Griffin v. State

CourtAlabama Court of Criminal Appeals
Citation790 So.2d 267
PartiesLouis GRIFFIN v. STATE.
Decision Date10 December 1999

790 So.2d 267



Court of Criminal Appeals of Alabama.

December 10, 1999.

Opinion on Return to Remand February 4, 2000.

Rehearing Denied March 31, 2000.

790 So.2d 278
J.T. Simonetti, Jr., Birmingham, for appellant

Bill Pryor, atty. gen.; and Jeremy W. Armstrong and James R. Houts, asst. attys. gen., for appellee.

FRY, Judge.

On April 12, 1996, the appellant, Louis Griffin, pleaded guilty in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York to violations of the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). During Griffin's plea, he admitted to participating in the murder of Christopher Lynn Davis in Birmingham, Alabama, on September 24, 1992. (C.R. 250.) During the March 1997 term, a Jefferson County grand jury returned an indictment charging Griffin with the capital offense of murder for "pecuniary or other valuable consideration." See § 13A-5-40(a)(7), Ala.Code 1975. Griffin was tried and the jury returned a verdict finding Griffin guilty of capital murder, as charged in the indictment. The jury, by a vote of 10-2, recommended that Griffin be sentenced to death. A sentencing hearing was held on January 29, 1998, and the trial court sentenced Griffin to death. On January 30, 1998, Griffin filed a motion for a new trial. On March 24, 1998, the trial court denied Griffin's motion for a new trial. This appeal followed.

The evidence established the following: Jesse Straiton, a crime scene technician for the Birmingham Police Department,

790 So.2d 279
testified that he was called to the Avondale pool game room on September 24, 1992, to investigate the scene of the murder of Davis. Straiton stated, in his opinion, that because he was unable to find any empty shell casings at the scene, he believed that revolver(s) were used during the incident

Dr. Robert Brissie, chief coroner and medical examiner for Jefferson County, testified that he performed an autopsy on Davis on September 28, 1992. Dr. Brissie stated that Davis had suffered "at least seven" gunshot injuries. (R. 427.) According to Dr. Brissie, at least three of the wounds would have been fatal, and that many of the shots were fired at close range—from 12 inches to 20 inches.

David Higgins, a forensic scientist for the Birmingham lab of the Department of Forensic Sciences, testified that he analyzed the bullets and fragments found in Davis's body and determined that the bullets were from either a .357 Magnum or a.38 caliber revolver. Higgins stated that regardless of whether the revolver was a.357 Magnum or a .38, the weapon was capable of holding a maximum of six bullets. Higgins said based on his analysis, he was "ninety-nine point ninety-nine percent sure these [bullets] were fired out of a revolver." (R. 440.)

Johnny Spragg, Jr., testified that he had lived in Birmingham most of his life. Spragg stated that he and Rapheal Bimbo1 sold drugs. According to Spragg, he and Bimbo received their drug supply from Carlton "K" Henry, who, in turn, purchased the drugs from the 142nd Street Lynch Mob Crew (hereinafter "the Crew"), a gang in New York City. Spragg testified that during September 1992, while he and Bimbo were outside in the Avondale projects, a policeman drove up and asked Bimbo to walk over to his car. Because Bimbo was in possession of drugs, he ran from the officer. During the pursuit, Bimbo threw the drugs on the roof of a shed. A short time later, Spragg met Bimbo at Bimbo's grandmother's house. Bimbo was talking on the phone with Henry. Bimbo told Henry about being chased by a police officer, throwing the drugs on the shed's roof, and learning that Davis had retrieved the drugs and refused to return them. After Bimbo ended his telephone conversation with Henry, he told Spragg that Davis had taken possession of some of the drugs and was refusing to return them. Bimbo told Spragg that Henry indicated he "was going to have his man and them to come down here ... [and] take care of the situation." (R. 467.)

Spragg further testified that Griffin was the "security man" for the Crew. According to Spragg, approximately one week after Davis refused to return the drugs, Henry came to his apartment with Griffin. Later that night at a motel near the Birmingham Airport, Spragg met Griffin, Henry, and Jonathan Ferrell (hereinafter "Johnny O."). Spragg testified that he, Griffin, Henry, and Johnny O. rode around in the Avondale area that night and Henry pointed Davis out in a group of people at a playground. Spragg testified that Griffin wanted to kill Davis at that time, but that Henry told him to wait until later.

