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The After The Trial blog presents insights on ongoing and recent trials around the state of Alabama, including weekly criminal law round-ups.

Alabama Criminal Law Round-Up June 26th

J.D. Lloyd - Monday, June 26, 2017

 


Here are a few of the criminal law stories that occurred around the state of Alabama this past week:

 

 

- Charges have been brought against a Vestavia Hills woman involved in a March 4th DUI crash resulting in critical injuries for a 24-year-old Hoover resident. The head-on collision occurred when Steven Edmondson was traveling northbound on US 31 in Homewood and subsequently struck by Karen Pridgen Stafford, who was driving on the wrong side of the road. Edmonson was rushed to emergency surgery at UAB, where doctors amputated a portion of his left leg. Both legs were also shattered from the femur down. After receiving test results back from Alabama Department of Forensics Sciences, Homewood police wrote an affidavit against Stafford that said she was "driving under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance or a combination of both." Though she posted a $15,000 bond after being taken into custody this past Thursday, Stafford faces charges of first-degree assault and will make her first court appearance in July. 

 

 

- Earlier this month, Birmingham police and firefighters responded to an early morning call about a burning car in Ensley. After extinguishing the fire, authorities discovered a body in the trunk of the four-door sedan. Though initially unrecognizable, police recently identified the body (through dental records as well as contact from concerned family and friends) as local rapper, 32-year-old Paul Matthew "Bam Bam" Carter. No arrests have been announced. 

 

- On Friday, a Mobile District Court Judge denied bond for two out of four suspects connected to the June 22nd home invasion of a 62-year-old US Marine Corps veteran, who shot three of the suspects during the incident. Though 29-year-old Casey Ray Gann and 19-year-old Joseph Heathcock were hospitalized the night of the incident, they appeared in court the next day. The third apprehended suspect, 24-year-old Chasatie Dulabhan, is still hospitalized. The three suspects, as well as a possible fourth suspect, had allegedly robbed the veteran of his medication two weeks before the June 22nd incident and threatened to hurt him if reported the incident. The man then received an unidentified, threatening phone call the next week. After he reported the burglary and phone call to authorities, an investigation was launched. The suspects then returned with the veteran waiting to defend himself. Gann and Dulabhan were each charged with one count of first-degree robbery. Heathcock was charged with first-degree assault, first-degree robbery, discharging a gun into an occupied building and felony probation violation. 
 
 

 

High Court Reverses Another Alabama Death Sentence

J.D. Lloyd - Monday, June 19, 2017


McWilliams v. Dunn, Comm’r ALDOC

 

Question Presented: Did Alabama courts wrongfully conclude McWilliams was not denied meaningful assistance from a mental-health expert under Ake v. Oklahoma?

 

Facts

 

McWilliams was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death for a 1994 robbery/rape/murder that took place in a convenience store in Tuscaloosa. McWilliams’ mental health was explored in depth during the course of his trial. He was examined by a “Lunacy Commission” composed of three doctors at Taylor Hardin Secure Medical Facility. After he was convicted and after the jury recommended he be sentenced to death by a vote of 10-2, McWilliams asked for neurological and neuropsychological exams. The court order a Dr. John Goff, a neuropsychologist with the State, to examine McWilliams. However, Dr. Goff’s findings were not based on a complete review of his mental health records. His report was given to McWilliams only 48 hours before the judicial sentencing phase. On the eve of the judicial sentencing hearing, Taylor Hardin and Holman Prison sent defense counsel updated records which had been subpoenaed months before. Trial counsel continuously asked the trial court for an independent expert and a continuance, but these requests were rejected.

 

Eventually, McWilliams case arrived in federal court when he filed a 28 U.S.C. § 2254 petition for habeas corpus relief. Among other issues, McWilliams argued that the State deprived him of Due Process under Ake v. Oklahoma, 470 U.S. 68 (1985). McWilliams argued this denial was a violation of “clearly established federal law” and thus entitled him to habeas corpus relief. The district court denied the request.

 

Ake v. Oklahoma

In Ake, the Court ruled that the Constitution requires the State to provide an indigent defendant with “assistance necessary to prepare an effective defense based on his mental condition” if the defendant’s sanity is in question. The ruling was framed around the concept of the “meaningful access to justice.” The expert should “assist in evaluation, preparation, and presentation of the defense.”

