704 F.2d 1325 (5th Cir. 1983), 82-3318, Baldwin v. Maggio

Docket Nº:82-3318.
Citation:704 F.2d 1325
Party Name:Timothy George BALDWIN, Petitioner-Appellant, v. Ross MAGGIO, Jr., Warden, Louisiana State Penitentiary, and William J. Guste, Jr., Attorney General of the State of Louisiana, Respondents-Appellees.
Case Date:May 16, 1983
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

Page 1325

704 F.2d 1325 (5th Cir. 1983)

Timothy George BALDWIN, Petitioner-Appellant,


Ross MAGGIO, Jr., Warden, Louisiana State Penitentiary, and

William J. Guste, Jr., Attorney General of the

State of Louisiana, Respondents-Appellees.

No. 82-3318.

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

May 16, 1983

Page 1326

Gravel, Robertson & Brady, Helen G. Roberts, Alexandria, La., for petitioner-appellant.

Bruce G. Whittaker, Asst. Dist. Atty., Monroe, La., for respondents-appellees.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana.

Before RUBIN and JOHNSON, Circuit Judges, and PARKER,[*] District Judge.

JOHNSON, Circuit Judge:

Timothy George Baldwin is sentenced to die for the murder of Mary James Peters. A panel of this Court stayed his execution to consider his claims of ineffective assistance of counsel at the guilt and sentencing phases of his trial. 1 The performance of his attorneys in the guilt phase was not constitutionally

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deficient; the alleged deficiencies in their investigation into considerations in mitigation of sentence have not been shown to have caused actual, substantial prejudice to the petitioner's defense. Baldwin's request for habeas corpus is denied.


On the evening of April 4, 1978, eighty-five year old Mary James Peters was savagely beaten and left to die in the kitchen of her home in West Monroe, Louisiana. The instruments of death were the articles of everyday life: a telephone, a television, a kitchen stool and a cast iron skillet, all shattered into pieces by the force of the assault. She was found the next day, semicomatose and incoherent, on the floor surrounded by the debris of the attack; she died on April 6 of massive cerebral hemorrhage and swelling, secondary to external head injuries.

Timothy Baldwin stood trial for her death. The jury convicted him of murder in the first degree, 2 and recommended death on finding that the murder was committed in an especially heinous, atrocious and cruel manner during the perpetration of an armed robbery. 3 He was sentenced to die by electrocution. Baldwin's exhaustive appeal to the Louisiana Supreme Court was rejected, State v. Baldwin, 388 So.2d 664 (La.1980), and denied certiorari, Baldwin v. Louisiana, 449 U.S. 1103, 101 S.Ct. 901, 66 L.Ed.2d 830 (1981). Baldwin then mounted his initial collateral attack on his conviction. Sixteen claims were advanced; among them was an allegation that his trial counsel were ineffective because they failed to move for a new trial after acquiring a motel receipt corroborating Baldwin's alibi testimony. 4 Baldwin's application for postconviction relief was denied by the state

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trial court for want of jurisdiction. The Louisiana Supreme Court declined review of the state trial court's decision. Proceedings in federal court on his petition for habeas corpus yielded consideration of the merits of his claims; all were, nonetheless, rejected. Baldwin v. Blackburn, 524 F.Supp. 332 (W.D.La.), aff'd 653 F.2d 942 (5th Cir.1981), cert. denied, 456 U.S. 950, 102 S.Ct. 2021, 72 L.Ed.2d 475, reh. denied --- U.S. ----, 102 S.Ct. 2918, 73 L.Ed.2d 1323 (1982) (hereinafter Baldwin II ).

The Louisiana trial court then ordered Baldwin to be electrocuted on May 27, 1982. Ten days before his sentence was to be carried out, Baldwin initiated the present proceedings for post-conviction relief. His petition was denied by the state trial court on the day it was filed, and by the Louisiana Supreme Court the following day. One day later he presented identical claims to the federal district court. 5 The district court denied his petition for habeas corpus relief without a hearing, and declined to stay his execution. Three days before the appointed date of execution this Court granted a stay pending appeal.


Baldwin asks reconsideration of our earlier ruling that his trial counsel's failure to move for a new trial upon acquisition of an alibi-corroborating motel receipt did not constitute ineffective assistance of counsel, see Baldwin II, 653 F.2d at 947. 6 In this presentation of the claim, he argues that the motel receipt, viewed in the context of the entire trial record, conclusively demonstrates that he was seventy miles away from West Monroe at the time Mrs. Peters was fatally beaten. He asks that a writ of habeas corpus issue immediately, on the ground that the record as it is presently constituted indisputably discloses his innocence, and, perforce, inept representation by trial counsel; failing that, he asks for an evidentiary hearing exploring his former attorneys' decision not to move for a new trial. We shall first take up the latter claim.


