632 F.2d 605 (5th Cir. 1980), 79-3325, Holloway v. McElroy

Docket Nº:79-3325.
Citation:632 F.2d 605
Party Name:M. W. HOLLOWAY, Petitioner-Appellee, v. Clay E. McELROY, Warden, Respondent-Appellant.
Case Date:December 11, 1980
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

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632 F.2d 605 (5th Cir. 1980)

M. W. HOLLOWAY, Petitioner-Appellee,


Clay E. McELROY, Warden, Respondent-Appellant.

No. 79-3325.

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

December 11, 1980

Rehearing and Rehearing En Banc Denied Jan. 12, 1981.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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John W. Dunsmore, Asst. Atty. Gen., Atlanta, Ga., for respondent-appellant.

Lawrence W. Roberts, Cordele, Ga., for petitioner-appellee.

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

Before MORGAN, ANDERSON and RANDALL, Circuit Judges.

RANDALL, Circuit Judge:

On May 1, 1975, a jury in the Crisp County, Georgia, Superior Court convicted M. W. Holloway of voluntary manslaughter for the March 18, 1975, shooting of Joe Crumbley. At trial, Holloway had admitted the shooting, but had claimed self-defense. He was sentenced to twenty years. His conviction was affirmed on direct appeal in the Georgia courts, and the denial of his subsequent petition for habeas corpus in the state courts was affirmed by the Georgia Supreme Court. He then petitioned the federal district court below for a writ of habeas corpus. That court granted habeas relief, Holloway v. McElroy, 474 F.Supp. 1363 (M.D.Ga.1979), and the State of Georgia brings this appeal.

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We are presented with two questions: First, was the burden of persuasion on one or more elements of the crime of voluntary manslaughter impermissibly shifted to Holloway in violation of his due process rights under the United States Constitution? Second, should the standard so recently announced by the United States Supreme Court in Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560 (1979), be applied in determining the sufficiency of the evidence upon which he was convicted, and if so, was that evidence insufficient under the Jackson standard?

For the reasons set out below, and with some qualifications, we answer these questions in the affirmative. We therefore affirm the action of the district court below in granting habeas corpus relief.


  1. The Trial

    Holloway was tried on a charge of malice murder, but was found guilty only of voluntary manslaughter. The prosecution's theory at trial was that Holloway deliberately, intentionally, and maliciously shot Joe Crumbley while Crumbley was sitting in his pickup truck at Holloway's father's farm near Cordele, Georgia; Holloway then, according to the prosecution's theory, attempted to alter the evidence at the scene to make it consistent with a story of self-defense. Holloway has consistently maintained that he shot Crumbley in legitimate self-defense as Crumbley came at him with a knife after the two men had scuffled. The chief evidence to support the State's theory was a series of inconsistencies between Holloway's version of the events as related at the trial and in interviews with police officers immediately after the shooting. For reasons that will become obvious later in this opinion, we proceed to sketch the evidence presented by both sides at Holloway's trial on April 30-May 1, 1975; additional detail is provided in the accompanying footnotes. 1

    1. The prosecution's case-in-chief.-The prosecution's first key witness was Deputy Sheriff Andrew Martin. Martin testified that he had driven to Holloway's father's farm at about 3:00 p. m. on the day of the shooting to answer a report of trouble. Holloway led Martin to Crumbley's body, which lay just inside the doorway of the Holloway house. In response to Martin's questioning, Holloway explained that the shooting had occurred after an argument and fight between Crumbley and himself. Crumbley had started the fight in a drunken rage, and when Holloway withdrew the house, Crumbley pursued him with a knife. Holloway claimed that he had been forced to shoot in self-defense as Crumbley threatened him with the knife after following Holloway into the house. 2 The physical

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    evidence at the scene was consistent in most respects with Holloway's account of the events. 3 The two respects in which the physical evidence was inconsistent with Holloway's version of events, as told to Martin on the scene, had to do with the location of Crumbley's coat at the time of the shooting and the ownership of a spread with which the body was covered. Holloway told Martin that Crumbley had taken off his own hat and jacket early in the fight. Other evidence at the trial showed that Crumbley had been wearing the jacket when the fatal shot was fired. Crumbley's body was covered with a spread when Martin arrived on the scene; there was testimony that the spread came from Crumbley's pickup truck rather than from the Holloway house, as Holloway claimed. 4 Subsequent investigation positively confirmed that the gun Holloway turned over to Martin had been the one used in the shooting, and that the shooting had been the cause of Crumbley's death. 5