 

Eleventh Circuit Ruling

The Eleventh Circuit denied relief. Initially, the Court concluded that McWilliams failed to meet his burden of showing that “clearly established federal law” entitled him to an independent expert. The Eleventh Circuit noted a split in the circuits regarding whether Ake requires the appointment of an independent expert and that the Supreme Court had never resolved that split. Because the split existed, there was, in the Court’s opinion, no clearly established federal law that could entitled McWilliams relief on this claim. Additionally, the court concluded that the State courts’ determination that Ake had been satisfied was likewise not an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law.

 

Judge Wilson’s dissent

Judge Wilson believed that Ake was not satisfied here. First, the State failed to provide meaningful psychological assistance. McWilliams did not receive any expert assistance until after the sentencing hearing held before the jury. Second, the assistance McWilliams received from Dr. Goff was based on an incomplete review of the mental health records available for consideration. In Judge Wilson’s opinion, this paltry showing did not satisfy Ake and warrants habeas corpus relief.

 

Supreme Court Ruling

The Court ruled that in the particular circumstances of this case, McWilliams’ rights under Ake were not protected. The Court declined to answer the more specific question of whether Ake requires appointment of a mental health expert who is independent of the prosecution because Alabama failed to satisfy “Ake’s most basic requirements.”

 

The Court rejected Alabama’s argument that it complied with Ake by allowing Dr. Goff to examine McWilliams. Ake requires more: “[1] examination and assist in [2] evaluation, [3] preparation, and [4] presentation of the defense.” The Court concluded that even if it were to assume the State satisfied the “examination” requirement, it completely failed to satisfy the last three prongs.

 

While the 11th Circuit had ruled that whatever error McWilliams suffered was “harmless,” the Supreme Court noted that ruling was limited to just the question of whether the requested continuance would have made a difference in McWilliams sentencing. The Court pointed out that on remand the 11th Circuit should consider how the State’s failure to guarantee the remaining three prongs of Ake would have made a difference in McWilliams’ case.

 

Dissent (Alito, Roberts, Thomas, Gorsuch)

The dissent would have had the Court address the narrow question of whether it is clearly established federal law that Ake requires the appointment of an independent mental health expert. The dissent complains that Alabama didn’t have a chance to address the question the Court actually addressed. However, this simply isn’t true. Alabama briefed the merits of the underlying Ake claim at the merits stage.

 

The 11th Circuit on Remand

The Eleventh Circuit is likely to kick the case back down to the district court to address the full Ake question. It’s hard to see McWilliams’ death sentence standing when the Supreme Court has all but said 3 aspects of Ake weren’t satisfied here.

 

Alabama Criminal Law Round-Up June 13th

J.D. Lloyd - Tuesday, June 13, 2017

 


 

Here are a few of the criminal law stories that occurred around the state of Alabama this past week:

 

 

- After a Hueytown man stole a struck in his hometown this past Wednesday, he escaped to Birmingham where he managed to hit several other cars after getting off the Arkedelphia Road exit, an incident which also claimed the life of 69-year-old Fred Cornelius Wilson II. The suspect, 24-year-old Cody Allen Abney, faces charges of first-degree theft of property from the Hueytown police and is also expected to face charges from Birmingham police. An Alabama Power employee was also hit by the suspect's truck while sitting in his work vehicle on Bessemer Road, but is expected to be OK after being taken to the hospital. Abney has faced prior conviction in 2015, pleading guilty to second-degree forgery and second-degree theft of property. 

 

 

- An Adger couple's home was recently invaded by their adopted son and two of his friends. The incident occurred in the early morning hours while the couple was asleep. The masked intruders forced their way through the back entrance of the home, forced the couple to the floor and stole guns, jewelry and prescription medicine. A purchase using one of the victim's credit cards at a Bessemer convenience store allowed police to obtain video surveillance of the suspects. The adopted son, 30-year-old Jamie Lee Meadows, enlisted the help of two friends, 28-year-old Roy Scott Jones and 30-year-old Jamie Christopher Cowherd, to help in the burglary. The stolen items have not been recovered. All three suspects face charges of first-degree burglary, first-degree robbery and first-degree theft of property with Jones and Cowherd also facing charges of second-degree assault. Meadows is in the Jefferson County Jail and Cowherd is in the Tuscaloosa Jail on unrelated charges, but will be transferred to Jefferson County upon release. Scott remains at large. 

