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State Supreme Court upholds life sentence in West Avenue murder
Leshan Tremiele Tanner
Leshan Tanner

The Supreme Court of Georgia on Monday unanimously upheld the life sentence for Leshan Tanner, a Gainesville man convicted of a June 2014 murder on West Avenue in Gainesville.

A jury found Tanner guilty in September 2015 for the shooting of Cedric Huff on charges of felony murder, conspiracy to commit robbery and attempt to purchase marijuana.

Co-defendant Rodnie Stokes pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and received a 20-year prison sentence. As part of the bargain, he agreed to testify but was not called.

Tanner took his case to the Supreme Court of Georgia in June, where much of the argument rested on whether the victim’s statements to his mother while on his deathbed were admissible in court.

Huff, in the hospital after having been shot in the abdomen, told his mother Tanner and “Little Monster” were responsible, the latter being Stokes’ street name.

“The evidence showed that although Huff was in serious condition and intermittently in a medically-induced coma during the period of his hospitalization, he was lucid and oriented at the time of his statements to his mother,” according to the court’s opinion.

According to the evidence presented at trial, Tanner went to Huff’s apartment on West Avenue to purchase a half pound of marijuana.

Tanner’s attorney also argued before the Supreme Court that there was insufficient evidence to prove the conspiracy to commit robbery charge that supports the felony murder charge.

“To begin with, Huff’s statements to his mother directly implicating Tanner in the attempted robbery resulting in the fatal shooting were not erroneously admitted into evidence,” according to the court’s opinion.

The justices agreed the likely scenario portrayed by the evidence showed Huff let Tanner into the apartment, and then Tanner “unlocked the door to let in Stokes to commit the robbery when Huff went to get the requested large amount of marijuana from his bedroom,” according to the opinion.

The attempt to purchase marijuana and conspiracy to commit robbery charges resulted in a 10-year sentence to run concurrently with the life prison sentence.

The court ruled to vacate the sentence for conspiracy to commit robbery due to a technicality, but Tanner will still serve a life sentence.

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