Brooks v. State, No. CR-03-1113 (Ala. Crim. App. 6/30/2006), No. CR-03-1113.

CourtAlabama Court of Criminal Appeals
Writing for the CourtShaw
PartiesJimmy L. Brooks, Jr. v. State of Alabama
Decision Date30 June 2006
Docket NumberNo. CR-03-1113.

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Jimmy L. Brooks, Jr.
State of Alabama
No. CR-03-1113.
Court of Criminal Appeals of Alabama.
Decided June 30, 2006.

Appeal from Talladega Circuit Court, (CC-03-693; CC-03-694; CC-03-695; and CC-03-696).

SHAW, Judge.

The appellant, Jimmy L. Brooks, Jr., was convicted of four counts of capital murder in connection with the murder of 12-year-old William Brett Bowyer. The murder was made capital (1) because it was committed during the course of a kidnapping

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in the first degree, see § 13A-5-40(a)(1), Ala. Code 1975; (2) because it was committed during the course of a robbery in the first degree, see § 13A-5-40(a)(2), Ala. Code 1975; (3) because it was committed during the course of a burglary in the first degree, see § 13A-5-40(a)(4), Ala. Code 1975; and (4) because Brett Bowyer was less than 14 years of age at the time of his death, see § 13A-5-40(a)(15), Ala. Code 1975. Brooks was also convicted of attempted murder, a violation of §§ 13A-6-2 and 13A-4-2, Ala. Code 1975, robbery in the first degree, a violation of § 13A-8-41, Ala. Code 1975, and burglary in the first degree, a violation of § 13A-7-5, Ala. Code 1975, with respect to Brett Bowyer's father, Forest F. Bowyer. The jury unanimously recommended that Brooks be sentenced to death for his capital-murder convictions. The trial court accepted the jury's recommendation and sentenced Brooks to death. In addition, the trial court sentenced Brooks to life imprisonment for the attempted-murder, robbery, and burglary convictions.

In its sentencing order, the trial court made the following findings of fact, which are supported by the evidence, regarding the crimes:

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"[I]n the evening and early morning hours of February 17 and February 18, 2002, the defendant, Jimmy Lee Brooks, Jr. and another person identified as Michael David Carruth1, entered the home of Forest F. (Butch) Bowyer and his son William Brett Bowyer while the home was occupied by both Forest F. (Butch) Bowyer and his son William Brett Bowyer. William Brett Bowyer was twelve (12) years of age.

"[Brooks] and [Carruth] entered the Bowyer home under the guise of being narcotics officers. The Bowyers were handcuffed and taken to a remote road construction site in rural Russell County, the vicinity of the ultimate murder site, where the elder Bowyer was questioned concerning a safe. The mode of transportation was a white Ford Crown Victoria that had a security shield between the front and back seats.

"The Bowyers were taken back to their home in order for Forest F. (Butch) Bowyer to get money for [Brooks] and [Carruth]. While there, [Carruth] slapped the elder Bowyer. [Brooks] found money and a .38 caliber Smith and Wesson revolver.

"[Brooks] and [Carruth] transported the Bowyers back to the road construction site, this time to the murder site. [Carruth] walked Forest F. (Butch) Bowyer away from the car and cut him on the neck. [Brooks] told Forest F. (Butch) Bowyer that he ([Brooks]) wanted to kill Bowyer whether Bowyer had any money or not. Further, [Brooks] told Bowyer

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that he was going to enjoy slitting Bowyer's son's throat in front of him. [Carruth] then cut Forest F. (Butch) Bowyer's throat. [Brooks] also cut Bowyer's throat. [Carruth] sat on Forest F. (Butch) Bowyer and told him to `go to sleep.' It was during this period of time that the child, William Brett Bowyer, asked [Brooks] and [Carruth] not to hurt his daddy. The response to the child from [Brooks] was that he needed to be concerned about himself, not his dad.

"[Carruth] told the defendant, Jimmy Lee Brooks, Jr., `I've done one, now you do one.' At this point, the defendant, Jimmy Lee Brooks, Jr., shot the child in the head. When a gurgling sound came from the child, the defendant, Jimmy Lee Brooks, Jr., commented `the little M.F. doesn't want to die' and shot him two (2) more times in the head. The child, William Brett Bowyer, fell into a shallow grave. The father, Forest F. (Butch) Bowyer, was thrown on top of the child. [Brooks] and [Carruth] laughed and joked as they threw dirt on the dead child and his father, covering them in the shallow grave."

(C. 85-87.) After Brooks and Carruth left the scene, Forest Bowyer dug himself out of the grave and flagged down a passing motorist for assistance. He later identified both Brooks and Carruth as the perpetrators of the crimes.