    The other key witness was Georgia Bureau of Investigation Agent Jim Baker, who described two interviews he had conducted with Holloway after the shooting. 6 In the initial interview, Holloway told a

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    story very similar to that which he told Martin. 7 When confronted with a discrepancy in his story with regard to when Crumbley took off his jacket, Holloway this time said that Crumbley took off the jacket as he came into the house. 8 Holloway told Baker that he had fired from a kneeling position as Crumbley loomed over him with the knife; he fired several times. After an autopsy on Crumbley's body indicated that the bullet's trajectory ranged downward at a forty-five degree angle from the left shoulder into the right chest space, Baker again questioned Holloway as to the position which he fired the shots, and Holloway again confirmed that he had begun firing while on his knees. 9 Though Baker investigated with some care, he could find no other evidence inconsistent with Holloway's claim of self-defense. 10

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    2. The defendant's case-in-chief.-The defense primarily relied upon M. W. Holloway's own testimony. 11 Holloway contended that Crumbley had started a fight with him after cursing him and accusing him of trying to shoot Crumbley in a previous incident that involved Crumbley's unauthorized fishing at a pond on the Holloway property. 12 After the men fought in the yard outside the Holloway house for a while, Holloway broke free and retreated to the house. But Crumbley followed him, brandishing a hunting knife 13 and ignoring Holloway's warnings. Holloway was forced to shoot to save his own life. 14 After the

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    shooting, he covered Crumbley's body with a spread that he claimed belonged to him; he then summoned the police. 15

    When asked at trial to explain his prior inconsistent statements to the police officers regarding the jacket, he said that he didn't remember much about the jacket-only that he had taken it off Crumbley after the shooting. Holloway flatly denied that he had gotten the spread out of Crumbley's truck, or that he had ever plotted to kill Crumbley. He testified that he did not know Crumbley well enough to recognize him on sight, and that he only recognized Crumbley when Crumbley accused him of trying to shoot Crumbley at the fishpond. When asked why he had shot Crumbley, Holloway replied as follows:

    I shot Mr. Crumbley because Mr. Crumbley was trying to kill me with this knife, trying to stick me with this knife. I was trying to protect my life; I was trying to get him off me and the only way I could get him off me was with that. I tried to push him back; I tried to get him to leave two or three times.

    He testified further that he was physically unable to put up much of a fight because of a physical disability having to do with his hip joint. He denied having changed around any of the physical evidence on the scene, and said that he never went out to Crumbley's truck at all. When asked to account for the inconsistencies between his testimony at trial and the statements he had given the police officers after the event, Holloway replied that he had been very upset and sick on the day of the shooting. He said that he did not deny that he might have made some inconsistent statements to the police about the jacket, but said that he was telling the story at trial as he remembered it.

    When asked to explain the path of the fatal bullet, the following exchange took place between the district attorney and Holloway:

    Q. Well, can you explain to the Jury in any manner that you see fit, how Joe Crumbley could have been shot in the left shoulder and the bullet take a

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    downward trajectory with you on your knees and him over you?

    A. The last shot I fired at Mr. Crumbley, I was up.

    Q. Oh, now you remember that you ....

    A. I said that I was coming up and I had the gun pointed this way, the way I said it was done, in this direction, like this, and when I came up, Mr. Crumbley jerked, I felt him when he jerked back.

    (Ellipsis in original.) Unfortunately, the court reporter did not indicate Holloway's descriptive gestures in the transcript.

    The defense rested, and its motion for a directed verdict of acquittal was denied. Both sides made closing arguments and the jury was charged. 16 During their deliberations, the jury asked the court what the various sentences were for the different offenses as to which they had been instructed, but the court declined to answer that question. After deliberating for over three hours, the jury returned a verdict of guilty of voluntary manslaughter. Thus, they impliedly acquitted Holloway of the greater charge of malice murder and rejected his sole defense of self-defense. The court then sentenced Holloway to the maximum allowable sentence for voluntary manslaughter under Georgia...

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