 

 

- Three Huntsville men will be put on a trial for a murder that occurred over five years ago. If convicted of the murder charge for the fatal choking death of 36-year-old Marlo Patton, the three suspects (28-year-old Jamie Kelly, 26-year-old Savontae Shoulders and 30-year-old Robert Davis) could face up to life in prison. An original fourth suspect, Timothy Smith, has had the charges against him dismissed. According to testimony, "Patton, who was working as a confidential informant for the Madison-Morgan HIDTA drug task force, was killed when he went to a home on Sparkman Drive to buy drugs from Kelly." When Shoulders (who was also present in the house) heard Kelly arguing with Patton, Shoulders put Patton in a headlock after the victim allegedly punched him. According to Shoulders, Davis killed Patton and the trio (accompanied by Timothy Smith) dumped the body in Tennessee. However, since the victim was dead by the time Smith came along, Smith's charges were dropped. For his part, Shoulders is trying to claim self-defense in the trial. 

 

If you or someone you know has been convicted of wrongful criminal charges, there is hope after the trial. Contact us today by clicking HERE.


 

Alabama Criminal Law Round-Up June 6th

J.D. Lloyd - Tuesday, June 06, 2017

 


Here are a few of the criminal law stories that occurred around the state of Alabama this past week:

 

 

- To celebrate her son's recent high graduation, a Fort Payne mother and business owner hosted an underage drinking party for about 100 attendees. In addition to the mother, TOY Store Customs LLC owner Veronica Meija, several minors aged 15-20 were taken into custody. Though Meija is out on bail, she faces Class B misdemeanors for hosting an illegal house party and allowing minors to consume alcohol; if convicted, she could serve six months in jail. 

 

- An Alabama U.S. Postal Service mail carrier was suspended following allegations that she had fed meatballs containing nails to at least one dog in the New Hope community. The 47-year-old suspect, Susanna Dawn Burhans, has been charged with aggravated cruelty to animals, which is a Class C felony. Though she was released on a $2500 bail, if convicted, Burhans could face up to a 10-year prison sentence. 

 

- A 34-year-old, four-time convicted felon with more than 15 arrests in Shelby County was recently taken into custody after a raid at a Sylacauga home. During this raid, the Talladega County Narcotics Task Force discovered and confiscated 36 grams of cocaine, 12 grams of heroin, 24 grams of ICE, 30 grams of Spice, 68 grams of marijuana, and assorted pills and drug paraphernalia along with $10,778 in cash. The suspect, Clifford William Brown, had been convicted of several other charges such as first-degree robbery, first-degree kidnapping and unlawful distribution of a controlled substance. He is being held on a $150,000 in the Shelby County Jail and could face anywhere from 20 years to life in prison if convicted. 

 

If you or someone you know has been convicted of wrongful criminal charges, there is hope after the trial. Contact us today by clicking HERE.


 
 
 
 

 

 

Alabama Criminal Law Round Up May 26th

J.D. Lloyd - Friday, May 26, 2017

 


Here are a few of the criminal law stories that occurred around the state of Alabama this past week:

 

 

- This past Wednesday, Etowah County authorities arrested 49 people on over 100 drug-related charges. With Operation Clean Sweep, the various police organizations compiled a list of 147 people wanted for 257 total charges. Though most of the charges were for unlawful possession of a controlled substance, police said several warrants were for distribution and trafficking of various drugs including methamphetamine, synthetic drugs, heroin, cocaine and marijuana.

 

- After she had initially been arrested in November 2016, a Jefferson County grand jury has recently indicted 47-year-old Angela Hontzas on attempted murder charges after she had allegedly stabbed her elderly parents at their Mountain Brook home. She surrendered to the police when they responded to a 911 call from the residence. According to reports, Hontzas' attorney said "that Hontzas suffered from mental illness and her parents were supportive of her release to receive mental health treatment." She is currently being held in the Jefferson County Jail without bond. 

