87 F.3d 1204 (11th Cir. 1996), 94-9392, Williams v. Turpin

Docket Nº:94-9392.
Citation:87 F.3d 1204
Party Name:Alexander E. WILLIAMS, IV, Petitioner-Appellant, v. Tony TURPIN, Respondent-Appellee.
Case Date:June 24, 1996
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
 
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Page 1204

87 F.3d 1204 (11th Cir. 1996)

Alexander E. WILLIAMS, IV, Petitioner-Appellant,

v.

Tony TURPIN, Respondent-Appellee.

No. 94-9392.

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

June 24, 1996

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Linda G. Birchall, Elmer A. Simpson, Jr., C. Scott Greene, Powell, Goldstein, Frazer & Murphy, Atlanta, Georgia, for Appellant.

Michael J. Bowers, Attorney General, Mary Beth Westmoreland, Asst. Atty. Gen., State of Georgia, Atlanta, Georgia, for Appellee.

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

Before ANDERSON, CARNES and BARKETT, Circuit Judges.

BARKETT, Circuit Judge:

Alexander Edmund Williams was convicted by a jury in Richmond County, Georgia, of murder, rape, armed robbery, kidnapping with bodily injury, motor vehicle theft and financial transaction card fraud. He was sentenced to death on August 29, 1986. In this appeal of the district court's denial of relief on his petition for a writ of habeas corpus, Williams raises and briefs multitudinous issues. We affirm the district court as to all claims except his claim that he received ineffective assistance of trial counsel. 1

On March 4, 1986, 16-year-old Aleta Carol Bunch drove her blue 1984 Mustang to a mall in Augusta, Georgia. Her body was found in a remote, wooded area eleven days later. On the same evening that Aleta Bunch disappeared, Alexander Williams drove a blue Mustang to a local game room, and told friends it belonged to "a girl." Before abandoning the car on a dirt road with the assistance of friends, Williams retrieved a .22 caliber pistol, a pocketbook and a shopping bag from the car. The next day Williams and his friends went on a shopping spree with Aleta Bunch's credit cards, and divided up the jewelry that she was wearing on the day she disappeared.

On March 12, 1986, Williams was arrested and was advised of his Miranda rights. When Williams requested a lawyer, investigators terminated their questioning, and shortly thereafter, Doug Flanagan was appointed to represent Williams. On March 15, 1986, shortly after meeting with Williams, Flanagan led police to the body and withdrew from the case. On March 18, 1986, O.L. Collins was appointed trial counsel. At trial a number of Williams's friends testified that Williams had told them that he had killed the girl who owned the car. In addition, although the murder weapon was not recovered, one of Williams's friends took investigators to an area where Williams had shot his gun and there they recovered empty cartridge cases that were consistent with the bullets recovered from the victim's body. The jury convicted Williams of Aleta Bunch's kidnapping, robbery, rape, and murder, and sentenced him to death on August 29, 1986.

Richard Allen was appointed to represent Williams on appeal. On September 23, 1986, Allen filed a motion for new trial pursuant to

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Georgia's Unified Appeal Procedure, codified at O.C.G.A. § 17-10-36. Allen raised a number of claims in the motion, including a claim of ineffective assistance of trial counsel. After holding an evidentiary hearing, the state court denied the motion for a new trial or new sentencing hearing. On direct appeal, the Supreme Court of Georgia affirmed Williams's conviction, Williams v. State, 258 Ga. 281, 368 S.E.2d 742 (1988), and the United States Supreme Court denied certiorari, Williams v. Georgia, 492 U.S. 925, 109 S.Ct. 3261, 106 L.Ed.2d 606 (1989).

In 1989, Allen withdrew from the case and Williams's current counsel was appointed. On November 25, 1989, Williams filed a petition for a state writ of habeas corpus in Butts County, Georgia. In his state petition, Williams claimed at least twenty grounds for relief, including ineffective assistance of trial and appellate counsel. The Superior Court of Butts County denied habeas relief. The Georgia Supreme Court denied Williams's application for a certificate of probable cause to appeal, and the United States Supreme Court denied certiorari, Williams v. Georgia, 502 U.S. 1103, 112 S.Ct. 1193, 117 L.Ed.2d 434 (1992).

