Gurley v. State, 8 Div. 576

CourtAlabama Court of Criminal Appeals
Citation639 So.2d 557
Docket Number8 Div. 576
PartiesWilson Calvin GURLEY v. STATE.
Decision Date22 October 1993

Page 557

639 So.2d 557
Wilson Calvin GURLEY
8 Div. 576.
Court of Criminal Appeals of Alabama.
Oct. 22, 1993.
Rehearing Denied Dec. 30, 1993.
Certiorari Denied March 18, 1994
Alabama Supreme Court 1930594.

Kevin Doyle and Bryan A. Stevenson, Birmingham, for appellant.

James H. Evans, Atty. Gen., and Jean Brown and Melissa Math, Asst. Attys. Gen., for appellee.

BOWEN, Presiding Judge.

The appellant, Wilson Calvin Gurley, was indicted for the capital offense of murder during a robbery, as defined in Ala.Code 1975, § 13A-5-40(a)(2). The jury found him guilty as charged and, by a vote of eleven to one, recommended that he be punished by death. The trial court accepted this recommendation and sentenced the appellant to death. This appeal is from that conviction and sentence.

On the afternoon of July 10, 1986, the body of Bruce Bentley was found by the side of a

Page 558

country road. He had been shot, beaten, and stabbed and his throat had been cut.

The undisputed evidence established that the appellant had arranged to meet Bentley at a store across from Oakwood College on the evening of July 8, 1986, so that Bentley could repay a cocaine debt to the appellant. State's witnesses Lorenzo Matthews and Vera Solomon testified that the appellant, whom they knew as "Teddy," killed Bentley following that meeting. The trial testimony of Lorenzo Matthews and Vera Solomon was consistent on most points and can be summarized as follows:

On July 8, the appellant asked Lorenzo Matthews if Matthews wanted to ride with him to pick up some money. Matthews agreed and the two men left in a vehicle belonging to Vera Solomon, the appellant's girlfriend. When they arrived at Oakwood College, Matthews saw another vehicle, occupied by "two white guys" pull up behind them. R. 392. The appellant got out of the car and talked to one of the white guys. After a while, Matthews walked over to the group and the appellant introduced Matthews to "Bruce," whom Matthews had never seen before. R. 393. Matthews then returned to the front passenger seat of Vera Solomon's car while the appellant and Bruce continued to talk for a few minutes.

The appellant then came back to the car and told Matthews to get in the back seat because he "didn't want [Bruce] sitting behind him." R. 394. The appellant handed Matthews a .25 caliber automatic pistol and told him to keep it. Matthews slid the pistol under the front passenger seat.

Bruce Bentley came over to Vera Solomon's car, got in the passenger seat and the three men drove away. Bentley told the appellant that "he could get his money; all he had to do was go pick it up." R. 399. The appellant asked Bentley if he was sure, and Bentley responded, "Yeah, he was sure.... [m]atter of fact, it may be there now." R. 400. The three drove for a few minutes and then the appellant said that he had forgotten something. He stopped the car at a small store, telephoned Vera Solomon, and asked her to meet him at a particular street corner. R. 619. When the appellant returned to the car, he drove away in a different direction. He soon met Ms. Solomon and Serita Moore, Lorenzo Matthews' girlfriend, walking down the street. The appellant stopped the car and asked Vera Solomon to drive. The appellant got in the back seat, Ms. Solomon got in the front seat with Bentley, and Ms. Moore rode in the back seat with the appellant and Lorenzo Matthews.

When the group stopped to buy beer Vera Solomon asked the appellant where they were going. He replied that they were "just driving." R. 404. He instructed her to drive across the Tennessee River bridge into Morgan County. R. 627-28. After a while, Lorenzo Matthews asked the appellant how far away Bruce Bentley lived, and the appellant responded, "We ain't going to nobody's house. We are going over here so I can fuck him up." R. 406. When Matthews asked the appellant "what he was going to do that for" and told him that Bentley "can get your money in about 30 minutes," the appellant stated, "No, he done lied to me once. I ain't intending for him to lie to me no more." R. 407.

Vera Solomon testified that she heard no conversation between Matthews and the appellant indicating any ill will between the appellant and Bentley. Instead, she said, "Everybody was just laughing and listening to music and that was it." R. 629.

After a while, Lorenzo Matthews said that he "needed to use the bathroom" and he asked Vera Solomon to pull the car over. R. 407. The appellant directed Ms. Solomon to turn onto a small country road and she complied. Matthews got out of the car and walked behind the vehicle to urinate. While Matthews' back was turned, he heard the appellant get out of the car and tell Bentley to get out. Then Matthews heard a gunshot. He turned and saw Bentley fall to the ground and roll over into a ditch. R. 413-14. Matthews saw the appellant get in the ditch with Bentley and fire three or four more shots while Bentley was saying, "No, Teddy." R. 415.

