Giles v. State

Citation906 So.2d 963
PartiesArthur Lee GILES v. STATE of Alabama.
Decision Date30 April 2004
CourtAlabama Court of Criminal Appeals

Angela Wessels, Dorchester, Massachusetts; and Claudia Pearson, Birmingham, for appellant.

William H. Pryor, Jr., atty. gen., and Rosa H. Davis and Stephen Shows, asst. attys. gen., for appellee.

WISE, Judge.

Arthur Lee Giles, an inmate incarcerated on death row at the Holman Correctional Facility, appeals the denial of his petition for postconviction relief filed pursuant to Rule 32, Ala.R.Crim.P. In 1979, Giles was convicted of murdering Carl Nelson and Willene Nelson during the course of a robbery.1 Giles was charged, convicted, and sentenced under the previous death-penalty statute, § 13-11-2(a)(10), Ala.Code 1975 (repealed and replaced by § 13A-5-40(a)(10)) — killing two or more people during one course of conduct. The circuit court found three aggravating circumstances — that Giles created a great risk of death to many persons, that the murders occurred during a robbery, and that the murders were especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel when compared to other capital murders. On direct appeal, this Court reversed Giles's conviction based on the United States Supreme Court's decision in Beck v. Alabama, 447 U.S. 625, 100 S.Ct. 2382, 65 L.Ed.2d 392 (1980). See Giles v. State, 405 So.2d 50 (Ala.Crim.App.1981).

In 1982, Giles was again convicted of capital murder and was sentenced to death. His conviction was affirmed; however, the Alabama Supreme Court set aside his sentence of death and ordered a new sentencing hearing. See Giles v. State, 554 So.2d 1073 (Ala.Crim.App.1984), rev'd in part, 554 So.2d 1089 (Ala.1987).

In 1991, venue was changed and a jury was empaneled in Morgan County to conduct a new sentencing hearing. The jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict — 11 voted for the death penalty and 1 voted for life imprisonment without parole. Under the former death-penalty statute all 12 jurors had to agree in order to return a death recommendation; therefore, the jury recommended a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.2 Thereafter, as required by the law at the time of the murders the circuit court considered the jury's recommendation of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole; it overrode the jury's recommendation and sentenced Giles to death. His death sentence was affirmed on appeal. See Giles v. State, 632 So.2d 568 (Ala.Crim.App.1992), aff'd, 632 So.2d 577 (Ala.1993). Pursuant to Rule 41, Ala.R.App.P., we issued the certificate of judgment for Giles's direct appeal on February 3, 1994.

In February 1996, Giles filed a petition for postconviction relief in the Blount Circuit Court. In February 1998, he filed an amended petition. In August 1998, the circuit court issued an order dismissing those claims it found were precluded. On August 24, 1998, and on November 2, 1998, evidentiary hearings were held. On October 23, 1998, Giles filed a second amended petition. On August 14, 2000, the circuit court denied Giles's Rule 32 petition in a thorough 138-page order. A third amended petition was received in the circuit court on August 14, 2000. This appeal followed.

The facts underlying Giles's capital-murder conviction are set out in great detail in this Court's previous opinions in this case. See Giles v. State, 440 So.2d 1237 (Ala.Crim.App.1983), and Jones v. State, 520 So.2d 543 (Ala.Crim.App.1984). In Giles's appeal from his second capital-murder conviction, we stated:

"The appellant and his accomplice, Aaron Jones, traveled to the home of Willene and Carl Nelson in the early morning hours of November 10, 1978, with the intention of robbing the Nelsons. While at the Nelsons' home, the appellant and Jones, in concert, shot or stabbed all six occupants: Carl and Willene Nelson; their three children, Tony, Brenda and Charlie; and Carl's mother, Annie M. Nelson. When the appellant and Jones left, Carl and Willene Nelson were dead and the other four victims were seriously wounded. It is undisputed that the appellant did all of the shooting, including the shooting of Willene and Carl. In his confession, after admitting the shooting, the appellant explained that all of the victims were alive when he finished shooting. He further explained that Jones entered the room after the shooting was completed and suggested that they stab the victims to eliminate any witnesses and that Jones went to the kitchen and retrieved a butcher knife, with which Jones completed the bloody massacre.1 Therefore, the only material factual distinctions between the prosecution's theory and the appellant's theory in defense involve appellant's intent and the question of who actually inflicted the fatal blows to both Willene and Carl Nelson.

"1 Appellant's version of the stabbing was in sharp conflict with Jones's confession, in which Jones stated that appellant had the knife and had already stabbed some of the victims before Jones stabbed anyone. See, Jones v. State, [520 So.2d 543 (Ala.Crim.App.1984)]."

