Franz v. Lockhart, No. PB-B-88-444.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States State District Court of Eastern District of Arkansas
Writing for the CourtRay Hartenstein, Little Rock, Ark., Mark S. Cambiano, Morrilton, Ark., for petitioners
Citation700 F. Supp. 1005
PartiesRev. Louis J. FRANZ, Individually and as next friend of Ronald Gene Simmons, and Darrel Wayne Hill, Individually and as next friend of Ronald Gene Simmons, Petitioners, v. A.L. LOCKHART, Director of the Arkansas Department of Corrections, Respondent, Ronald Gene Simmons, Sr., Intervenor.
Decision Date23 September 1988
Docket NumberNo. PB-B-88-444.

700 F. Supp. 1005

Rev. Louis J. FRANZ, Individually and as next friend of Ronald Gene Simmons, and Darrel Wayne Hill, Individually and as next friend of Ronald Gene Simmons, Petitioners,
v.
A.L. LOCKHART, Director of the Arkansas Department of Corrections, Respondent,
Ronald Gene Simmons, Sr., Intervenor.

No. PB-B-88-444.

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Pine Bluff Division.

September 23, 1988.


Ray Hartenstein, Little Rock, Ark., Mark S. Cambiano, Morrilton, Ark., for petitioners.

John Harris, Robert Irwin, Russellville, Ark., for intervenor.

John Wesley Hall, Jr., Little Rock, Ark., expert.

Jack Gillean, Asst. Atty. Gen., Clint Miller, Asst. Atty. Gen., Little Rock, Ark., for respondent.

OPINION AND ORDER

EISELE, Chief Judge.

Petitioners seek a writ of habeas corpus to prevent the execution of Intervenor Ronald G. Simmons by Respondent Director of the Arkansas Department of Corrections. Before the Court are the Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus, with supporting briefs, and Respondent's and Intervenor's opposing briefs. The Court finds that Petitioners lack standing to assert any claims which may be knowingly and intelligently waived by Simmons, including the claim that the State is required to give Simmons

700 F. Supp. 1006
at least one appellate review of the death sentence imposed on him. The Court further finds that additional inquiry is necessary to establish whether Simmons wishes to waive his federal habeas corpus relief, and whether he is competent to do so. A hearing, with Simmons present, is therefore ordered on those issues

CONTENTS

I. SUMMARY OF FACTS

II. THE ARKANSAS CAPITAL PUNISHMENT SCHEME

III. PETITIONERS' CLAIMS

IV. THE MANDATORY APPEAL CLAIM

A. Traditional Grounds of Jurisdiction
1. Petitioners' direct interest standing
2. Simmons's right to waive appeal if competent
3. Conclusion as to traditional jurisdiction
B. Constitutional Dimensions of Death Penalty Appellate Review
1. Relationship Between Standing and Merits of Mandatory Appeal Claim
2. Overview of Mandatory Appeal Claim
3. Development of principles
4. Application of principles
A) Arbitrary and capricious imposition
B) Violation of contemporary standards
C) Lack of individualized consideration
C. Conclusion as to the Mandatory Appeal Claim

V. THE COMPETENCY CLAIMS

ORDER

I. SUMMARY OF FACTS

On May 16, 1988, Intervenor Ronald G. Simmons was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death in the Circuit Court of Franklin County, Arkansas. Franz v. State, 296 Ark. 181, 183, 754 S.W.2d 839 (1988). Immediately after being sentenced, Simmons took the stand and made a statement that he thought the sentence was appropriate and that he did not wish any appeal to be taken or that anything be done to interfere with his execution. Id. A hearing was held concerning Simmons's desire and competence to waive appellate review, and, after hearing evidence, the trial court found that Simmons had made a rational choice and knowingly and intelligently waived his right to an appeal. Id., at 190, 192, 754 S.W.2d 839. The same conclusion was reached at a subsequent competency hearing held at the request of Rev. Louis J. Franz, one of the Petitioners here. Id., at 192-3, 754 S.W.2d 839.

As the date of execution neared, Petitioner Franz petitioned the Arkansas Supreme Court to allow him to proceed in that Court on Simmons's behalf as next friend, asked for a stay of execution, and asked that the Court make appeal mandatory in death cases. Id., 296 Ark., at 183, 754 S.W.2d 839. The Arkansas Supreme Court stayed the execution, but ultimately rejected Franz's claims on the merits.