Whether an evidentiary hearing is necessary to resolution of a charge of inadequate representation turns on an assessment of the record: if the petition's allegations cannot be resolved absent examination of evidence beyond the record, a hearing is required, Clark v. Blackburn, 619 F.2d 431, 432 (5th Cir.1980); if the matters relevant

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to a claim of inadequate representation are "spread fully on the record," United States v. Curry, 663 F.2d 572, 573-74 (5th Cir.1981), further inquiry is unnecessary, id.

This claim may be resolved without recourse to a hearing. Baldwin's challenge is limited to the reasonableness of his trial counsel's decision to forgo a motion for new trial in view of what he argues is the "inescapable conclusion" of his innocence apparent on a simple comparison of the motel receipt with trial testimony establishing the time of the murderer's departure from Mrs. Peters' home. 7 All of the information that was relevant to Baldwin's trial attorneys' assessment of the motel receipt as a foundation for a motion for new trial is now before us. The record in support of the present petition includes a complete transcript of the trial testimony and a copy of the motel receipt; Baldwin's present counsel has ably directed our attention to the portions of the record bearing directly on his claim. Further debate on the significance of various passages in the trial record would neither aid nor enhance our evaluation. We turn to consideration of Baldwin's allegation of ineffective post-trial representation.


The sixth amendment, applicable to the states through the fourteenth amendment, Cuyler v. Sullivan, 446 U.S. 335, 100 S.Ct. 1708, 64 L.Ed.2d 333 (1980), entitles a criminal defendant to counsel reasonably likely to render and rendering reasonably effective assistance. Baldwin II at 946. The standard by which this court evaluates claims of ineffective assistance of counsel is clearly defined.

Constitutionally effective assistance of counsel is "not errorless counsel, and not counsel judged ineffective by hindsight, ...," Herring v. Estelle, 491 F.2d 125, 127 (5th Cir.1974). The determination of whether a counsel rendered reasonably effective assistance turns in each case on the totality of facts in the entire record. See Washington v. Estelle, 648 F.2d 276 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 454 U.S. 899, 102 S.Ct. 402, 70 L.Ed.2d 216 (1981); United States v. Gray, 565 F.2d 881 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 435 U.S. 955, 98 S.Ct. 1587, 55 L.Ed.2d 807 (1978). Thus, we must consider a counsel's performance in light of "the number, nature, and seriousness of the charges ... the strength of the prosecution's case and the strength and complexity of the defendant's possible defenses." Washington v. Watkins, 655 F.2d 1346, 1357 (5th Cir.1981), cert. denied, 456 U.S. 949, 102 S.Ct. 2021, 72 L.Ed.2d (1982). In this context, we recently recognized that while attorneys are not held to a higher standard in capital cases, the severity of the charge is part of the " 'totality of circumstances in the entire record' that must be considered in the effective assistance calculus." Id.

Gray v. Lucas, 677 F.2d 1086, 1092 (5th Cir.1982).

To establish a constitutional violation under this standard, a petitioner must

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demonstrate both an identifiable instance of seriously inadequate performance by counsel, and some actual, substantial disadvantage to the course of his defense resulting from that lapse. Washington v. Strickland, 693 F.2d 1243, 1258, 1262 (5th Cir.1982) (Unit B, en banc ); Boyd v. Estelle, 661 F.2d 388, 389-90 (5th Cir.1981); Washington v. Watkins, 655 F.2d 1346, 1359 n. 23, 1360 (5th Cir.1981). The inquiries are conceptually distinct, Washington at 1359 n. 23; the petitioner's failure to sustain either will result in a denial of the writ. Boyd at 389.

Evaluation of Baldwin's claim of ineffective representation in his attorneys' decision not to move for a new trial on the basis of the motel receipt must begin with an appreciation of the standard against which motions for new trials are measured in Louisiana courts. La.Code Crim.Pro. art. 851 (West) provides that

The motion for a new trial is based on the supposition that injustice has been done the defendant, and, unless such is shown to have been the case the motion shall be denied, no matter upon what allegations it is grounded.

The court, on motion of the defendant, shall grant a new trial whenever:

* * *

(3) New and material evidence that, notwithstanding the exercise of reasonable diligence by the defendant, was not discovered before or during the trial, is available, and if the evidence had been introduced at the trial it would probably have changed the verdict or...

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