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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.

Court of Criminal Appeal Releases from March 17, 2017

J.D. Lloyd - Monday, March 27, 2017

 

Keith v. State (CR-15-1319)

Keith pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of a controlled substance and first-degree unlawful possession of marijuana after police found drugs under the front seat of his car during an inventory search. Officers pulled Keith over when they ran his license plate and realized the tag didn’t match his car. When they ran Keith’s ID, they discovered he had outstanding warrants and placed him under arrest. His car was searched as an inventory search and the drugs were found inside. Keith moved to suppress on the grounds that the search was improper warrantless search.

REVERSED. The Court concluded that the State failed to show that inventory search was carried out “according to standard criteria and on the basis of something other than suspicion of criminal activity.” The Court focused on Ex parte Boyd, 542 So. 2d 1276 (Ala. 1989), where the Alabama Supreme Court concluded that an inventory search was not valid because there was no evidence that law enforcement carried out the search pursuant to policy. Here, the Court found the same deficiencies that the Boyd court found: conclusory statements regarding following inventory policy, a lack of an inventory list, no copy of the policy was presented, and no evidence the officer followed that policy. Judge Joiner wrote a lengthy dissent.

 

Thoughts: I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Alabama Supreme Court take this issue up and ask for clarification for inventory searches andBoyd’s lasting effect. To me, inventory search precedent focuses on whether officers can show a search really was an administrative search and not a fishing expedition.

 

Sheffield v. State (CR-15-1467)

Sheffield was convicted of murder. He argued that he shot the victim in self-defense or by accident. At trial, the State introduced a recording of a heated phone conversation between the defendant and his wife, which was pretty damning to the defense -- she basically said he murdered the victim and didn’t act in self defense. Sheffield tried to invoke martial privilege to exclude the conversation, but the court allowed its introduction via Rule 804(b)(3) -- statements against interest. The State’s theory was that it was against the spouse’s interest for Sheffield to get convicted of murder.

REVERSED. The Court acknowledged that this was a question of first impression -- whether a declarant’s statements made against her spouse’s penal interest may also be considered against her own pecuniary or proprietary interest. In looking at Oregon case law, the Court concluded that the test as to whether a statement fits within the purview of Rule 804(b)(3) comes down to two central questions: (1) Was the declarant’s primary motive in making the statement to hurt or help her own interest; and (2) Was the risk to the declarant-spouse so great that the statements are inherently reliable? Here, the Court concluded the statements were not against Sheffield’s spouse’s interest (she wanted to divorce him), so they should not have been admitted under Rule 804(b)(3). Moreover, the Court concluded that this error wasn’t harmless given slight evidence presented surrounding the fatal moments.

 

Smith v. State (CR13-0055)

Smith was convicted of two counts of capital murder for a brutal kidnapping-murder/robbery-murder he carried out. At sentencing, the victim’s mother and sister testified that they believed the death penalty was an appropriate punishment for Smith. Smith argued on appeal that this testimony was improper.

CONVICTION AFFIRMED; SENTENCE VACATED. The Court concluded the victim’s family’s recommendations were improper victim impact statements regarding recommended sentences under Booth v. Maryland. The Court found these statements to be plain error and vacated the death sentence.

Thoughts: I’m not going to be surprised if this gets reversed by the AL SC saying that this error didn’t rise to the level of plain error. I could see the AL SC using Judge Windom’s dissent as a blue print for re-imposing Smith’s death sentence.

 

Legendre v. State (CR-16-0008)

Legendre was on probation and his PO filed a delinquency report alleging that he failed to report, left the state without permission, didn’t pay supervision fees, failed to pay court-ordered moneys, failed to report to CRO and failed to complete a court-ordered substance abuse program. At the hearing, the PO testified to trying to contact Legendre and how Legendre had missed meetings with her. In revoking, the court concluded that Legendre’s failure to report rose to the level of “absconding,” which allowed the court to fully revoke his probation. Legendre appealed claiming that he had not absconded.

AFFIRMED. The Court concluded that between his failure to report and his failure to communicate with the PO once she had contacted, the State presented sufficient evidence to prove that Legendre absconded and could be fully revoke.

 

Banville v. State (CR-15-1384)

The preclusive bar of Rule 32.2(d) does not bar a second Rule 32 petition if the first Rule 32 petition was based only upon Rule 32.1(f) -- a request to file an out-of-time appeal.

 

Campbell v. State (CR-15-1187)

Stoves v. State (CR-14-1687)

Both of these cases involved a reversal of one conviction on Double Jeopardy grounds (i.e., duplicate offenses), but an affirming of the remaining counts. Both are fact-intensive and not particularly noteworthy.

 

 

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.



