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

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

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.