527 F.3d 1162 (11th Cir. 2008), 05-15981, Newland v. Hall

Docket Nº:05-15981.
Citation:527 F.3d 1162
Party Name:Robert L. NEWLAND, Petitioner-Appellant, v. Hilton HALL, Warden, Georgia Diagnostic Prison, Respondent-Appellee.
Case Date:May 14, 2008
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

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527 F.3d 1162 (11th Cir. 2008)

Robert L. NEWLAND, Petitioner-Appellant,


Hilton HALL, Warden, Georgia Diagnostic Prison, Respondent-Appellee.

No. 05-15981.

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit.

May 14, 2008

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Katherine M. White and Joseph C. Basta (Court-Appointed), Dykema Gossett, PLLC, Ann Arbor, MI, Brian S. Kammer (Court-Appointed), GA Resource Ctr., Atlanta, GA, for Newland.

Susan V. Boleyn , State Law Dept., Atlanta, GA, for Hall.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia.

Before TJOFLAT , ANDERSON and WILSON , Circuit Judges.

TJOFLAT , Circuit Judge:

On August 14, 1987, the petitioner, Robert Newland, was convicted in the Superior Court of Glynn County, Georgia of malice murder and aggravated assault with intent to commit rape.1 The following day, at the conclusion of the penalty phase of the trial, the jury recommended that petitioner be sentenced to death for the murder. The court followed the jury's recommendation and sentenced petitioner accordingly.2 After exhausting his direct appeal and collateral attack remedies in state court, petitioner applied to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia for a writ of habeas corpus, challenging his

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convictions and death sentence on several federal constitutional grounds. The court denied the writ. We granted petitioner a certificate of appealability, authorizing an appeal raising five issues.3

In his opening brief, petitioner presents only two of the issues; both question whether his attorneys provided him the effective assistance of counsel guaranteed by the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution. The first issue concerns the admissibility of the confession petitioner gave the police. Petitioner claims that the confession was involuntary, the product of police coercion, and that his trial attorney rendered ineffective assistance of counsel in failing to convince the court that it was inadmissible on that ground. He claims that his appellate attorney rendered ineffective assistance of counsel in failing to appeal the trial court's admission of the confession into evidence. The second issue concerns the adequacy of counsel's preparation for and prosecution of petitioner's case at the penalty phase of the trial and asks whether counsel was constitutionally ineffective in failing adequately to search for and present to the jury certain mitigating evidence.4

The Georgia courts, applying Supreme Court precedent, found no constitutional deficiency in counsel's performance. The district court, in denying habeas relief, concluded that the Georgia courts properly applied that precedent in disposing of petitioner's challenges. We agree with the district court and therefore affirm its judgment.

This opinion is organized as follows. Part I describes the commission of the crimes in this case as presented to the jury. Part II discusses the procedural history of the case as it wound its way through the state courts and the district court on collateral review. We recount in considerable detail defense counsel's challenge to the validity of petitioner's confession and counsel's preparation for and prosecution of petitioner's case at the penalty phase of the trial. Part III states the legal standards governing our disposition of petitioner's claims, and parts IV-VI dispose of those claims. Part VII concludes our discussion.



Petitioner and Margaret Beggs, his girlfriend of four years, moved to Glynn County, Georgia in February 1984. Petitioner was self-employed as a drywall construction contractor and Beggs was employed as a social worker in a local mental health clinic. They lived in a house at 230 Broadway Street on St. Simon's Island, across the street from Carol Sanders Beatty, who

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lived in a duplex at 231 Broadway Street. Over the two years that they were neighbors, Beggs and Beatty increasingly socialized with each other. Petitioner had infrequent social contact with Beatty, although they were on friendly terms.