554 So.2d at 1076.

Standard of Review

We do not apply a plain-error standard of review when evaluating a circuit court's ruling denying a Rule 32 petition in a capital case. See Hill v. State, 695 So.2d 1223 (Ala.Crim.App.1997). "If the circuit court is correct for any reason, even though it may not be the stated reason, we will not reverse its denial of the petition." Reed v. State, 748 So.2d 231, 233 (Ala.Crim.App.1999). We will reverse a circuit court's findings only if they are "clearly erroneous." Jenkins v. State, [Ms. CR-97-0864, February 27, 2004] ___ So.2d ___ (Ala.Crim.App.2004); Slaton v. State, 902 So.2d 102 (Ala.Crim.App.2003).

"`"[A] finding is `clearly erroneous' when although there is evidence to support it, the reviewing court on the entire evidence is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed." United States v. United States Gypsum Co., 333 U.S. 364, 395, 68 S.Ct. 525, 92 L.Ed. 746 (1948).... If the district court's account of the evidence is plausible in light of the record viewed in its entirety, the court of appeals may not reverse it even though convinced that had it been sitting as the trier of fact, it would have weighed the evidence differently. Where there are two permissible views of the evidence, the factfinder's choice between them cannot be clearly erroneous. United States v. Yellow Cab Co., 338 U.S. 338, 342, 70 S.Ct. 177, 179, 94 L.Ed. 150 (1949); see also Inwood Laboratories, Inc. v. Ives Laboratories, Inc., 456 U.S. 844, 102 S.Ct. 2182, 72 L.Ed.2d 606 (1982).' Id.,470 U.S. at 573-74,105 S.Ct. at 1511."

Morrison v. State, 551 So.2d 435, 436-37 (Ala.Crim.App.1989), quoting Anderson v. City of Bessemer City, N.C., 470 U.S. 564, 572, 105 S.Ct. 1504, 84 L.Ed.2d 518 (1985).

Giles filed this action in the circuit court. According to Rule 32.3, Ala.R.Crim.P., he has the "burden of pleading and proving by a preponderance of the evidence the facts necessary to entitle the petitioner to relief." The procedural default grounds contained in Rule 32 apply equally to all cases, even those involving the death penalty. See DeBruce v. State, 890 So.2d 1068 (Ala.Crim.App.2003); Hamm v. State, [Ms. CR-99-0654, February 1, 2002] ___ So.2d ___ (Ala.Crim.App.2002); Wright v. State, 766 So.2d 213 (Ala.Crim.App.2000).

In order to clarify the record, we note that the original postconviction petition was stamped filed in the circuit clerk's office on a date past the expiration of the limitations period provided by Rule 32.2(c), Ala.R.Crim.P. We issued the certificate of judgment for Giles's direct appeal on February 3, 1994. According to Rule 32.2(c), Ala.R.Crim.P., as it read at the time that the Rule 32 petition was filed, Giles had two years from the date of the issuance of the certificate of judgment to file a Rule 32 petition.3 The petition was stamped filed on February 6, 1996, but was due to be filed by February 3, 1996, to be timely.4 However, attached to the Rule 32 petition is an affidavit executed by an intern with the Equal Justice Initiative of Alabama ("EJI"). The affidavit states that the intern attempted to hand-deliver a copy of the petition to the Blount Circuit Court on Friday, February 2, 1996, and again on Monday, February 5, 1996, but the courthouse was closed because of severe weather conditions. This fact is not disputed in the record. Rule 1.3(a), Ala.R.Crim.P., states in part:

"The last day of the period so computed shall be included, unless that day is a Saturday, Sunday, legal holiday, or day on which the appropriate clerk's office is closed pursuant to Rule 5(B) or (C), Alabama Rules of Judicial Administration (A.R.J.A.), in which case the period shall run until the end of the next day which is not a Saturday, Sunday, or a legal holiday, or a day on which the clerk's office is closed pursuant to Rule 5(B) or (C), A.R.J.A."

Rule 5(C), Ala.R.Jud.Admin., specifically addresses the closing of a circuit clerk's office because of severe weather conditions. Accordingly, Giles's Rule 32 petition was timely filed.

Two amended petitions were filed in this case. Both were filed outside the limitations period of Rule 32.2(c), Ala.R.Crim.P. However, the issues raised in those petitions would be considered timely if they related back to a claim asserted in the original Rule 32 petition. Charest v. State, 854 So.2d 1102 (Ala.Crim.App.2002). The limitations period contained in Rule 32.2(c), Ala.R.Crim.P., is jurisdictional and deprives a court of considering any issue other than one challenging jurisdiction. Williams v. State, 783 So.2d 135 (Ala.Crim.App.2000).

Last, there is a discrepancy as to when the third amended petition was deemed "filed" in the circuit clerk's office. After the certified record was filed with this Court, Giles noticed that the record did not include a copy of the third amended petition. Giles filed a motion under Rule 10(g), Ala.R.App.P., to...

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