Type to search

Georgia Supreme Court upholds conviction of DeKalb County woman who stabbed her boyfriend to death

DeKalb County Metro ATL Trending

Georgia Supreme Court upholds conviction of DeKalb County woman who stabbed her boyfriend to death

Booking photo of Sasha McCalop. Photo provided by the DeKalb County Sheriff's Office

DeKalb County, GA — The state Supreme Court has upheld the murder conviction and life sentence of a woman who stabbed her boyfriend to death in 2018.

Sasha McCalop appealed her conviction for murdering her boyfriend, Michael Martin. She challenged the testimony of the state’s expert witness. She argued the trial court erred by allowing that witness, Dr. John Hamel, to comment on her state of mind without having interviewed or evaluated her.

“Rather, his testimony addressed the general condition of McCalop’s and Martin’s relationship and whether McCalop misled the police during her interview. Therefore, the court has concluded, the complained-of portions of the expert’s testimony were not impermissible under state law,” the court ruled. “McCalop also argued that the trial court erred in allowing Dr. Hamel to testify because he was not familiar with Georgia law on battered person syndrome and had never testified in Georgia before. However, the Court has concluded the trial court did not abuse its broad discretion when it permitted Dr. Hamel to testify as an expert.”

McCalop argued further that the trial court erred in allowing Dr. Hamel to testify that battered person syndrome has no scientific basis. The court rejected that argument as well.

“Regarding McCalop’s contention that the trial court erred in permitting Dr. Hamel to testify that BPS had no scientific basis, although we have serious doubts that there was error, let alone an error that was clear and obvious, we need not consider that question because McCalop has failed to satisfy the third prong of the plain-error test: that any ‘error must have affected the appellant’s substantial rights, which in the ordinary case means [she] must demonstrate that it likely affected the outcome of the trial court proceedings,’” Justice Shawn Ellen LaGrua wrote.

McCalop said that trial courts were wrong in providing jury instructions on battered person syndrome, the court opinion says, but the court rejected this argument.

“We conclude that McCalop affirmatively waived any claim of error regarding Dr. Hamel’s testimony that the trial courts were wrong in providing jury instructions on BPS because McCalop’s trial counsel invited this alleged error by asking several questions which elicited this testimony,” Justice LaGrua wrote.

McCalop accused the state of prosecutorial misconduct by arguing to the jury that battered person syndrome was not a recognized diagnosis or defense.

“But this claim also was not preserved for appellate review and therefore was waived,” the court opinion says.

Finally, she argued that the trial court erred in ruling that a defense witness “opened the door” to presenting evidence about her character.

“During McCalop’s trial, her friend, Kimberly McGhee, testified that she witnessed injuries to McCalop when McCalop was dating Martin,” the court opinion says. “During cross-examination by the State, McGhee described McCalop as not ‘an aggressive type of person’ and as ‘a calm person.’ The State then argued at trial that McGhee’s statements opened the door to further evidence of McCalop’s character, specifically alleged past instances of violence.”

The court concluded that any error did not contribute to the guilty verdict.

“… Whether the trial court erred in allowing the State to ask McGhee whether she was ‘aware’ of eight aggressive acts allegedly committed by McCalop, we conclude that any error was harmless because it is highly probable that the error did not contribute to the verdict,” Justice LaGrua wrote.

Justice LaGrua wrote the state didn’t mention the alleged incidents in its closing arguments and noted the “strong evidence” of McCalop’s guilt. That evidence included a recorded 911 call and McCalop hiding in a nearby building after Martin’s body was discovered. She also gave conflicting statements to investigators, the court noted.

According to the DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office, before the stabbing, Martin called the police and asked them to remove McCalop from his home on Welland Avenue in Southeast Atlanta after they argued.

“While he was on the phone with police, Defendant McCalop stabbed the victim in his back and thigh, severing his femoral artery, ultimately causing him to succumb to his injuries,” the District Attorney’s office says. “Officers responding to the scene found Defendant McCalop hiding in a nearby shed. She claimed she acted in self-defense. Previous arrest reports indicate the Defendant’s propensity for violence. She was charged with stabbing the victim on two previous occasions in 2017.”

If you appreciate our work on this story, please become a paying supporter. For as little as $6 a month, you can help us keep you in the loop about your community. To become a supporter, click here

Want Decaturish delivered to your inbox every day? Sign up for our free newsletter by clicking here

Decaturish is now on Mastodon. To follow us, visit: https://newsie.social/@Decaturish/.

Decaturish is now on Post. To follow us, visit: https://post.news/@/decaturish

Decaturish is now on Flipboard. To follow us, visit: https://flipboard.com/@Decaturish.