The appellant called out to the occupants of the car and asked where his knife was.

Page 559

Lorenzo Matthews said, "Let's go. You done already shot him," and the appellant replied, "No, I need to cut his throat." R. 417. When the appellant was unable to locate his knife, he opened the trunk of the car and found a lug wrench or jack handle. He returned to the ditch and stabbed Bentley twice in the neck and once in the top of the head with the tire tool. R. 417, 419.

The appellant came out of the ditch saying that "he needed to cut [Bentley's] throat." Matthews said, "You done already killed him. Let's go," and the appellant responded, "No I need to cut his throat," R. 420, or "No, he ain't dead until [I] hear him gag twice." R. 650. The appellant broke a beer bottle and returned to the ditch where he "stabbed [Bentley] in the neck [with the broken bottle] and pulled it." R. 421. The appellant repeatedly struck Bentley's face and head with the tire tool, and when he was finished, he told Serita Moore to spit on Bentley. R. 423. Ms. Moore complied.

According to Lorenzo Matthews, the appellant leaned over Bentley like he "was searching him," and "pull[ed] out something." R. 424. Then the appellant, Matthews, and Moore got back in the car and Vera Solomon, who had remained in the car the entire time, drove away. Ms. Solomon followed the appellant's instructions to leave the headlights off as they left the scene. R. 424.

The foursome drove to a house owned by Vera Solomon's mother, where the appellant changed clothes. According to Lorenzo Matthews, the appellant and either Vera Solomon or Serita Moore washed blood from the car with a garden hose. Vera Solomon testified that she was "sure" that she and Lorenzo Matthews washed the car, R. 654, and that Serita Moore cleaned the tire tool, R. 682. Lorenzo Matthews saw the appellant burn something that "looked like a billfold" in a barbecue pit behind the house. R. 430. Vera Solomon testified that she saw the appellant burn a green billfold with brown trim. R. 656.

On direct examination by the district attorney, Vera Solomon, who made three statements concerning the events surrounding the death of Bruce Bentley admitted that she had lied to the police in the first two statements. In the first statement, she denied ever having been with the appellant during the time in question. In the second statement, she acknowledged that she had been present, but claimed that she did not see anything. After the second statement, the police told her that "if [she] didn't get [her] statement right and tell the truth that [she] would be an accessory ... to the thing." R. 680-81. She then retained a lawyer and gave the police a third statement. R. 681. Ms. Solomon conceded that in her third statement she did not say anything about the appellant's having taken or burned Bentley's wallet. R. 695.

On cross-examination, Ms. Solomon stated that she had "a drug problem" at the time of the events about which she testified. R. 677. She also stated that Bruce Bentley had "a pretty bad drug habit," R. 688, and that he had a reputation for being a "robber," R. 674.

The appellant testified in his own behalf and stated that he had known Bruce Bentley for about a year before his death and that Bentley had bought cocaine from him on several occasions. On the evening of July 8, 1986, Bentley called the appellant about obtaining more cocaine and promised to repay the appellant $1400 that he owed for a previous cocaine buy.

The appellant testified that he met Bentley and that they drove around for a while with Lorenzo Matthews, Vera Solomon, and Serita Moore. According to the appellant, everyone was drinking beer and smoking "premo joints" (marijuana laced with cocaine). R. 966. Bentley was shooting cocaine into his veins with a syringe. R. 964. When Vera Solomon stopped the car so that Lorenzo Matthews could urinate, Bentley asked the appellant if he could have another shot of cocaine. The appellant got more cocaine from the trunk and gave it to Bentley. The appellant testified that Bentley injected the cocaine and that, as the appellant turned to close the trunk of the car, Bentley pointed a pistol at him. R. 970.

The appellant said that he knocked the pistol away and that he and Bentley struggled over the gun. The appellant shot Bentley once, and, when Bentley continued to

Page 560

advance, he shot him several more times. The appellant stated that, at that point, Lorenzo Matthews hit Bentley with a jack handle and Serita Moore cut Bentley with a broken beer bottle. R. 971. Vera Solomon remained in the car the whole time.

According to the appellant, the group left Bentley's body in a ditch on the side of the road and drove to Vera Solomon's mother's house, where they cleaned the car and where the appellant changed clothes. The appellant denied taking a wallet from Bentley's body or burning a wallet in the barbecue pit behind the house. He said that Bentley had once told him that he was on...

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