Hill v. Butterworth

Decision Date07 August 1996
Docket NumberNo. 4:96-cv-288-MMP.,4:96-cv-288-MMP.
Citation941 F.Supp. 1129
PartiesClarence Edward HILL, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiff, v. Robert BUTTERWORTH, etc., and Harry K. Singletary, etc., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of Florida

Martin J. McClain, PHV, Stephen M. Kissinger, Pro Hac Vice, Michael J. Minerva, Pro Hac Vice, Office of Capital Collateral Representative, Tallahassee, FL, for Clarence E. Hill.

Carolyn M. Snurkowski, Attorney General's Office, Department of Legal Affairs, Tallahassee, FL, Richard B. Martell, Attorney General's Office, Department of Legal Affairs, Tallahassee, FL, for Robert A. Butterworth, Harry K. Singletary.


PAUL, Chief Judge.

An emergency hearing was held in this matter on July 18, 1996, on Plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction (Doc. 6). Plaintiff had filed a brief (Doc. 7) ("Pl.'s Br."), and exhibits (Doc. 15) in support of his motion. At the hearing, Defendants filed a brief and supporting exhibits in opposition to Plaintiff's motion (Doc. 14) ("Defs.' Br.").

Plaintiff moves to enjoin Defendants from invoking or asserting, in any state or federal proceeding, that the State of Florida has complied with the so-called "opt-in" provisions of Chapter 154 of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, Pub.L. No. 104-132, Title I, § 101 et seq., 110 Stat. 1214 (1996) (codified as 28 U.S.C. §§ 2261-66) (hereinafter "the Act"). Chapter 154, entitled "Special Habeas Corpus Procedures in Capital Cases," provides for a system of expedited judicial review and other procedural limitations for any State that "opts-in" to the Chapter.1 A state may optin by creating a mechanism for the appointment and funding of competent counsel to represent the State's death-sentenced prisoners in their post-conviction habeas proceedings. According to Plaintiff, the State of Florida has not fully complied with the creation of such an adequate mechanism, and therefore cannot take advantage of the benefits conferred upon opt-in states. Consequently, Plaintiff seeks a judicial determination pursuant to the Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. §§ 2201-02, and 42 U.S.C. § 1983, that the system of expedited habeas review may not be applied to either himself or other similarly situated Florida death-row inmates.

As an initial matter, the Court will only consider the present motion for preliminary injunctive relief as to the Plaintiff in his individual capacity. While Plaintiff has included class language in both his complaint and motion for injunctive relief, he has not yet moved for class certification. Absent such a motion and a proper evidentiary basis, the Court cannot determine whether this case should be maintained as a class action. See N.D.Fla.Loc.R. 23.1(B).


A. Procedural history of Plaintiff's habeas petition:

The following facts are drawn from the Supreme Court of Florida's opinion in Hill v. State, 643 So.2d 1071 (Fla.1994) (per curiam) ("Hill IV"), cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, 116 S.Ct. 196, 133 L.Ed.2d 131 (1995)2:

In 1983, Plaintiff Clarence Hill was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death for the killing of a police officer during a bank robbery.... On October 19, 1982, [Hill] stole a pistol and an automobile in Mobile, Alabama. Later that day, [Hill] and his accomplice, Cliff Jackson, drove to Pensacola and robbed a savings and loan association at gunpoint. When the police arrived during the robbery, [Hill] fled out the back of the savings and loan building. Jackson exited through the front door, where he was apprehended immediately. [Hill] approached two police officers from behind as they attempted to handcuff Jackson. Testimony established that [Hill] drew his pistol and shot the officers, killing one and wounding the other. A gun battle ensued, during which [Hill] received five bullet wounds.

Id. at 1072 (quoting Hill v. State, 477 So.2d 553, 554 (Fla.1985) (per curiam) ("Hill I")).

The Supreme Court of Florida affirmed Hill's conviction, but ordered a new penalty phase proceeding due to an error that occurred during the jury selection process. Hill I, 477 So.2d at 556-57. At resentencing, Hill was again sentenced to death on the basis of the trial judge's determination that there was one statutory mitigating factor (that Hill was 23 at the time of the murder), compared to five aggravating circumstances which included a finding that the murder was cold, calculated, and premeditated. On appeal, the Supreme Court of Florida affirmed, holding that while there was insufficient evidence to support a finding that the murder was cold, calculated, and premeditated, the remaining four aggravating circumstances nonetheless supported imposition of the death penalty. Hill v. State, 515 So.2d 176, 179 (Fla.1987) (per curiam) ("Hill II"). Hill's motion for post-conviction relief and petition for writ of habeas corpus was then denied in Hill v. Dugger, 556 So.2d 1385 (Fla.1990) (per curiam) ("Hill III").

