Ex parte Woodall

Decision Date11 September 1998
PartiesEx parte J.C. WOODALL. (Re J.C. Woodall v. State).
CourtAlabama Supreme Court

730 So.2d 652

Ex parte J.C. WOODALL.
(Re J.C. Woodall v. State)


Supreme Court of Alabama.

September 11, 1998.

Rehearing Denied November 20, 1998.

730 So.2d 655
Michael H. McDuffie, Montgomery, for petitioner

Bill Pryor, atty. gen., and Michelle Riley Stephens, asst. atty. gen., for respondent.

SHORES, Justice.

A jury convicted the defendant J.C. Woodall of murder done for a pecuniary or other valuable consideration or pursuant to a contract or for hire, an offense made capital by § 13A-5-40(a)(7), Ala.Code 1975, and of attempted murder, §§ 13A-6-2 and 13A-4-2, Ala.Code 1975. The jury recommended the death sentence on the capital count by a 10-2 vote; the trial court followed that recommendation and sentenced the defendant to death by electrocution. On the attempted murder count, the trial court sentenced the defendant to a life term in the penitentiary. The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed both convictions and the sentence of death, Woodall v. State, 730 So.2d 627 (Ala.Cr.App.1997). We granted certiorari review, see Rule 39(c), Ala. R.App. P.; we now affirm the defendant's conviction and his sentence of life imprisonment on the count of attempted murder, but we reverse the judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeals affirming his conviction and his sentence of death on the murder-for-hire count, and we remand the case.

The facts of this case are stated in the opinion of the Court of Criminal Appeals. However, because we will address questions regarding the sufficiency of the evidence that were not presented to that court, we believe a statement of the facts would assist the reader.

Although he had lived in Kansas for many years, the defendant had been involved in a long-standing dispute with family members over certain real property located near Tallassee in Elmore County, Alabama. The defendant's strongest feelings of anger and resentment were directed toward his youngest

730 So.2d 656
brother, Elmer "Stormy" Woodall, who had acquired the property and lived on it. The State's evidence tended to show that in March or April 1989 the defendant approached a longtime acquaintance, John Kennon, and inquired whether Kennon would be interested in going to Alabama to kill someone there who had caused the defendant some problems over land and money. Kennon declined, but told the defendant he knew someone who might perform such a task. Kennon introduced the defendant to Freddie Glenn Pope, who told the defendant he knew someone who would do the killing for $3,500, although Pope intended to carry out the killing himself. Pope testified that the defendant agreed to the price and later provided Pope with a picture that included Elmer Woodall, to indicate the target of the "hit," and a map showing the area near Tallassee where Elmer Woodall resided

Pope arrived in Alabama on Sunday, June 25, 1989, after driving from Kansas, and he proceeded to Elmer Woodall's property, intending to kill him. No one was home at that time, but Pope noticed a new automobile in the carport at the house; this concerned him, because the defendant had told him that Elmer Woodall lived alone. Pope returned to Elmer Woodall's house early the following morning, Monday, June 26, but found that the intended victim and several others were working on the roof of the house, and Pope also observed from a distance a woman near a pond behind the house. Pope approached Elmer Woodall and told him he was a contractor from Mississippi and was interested in purchasing a large quantity of gravel, and he also showed Elmer Woodall the map the defendant had given him to locate the property. Elmer Woodall immediately recognized the map as one that he had colored on with a yellow marker to indicate certain plots of the family real estate and then had mailed to the defendant in September 1988 in connection with settlement negotiations regarding litigation over the land. Pope testified that he left the property and telephoned the defendant from a pay telephone at a service station/convenience store in Montgomery. Pope said he questioned the defendant about the new automobile in the carport and the defendant told him that it probably belonged to his sister from Florida. Pope said he then told the defendant that he was concerned that the plan could not work because "that woman can't be around there," to which he said the defendant responded, "[I]f she gets in the road, she has got to go." Telephone records introduced at trial confirmed that on the morning of June 26, 1989, a two-minute call was placed from the Montgomery service station pay telephone to the defendant's home telephone in Kansas.

