685 F.2d 1227 (11th Cir. 1982), 80-5997, Proffitt v. Wainwright

Docket Nº:80-5997.
Citation:685 F.2d 1227
Party Name:Charles William PROFFITT, Petitioner-Appellant, v. Louie L. WAINWRIGHT, Secretary, Florida Department of Offender Rehabilitation, Respondent-Appellee.
Case Date:September 10, 1982
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

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685 F.2d 1227 (11th Cir. 1982)

Charles William PROFFITT, Petitioner-Appellant,


Louie L. WAINWRIGHT, Secretary, Florida Department of

Offender Rehabilitation, Respondent-Appellee.

No. 80-5997.

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

September 10, 1982

Concurring in Part and Dissenting in Part Opinion Sept. 17, 1982.

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Kathryn Emmett, David Golub, Stamford, Conn., Deborah Fins, New York City, for petitioner-appellant.

Charles Corces, Jr., Asst. Atty. Gen., Tampa, Fla., for respondent-appellee.

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

Before VANCE, KRAVITCH and CLARK, Circuit Judges.

KRAVITCH, Circuit Judge:

I. Case History 1

On March 21, 1974 appellant Charles Proffitt was tried and convicted of first degree murder by a jury in the Circuit Court of Hillsborough County, Florida. In the second phase of the bifurcated proceeding the jury issued an advisory sentence recommending the death penalty, and the judge, in agreement with that recommendation, sentenced appellant to death. Pursuant to Florida's capital sentencing statute, Pub.L.No. 72-724, § 9, 1972 Fla. Laws (current version at Fla.Stat.Ann. § 921.141 (West Supp.1982)), appellant was afforded an automatic appeal to the Florida Supreme Court, which upheld his conviction and sentence. Proffitt v. State, 315 So.2d 461 (Fla.1975). Appellant then sought review by the United States Supreme Court, which granted certiorari to consider the constitutionality of the Florida death penalty statute. 423 U.S. 1082, 96 S.Ct. 1090, 47 L.Ed.2d 94 (1976). Seven members of the Court, in three separate opinions, held that the statute did not violate the eighth or fourteenth amendments, Proffitt v. Florida, 428 U.S. 242, 244-60, 96 S.Ct. 2960, 2963-70, 49 L.Ed.2d 913 (1976) (opinion of Powell, Stevens, and Stewart, JJ.); id. at 260-61, 96 S.Ct. at 2970 (opinion of White and Rehnquist, JJ. and Burger, C. J.); id. at 261, 96 S.Ct. at 2970 (opinion of Blackmun, J.), and hence affirmed appellant's sentence. 2

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Having exhausted his direct remedies, appellant sought collateral relief-first in the state courts, which denied relief summarily without an evidentiary hearing, see Proffitt v. State, 360 So.2d 771 (Fla.1978), cert. dismissed on appellant's motion, Proffitt v. State, 372 So.2d 1111 (1979), 3 and finally in the federal district court, the decision of which denying habeas corpus is the subject of this appeal. In the district court appellant urged several grounds for relief. He claimed the representation he received at the guilt phase of his trial was ineffective rendering his conviction unconstitutional under the sixth amendment. He also raised several constitutional challenges to the state court's sentencing decision, including (1) ineffective assistance of counsel at the penalty hearing; (2) admission of testimony and reports by court-appointed psychiatrists without adequate opportunity for confrontation; (3) limitation of the jury's consideration of mitigating evidence in violation of Lockett v. Ohio, 438 U.S. 586, 98 S.Ct. 2954, 57 L.Ed.2d 973 (1978); and (4) consideration of aggravating factors not authorized by the sentencing statute in violation of the due process clause and eighth amendment. 4

The district court appointed a magistrate 5 to conduct the evidentiary hearing required by Townsend v. Sain, 372 U.S. 293, 83 S.Ct. 745, 9 L.Ed.2d 770 (1963). The magistrate, after thorough and probing analysis, recommended denial of relief on all of appellant's claims except that based on ineffective assistance of counsel at the sentencing stage of the trial. 6 As to the latter, he found defense counsel's representation constitutionally deficient and recommended remand to the state court with instructions either to conduct a new sentencing hearing or, alternatively, to resentence appellant to life imprisonment. The district court adopted the magistrate's findings and recommendations on all issues except the last. It rejected the claim of ineffective counsel at sentencing and the magistrate's conclusion on that ground and thus dismissed appellant's habeas petition. Appellant challenges the district court's substantive conclusions and further argues that the district court committed procedural error in rejecting the magistrate's recommendation on his ineffective counsel claim without conducting a new hearing on that issue. We address the procedural question first because its resolution, if favorable to appellant, would require a remand to the district court obviating the need for us to decide most of appellant's substantive claims at this juncture. Since an understanding of the operation of the Florida capital sentencing statute under which appellant was sentenced is necessary for informed evaluation of both the procedural and substantive issues, we preliminarily set forth a brief description of that act and of the sentencing proceeding in this case.

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II. Florida's Capital Sentencing Statute

Under Fla.Stat. § 921.141, 7 following the guilt phase of trial for a defendant convicted of a capital felony, the trial judge conducts a separate sentencing proceeding before the jury that convicted the defendant. At the sentencing hearing, the parties may introduce evidence of and argument concerning aggravating 8 and mitigating factors. 9 On the basis of the evidence presented at the sentencing hearing together with that presented at the guilt phase of the trial, 10 a majority of the jury renders an advisory sentence. Fla.Stat.Ann. § 921.141(2), (3) (West Supp.1982). The jury is instructed to consider "(w)hether sufficient aggravating circumstances exist"; "(w)hether sufficient mitigating circumstances exist which outweigh the aggravating circumstances found to exist"; and, "(b)ased on these considerations, whether the defendant should be sentenced to life imprisonment or death." Id. § 921.141(2). The trial judge then independently evaluates the evidence, makes the same determination as to the existence of aggravating and mitigating factors, and decides which sentence to impose. Id. § 921.141(3). 11

In this case, the sentencing proceeding was brief. The prosecution called one witness: a Dr. Crumbley who, acting as psychiatric consultant for the County Sheriff's Office, had examined appellant shortly following his arrest. 12 In the course of two interviews with the doctor, appellant had confessed to committing the murder. Appellant's

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attorney waived his doctor-patient privilege for purposes of sentencing only, allowing the doctor to testify.

On direct examination, Dr. Crumbley testified that appellant had expressed concern about a feeling he had that was "so overwhelming that he felt he would do damage to people in the future." Dr. Crumbley testified that appellant told him his uncontrollable desire had built up an unbearable tension, which he had "fought as hard as he could," but that it finally overcame him with the result that he killed a man and was now awaiting trial. Appellant had further expressed concern that if he was acquitted he might kill someone again, and he asked Dr. Crumbley about arranging psychiatric help for him. At a second interview, appellant again spoke of the tension he had experienced prior to the killing and described a sense of relaxation he had felt afterward. He told the doctor the tension was building up again with his hostility directed toward a particular inmate. He asked whether he could be moved to a different cell or whether something could be done to relieve the emotional pressure he was experiencing. Dr. Crumbley further testified that appellant killed the victim (who was a total stranger to him) solely to satisfy his emotional tension and that in Crumbley's opinion appellant could be dangerous to society and to other inmates. Dr. Crumbley stated that his two interviews with appellant took fifteen to twenty minutes each and that he had performed no psychiatric or psychological testing.

Appellant's counsel then cross-examined the doctor, eliciting his opinion that appellant was acting under extreme, uncontrollable emotional distress when he committed the murder, that appellant "couldn't help what he did," that appellant's condition was treatable, and that if treated appellant would no longer be dangerous. Dr. Crumbley explained that there were confinement facilities specializing in treatment of individuals with the kind of emotional disturbance suffered by appellant.

Defense counsel called no witnesses, and following the doctor's testimony the attorneys argued briefly concerning the aggravating and mitigating factors enumerated in the Florida capital sentencing statute. The prosecuting attorney argued that five of the aggravating factors 13 and none of the mitigating factors 14 were present. Appellant's counsel argued that at most the prosecution had established only one aggravating factor 15 and that this was outweighed by the mitigating evidence. 16

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III. Procedural Issue

In 1976, Congress expanded district courts' delegatory authority by permitting appointment of magistrates to conduct evidentiary hearings in federal habeas cases. See note 5 supra. In United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 100 S.Ct. 2406, 65 L.Ed.2d 424 (1980), the Supreme Court, interpreting the Federal Magistrates Act, held that a district court judge need not rehear the testimony on which the magistrate relied in accepting the magistrate's findings or recommendation. Rather, the Court held, the statutory command to district court judges to "make a de novo determination" of those portions of the magistrate's findings and recommendations to which the parties object is satisfied as long as...

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