-year-old and one-year-old sons, and her nine-year-old daughter. Jennifer Miller (“Miller”), Fields’ best friend, was staying with Fields at the time, along with her two children: Samuel and his three year-old sister. At around 5:30 a.m. on April 3, 2011, Fields left her apartment and went to work. Hours later, while Miller prepared to go to church, Spence offered to stay at the apartment and watch all the boys, because she recognized that they would be difficult to handle at church. Miller accepted Spence’s offer and went to church along with her daughter and Fields’ daughter. Sometime between when Miller left for church and 12:45 p.m., the five-year-old, who was in the apartment’s living room with his brother, peered into one of the apartment’s bedrooms and saw Spence (his grandmother) and a sobbing Samuel. According to the child, Spence picked Samuel up, shook him several times, and threw him down onto a “hard” bed where he hit his head, causing his eyes to go “to sleep.” Paramedics were called, and despite efforts to revive him, Samuel was declared dead shortly after he arrived to the hospital. The ME found multiple bruises on Samuel’s chest, shoulder, and chin, and noted that his face and head were quite swollen. He determined that blunt force trauma to the head killed Samuel, and that the “tremendous” blows to his head punched a hole in his skull three-quarters-of-an-inch in diameter and caused complex fractures across the surface of his skull. Spence appealed her conviction, arguing that the evidence was insufficient to support her murder conviction. She also argued the trial court erred both in permitting the State to improperly bolster the testimony of an eyewitness and in not sua sponte charging the jury on the defense of accident. Finding no reversible error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed.