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

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

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.