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

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

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.