 

- Decatur police recently arrested and charged 45-year-old Sharon Reedus of operating an illegal gambling operation. The scheme (described as Decatur Police spokesperson Lt. Proncey Robertson as "playing numbers" or "numbers house") ran similar to a lottery with Reedus taking cash bets. According to Robertson, the scheme was "very profitable."


If you or someone you know has been convicted of wrongful criminal charges, there is hope after the trial. Contact us today by clicking HERE.

 

 

 

 

Alabama Criminal Law Round-Up May 19th

J.D. Lloyd - Friday, May 19, 2017

 


Here are a few of the criminal law stories that occurred around the state of Alabama this past week:

 

 

- An investigation by the Anderson Fire Department into a Lauderdale County house fire revealed that the fire had been intentional. The owner of the two-story dwelling, 47-year-old Georgeanna Rickard, has been accused of sending her boyfriend, 51-year-old Kenneth Hudson, to burn down the house while she was away on vacation. The duo eventually stated that they had planned to collect $100,000 from the insurance company for the damage. Hudson is charged with first-degree insurance fraud and first-degree arson; he could face up to life in prison if convicted. Rickard also faces the first-degree insurance fraud charge along with second-degree arson; if convicted, she could face up to 20 years in prison. 

 

- A Hoover man has received his third financial institution robbery charge since the end of January. The first robbery occurred at APCO Employees Credit Union at Chelsea Crossroads on January 30th, the second incident was at Covenant Bank in Leeds on March 21st and the final holdup occurred at the Northport BB&T bank on April 13th. 

 

- In April, grand jury indicted a Shelby County couple on felony charges for keeping their adoptive teen in "forced isolation" for 23 hours a day over the course of several years. When the teen was rescued from the house and later hospitalized, it was revealed that he only weighed 47 pounds. The couple are each being held on a $1 million bond. The husband's attorney has asked several times (including a request this past Monday) for the bond to be reduced to a "reasonable amount" but the judge has either denied the request, or in this most recent, not responded. 

 

If you or someone you know has been convicted of wrongful criminal charges, there is hope after the trial. Contact us today by clicking HERE.


 

 

 

Alabama Criminal Law Round-Up May 12th

J.D. Lloyd - Friday, May 12, 2017

Here are a few of the criminal law stories that occurred around the state of Alabama this past week:

 

 

- Recently, the Shelby County Drug Enforcement Task Force arrested a 47-year-old suspect after a complaint led the authorities to a large hydroponic marijuana grow system. After seizing and harvesting the marijuana and marijuana oil, the task force destroyed the grow site. The estimate of product seized is around $320,000. The suspect, Jason Patrick Center, is being held in the Shelby County Jail on a $1 million bond. 

 

- When confronted by authorities, a Lee County man wanted on charges of first-degree and second-degree assault escaped through his Auburn residence window with nothing more than a pair of shoes. Authorities captured and arrested the still-naked suspect a few hours later on Shug Jordan Parkway. The suspect, 22-year-old Jamal Aikeem Hutchinson, and his accomplice, 21-year-old Malik Marquis Williams of Salem, were wanted in connection with an April 17th robbery and assault of an acquaintance. 

 

 

- A 22-year-old woman is in custody and is awaiting formal murder charges after allegedly shooting her 58-year-old grandmother on the way to another family member's funeral. Though the subject of the altercation that led to the shooting is still unknown, the two were headed to the funeral for the mother of the grandmother's live-in boyfriend. Police said the boyfriend witnessed the entire incident. 

 

If you or someone you know has been convicted of wrongful criminal charges, there is hope after the trial. Contact us today by clicking HERE.


 

 

 

 

Alabama Criminal Law Round-Up May 5th

J.D. Lloyd - Friday, May 05, 2017


Here are a few of the criminal law stories that occurred around the state of Alabama this past week:

 

- The Shelby County Drug Enforcement Task Force recently announced the arrest of Jemison man in connection with a 14.5-pound methamphetamine shipment (worth $240,000) that was being transferred from California to Shelby County. The task force seized the drugs in Columbiana. The suspect is currently being held on a $1 million bond. 

 

- Here's an event that sounds like it came straight out of a horror movie. A father and daughter were stabbed and cut with machete in the Forestdale home this past Tuesday, though fortunately they survived their injuries. The male suspect had lived with the family for several years, and according to police, had been upset by the family's request that he move out. He is currently being held awaiting charges of attempted murder and second-degree assault. 

