Hall v. State, CR-05-0452.

CourtAlabama Court of Criminal Appeals
Writing for the CourtBaschab
Citation979 So.2d 125
PartiesSteven Wayne HALL, Jr. v. STATE of Alabama.
Docket NumberNo. CR-05-0452.,CR-05-0452.
Decision Date23 March 2007
979 So.2d 125
Steven Wayne HALL, Jr.
STATE of Alabama.
No. CR-05-0452.
Court of Criminal Appeals of Alabama.
March 23, 2007.
Rehearing Denied May 11, 2007.
Certiorari Denied August 24, 2007. Alabama Supreme Court 1061182.

[979 So.2d 130]

Maryanne Elizabeth Melko Prince, Montgomery (withdrew 9/5/2006); and Jacob M. Tubbs, Birmingham, for appellant.

Troy King, atty. gen., and Henry M. Johnson, asst. atty. gen., for appellee.

BASCHAB, Presiding Judge.

On August 13, 1993, the appellant, Steven Wayne Hall, Jr., was convicted of capital murder for the killing of Clarene Haskew. The murder was made capital because he committed it during the course of a burglary. See § 13A-5-40(a)(4), Ala.Code 1975. By a vote of 10-2, the jury recommended that he be sentenced to death. On September 3, 1993, the trial court accepted the jury's recommendation and sentenced the appellant to death. We affirmed his conviction and sentence, see Hall v. State, 820 So.2d 113 (Ala.Crim.App.1999); the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed his conviction and sentence, see Ex parte Hall, 820 So.2d 152 (Ala.2001); and the United States Supreme Court denied his petition for certiorari review, see Hall v. Alabama, 535 U.S. 1080, 122 S.Ct. 1966, 152 L.Ed.2d 1025 (2002). This court issued a certificate of judgment on November 27, 2001.

On April 1, 2003, the appellant filed a Rule 32 petition, challenging his conviction and sentence. On May 28, 2004, he amended his petition. After the State responded, the circuit court conducted an evidentiary hearing and denied the petition.1 This appeal followed.

The appellant raises several arguments, including claims that his attorneys rendered ineffective assistance during the proceedings. In reviewing the circuit court's rulings on the appellant's arguments, we apply the following principles:

"`"[T]he plain error rule does not apply to Rule 32 proceedings, even if the case involves the death sentence." Thompson v. State, 615 So.2d 129 (Ala.Cr.App. 1992).' Cade v. State, 629 So.2d 38, 41 (Ala.Crim.App. 1993), cert. denied, [511] U.S. [1046], 114 S.Ct. 1579, 128 L.Ed.2d 221 (1994).

"In addition, `[t]he procedural bars of Rule 32 apply with equal force to all cases, including those in which the death penalty has been imposed.' State v. Tarver, 629 So.2d 14, 19 (Ala.Crim.App. 1993)."

Brownlee v. State, 666 So.2d 91, 93 (Ala. Crim.App.1995).

"To prevail on a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, the defendant must show (1) that his counsel's performance was deficient and (2) that he was prejudiced as a result of the deficient performance. Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed.2d 674 (1984).

"`The appellant must show that his counsel's performance was unreasonable,

979 So.2d 131

considering all of the attendant circumstances.... "[A] court deciding an actual ineffectiveness claim must judge the reasonableness of counsel's challenged conduct on the facts of the particular case, viewed as of the time of counsel's conduct." Strickland, 466 U.S. at 690, 104 S.Ct. at 2066.'

"Duren v. State, 590 So.2d 360, 362 (Ala. Cr.App.1990), aff'd, 590 So.2d 369 (Ala. 1991), cert. denied, [503] U.S. [974], 112 S.Ct. 1594, 118 L.Ed.2d 310 (1992).

"When this court is reviewing a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, we indulge a strong presumption that counsel's conduct was appropriate and reasonable. Luke v. State, 484 So.2d 531, 534 (Ala.Cr.App.1985). The burden is on the appellant to show that his counsel's conduct was deficient. Luke.

"`Judicial scrutiny of counsel's performance must be highly deferential. It is all too tempting for a defendant to second-guess counsel's assistance after conviction or adverse sentence, and it is all too easy for a court, examining counsel's defense after it has proved unsuccessful, to conclude that a particular act or omission of counsel was unreasonable. A fair assessment of attorney performance requires that every effort be made to eliminate the distorting effects of hindsight, to reconstruct the circumstances of counsel's challenged conduct, and to evaluate the conduct from counsel's perspective at the time. Because of the difficulties inherent in making the evaluation, a court must indulge a strong presumption that counsel's conduct falls within the wide range of reasonable professional assistance; that is, the defendant must overcome the presumption that, under the circumstances, the challenged action "might be considered sound trial strategy." There are countless ways to provide effective assistance in any given case. Even the best criminal defense attorneys would not defend a particular client in the same way.'

"Strickland, 466 U.S. at 689, 104 S.Ct. at 2065-66. (Citations omitted.) Ex parte Lawley, 512 So.2d 1370, 1372 ([Ala.] 1987).

"Initially we must determine whether counsel's performance was deficient. We must evaluate whether the action or inaction of counsel of which the petitioner complains was a strategic choice. `Strategic choices made after a thorough investigation of relevant law and facts are virtually unchallengeable....' Lawley, 512 So.2d at 1372. This court must avoid using `hindsight' to evaluate the performance of counsel. We must evaluate all the circumstances surrounding the case at the time of counsel's actions before determining whether counsel rendered ineffective assistance. Falkner v. State, 586 So.2d 39 (Ala.Cr.App.1991)."

Hallford v. State, 629 So.2d 6, 8-9 (Ala. Crim.App.1992).

"In determining whether a defendant has established his burden of showing that his counsel was ineffective, we are not required to address both considerations of the Strickland v. Washington test if the defendant makes an insufficient showing on one of the prongs. Id. at 697, 104 S.Ct. at 2069. In fact, the Court explained that `[i]f it is easier to dispose of an ineffectiveness claim on the ground of lack of sufficient prejudice, which we expect will often be so, that course should be followed.' Id. We defer to this guidance and address the `prejudice' prong, for `[w]ith respect to the prejudice component, the lack of merit of [Thomas's] claim is even more stark.' Id. at 699, 104 S.Ct. at 2070."

979 So.2d 132

Thomas v. State, 511 So.2d 248, 255 (Ala. Crim.App.1987) (footnote omitted).

"Furthermore, to render effective assistance, an attorney is not required to raise every conceivable constitutional claim available at trial and on appeal. Holladay v. State, 629 So.2d 673 (Ala.Cr. App.1992), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 1171, 114 S.Ct. 1208, 127 L.Ed.2d 555 (1994); McCoy v. Lynaugh, 874 F.2d 954, 965-66 (5th Cir.1989). Rather, counsel must be given some discretion in determining which claims possibly have merit, and thus a better chance of success, and which claims do not have merit, and thus have little chance of success. Heath v. State, 536 So.2d 142 (Ala.Cr.App. 1988); Smith v. Murray, 477 U.S. 527, 106 S.Ct. 2661, 91 L.Ed.2d 434 (1986); Engle v. Isaac, 456 U.S. 107, 102 S.Ct. 1558, 71 L.Ed.2d 783 (1982)."

Davis v. State, 720 So.2d 1006, 1014 (Ala. Crim.App.1998).

"The purpose of ineffectiveness review is not to grade counsel's performance. See Strickland [v. Washington], [466 U.S. 668,] 104 S.Ct. [2052] at 2065 [(1984)]; see also White v. Singletary, 972 F.2d 1218, 1221 (11th Cir.1992)('We are not interested in grading lawyers' performances; we are interested in whether the adversarial process at trial, in fact, worked adequately.'). We recognize that `[r]epresentation is an art, and an act or omission that is unprofessional in one case may be sound or even brilliant in another.' Strickland, 104 S.Ct. at 2067. Different lawyers have different gifts; this fact, as well as differing circumstances from case to case, means the range of what might be a reasonable approach at trial must be broad. To state the obvious: the trial lawyers, in every case, could have done something more or something different. So, omissions are inevitable. But, the issue is not what is possible or `what is prudent or appropriate, but only what is constitutionally compelled.' Burger v. Kemp, 483 U.S. 776, 107 S.Ct. 3114, 3126, 97 L.Ed.2d 638 (1987)."

Chandler v. United States, 218 F.3d 1305, 1313 (11th Cir.2000) (footnote omitted.) Finally,

"[i]n Strickland [v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984)], we made clear that, to establish prejudice, a `defendant must show that there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different. A reasonable probability is a probability sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome.' Id., at 694, 104 S.Ct. 2052. In assessing prejudice, we reweigh the evidence in aggravation against the totality of available mitigating evidence."

Wiggins v. Smith, 539 U.S. 510, 534, 123 S.Ct. 2527, 156 L.Ed.2d 471 (2003).

The following facts, as set forth in this court's opinion on direct appeal, are helpful to an understanding of this case:

"The State's evidence tended to show that on December 15, 1991, Conecuh County sheriff deputies discovered the body of 69-year-old Clarene Haskew on the kitchen floor of her home in McKenzie. Haskew had been shot twice in the back of the head, severely beaten, and strangled. A neighbor telephoned Haskew's son after she went to Haskew's home and discovered that the telephone line had been cut and that the glass on the entry door had been broken. Dr. Gregory Price Wanger, a forensic pathologist employed by the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences, testified that Haskew was alive when she was shot and when the blunt force injuries were inflicted; thus, it was impossible for him to conclude which injuries occurred first.

979 So.2d 133

"When her body was discovered, Haskew's home was in total disarray and a pentagon had been spray-painted on the kitchen cabinets. The words `Thunder Struck' were also spray-painted on the kitchen floor near Haskew's body. Silverware and an address book had been taken from the scene and...

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