CALL 205.538.3340

The Law Office of J.D. Lloyd Logo

AfterTheTrial.com... Because There’s Hope After the Trial

BLOG

After The Trial Blog

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

CCA Update - Hurst Mandamus

J.D. Lloyd - Tuesday, June 21, 2016

 

Friday we saw the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals uphold the constitutionality of Alabama’s capital-sentencing scheme in light of a ruling by Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Tracie Todd that the scheme was unconstitutional under the recent US Supreme Court decision of Hurst v. Florida.

 

Too long, don’t want to read version: Alabama’s capital scheme is not unconstitutional under Hurst, but Hurst will prevent judicial override in cases where (a) the guilt phase verdict does not automatically establish an aggravating circumstance under § 13A-5-49, and (b) the jury finds in the penalty phase that no aggravating circumstance exists beyond a reasonable doubt.

 

Ex parte State of Alabama


In re: Kenneth Eugene Billups (CR-15-0619)

In re: Stanley Brent Chapman (CR-15-0622)

In re: Terell Corey McMullin (CR-15-0623)

In re: Benjamin Todd Acton (CR-15-0624)


Background

 

This case involves the ruling from Judge Tracie Todd of the Jefferson Circuit Court in which she held that the Alabama capital sentencing scheme is unconstitutional. In unrelated cases, Billups and Acton are charged with capital murder-robbery, a violation of § 13A-5-40(a)(2). In cases involving the same murders, Chapman and McMullin are each charged with two count capital murder-robbery (§ 13A-5-40(a)(2)), two counts each of capital murder-burglary (§ 13A-5-40(a)(4), and one count each of capital murder for killing more than one person in the same course of conduct (§ 13A-5-40(a)(10)).

 

Prior to their trials, the defendants moved to bar the imposition of the death penalty on the grounds that Alabama’s capital scheme is unconstitutional under Hurst. The Court granted the motion, finding the Alabama capital scheme unconstitutional. The State filed a petition for a writ of mandamus asking the Court of Criminal Appeals to order Judge Todd to vacate her order.


Holding

 

The Court begins its analysis by reviewing SCOTUS’s rulings in Apprendi v. New Jersey and Ring v. Arizona, emphasizing how Apprendi holds “any fact that increases the penalty for a crime beyond the prescribed statutory maximum must be submitted to a jury, and proven beyond a reasonable doubt." Ring simply applied Apprendi to Arizona’s capital sentencing scheme. In looking at Hurst, the Court of Criminal Appeals observed that the Hurst opinion, like the Ring opinion, did nothing more than apply Apprendi to Florida’s capital sentencing scheme. The CCA explained:

 

“The [Hurst] Court noted that "[t]he analysis the Ring Court applied to Arizona's sentencing scheme applies equally to Florida's." Hurst, 577 U.S. at ___, 136 S.Ct. at 621-22. Florida's capital sentencing scheme as it then existed was similar to Arizona's in that the maximum sentence authorized by a jury verdict finding a defendant guilty of first-degree murder was life imprisonment without the possibility of parole; the defendant became eligible for the death penalty only if the trial court found the existence of an aggravating circumstance and found that there were insufficient mitigating circumstances to outweigh the aggravating circumstances.”


Ex parte State at * 14. The CCA concluded that Hurst “did nothing more than apply its previous holdings in Apprendi and Ring to Florida's capital sentencing scheme. The Court did not announce a new rule of constitutional law, nor did it expand its holdings in Apprendi and Ring. As the State correctly argues, "Hurst did not add anything of substance to Ring." (Petitions, p. 6.)”

 

The CCA zeroed in on how Ring and Hurst, applying Apprendi, focus on death penalty “eligibility,” the objective component of a death sentence. This, of course, is distinct from the subjective component of whether a death sentence is actually appropriate in a given case. The Court observed that the Alabama scheme only requires the jury to find one aggravating factor under § 13A-5-49 in order for a defendant to be “eligible” for a death sentence.