On October 14, 1992, Williams filed the current petition for federal habeas relief in the Southern District of Georgia. In his petition, Williams again claimed, among other things, that both trial counsel and appellate counsel had rendered ineffective assistance in representing him. The district court denied Williams's petition for habeas relief, and he appeals from that ruling.

I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND ON INEFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE OF COUNSEL CLAIMS

In this appeal, Williams contends that his Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of trial counsel was violated because O.L. Collins, his lawyer at trial, failed to reasonably investigate Williams's background and alleged mental illness, and as a result, failed to present significant mitigating evidence at the penalty phase. Williams also argues that his appellate counsel's ineffective assistance at the motion for new trial stage caused his failure to proffer essential evidence at the evidentiary hearing to support his ineffective assistance of trial counsel claim. Because a number of attorneys represented Williams at various stages of the trial, and because his claim of ineffective assistance of trial counsel is procedurally complex, a chronological description of the various proceedings is presented herein.

Williams first raised his claim of ineffective assistance of trial counsel through his newly appointed appellate attorney, Richard Allen, in his motion for new trial as required by Georgia law. See Thompson v. State, 257 Ga. 386, 388, 359 S.E.2d 664, 665 (1987). Allen argued that, in the penalty phase, Collins failed to recognize and investigate Williams's mental illness, failed to hire a psychiatric expert to determine whether Williams was mentally ill, failed to investigate Williams's juvenile records, and failed to find, confer with, or present witnesses for mitigation purposes. Allen stated that four additional witnesses should have been called to testify at the sentencing hearing, but he did not tell the court what their testimony would have been.

The trial court denied the motion for a new trial, finding in pertinent part that (1) the most that the additional four mitigation witnesses could have testified to was the defendant's good character, and therefore, their testimony would have been cumulative of the mitigation evidence presented; and (2) Williams refused to give Collins information that would have been helpful for mitigation purposes. Based upon these factual findings, the court ruled that Collins rendered effective assistance of counsel at the penalty phase. The trial court also stated that to the extent that Collins's actions were deficient at the penalty phase, based on the aggravating and mitigating evidence presented, there was no reasonable probability that the sentencing jury would have concluded that death was not the appropriate penalty. On direct appeal, the Supreme Court of Georgia affirmed the trial court's ruling on the ineffective assistance claim. Williams v. State, 258 Ga. 281, 368 S.E.2d 742 (1988).

Williams filed a state habeas petition in Butts County, Georgia, and again raised a

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claim of ineffective assistance of trial counsel based on the same errors previously alleged in his motion for new trial. In this petition, Williams also claimed that Allen had rendered ineffective appellate representation during the motion for new trial because Allen also had failed to conduct a reasonable independent investigation into Williams's background. As a result, Allen failed to proffer significant mitigating evidence of childhood abuse and mental problems to show that Collins's preparation for the penalty phase was unreasonable and prejudicial.

The state court denied habeas relief and ruled that Allen had provided effective assistance. In its order denying relief, the court made no mention of the newly proffered mitigating evidence of abuse and mental illness. Indeed, the court did not even address the merits of the ineffective assistance of trial counsel claim because Williams "ha[d] not shown any change in the facts or law which pertain to his [claim of ineffective assistance of trial counsel]." Based upon the record, the court apparently did not consider Williams's allegations, which had never been considered in any earlier proceedings, before affirming the denial of the motion for new trial on the claim of ineffective assistance during the penalty phase.

In his federal habeas petition, Williams again raised the issue of ineffective assistance of trial counsel, based upon the same allegations claimed in the earlier proceedings. He requested an evidentiary hearing to present new mitigating evidence of his abusive and unstable childhood and longstanding symptoms of mental illness. He argued that he was entitled to a new evidentiary hearing because appellate counsel's (Allen's) ineffective assistance on the motion for new trial had caused Williams to be deprived of a full and fair hearing on his claim of ineffective assistance of trial counsel. Specifically, he asserted that Allen also had failed to conduct a reasonable independent investigation into Williams's background, and as a result, had failed to adequately develop and present significant mitigating evidence, which would have supported his claim that trial counsel's preparation for the penalty phase was prejudicially ineffective.

The district court held that Williams had not been denied effective assistance of trial counsel in the penalty phase. In ruling on the merits of that claim, the court accorded the state court's findings of fact a presumption of correctness and refused to consider the newly proffered mitigating evidence. The court refused to hold an evidentiary hearing on the new allegations because, according to the court, Williams had been afforded a full and fair...

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