On appeal, Brooks raises eight issues, many of which he did not raise by objection in the trial court. Because Brooks was sentenced to death, his failure to object at trial does not bar our review of these issues; however, it does weigh against any claim of prejudice he now makes on appeal. See

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Dill v. State, 600 So. 2d 343 (Ala. Crim. App. 1991), aff'd, 600 So. 2d 372 (Ala. 1992); Kuenzel v. State, 577 So. 2d 474 (Ala. Crim. App. 1990), aff'd, 577 So. 2d 531 (Ala. 1991).

Rule 45A, Ala.R.App.P., provides:

"In all cases in which the death penalty has been imposed, the Court of Criminal Appeals shall notice any plain error or defect in the proceedings under review, whether or not brought to the attention of the trial court, and take appropriate appellate action by reason thereof, whenever such error has or probably has adversely affected the substantial right of the appellant."

"Plain error" has been defined as error "`so obvious that the failure to notice it would seriously affect the fairness or integrity of the judicial proceedings.'" Ex parte Womack, 435 So. 2d 766, 769 (Ala. 1983), quoting United States v. Chaney, 662 F.2d 1148, 1152 (5th Cir. 1981). "To rise to the level of plain error, the claimed error must not only seriously affect a defendant's `substantial rights,' but it must also have an unfair prejudicial impact on the jury's deliberations." Hyde v. State, 778 So. 2d 199, 209 (Ala. Crim. App. 1998), aff'd, 778 So. 2d 237 (Ala. 2000). This Court has recognized that "`[t]he plain-error exception to the contemporaneous-objection rule is to be "used sparingly, solely in those circumstances in which a miscarriage of

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justice would otherwise result."'" Burton v. State, 651 So. 2d 641, 645 (Ala. Crim. App. 1993), aff'd, 651 So. 2d 659 (Ala. 1994), quoting United States v. Young, 470 U.S. 1, 15 (1985), quoting in turn United States v. Frady, 456 U.S. 152, 163 n.14 (1982).


Brooks contends that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress the statements he made to police after his arrest because, he says, his statements were involuntary. Specifically, he argues that his statements were the result of promises of leniency by law enforcement.

The evidence adduced at the suppression hearing and at trial indicated the following.2 At approximately 8:30 a.m. the morning after the murder, Harold Smith, a deputy with the Russell County Sheriff's Department, and Susie Burkes, an investigator with the Russell County Sheriff's Department,3 went to a residence in Lee County, owned by the mother of

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Brooks's girlfriend, where they believed Brooks was staying. During surveillance of the residence, Deputy Smith saw a man matching Brooks's description standing behind the residence "stirring ... a fire pit." (R. 271.) A while later, the man and two women left the residence in an automobile, and Deputy Smith and Inv. Burkes executed a traffic stop of the vehicle. The traffic stop occurred at approximately 10:00 a.m. After obtaining the driver's license of the driver of the vehicle and determining that the driver was, in fact, Brooks, Deputy Smith arrested Brooks. Brooks asked Deputy Smith why he was being arrested and Deputy Smith said that it was "in reference to a homicide investigation." (R. 269.) At that point, Brooks told Deputy Smith that he "wanted to take the Fifth." (R. 269.) When Deputy Smith asked Brooks what he meant, Brooks refused to answer. Deputy Smith then advised Brooks of his Miranda4 rights and Brooks acknowledged that he understood his rights by nodding his head. Deputy Smith placed Brooks in the back of his patrol car and transported him back to the residence.

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Because the residence was located in Lee County and the officers were with the Russell County Sheriff's Department, it took several hours to contact Lee County law-enforcement officials and obtain a search warrant for the residence. During that time, Brooks remained handcuffed in the backseat of Deputy Smith's patrol car. Brooks was not questioned during that time, but he was advised of the situation — that he would remain at that location until a search warrant could be obtained and a search of the residence conducted. Brooks made no requests during that time, but he was offered a sandwich, a drink, and the use of a restroom; he accepted the drink, but declined the other offers. At approximately 4:00 p.m. that afternoon, after the search was complete, Deputy Smith transported Brooks to Brooks's residence in Lee County, where a search was also being conducted. During the transport, Brooks asked Deputy Smith several questions and then confessed. Deputy Smith testified that he did not use any force or coercion or offer any reward or inducement for Brooks to confess. Deputy Smith testified at the suppression hearing regarding his conversation with Brooks as follows:

"[Deputy Smith]: Mr. Brooks asked me, when I got into the patrol vehicle, what was going to happen

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next. I advised him that we were going to his other residence. Mr. Brooks asked me what we had found at the residence. I advised him that we had found marijuana at both residences. Mr. Brooks asked me what we were going to — what was going to happen, and I advised Mr. Brooks that whoever was in possession of the marijuana would be charged.

"[Prosecutor]: What happened next?

"[Deputy Smith]: Mr. Brooks asked me what he could do to keep his girlfriend and [her mother] out of trouble. I told him that he could start by telling the truth.

"[Prosecutor]: What happened then?

"[Deputy Smith]: Mr. Brooks then asked me what we knew. I advised Mr....

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