House v. Stynchcombe

Citation239 Ga. 222,236 S.E.2d 353
Decision Date07 June 1977
Docket NumberNo. 32145,32145
PartiesJack Carlton HOUSE v. LeRoy STYNCHCOMBE, Sheriff, et al.
CourtSupreme Court of Georgia

Ben S. Atkins, John R. Myer, Atlanta, Anthony G. Amsterdam, Stanford, Cal., Jack Greenberg, David E. Kendall, New York City, for appellant.

Arthur K. Bolton, Atty. Gen., Lewis R. Slaton, Dist. Atty., Dean R. Davis, A. Thomas Jones, Asst. Dist. Attys., Atlanta, for appellees.

UNDERCOFLER, Presiding Justice.

Appellant appeals denial of his habeas corpus petition seeking to set aside his conviction and sentences of death for the sexual molestation and strangulation murders of two 7-year-old boys. We granted review on February 8, 1977.

We affirmed on direct appeal in House v. State, 232 Ga. 140, 205 S.E.2d 217 (1974), cert. denied House v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 910, 96 S.Ct. 3221, 49 L.Ed.2d 1217 (1976). Following remittitur, the Fulton Superior Court set December 9, 1976, as the date for execution. On November 18, 1976, appellant filed this habeas petition and motions for stay of execution and to proceed in forma pauperis. On November 22, 1976, the court set a hearing for November 24, 1976. At that hearing, the appellant filed additional motions for continuance and evidentiary hearing, with written proffer, and the court granted continuance to December 10, 1976; a stay of execution and permission for appellant to proceed in forma pauperis. The court denied a motion for an evidentiary hearing on allegations in appellant's petition relating to constitutional attacks upon the death penalty and upon Georgia's review procedures in death penalty cases.

On December 10, 1976, the court heard argument of counsel on the petition for the writ and permitted counsel for appellant to introduce into evidence all studies, surveys, and other reports contained in his written proffer and to outline the testimony to be elicited from seven witnesses present in court in reference to these studies.

On December 14, 1976, the court issued its order denying appellant's habeas corpus petition on "each and every ground."

On December 15, 1976, the court fixed January 3, 1977, as a new date for execution and stayed the execution on December 30, 1976, upon appellant's filing his notice of appeal and application for certificate of probable cause. He enumerates four errors. We affirm.

1. Appellant attacks the court's denial of an evidentiary hearing for the purpose of introducing oral and documentary evidence supporting allegations attacking his conviction and sentences to death on constitutional grounds. He contends such denial violated Georgia's Habeas Corpus Act of 1967, as amended (Ga.L.1967, pp. 835, 836; 1973, pp. 1315, 1316), deprived him of due process and of effective assistance of counsel. In his brief, he adopts by reference the arguments which were presented in pp. 13-25 of the brief submitted here by essentially the same counsel in the habeas appeal of McCorquodale v. Stynchcombe, 239 Ga. 138, --- S.E.2d --- (1977). Appellant extends these arguments to suggest he has a constitutional right to present evidence of this nature at this habeas hearing.

We reviewed the arguments presented in McCorquodale, supra, and have decided them adversely to appellant's contentions here. Also, a review of the Georgia Habeas Corpus Act of 1967, as amended, supra, shows the habeas court " . . . may receive proof by depositions, oral testimony, sworn affidavits or other evidence . . . " in a hearing to decide the principal issue before the court, i. e. whether appellant is being illegally detained. (Ga.L.1967, p. 835, 838, Code Ann. § 50-127(7). There is no evidence in this record showing the judge abused his discretion in denying an evidentiary hearing. In our view, he denied oral testimony which the hearing transcript shows was offered solely to support the findings of documents, studies and surveys proffered as "evidence." We find no lack of fundamental fairness in the conduct of this hearing such as to deprive appellant of due process or of effective assistance of counsel, and there being no abuse of discretion shown, this enumeration of error is without merit.