After waiting several hours, Pope returned to the house, where he noticed an elderly woman in the yard. That woman, who also resided at the house, was 81-year-old Clemer Woodall, the mother of both the defendant and Elmer Woodall. Pope approached Elmer Woodall and requested to use his telephone. As Elmer Woodall led him toward the telephone on the back porch, Pope pulled a pistol and said that "this is nothing about no telephone conversation ...; this is a robbery." Pope attempted to force Elmer into the house, to prevent anyone from hearing gunshots, but Elmer began walking out toward the yard; Pope shot him in the head. Clemer Woodall, having witnessed the shooting of her youngest child, began screaming. Pope told her to shut up, but when she screamed again he shot her in the head, killing her. Pope then realized that Elmer was still making noises, so he shot him in the head again. Pope drove away, believing that both Elmer and Clemer Woodall were dead. Remarkably, however, Elmer Woodall survived and was able to provide information that allowed police to identify and arrest Pope. Pope confessed to the crimes, implicating the defendant and Kennon.

On July 14, 1989, an Elmore County grand jury returned a four-count indictment against J.C. Woodall, charging him with two counts of capital murder, under §§ 13A-5-40(a)(2) and (a)(7), Ala.Code 1975 (robbery-murder and murder-for-hire), in connection with the death of his mother, Clemer Woodall; and one count each of the noncapital offenses of attempted murder, §§ 13A-6-2, 13A-4-2, Ala.Code 1975, and assault in the first degree, § 13A-6-20, Ala.Code 1975, in connection with the shooting of his brother, Elmer Woodall. The defendant was arrested in

730 So.2d 657
Kansas, and Alabama authorities sought his return in order to have him stand trial. After protracted extradition challenges in the state and federal courts in Kansas, see Kennon v. State, 248 Kan. 515, 809 P.2d 546 (1991); Kennon v. Hill, 44 F.3d 904 (10th Cir.), cert. den., 515 U.S. 1146, 115 S.Ct. 2586, 132 L.Ed.2d 835 (1995), J.C. Woodall was delivered to Alabama authorities. In December 1995, after a trial in the Elmore County Circuit Court, he was convicted of capital murder on the count based upon § 13A-5-40(a)(7) and was convicted of attempted murder

In his brief, the defendant presents over 25 issues for review. However, we find it necessary to address only three issues: (I) Whether the evidence was sufficient to sustain the defendant's conviction on the capital murder count, (II) whether there was sufficient evidence to corroborate the accomplice testimony to sustain his conviction on the capital murder count, and (III) whether the state's cross-examination of the defendant regarding his character and the subsequent introduction of evidence of three incidents involving uncharged misconduct require reversal of the capital murder conviction. The opinion of the Court of Criminal Appeals did not address any of these three issues; apparently they were not presented to that court. However, because this is a case in which the death penalty has been imposed, our review allows us to address any plain error or defect found in the proceeding under review, even if the error was not brought to the attention of the trial court. Rules 39(k) and 45A, Ala. R.App. P.1 "`"Plain error"' arises only if the error is 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.), cert. denied, 464 U.S. 986, 104 S.Ct. 436, 78 L.Ed.2d 367 (1983). "`In other words, the plain-error exception to the contemporaneous objection rule is to be "used sparingly, solely in those circumstances in which a miscarriage of justice would otherwise result."`" Ex parte Land, 678 So.2d 224, 232 (Ala.1996), quoting United States v. Young, 470 U.S. 1, 105 S.Ct. 1038, 84 L.Ed.2d 1 (1985), quoting United States v. Frady, 456 U.S. 152, 163, n. 14, 102 S.Ct. 1584, 71 L.Ed.2d 816 (1982). This Court may take appropriate action, however, when the error "has or probably has adversely affected the substantial rights of the petitioner." Rules 39(k) and 45A, Ala. R.App. P. We note that a failure to object at trial, while not precluding our review, will weigh against any claim of prejudice. Kuenzel v. State, 577 So.2d 474 (Ala.Cr.App.1990), aff'd, 577 So.2d 531 (Ala.), cert. denied, 502 U.S. 886, 112 S.Ct. 242, 116 L.Ed.2d 197 (1991).


The defendant contends that his capital murder conviction and death sentence must be reversed because, he claims, the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction of the capital murder-for-hire of Clemer Woodall, as charged in the indictment. More specifically, the defendant argues that, even if there was sufficient evidence to indicate that he procured Pope to kill Elmer Woodall, there was insufficient proof indicating that he specifically intended that Pope kill Clemer Woodall, his mother.

No defendant can be found guilty of a capital offense unless he had an intent to kill, and that intent to kill cannot be supplied by the felony-murder doctrine. Beck v. State, 396 So.2d 645, 662 (Ala.1981); see also Enmund v. Florida, 458 U.S. 782, 797, 102 S.Ct. 3368, 73 L.Ed.2d 1140 (1982) (holding that imposing the death penalty upon the driver of a getaway car...

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