In 1990, Hill began the odyssey of seeking federal habeas relief by filing a petition in the United States District Court, Northern District of Florida. See Hill v. Butterworth, No. TCA-90-40023-WS (N.D.Fla., pending). In that case, Judge Stafford held that the trial judge erred in finding certain nonstatutory mitigating factors. In addition, Judge Stafford concluded that the Supreme Court of Florida may have erred in its harmless error analysis which invalidated the cold, calculated, and premeditated aggravating factor, without properly considering certain nonstatutory mitigating factors. Therefore, Judge Stafford partially granted Hill's habeas petition.

When the Supreme Court of Florida reopened Hill's direct appeal, it held that death was the appropriate sentence because the statutory and nonstatutory mitigating factors were insufficient to outweigh the four remaining aggravating circumstances. Hill IV, 643 So.2d at 1074. On October 2, 1995, the United States Supreme Court denied Hill's petition for writ of certiorari. Hill v. Florida, ___ U.S. at ___, 116 S.Ct. at 196.

Plaintiff's habeas petition apparently remains pending before Judge Stafford. Plaintiff has not indicated whether he intends to file any new grounds for habeas relief, or otherwise amend the petition he has already filed. In addition, he has not informed the Court about the time frame in which he anticipates final resolution by Judge Stafford of any and all issues that remain in his habeas petition. Plaintiff now seeks this Court's determination about the applicability of Chapter 154 of the Act to his habeas case.

B. The Act's provisions:

On April 24, 1996, President Clinton signed the Act into law. Title I of the Act dramatically changes the procedures in federal courts by which state prisoners, particularly those under capital sentence, may raise constitutional claims pertaining to their convictions and sentences. The Act not only modifies Chapter 153 of the Judicial Code, 28 U.S.C. §§ 2241-55, but also creates a new set of procedures — Chapter 154, 28 U.S.C. §§ 2261-66 — for resolving death-sentenced prisoners' federal habeas corpus cases. The procedures contained in Chapter 154 are specifically designed to "reduce the abuse of habeas corpus that results from delayed and repetitive filings." H.R. REP. No. 23, 104th Cong., 1st Sess. 9 (1995).

This legislative intent to curb the protracted proceedings in capital cases is best articulated in the language of the House Report accompanying the Act:

Subtitle B of Title I of the bill contains a version of the recommendations for capital collateral litigation that were presented in the Report of the Ad Hoc Committee of the Judicial Conference on Federal Habeas Corpus in Capital Cases [45 CRIM.L.REP. (BNA) 3239 (Sept. 27, 1989)] (the "Powell Committee" proposal). While the need for reform extends to all categories of habeas cases, the defects of the current system have had the most extreme effect in capital cases. In such cases, the continuation of litigation means that the sentence cannot be carried out. Hence, capital defendants and their counsel have a unique incentive to keep litigation going by any possible means. In the later stages of review, the most useful means of doing so is by repetitive federal habeas filing. The result of this system has been the virtual nullification of state death penalty laws through a nearly endless review process.

H.R.REP. No. 23, 104th Cong., 1st Sess. 10 (1995). The House Report goes on to describe when states can use the new habeas provisions to remedy these flaws:

In essence the Powell Committee proposal addresses this problem through a quid pro quo arrangement under which states are accorded stronger finality rules on federal habeas review in return for strengthening the right to counsel for indigent capital defendants. The proposal consists of special capital litigation procedures that would be set out in a new chapter 154 of the Judicial Code. The chapter would apply to capital cases in states that undertake to appoint counsel to represent indigent capital defendants in state collateral proceedings, and to set competency standards for such counsel. This would fill the gap in representation for indigent capital defendants in state proceedings under existing law, since appointment of counsel for indigents is constitutionally required for the state trial and direct appeal.

Id.3 Congress therefore did not intend that the new habeas provisions would necessarily apply to every state, but only those states that "opt-in" to the Act by meeting certain preconditions.4

If a state opts in to the new habeas provisions, it receives several procedural benefits. First, petitions for habeas relief under Section 2254 must be filed in federal court within 180 days "after final state court affirmance of the conviction and sentence on direct review or the expiration of the time for...

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  • Satcher v. Netherland
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Eastern District of Virginia
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    ...(N.D.Cal.1996). The Act's substantive changes to the law governing federal habeas review in capital cases are succinctly summarized in Hill v. Butterworth: If a state opts in to the new habeas provisions, it receives several procedural benefits. First, petitions for habeas relief under Sect......
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