As to Franz's standing to prosecute any issues which might be available to Simmons on appeal, the Court held that Franz did not show a close enough relationship to Simmons to qualify as a next friend, and that taxpayer standing was not permitted to Franz under Article 16, section 13 of the Constitution of Arkansas. Furthermore, the fact that review of an important issue might otherwise be impossible was not sufficient to give Franz standing. Id., at 184-6, 754 S.W.2d 839.

On the merits, the Court reaffirmed its decision in Collins v. State, 261 Ark. 195, 211, 548 S.W.2d 106, 115 (1977) cert. denied, 434 U.S. 878, 98 S.Ct. 231, 54 L.Ed.2d 158 (1977), that neither Arkansas law nor the United States Constitution requires mandatory appellate review. Id., at 296 Ark., at 186-8, 754 S.W.2d 839. The Court reiterated its holding in an earlier case that an appeal would be provided in each death case unless the defendant elected to waive review. No waiver would be permitted unless the defendant was judicially found competent to make a knowing and intelligent

700 F. Supp. 1007
waiver, and all waiver decisions would be reviewed by the Arkansas Supreme Court. Id., at 188-89, 754 S.W.2d 839. Hence, the Court reviewed the record on Simmons's competence and desire to waive, found that both were satisfactorily established, and accepted his decision to waive further review. Id., at 190-94, 754 S.W.2d 839

Petitioners Franz and Darrel Wayne Hill next filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus in this Court, asserting various claims concerning the legality of Simmons's death sentence. This Court granted a stay of execution in order to consider the issues raised by that Petition.

II. THE ARKANSAS CAPITAL PUNISHMENT SCHEME

The procedures and standards to which a sentencing body of the state of Arkansas must conform in determining whether a sentence of death is to be imposed upon a conviction of capital murder are set forth in Ark.Code Ann. 5-4-601 through 5-4-617, see Ark.Code Ann. 5-4-601(a). A death sentence may only be imposed by a jury after a bifurcated trial at which guilt and sentence are considered separately. See Ark.Code Ann. 5-4-602 (bifurcated trial procedure); Ark.Code Ann. 5-4-608; Ark. R.Cr.P. 31.4 (defendant may only plead guilty to capital felony if prosecutor and court agree to waive the death penalty); Ruiz v. State, 275 Ark. 410, 630 S.W.2d 44, 46 (1982) (same).

After returning a guilty verdict in a capital case, the jury is instructed to find (1) whether any of the aggravating conditions listed in Ark.Code Ann. 5-4-604 accompanied defendant's crime; (2) whether the aggravating circumstances outweigh any mitigating circumstances, including but not limited to those mitigating circumstances listed in Ark.Code Ann. 5-4-604; and (3) whether the aggravating circumstances justify a sentence of death beyond a reasonable doubt. Ark.Code Ann. 5-4-603(a) (Supp.1987). If the jury answers yes to each issue, it "shall impose a sentence of death." Id. In Simmons's cases, the jury found as an aggravating circumstance that Simmons "in the commission of the capital murder knowingly created a great risk of death to a person other than the victim." Ark.Code Ann. 5-4-604(4).

"The trial judge is not required to impose the death penalty in every case in which the jury verdict prescribes it." Collins, 261 Ark., at 206, 548 S.W.2d 106. Entry of judgment may be postponed up to 30 days following the verdict, during which time information relevant to the appropriateness of the sentence may be collected and considered by the Court. Id.; Ark.Code Ann. 16-90-105(b). Arkansas has recodified its statutes since Collins was decided. References are to current code numbers. "When the defendant appears for sentencing, he must be asked if he has any legal cause why sentence should not be pronounced against him." Id., at 207, 548 S.W.2d 106; Ark.Code Ann. 16-90-106(b). "He may show for cause against the judgment any sufficient ground for new trial or for arrest of judgment." Id.; Ark.Code Ann. 16-90-106(c).

"The trial court has the power, in its discretion, to reduce a death sentence to life imprisonment, or to grant a new trial." Id.; Ark.Code Ann. 16-90-107(e). "In considering grounds for a new trial, powers of the trial judge are great and the latitude of his discretion broad, and have always been, in this state." Id. "The presiding judge must necessarily have a wide discretion to set aside a verdict where, in his judgment, it was tainted by passion, sympathy, prejudice, corruption, or any other sinister influence, and therefore was not responsive to the law and the evidence; and his exercise of that discretion will not be interfered with on appeal unless there has been an abuse of discretion." Id., 261 Ark., at 208, 548 S.W.2d 106; see generally, id., at 208-10, 548 S.W.2d 106. "Thus, it is quite clear that the trial judge has the power and the duty to reduce the punishment from that for capital felony to that for life felony or any of the other degrees of homicide, if he finds the evidence insufficient to support the higher degree of homicide and sufficient only to support the lesser degree." Id., at 210, 548 S.W.2d 106. Additional

700 F. Supp. 1008
trial court review of Constitutional objections to the death penalty is available under Ark.R.Cr.P. 37, post-conviction relief. Id.

Generally, death sentence appeals are governed by the same portions of the Arkansas Code and the Rules of Criminal Procedure as other criminal appeals. For a summary of the appellate procedure applicable, see Collins, 261 Ark., 211-2, 548 S.W.2d 106. (While Ark.Code Ann. 5-4-603(d) and (e) contain special provisions bearing on the appellate review of the jury's finding of aggravating circumstances, these provisions are not relevant to the Petition here before the Court.)

Rule 36.1 of the Arkansas Rules of Criminal Procedure provides in part that "any person convicted of a misdemeanor or a felony by virtue of trial in any circuit court of this state has the right to appeal to the Arkansas Court of Appeals or to the Supreme Court of Arkansas." The defendant is to be informed of this right at the time sentence is announced and judgment entered. Ark.Code Ann. 16-90-105. Criminal appeals take precedence over all other business of the Court. Ark.Code Ann. 16-91-103.

Rule 36.4 states that "the...

To continue reading

Request your trial
8 practice notes
  • State v. Dodd, No. 57414-6
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Washington
    • October 8, 1992
    ...United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas severely criticized the State's statutory scheme in Franz v. Lockhart, 700 F.Supp. 1005, 1023-24 (E.D.Ark.1988) because the scheme allows a defendant to forgo any review at all, of conviction or sentence. The court's discussi......
  • Whitmore v. Arkansas, No. 88-7146
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • April 24, 1990
    ...to prevent Simmons' execution, but the petition was denied on the ground that Franz and Hill did not have standing. Franz v. Lockhart, 700 F.Supp. 1005 (ED Ark.1988), appeal pending, No. 89-1485EA (CA8). The State subsequently tried Simmons for the murder of his 14 family members, and on Fe......
  • State v. Ross, No. 17335.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • January 14, 2005
    ...have required a showing of meaningful evidence of incompetence before a competency hearing is provided. See, e.g., Franz v. Lockhart, 700 F.Supp. 1005, 1025 (E.D.Ark.1988) (ordering competency hearing even though persons seeking next friend status had not presented evidence that "can reason......
  • Fairchild v. Lockhart, No. PB-C-85-282.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States State District Court of Eastern District of Arkansas
    • April 4, 1989
    ...area. But at this point, this Court is convinced it must follow Gilmore as, indeed, it has in this case and also in Franz v. Lockhart, 700 F.Supp. 1005 Petitioner's Successor Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus will be dismissed and the stay of execution entered herein on the third day of Ma......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
8 cases
  • State v. Dodd, No. 57414-6
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Washington
    • October 8, 1992
    ...United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas severely criticized the State's statutory scheme in Franz v. Lockhart, 700 F.Supp. 1005, 1023-24 (E.D.Ark.1988) because the scheme allows a defendant to forgo any review at all, of conviction or sentence. The court's discussi......
  • Whitmore v. Arkansas, No. 88-7146
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • April 24, 1990
    ...to prevent Simmons' execution, but the petition was denied on the ground that Franz and Hill did not have standing. Franz v. Lockhart, 700 F.Supp. 1005 (ED Ark.1988), appeal pending, No. 89-1485EA (CA8). The State subsequently tried Simmons for the murder of his 14 family members, and on Fe......
  • State v. Ross, No. 17335.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • January 14, 2005
    ...have required a showing of meaningful evidence of incompetence before a competency hearing is provided. See, e.g., Franz v. Lockhart, 700 F.Supp. 1005, 1025 (E.D.Ark.1988) (ordering competency hearing even though persons seeking next friend status had not presented evidence that "can reason......
  • Fairchild v. Lockhart, No. PB-C-85-282.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States State District Court of Eastern District of Arkansas
    • April 4, 1989
    ...area. But at this point, this Court is convinced it must follow Gilmore as, indeed, it has in this case and also in Franz v. Lockhart, 700 F.Supp. 1005 Petitioner's Successor Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus will be dismissed and the stay of execution entered herein on the third day of Ma......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT