Hall v. Thomas

Decision Date30 September 2013
Docket NumberCase No. 1:07–cv–00731–CG–C.
Citation977 F.Supp.2d 1129
PartiesSteven Wayne HALL, Jr., Petitioner v. Kim THOMAS, Commissioner, Alabama Department of Corrections, Respondent.
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of Alabama


Christine A. Freeman, Federal Public Defender's Office, Matt David Schulz, Nicole Ramos, Montgomery, AL, for Petitioner.

Henry Mitchell Johnson, Office of the Attorney General, Montgomery, AL, for Respondent.


CALLIE V.S. GRANADE, District Judge.

Petitioner, Steven Wayne Hall, Jr., (hereinafter referred to as “Hall” or Petitioner) initiated this action on October 10, 2007, by filing a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus (the “Petition”) (Doc. 1) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Hall challenges a 1993 state court judgment of conviction for one count of capital murder committed during a burglary in violation of Ala.Code § 13A–4–40(a)(4) (1975), entered in the Circuit Court of Monroe County, Alabama, for which he was sentenced to death. Id. This matter is before the court on Hall's Petition (Doc. 1), the respondent, Kim Thomas' (hereinafter referred to as “Thomas” or Respondent) response (Doc. 13), and Hall's reply brief (Doc. 33). Upon consideration of all matters presented, and for the reasons stated below, this court finds that Hall's Petition is due to be GRANTED.


Upon an extensive review of the record, the court finds that the underlying facts were succinctly stated upon Hall's direct appeal by the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals in Hall v. State, 820 So.2d 113 (Ala.Crim.App.1999):

The appellant, Steven Wayne Hall, Jr., was indicted by a Conecuh County grand jury for murder made capital because the murder was committed during the course of a burglary. See § 13A–5–40(a)(4), Ala.Code 1975. After Hall's codefendant, Wayne Holleman Travis, was tried and convicted of capital murder in Conecuh County, Hall moved for a change of venue based on what he says was the excessive publicity surrounding Travis's trial. The motion was granted and Hall's case was transferred to Monroe County. Hall was tried and convicted [on August 13, 1993] by a Monroe County jury for the offense charged in the indictment. The jury, by a vote of 10–2, recommended that Hall be sentenced to death. The trial court accepted the jury's recommendation and [on September 9, 1993] sentenced Hall to death by electrocution.

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.

When her body was discovered, Haskew's home was in total disarray and a pentagram 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 Haskew's gray 1982 Ford LTD automobile was missing. A be-on-the-lookout (“BOLO”) was issued for the car.

On the day of the murder, Nellie Schad's home, which was about one-fourth mile from Haskew's home, was burglarized. A .38 caliber Rossi revolver and a .410 gauge shotgun were taken in the burglary. Forensic analysis matched one bullet removed from Haskew's body with the .38 caliber gun stolen from Schad's home on the day of the murder.

As a result of the BOLO, police received information that the stolen automobile was parked outside Paula Shiver's house in Uriah. Paula Shiver was Hall's girlfriend. When deputies arrived at Shiver's residence they saw a Ford automobile matching the description of Haskew's stolen vehicle in Shiver's yard. One of the deputies approached the vehicle to verify from the license plate that the vehicle was Haskew's vehicle. After they verified that it was Haskew's car, the deputies knocked on Shiver's door. Paula Shiver answered the door and told the deputies that Hall and Travis were in the house. While Shiver talked with the deputies, Hall and Travis fled on foot.

The dog warden from Fountain Prison was called to assist in apprehending Hall and Travis. Dogs tracked the two to the Rocky Hill community. When they found Hall and Travis, deputies attempted to get them to surrender. After deputies fired gunshots into the air, both suspects used profanity; one of the two suspects yelled, “if it's going to be a shoot out, a shoot out it will be.” Deputies then shot in the direction of the suspects, wounding both Hall and Travis. Hall was shot in the upper thigh. While waiting for an ambulance, deputies searched Hall and recovered seven rounds of .38 caliber ammunition in Hall's front vest pockets. These bullets fit one of the guns stolen from Schad's house—the gun that was identified as the murder weapon. The deputies' search of Travis revealed that Travis had the keys to the stolen Ford in his possession. Also, numerous items stolen from Haskew's and Schad's houses were discovered in the Ford. The murder weapon was [also] discovered in the Ford.

Hall conceded at trial and at oral argument before [the Court of Criminal Appeals] that he participated in the burglary of Haskew's house. His defense was that he did not know that Travis intended to kill Haskew.


Hall pursued a direct appeal to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals. In his direct appeal, Hall raised 19 issues (and multiple sub-issues) which included a Batson claim arguing that the prosecutor's race-neutral reasons for striking black members of the venire were not valid.1 (Direct Appeal Record, Vol. 49, Tab R–40, pp. 1–22). The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed Hall's conviction in an opinion issued on October 1, 1999. Hall v. State, 820 So.2d 113 (Ala.Crim.App.1999). In its opinion, the court examined the prosecutor's race-neutral reasons, i.e., that he struck black jurors because of their views on the death penalty, and found that [t]here is no evidence that the reasons advanced by the prosecutor were a sham, nor is there evidence of disparate treatment between prospective black jurors and prospective white jurors.” Hall, 820 So.2d at 131. The Court of Criminal Appeals denied Hall's application for rehearing on November 12, 1999. Id. at 113. The Supreme Court of Alabama thereafter affirmed the conviction on June 1, 2001, finding that the Court of Criminal Appeals thoroughly addressed and properly decided many of the issues Hall raised in his petition for certiorari. Hall v. State, 820 So.2d 152, 157 (Ala.2001). The Alabama Supreme Court also found that 16 issues in Hall's petition for certiorari were not raised in the trial court or in the Court of Criminal Appeals, and applied a plain error standard of review to those 16 claims before finding that none of them had merit. Id. at 153. The United States Supreme Court denied Hall's petition for a writ of certiorari on May 20, 2002, in Hall v. Alabama, 535 U.S. 1080, 122 S.Ct. 1966, 152 L.Ed.2d 1025 (2002).


Hall next filed a petition for post-conviction relief pursuant to Alabama Rule of Criminal Procedure 32 (the Rule 32 petition) with the Circuit Court of Monroe County on April 1, 2003, and subsequently filed an amended Rule 32 petition on May 28, 2004. In his amended Rule 32 petition, Hall again raised a Batson claim, arguing specifically that “the prosecution's elimination of qualified jurors on the basis of race denied Mr. Hall a fair trial.” (Collateral Appeal Record, Vol. 54, Tab R62, p. 67). After holding an evidentiary hearing on August 15, 2005, the Circuit Court denied Hall's amended Rule 32 petition on November 4, 2005. In regards to Hall's Batson claim, the Circuit Court found that “the claim that the prosecution's alleged elimination of qualified venire members on the basis of race violated petitioner Hall's right to a fair trial” was procedurally barred from review under Rule 32.2(a)(2) of the Alabama Rules of Criminal Procedure because they were raised or addressed at trial. Steven Wayne Hall, Jr. v. State of Alabama, No. CC–93–87.60, slip op. at pp. 9–10 (Monroe County Circuit Court, Nov. 4, 2005). The judge also ruled that Hall's Batson claim was procedurally defaulted under Rule 32.2(a)(4) of the Alabama Rules of Criminal Procedure because it was “raised or addressed on [direct] appeal.” Id.

Hall appealed the denial of his Rule 32 petition to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals, which affirmed the decision of the Circuit Court on March 23, 2007. See Hall v. State, 979 So.2d 125 (Ala.Crim.App.2007). The Court of Criminal Appeals agreed with the Circuit Court that Hall's Batson claim was procedurally barred, and determined that it “need not address the propriety of the circuit court's finding that the claims were precluded ...” Hall v. State, 979 So.2d at 177.

Following the decision of the Court of Criminal Appeals, Hall filed a petition for a writ of certiorari with the Alabama Supreme Court, which was denied without rationale on August 24, 2007. Ex parte Hall, 979 So.2d at 125,certiorari denied (Ala. Aug. 24, 2007).


Hall then filed a 28 U.S.C. § 2254 federal habeas petition in this federal district court for the Southern District of Alabama on October 10, 2007. (Doc. 1). The respondent filed a response on February 4, 2008 (Doc. 13), to which Hall filed a reply brief on May 26, 2009 (Doc. 33). On September 22, 2011, respondent filed a motion for...

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