On May 30, 1986, at approximately 4:30 p.m., petitioner and Beggs went to a local bar, the Sandpiper, where petitioner had several glasses of beer. They left the bar at around 5:15 p.m., and after purchasing Chinese take-out at Ping's Restaurant and a bottle of vodka at a local store, they went home for dinner. After dining and consuming several Bloody Marys, they went across the street to visit Beatty. They arrived at around 8:30 p.m., carrying the bottle of vodka and some Bloody Mary mix with them. While Beatty and Beggs talked-mostly about the problems Beatty was having with her husband locked up in a Florida prison for dealing drugs-petitioner and Beggs had several rounds of Bloody Marys, consuming most of the vodka in the process.5

Petitioner left Beatty's residence around 9:30-10:00 p.m, announcing that he was going home to bed because he had to get up early the next morning to bid a construction job. Beggs stayed and continued the conversation with Beatty. Petitioner went home, but did not retire for the night. Instead, he packed some clothes and other household items in his pick-up truck and drove to a pier on St. Simon's Island, where he struck a parked vehicle and immediately fled the scene. He abandoned his pick-up truck on Forest Park Drive, several blocks from his Broadway Street residence, and headed on foot to Beatty's residence. The owner of the vehicle petitioner had struck, Donald Sanders, had witnessed the collision and called the police. While these events were unfolding, Beggs remained at Beatty's. She left at around 11:00 p.m. After she got home, she discovered that petitioner was not there. Neither was his truck.

Beatty was in her front yard when she and Beggs parted company. Bonnie Smith, who lived in the other half of the duplex at 231 Broadway Street, was there too. Beatty and Smith visited for a few minutes; both then retired for the night. It was approximately 11:15 p.m.

Shortly after the two women returned to their residences, petitioner entered Beatty's backyard. Petitioner described what happened next in his confession to the police on May 31, after he had been taken into custody. He called to Beatty, asking her to come outside. Beatty came out and petitioner attempted to kiss her. She refused, and told him to go home or she would tell Beggs. Petitioner again attempted to kiss her, and she scratched and slapped him. According to his post-arrest confession to the police, he then “grabbed her and I threw her down and somehow the knife came in my hand and started stabbing her, I don't know, I just lost [sic] out of control ... I was drunk, I don't know why I did it. I had no reason for it." Petitioner stabbed Beatty in the throat and the abdomen, using a pocket knife that he regularly carried. During the assault, Beatty screamed and called for help. When she collapsed, he ran home, discarding the knife as he ran, washed himself off with a hose in his backyard, put on a new pair of jeans, and entered his house.

At 11:22 p.m., Glynn County Police Department Detectives Barry Moore and James Brundage received a report of a woman screaming in the Broadway Street

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neighborhood. While they were responding to the call, they received a call from Bonnie Smith, who told them that a woman was screaming in her backyard, behind her residence at 231 Broadway Street. They drove to that address, heard someone run through the backyard, and gave chase. In the course of their pursuit, Brundage discovered petitioner's pick-up truck parked nearby on Forest Drive. The truck matched the description of the vehicle involved in the hit and run Sanders had reported.

Unable to find the person they were chasing, the detectives returned to Beatty's residence. Brundage found Beatty in the backyard, laying in the garden, and still alive. Paramedics were summoned and transported Beatty to Glynn-Brunswick Memorial Hospital. According to Dr. Irwin Berman, one of her treating surgeons, Beatty had

a slash wound [in] her neck, which had exposed the entire cross section of her windpipe ... In addition to that, she had multiple wounds of her great vessels of neck ... There were smaller wounds of the flank ... and a stab wound of the abdomen through which ... some of the organs of the, of the abdomen were protruding.

After Beatty had been taken to the hospital, petitioner, dressed in jeans but without a shirt or shoes, entered his house through the backyard. Beggs was awake. She noticed scratches on his face and chest. When she asked about them, petitioner told her that he fell in some bushes on the way back from Beatty's.6 Beggs then observed the flashing lights of police cars across the street, at Beatty's, and went over to find out what had happened. She learned that Beatty had been attacked and taken to the hospital.

Beggs returned home and told petitioner that “something terrible had happened to Carol." Petitioner told her “he didn't do it." He asked Beggs to find his truck, because he could not remember where he had left it, and attempted to crawl into a small attic space, telling Beggs he was going to hide. Beggs, increasingly distraught at petitioner's bizarre behavior, left the house in an attempt to find the truck. She also wanted to get away from petitioner, to collect her thoughts.

Beggs drove by Beatty's duplex for a minute or two, searched the neighborhood for petitioner's vehicle and, failing to find it, drove to a local convenience store to purchase cigarettes. After that, she drove to the same pier petitioner had headed for earlier, to have a smoke and...

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