 

Under Apprendi, Ring, and Hurst, the crucial question is -- does the required finding that an aggravating circumstance exists expose the defendant to a greater punishment than that authorized by the jury's guilty verdict alone? In Alabama, unlike Arizona and Florida, the answer to that question depends on the capital offense at issue.

 

The CCA discussed how the Alabama capital statute includes “overlap” and “non-overlap” capital offense. A guilt-phase conviction of an “overlap” offenses automatically establishes the one aggravating circumstances under § 13A-5-49 required to impose a death sentence under § 13A-5-47. For example, a conviction of capital murder-robbery under § 13A-5-40(a)(2) “overlaps” with the aggravating factor that the murder was committed during a robbery pursuant to § 13A-5-49(4). On the other hand, a conviction for a non-overlap offense, such as murder committed by shooting from a vehicle, does not “overlap” with an aggravating factor found in § 13A-5-49.

 

In looking at “overlap” offenses, the Court concluded that there is no Hurst problem because the guilt-phase determination finds beyond reasonable doubt an aggravating factor under § 13A-5-49, which would make the defendant death-eligible under Apprendi, Ring, and Hurst. Likewise, the Court held that in non-overlap cases, if a jury finds beyond a reasonable doubt that an aggravator exists, he too is death eligible under Apprendi, Ring, and Hurst.

 

The Court recognized that Apprendi, Ring, and Hurst will foreclose a death sentence in a situation where a defendant is convicted of a “non-overlap” offense and the jury in the guilt phase determines that no

aggravating circumstance exists. In this situation, the trial court can only sentence the defendant to LWOP.


Getting Really Technical

 

The CCA also considered the very technical question of whether it had jurisdiction to consider the State’s request for a writ of mandamus.

 

In criminal cases, the State of Alabama has very few opportunities to appeal an adverse ruling. At times the State must ask for what’s called a “writ of mandamus” -- basically, an order from a higher court (the Court of Criminal Appeals or the Supreme Court) to mandate that a circuit court do something.  Mandamus is rarely granted and very hard to get. Basically, you have to show (a) you’re clearly entitled to the relief you seek, and (b) there’s no other option for you. The State often has to revert to mandamus requests because their right to appeal is so limited. Defendants have an even harder time getting mandamus since they have a broader right to appeal, and thus, a chance to rectify legal wrongs.

 

With respect to this issue, the Court found that there is no statute authorizing a state appeal on this question. Since a writ of mandamus can be issued to “prevent a gross disruption in the administration of criminal justice,” the Court concluded that it had jurisdiction to consider granting the writ because the situation at hand threatened a “gross disruption in the administration."

 

 

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.



 