2. Appellant further contends it was error for the habeas court to deny an evidentiary hearing as to paragraphs 10 through 21 of his petition. We do not agree. In paragraphs 10 through 13, appellant seeks "to establish by evidence the death sentences awarded were unconstitutionally applied." We decided against appellant's contentions in Mason v. State, 236 Ga. 46, 50(9), 222 S.E.2d 339 (1976) and cases cited therein. See also Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153, 96 S.Ct. 2909, 49 L.Ed.2d 859 (1976); Coley v. State, 231 Ga. 829, 204 S.E.2d 612 (1974). In paragraphs 14-15, appellant argues the indictment did not contain aggravating circumstances for consideration by the jury and that this omission was fundamentally unfair in that no notice and opportunity was given to defendant to present evidence and argument directed to this specific issue. We have previously decided these questions adverse to appellant in Smith v. State, 236 Ga. 12, 20(6), 222 S.E.2d 308 (1976) and Eberheart v. State, 232 Ga. 247, 253, 206 S.E.2d 12 (1974) and we find no error. In paragraphs 16-19, appellant contends it was error to deny an evidentiary hearing in which he sought to introduce "expert testimony" and research material to prove that juries from which all veniremen were excluded who would automatically vote against the death penalty regardless of the facts produced at trial were unconstitutionally proportioned and biased in favor of the prosecution. He states Witherspoon v. Illinois, 391 U.S. 510, 88 S.Ct. 1770, 20 L.Ed.2d 776 (1968) explicitly left open the question as to whether or not a bias was created because the evidence in that case was "too fragmentary" upon which to base a rule. We do not agree. In our opinion Witherspoon is dispositive of this issue.

Paragraph 20 is a challenge to the introduction of appellant's confession which was thoroughly reviewed and denied by this court in the main appeal. See House v. State, 232 Ga. 140, 142, 205 S.E.2d 217, supra. Paragraph 21 challenges the exclusion of 18 to 21-year-olds from the grand and petit jury lists. We have thoroughly explored this issue in Orkin v. State, 236 Ga. 176, 190, 223 S.E.2d 61 (1976) and cases cited therein, and we have decided it adversely to appellant's contentions.

3. After a review of the voir dire during the main case, we do not find that venireman Copeland was excused for cause in violation of Witherspoon standards as contended by appellant in his third enumeration of error. In answer to the general question put to the entire panel, venireman Copeland acknowledged he was conscientiously opposed to the imposition of capital punishment, that is, the death penalty. He was then asked by the prosecutor: Q: "Let me ask you these additional questions. Would you automatically vote against the imposition of the death penalty no matter what evidence or what the particular fact situation?" Copeland's answer was "Yes." We think this interrogation comports with Witherspoon in that this venireman's answers show he was "irrevocably committed, before the trial has begun to vote against the penalty of death regardless of the facts and circumstances that might emerge in the course of the proceedings." McCorquodale v. Stynchcombe, supra; Witherspoon v. Illinois 391 U.S. 510, 522, n. 21, 88 S.Ct. 1770, 20...

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12 cases
  • Dix v. Newsome
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Northern District of Georgia
    • March 20, 1984
    ...there is no requirement that these aggravating circumstances be alleged in an indictment against the accused. House v. Stynchcombe, 239 Ga. 222, 224, 236 S.E.2d 353 (1977); Smith v. State, 236 Ga. 12, 20, 222 S.E.2d 308 (1976). The court agrees with the Magistrate that this ground does not ......
  • Cape v. Francis
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Middle District of Georgia
    • March 9, 1983
    ...Syndrome' for the first time on appeal. This argument has been raised before and decided adversely to appellant. House v. Stynchcombe, 239 Ga. 222, 236 S.E.2d 353 (1977). We find that the sentence of death was not imposed under the influence of passion, prejudice or any other arbitrary "12.......
  • Collier v. State
    • United States
    • Georgia Supreme Court
    • October 30, 1979
    ...(1977); Pryor v. State, supra. Likewise, the indictment need not contain notice of the aggravating circumstance. See House v. Stynchcombe, 239 Ga. 222, 236 S.E.2d 353 (1977). Presnell v. Georgia, supra, involved substitution of aggravating circumstances, an issue not involved in this case. ......
  • Spencer v. Kemp
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Eleventh Circuit
    • January 23, 1986
    ...Smith v. Hopper, 240 Ga. 93, 239 S.E.2d 510 (1977), cert. denied, 436 U.S. 950, 98 S.Ct. 2859, 56 L.Ed.2d 793 (1978); House v. Stynchcombe, 239 Ga. 222, 236 S.E.2d 353, cert. denied, 434 U.S. 975, 98 S.Ct. 533, 54 L.Ed.2d 467 (1977). 19 Consistent with its prior usual practice, the Georgia ......
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