 

 

CCA Caselaw Update - June 2016

J.D. Lloyd - Friday, June 03, 2016


Malone v. State (CR-14-1326)

Malone was charged with second-degree assault and moved before trial for an immunity hearing under § 13A-3-23(d). During the incident in question, Malone stabbed the other party after the other person grabbed Malone by the throat, Malone left, and the other person caught up to Malone and grabbed him by the throat again. Malone’s self-defense claim wasn’t based upon a Stand-Your-Ground defense. The circuit court denied his request on the grounds that it did not have the authority to decide the question of immunity at a pretrial hearing. REVERSED. This case appears to be a pretty formative decision in the area of self-defense and the on-going interpretation of the 2006 amendment. The Court resolved two pretty big questions in favor of defendants.

 


1. Using deadly force is permissible under § 13A-3-23 outside of the stand-your-ground situations discussed in § 13A-3-23(b). One of the questions presented here was whether the 2006 Stand-Your-Ground amendment to § 13A-3-23(b) limited the use of deadly force in self defense to only those situations covered by the amendment to § 13A-3-23(b) -- where (a) a defendant is in a place he/she has a right to be and (b) isn’t involved in unlawful activity. Effectively, the State argued that if your situation didn’t follow under this dynamic -- i.e., like Malone’s -- the use of deadly physical force is not permitted. On the other hand, Malone argued that the common-law duty to retreat still applied in situations not covered by § 13A-3-23(b). The Court of Criminal Appeals agreed, holding that the amendment didn’t abrogated the common law duty to retreat before using deadly physical force -- the amendment just gave another justification for using deadly physical force.


2. A § 13A-3-23(d) immunity hearing is not limited to only Stand-Your-Ground situations but rather any circumstance in which someone is possibly justified in using self defense. Again, the State tried to read the 2006 amendment in a narrow manner that simply isn’t justified by the plain wording of the statute. As such, the CCA held that an immunity hearing is authorized under § 13A-3-23(d) to adjudicate any self-defense claim, not just stand-your-ground claims.

 

Woods v. State (CR-14-0845)


Woods pleaded guilty to DUI in the Montgomery District Court and appealed for a trial de novo in the circuit court. During the circuit court trial, the State introduced over Woods’ objection a redacted copy of his guilty-plea conviction in the district court. On appeal, Woods argued that the guilty-plea shouldn’t have been allowed in a trial de novo; however, the State argued that under Phillips v. City of Dothan, 534 So. 3d 381 (Ala. Crim. App. 1988), the plea was admissible. REVERSED. The CCA decided that Phillips doesn’t comport with the idea that a trial de novo “wipes the slate clean” relying on language in Yarbrough v. City of Birmingham, 535 So. 2d 75 (Ala. Crim. App. 1977) and Ex parte Sorsby, 12 So .3d 139 (Ala. 2007). As such, the Court overruled Phillips and held that the admission of the guilty plea was reversible error.


Smith v. State (CR-97-1258)


In a death case that saw numerous remands and orders new sentencing hearings for a myriad of reasons, the circuit court held a fourth penalty-phase hearing wherein it excluded the public during the jury selection phase of the proceeding over the defense’s objection. The circuit court offered a generic justification regarding the small size of the courtroom to support its decision. The jury recommended death by a vote of 10-2 and the court followed that recommendation. REVERSED The Court of Criminal Appeals reversed, finding that the circuit court failed to show how closing the courtroom was justified under Waller v. Georgia, 467 U.S. 39 (1984).

 

Ingmire v. State (CR-14-1447)

 

Ingmire was charged and convicted of one count second-degree theft and one count receiving stolen property in connection to the theft/sale of a four-wheeler. At trial, the circuit court allowed the State to introduce a NCIC report where the four-wheeler was listed as stolen. The defense objected. REVERSED . Here, the CCA held that the NCIC report was hearsay and was not, in this trial, show to be a business record and worthy of exception under Rule 803(6) because there was no evidence that the report fit within the business-records exception. The Court left open the possibility that NCIC reports could one day be held to fit within the exception, but such a showing was not made in the trial below.

 

Benn v. State (CR-14-0714)


Benn was convicted of seven counts of capital murder and the jury recommended death by a vote of 10-2. On December 12, 2014, the circuit court held a judicial-sentencing hearing and took the arguments under advisement. On January 29, 2015, the court issued a written sentencing order sentencing Benn to death. On appeal, Benn argued that the CCA lacked jurisdiction to consider this matter because the circuit court failed to enter a judgment of conviction as required by law. APPEAL DISMISSED. Relying on the AL SC’s recent decision in Ex parte Kelley, [Ms.  1131451] (Ala. 2015) and § 12-22-130, the CCA held that trial court must pronounce in open court both an adjudication of guilt and sentence.

 

Glaze v. State (CR-15-0553)

 

This was a DUI case involving a municipality wherein the appeal was dismissed for the same reason in Benn v. State

 

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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