Recent Posts


Tags

US Supreme Court Update sixth amendment fraud Rule 32 pelham alabama Thomas Hardiman hoax destructive devices LWOP cullman alabama mcwilliams v dunn baltimore city circuit court Gardendale Alabama West Alabama Justice Sotomayor south carolina minor offenses Woods v State the mannequin challenge eleventh circuit ruling court of criminal appeals theft of property drug activity heritage christian university oneonta alabama abuse sexual assault pinson alabama William Pryor OJ Simpson Made in America Kareem Dacar Gaymon shooting homicide rate kidnapping CCA update brady v maryland brendan dassey serial car accident sentencing law and policy blog summaries fake kidnapping, gadsden alabama criminal justice pruitt v state Xavier Beasley smith v state death penalty, npr christian guitierez brian fredick lucas public assistance fraud forced isolation drug trafficking, alabama supreme court netflix breaking and entering mount olive alabama hanceville alabama talladega superspeedway drug crimes hoover alabama abandonment Hillary Clinton, operation crackdown Kay Ivey mccalla alabama kimberly alabama second amendment john earle redfearn IV v state morgan county alabama self defense dothan alabama mulga alabama st clair county alabama Marengo County Alabama Adamsville alabama lethal injection constitutional law, shelby county fraudulent checks marion county capital offenses betton v state battles v state edwards v arizona home repair fraud gun rights church robberies beylund v north dakota lethal injection drugs midazolam benjamin todd acton constitutional violations court systems, rainbow city alabama department of justice 28 U.S.C. § 2254 embezzlement moore v texas parole fultondale alabama Shonda Walker, peyton pruitt dekalb county alabama endangerment of a child capital punishment levins v state concealed carry assault florence alabama Sardis Alabama attempted murder legende v state eric sterling kenneth eugene billups texas prostitution sting fairfield alabama, Mike Hubbard pell city alabama OJ Simpson New York Times birchfield v north dakota domestic violence dora alabama debit card skimming scams narcotics investigation eugene lee jones v state state of arizona Ingmire v State department of justice, implied consent bernard v north dakota limestone county alabama identity theft criminal mischief judicial override nathan woods Malone v State drug possession, editorial ferguson missouri habeas corpus relief asia mcclain Etowah County Alabama, bailey v us heflin alabama cherokee county alabama crime of passion birmingham alabama Tommy Arthur robberies Alonzo Ephraim tuscaloosa alabama fort payne alabama fourth amendment nicholas hawkins huntsville Dylann Roof debtor prison road rage maryland court of special appeals Neil Gorsuch executions hurst mandamus eighth amendment, illegal gambling Stephen Breyer state of alabama foley alabama alfonso morris Alabaster alabama hurst v florida stoves v state gun control Briarwood Presbyterian Church lamar county madison alabama bessemer alabama keith v state domestic abuse baldwin county alabama tarrant alabama 2016 election, clarence thomas shoplifting towles v state Donald Trump, moving violations theft court of criminal appeal releases russell calhoun sheffield v state scotus abduction blount county alabama bomb threat hall v florida utah supreme court aiding and abetting avondale alabama ring v arizona § 13A-3-23 montgomery alabama anniston alabama, brendan dassey, steve avery, making a murderer, scotus, netflix Tracie Todd blountsville alabama albertville alabama Jefferson County Alabama banville v state decatur alabama sarah koenig jerry bohannon boaz alabama operation bullseye Glaze v State armed robbery underage drinking warrior alabama huntsville alabama mobile alabama burglary animal cruelty brookside alabama unlawful manufacturing Walker County Alabama calhoun county alabama warrantless blood draws criminal justice reform, economic growth aziz sayyed adger alabama drug seizure death penalty lauderdale county alabama Benn v State homicide greene county alabama steve avery § 13A-3-23(d) immunity hearing drug smuggling Guy Terrell Junior capital murder christmas shooting negligent homicide Pleasant Grove Alabama felony assaults trussville alabama street racing arson SCOTUS, utah v strieff campbell v state Fentanyl ex parte briseno alabama social media apprendi v new jersey making a murderer alabama criminal law roundup springville alabama Wesley Adam Whitworth alabama law enforcement agency adnan syed, murder ake v oklahoma mike gilotti morris alabama mountain brook alabama Joshua Reese illegal gun carry Samuel Alito stanley brent chapman drug busts Eutaw Alabama terell corey mcmullin shooting death strickland v washington Easter Lucky D Arcade

Archive

DISCLAIMER

These recoveries and testimonials are not an indication of future results. Every case is different, and regardless of what friends, family, or other individuals may say about what a case is worth, each case must be evaluated on its own facts and circumstances as they apply to the law. The valuation of a case depends on the facts, the injuries, the jurisdiction, the venue, the witnesses, the parties, and the testimony, among  other factors. Furthermore, no representation is made that the quality of the legal services to be performed is greater than the quality of legal services performed by other lawyers.

Get Free Legal Advice  Contact us for a complimentary legal consultation

I am interested in scheduling a free legal consultation and receiving additional information.

Submitting Form...

The server encountered an error.

Thank you, your  entry has been  received.

© 2017 The Law Office of J.D. Lloyd, LLC. All Rights Reserved. |

 

As required by Rule 7.2(e), Alabama Rules of Professional Conduct, no representation is made that the quality of the legal services to be performed is greater than the quality of legal services performed by other lawyers.