 

- Two Montgomery juveniles have been charged in connection with a shooting that occurred near McKey Middle School this past Monday morning. They began shooting after they were denied entrance into the middle school. Police charged the pair with making terrorist threats, reckless endangerment, discharging a firearm in the city limits and carrying without a permit. 
 

If you or someone you know has been convicted of wrongful criminal charges, there is hope after the trial. Contact us today by clicking HERE.


 

 

 

 

 

Alabama Criminal Law Round-Up April 26th

J.D. Lloyd - Wednesday, April 26, 2017

 


Here are a few of the criminal law stories that occurred around the state of Alabama this past week:

 

 

- A traffic stop in Birmingham led police to discover two bombs in the truck bed that were 10 inches long, 1 1/2 inches in diameter and filled with flash powder. The two men, one an Army veteran, also had an AR-15 rifle in the backseat along with two other guns. The military veteran, 27-year-old Joshua Ward of Hamilton, was charged with possession of an explosive device and violation of the state firearms act. The other man, 30-year-old Bradley Pullen of Hueytown, faces charges of unlawful possession of a controlled substance. The ATF reported they would disable the explosive devices at a remote location. 

 

- Police have apprehended a suspect in the Easter weekend shooting at Center Point's Cathedral of the Cross that injured six people, including a one-year-old girl. The suspect, 17-year-old Huffman High School student Laeric Bailey, allegedly started firing after an argument over a girl. He was arrested at school a few days later and faces one charge of second-degree assault, though police say he will soon face other charges for the incident. 

 

 

- The Lee County Sheriff's Office reported that two suspects in a 2016 homicide of an Opelika cab owner now face upgraded charges of capital murder. The two suspects, 26-year-old Martez Anthony Simmons and 25-year-old Marquavious Tirrell Howard, were arrested shortly after police responded to an August 30th 911 call about a burning car in Columbus, Ga. The next day, someone reported to Lee County Police that they had found a body on the side of the road with multiple gunshot wounds. The connection was soon made between the cab and the body, which was identified as that of 67-year-old owner William Lewis Foreman. 

 

If you or someone you know has been convicted of wrongful criminal charges, there is hope after the trial. Contact us today by clicking HERE.


 

Alabama Criminal Law Round-Up April 17th

J.D. Lloyd - Monday, April 17, 2017

 


Here are a few of the criminal law stories that occurred around the state of Alabama this past week:

 

 

- An Easter week carnival turned violent Saturday night after an argument amongst a group of teenagers led to one male pulling out a gun and shooting six attendees of the Cathedral of the Cross event in Center Point, including a pregnant woman. Though two of the victims were rushed to a nearby hospital, none of the reported injuries were life-threatening. The Jefferson County Sheriff's office is currently searching for the suspect. The community is grateful that the situation was not worse, considering the 900-person crowd in attendance that evening. 

 

- A Florence couple, Daniel and Jenise Spurgeon, face nearly 700 charges of sexual and physical abuse related to the children they fostered between September 2008 and July 2015, the month the family moved to Florida. An adult daughter reported to police that Daniel Spurgeon threatened the lives of the children if they ever reported him to anyone, which allowed the abuse to go on for several years. The incident finally came to light in the summer of 2016 when the Cape Coral police picked up two of the daughters, aged 13 and 16, at a local KFC restaurant. The 13-year-old was allegedly forced into severe intoxication by Daniel Spurgeon and was soon rushed to the hospital after emergency personnel arrived on the scene. Jenise Spurgeon is currently being held without bail at the Lauderdale County Detention Center. Daniel Spurgeon is being held in a Florida jail, though Florence authorities are trying to extradite him to Alabama.

 

 

- After being evicted from his home by the Calhoun County Sheriff's Office the morning of April 10th, local man Larry Macon Moore Jr. returned to the property later that day, attempted to remove items from the residence and then allegedly set the house on fire. Police later pulled Moore over. After officers learned of the fire from the owner of the property, the suspect was charged with second-degree arson. The man in the car with Moore was arrested on three counts of failure to appear in court on traffic violations.

 

If you or someone you know has been convicted of wrongful criminal charges, there is hope after the trial. Contact us today by clicking HERE.


 

 

 

 

 


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