The next day, Spragg, Griffin, Henry, Johnny O., and Bimbo met at a church in Avondale. Spragg testified that Bimbo gave Henry $4000, and that Henry then gave Griffin and Johnny O. each $2000. Spragg testified that Henry gave the money to Griffin and Johnny O. as payment for the "hit" on Davis.

790 So.2d 280
The next day Griffin called Spragg and asked him to help find Davis. Spragg went to the motel and picked up Griffin and Johnny O., who were dressed in black clothing and had two six-shot .357 Magnum revolvers. That same night, Spragg drove Griffin and Johnny O. around the Avondale area in search of Davis. Spragg stated that they stopped outside the Avondale pool game room, and that he found Davis inside the game room. Spragg returned to the vehicle where Griffin and Johnny O. were waiting, got into the driver's side, and told them where Davis was standing and what Davis was wearing. According to Spragg, he stayed in the vehicle while Griffin and Johnny O. entered the game room; Spragg heard several gunshots come from the game room. Griffin and Johnny O. then ran out of the game room and got into the vehicle. Spragg testified that, as he drove away, someone fired two shots at them and that his vehicle was hit by buckshot. Additionally, Spragg testified that, after the shooting, Griffin's demeanor was "nonchalant... cool ... like it was ... business as usual." (R. 495.)

Spragg stated that he drove Griffin and Johnny O. to the motel. At the motel, Spragg put Griffin and Johnny O.'s guns in the trunk of his vehicle along with the empty shell casings. According to Spragg, Henry drove Griffin and Johnny O. to the Hartsfield International Airport in Atlanta so that there would not be a record of their leaving Alabama.

Later that day, Spragg and Bimbo threw the guns and the shell casings into East Lake. Spragg testified that, when he returned to the game room and looked through a window, Davis's body was lying in the same area where Davis was standing before the shooting occurred.

Spragg testified against Griffin pursuant to the terms of a plea agreement he entered in New York District Court. According to Spragg, he believed that, if he cooperated and testified for the government against Griffin, the United States Attorney General would request that the sentencing judge be lenient when determining his sentence.

Derek Razor testified that he and Griffin grew up together in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City. Razor indicated that he and Griffin were involved in the Crew in New York City. Razor stated that Henry told him that Bimbo had thrown some drugs on top of a shed while he was running from the police and that the person who recovered the drugs would not give them back. According to Razor, Henry requested that Griffin and Johnny O. "take care of business." Razor testified that, a few days later, Henry told him that Griffin and Johnny O. had "taken care of business." Razor stated that he had pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiracy to commit murder and that he was testifying because he hoped to reduce his sentence on federal charges.

Bimbo testified that he had met Griffin only twice—once briefly during a visit in New York City and again at the "bullpen" at the Jefferson County jail. Bimbo stated that he admitted to federal agents that he and Spragg had disposed of the weapons used to murder Davis by throwing them in a lake.

Chiquita Norman testified that she and Felicia Crenshaw were standing outside— approximately 10 feet from—the Avondale pool game room at the time of the shooting. Norman stated that two men walked into the game room and that she then heard gunshots. According to Norman, someone fired shots at the two men as they exited the game room and ran away. Norman further stated that she did not recognize either of the men and did not recognize Griffin.

790 So.2d 281
Joseph Walsh, an agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (hereinafter F.B.I.), testified that one of his assignments was an investigation of the Crew. He stated that Griffin had pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiracy to commit the murder of Davis

Officer Andre Pressley of the Birmingham Police Department testified that Crenshaw, who was outside the game room when the incident occurred, identified two people as the alleged shooters, neither of whom was Griffin.

Sabrina Smith testified that she gave birth to Griffin's son on September 10, 1992, at Harlem Hospital in New York City. According to Smith, their baby had to stay in the hospital 14 days because of an infection. Smith stated that her baby was released from the hospital on the afternoon of September 24, 1992—the day Davis was killed, and that Griffin was with her on the day their baby was released. According to Smith, Griffin was also in New York City on September 25 and 26.

Jamilah Shabazz testified that she was living with Henry around the time the murder occurred. Testimony indicated that a room at the Holiday Inn motel near the Birmingham airport was registered to a person named Henry on the day that the murder occurred. Shabazz identified the handwriting on the motel registration receipt as Henry's. Additionally, Shabazz stated that, on September 25, 1992, she accompanied Henry and two other men to Atlanta, Georgia, because Henry told her that he was going to drive the men to the...

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