Ex parte Womack

CourtSupreme Court of Alabama
Citation435 So.2d 766
PartiesEx parte Clarence WOMACK. (Re: Clarence Womack v. State). 82-546.
Decision Date08 July 1983

George W. Cameron, Jr., Montgomery, for petitioner.

Charles A. Graddick, Atty. Gen., and Edward E. Carnes and Helen P. Nelson, Asst. Attys. Gen., for respondent.

BEATTY, Justice.

Certiorari was granted to consider three issues: (1) whether the trial court committed reversible error by allowing the petitioner's inculpatory statement to be introduced as evidence; (2) whether the trial court's jury instruction on aiding and abetting was erroneous; and (3) whether the death penalty should be imposed under the guidelines imposed by Beck v. State, 396 So.2d 645 (Ala.1981).


The resolution of the first issue by the Court of Criminal Appeals, 435 So.2d 754, is correct. The facts of the accused's interrogation are correctly set forth in the opinion of that court. Two police officers were present when Womack's statement was given, after he had been advised of his Miranda rights. These officers testified that no threats, coercion, offers of reward or other inducements were made to Womack. When his statement was given to him, Womack was given the written version to read. He was asked if it was correct and he answered affirmatively, signing it after he had looked at both pages. Although petitioner contends that he signed the statement without knowledge of its contents because, he asserts, he cannot read, 1 the Court of Criminal Appeals cited correctly cases holding that illiteracy, though a consideration, does not itself render a confession involuntary. See also Elrod v. State, 281 Ala. 331, 202 So.2d 539 (1967). The facts surrounding the statement and its execution were exhaustively explored at the trial, and there is substantial evidence that the confession was voluntary, understood by the petitioner, and that the written version was knowingly signed by him. Thus, no error was committed by the trial court by allowing it into evidence.


The petitioner was accompanied by one Johnson in the commission of the robbery and contended that Johnson, not he, presented the pistol and shot the victim. A witness, Jones, however, testified that while he was talking with petitioner at the corner of Goode and Early streets petitioner said, "I had to shoot the bitch in the face." Even so, in brief petitioner now argues that the complicity instructions given by the trial court were erroneous because they did not instruct that "mere presence with willingness to assist in the killing is sufficient only if that willingness is known to the principal." Petitioner cites Williams v. State, 403 So.2d 317 (Ala.Cr.App.1981), for that proposition. Judge Clark in Williams, at 321, however, expressly recognized this charge on the assistance in abettor situations:

"In the circumstances of some cases ... the use of the word 'assists' in the charge could be readily but erroneously interpreted by the jury to require express language or active positive conduct on the part of the defendant. The 'assistance' that is necessary and sufficient may be shown by the presence of the defendant with intent to render assistance if necessary if the principal knows that defendant is present at the time and that he intends to render assistance if necessary." (Emphasis added.)

In other words, Judge Clark recognized that one could "assist" by actually assisting, i.e., giving affirmative assistance by words or deeds, etc., or by being present with an intent to assist known to the co-conspirator.

In this case the trial court charged:

"The evidence in this case, or the testimony in this case, presented by the State indicated that either the Defendant or someone other than the Defendant fired the one shot which killed Mr. Bullock. So let me refresh you on the law of complicity, or aiding and abetting, again. In order to find this Defendant guilty of the capital offense as charged in this indictment, you must believe beyond a reasonable doubt from the evidence that while he was committing a robbery or attempting to commit a robbery or aiding and assisting another to commit a robbery or the attempt to commit a robbery, that he also either by prearrangement--that is, prearrangement or on the spur of the moment--helped, assisted by words, acts, or deeds, or was ready, willing, and able in seeing that Arthur Bullock was intentionally killed. In other words, just the contemplation of the robbery is not enough. He would also have to be implicated by affirmative action: words, assistance, deeds in the intentional killing of Arthur Bullock.

"You must look to all of the surrounding facts and circumstances. You can't look into somebody's mind. To determine whether there was an intentional killing in this case, you must consider all of the facts and circumstances as you find them from the evidence in this case, and use your common sense in making that determination, and the inferences which naturally and logically spring...

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  • Doster v. State Of Ala.
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
    • July 30, 2010
    ...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)). See also Ex parte Woodall, 730 So. 2d 652 (Ala. 1......
  • Sockwell v. State
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
    • December 30, 1993
    ..."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), cert. denied, 464 U.S. 986, 104 S.Ct. 436, 78 L.Ed.2d 367 In Cage v. Louisiana, the United States Supreme Court found that......
  • Williams v. State
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
    • August 23, 1996
    ...courts. See Ex parte Harrell, 470 So.2d 1309 (Ala.), cert. denied, 474 U.S. 935, 106 S.Ct. 269, 88 L.Ed.2d 276 (1985); Ex parte Womack, 435 So.2d 766 (Ala.), cert. denied, 464 U.S. 986, 104 S.Ct. 436, 78 L.Ed.2d 367 (1983). See also Hooks v. State, 534 So.2d 329 (Ala.Cr.App.1987), aff'd, 53......
  • Wright v. State
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    • Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
    • October 22, 1985
    ...the defendant's death sentence constitutionally excessive. Womack v. State, 435 So.2d 754, 763 (Ala.Cr.App.), affirmed, Ex parte Womack, 435 So.2d 766, 769 (Ala.1983). See also Ex parte Dobard, 435 So.2d 1351, 1357 (Ala.1983), cert. denied, 464 U.S. 745-, 104 S.Ct. 745, 79 L.Ed.2d 203 (1984......
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