Hunt v. State

Decision Date11 February 1994
Citation659 So.2d 933
PartiesGregory HUNT v. STATE. CR 89-1407.
CourtAlabama Court of Criminal Appeals

J. Massey Relfe, Jr., Birmingham, for appellant.

James H. Evans, Atty. Gen., and Stephen Dodd, Asst. Atty. Gen., and Charles D. Baker, Dist. Atty., for appellee.

BOWEN, Presiding Judge.

In the early morning hours of August 2, 1988, Karen Lane was savagely and brutally murdered in the apartment she shared with another young woman. In March 1989, Gregory Hunt, the appellant, was charged by a three-count indictment with the capital offenses of intentional murder during sexual abuse in the first degree, as defined in Ala.Code 1975, § 13A-5-40(a)(8), and intentional murder during a burglary in the first degree, as defined in § 13A-5-40(a)(4). 1 On June 19, 1990, a jury found the appellant guilty of all three counts of the indictment and, by a vote of 11 to 1, recommended that punishment be fixed at death. On July 27, 1990, the trial judge sentenced the appellant to death. This is the direct appeal of that conviction and sentence.

This appeal was not submitted for decision until December 14, 1993. The delay in the submission of this appeal is largely attributable to the creation and completion of the record on appeal. The original record on appeal was filed on January 22, 1991. That record was supplemented on April 5, 1991; on December 26, 1991; on May 29, 1992; and on June 9, 1993. In addition, the appellant's trial counsel did not represent him on appeal. Out-of-state counsel filed notice of appearance on behalf of the appellant on February 19, 1991, but later withdrew. New counsel was appointed to represent the appellant on May 19, 1993. The appellant, through appointed counsel, filed his brief on October 1, 1993. The attorney general's brief was filed on December 10, 1993.


The appellant complains that his constitutional rights were violated because he was denied access to a law library while he was incarcerated.

On October 11, 1989, the appellant, by written pro se motion, requested the circuit court to order the county sheriff "to give the Defendant being held on Capital charges access to complete law library for at least (4) four hours a week." R. 1000. It does not appear that the trial judge ever ruled on this motion.

On January 25, 1990, a pretrial hearing was held on pending motions. At that hearing, the appellant's attorneys moved to withdraw from representing the appellant on the grounds that the appellant had accused counsel of engaging in unethical conduct and because the appellant had acted "directly contrary to the advice" of counsel. R. 4, 1013-12. At that hearing, the appellant opposed the motion to withdraw and stated, "Well, I'm not here to represent myself." R. 9.

During the hearing, the following occurred:

"MR. HUNT: ... Being denied access to the law library has left me unable to prepare anything in my own behalf to present.

"COURT: The way things are going, Mr. Hunt, if I gave you total access to the law library or you were housed in the law library, you would further screw your case up. You evidence an entire lack of ability to defend yourself by what you've done. I can't imagine anybody forcing Herbie Brewer or David Luker off of a case, off a criminal case. It's just unimaginable."

"MR. HUNT: Well, I know they are two good lawyers.

"COURT: Well, they are two of the best criminal lawyers in the State of Alabama.

"MR. HUNT: I'm trying to keep them on my case."

"COURT: Well, why are you filing all these things against their advice? ..."


"MR. HUNT: [I do not know the law on discovery.] Not completely, no. I have not had access that would let me know the laws of the land. They have kept me up here for 18 months and I has asked them to get me to the law library or to have certain books that would let me know what discovery rules are and I haven't gotten any of it. I have mostly relied on my attorneys but--

"COURT: Are you telling me that you intend to represent yourself? That's what you're telling me?

"MR. HUNT: No, not at all. I just feel that my attorneys are working on so many cases that I might be able to help them out.

"COURT: From the way you're talking I don't believe you could help anybody out in [a] running a stop sign case. It doesn't appear you have a grasp of any kind of law.

"MR. HUNT: I've had no schooling in law.

"COURT: Obviously. It's quite clear to me that you haven't. And, you're setting yourself up to having another huge delay because you have caused your attorneys to withdraw.

"MR. HUNT: That's what I'm asking you to prevent, any further delay.

"COURT: You're amazing.... It's obvious to me that Mr. Hunt is a person of limited ability, in that he has no grasp of what he is talking about, whatsoever, no grasp." R. 10, 12-13, 14.

From this exchange, it is clear to this Court that the appellant was not seeking to exercise his right to represent himself, but was instead seeking to be allowed to act in the capacity of some sort of co-counsel.

" 'While a defendant has a Sixth Amendment right to be represented by counsel or to represent himself, ... he does not have the right, under either the federal or state constitutions, to hybrid representation.' Christianson v. State, 601 So.2d 512, 519 (Ala.Cr.App.1992)." Holland v. State, 615 So.2d 1313, 1320 (Ala.Cr.App.1993). " '[A]n individual does not have a right to hybrid representation.... Rather, the decision to permit a defendant to proceed as co-counsel rests in the sound discretion of the trial court.' Cross v. United States, 893 F.2d 1287, 1291-92 (11th Cir.), cert. denied, 498 U.S. 849, 111 S.Ct. 138, 112 L.Ed.2d 105 (1990)." Burks v. State, 600 So.2d 374, 380 (Ala.Cr.App.1991). See also Whitehead v. State, 593 So.2d 126, 129 (Ala.Cr.App.1991); Ford v. State, 515 So.2d 34, 43-44 (Ala.Cr.App.1986), affirmed, 515 So.2d 48, 51 (Ala.1987), cert. denied, 484 U.S. 1079, 108 S.Ct. 1061, 98 L.Ed.2d 1023 (1988). "While prison officials must provide prisoners with direct legal assistance or access to a law library, they are not required to provide both, so long as the constitutional requirement of 'meaningful access' is met." Ex parte Thigpen, 513 So.2d 101, 102 (Ala.Cr.App.1987). We find no error in this regard.


The appellant complains of numerous alleged errors in the prosecutor's comments and the presentation of certain evidence during the guilt phase of his trial concerning "other criminal acts."

After the jury had been selected but before the attorneys made their opening statements, defense counsel made an oral motion in limine, asking "the court to direct the state, at least in so far as opening statements are concerned, not to refer to any other offense other than the one we are concerned with, including the alleged arson." R. 216. The assistant district attorney responded: "This [the alleged arson] is so intertwined that there is no way to put testimony on about the killing without putting something on about what happened before. This was something that happened within hours of the killing." R. 217. The trial judge denied the motion in limine. R. 218.

The appellant complains of the following comments by the prosecutor in his opening statement to the jury:

1) "[T]he defendant told her, 'I have taken the only thing that Karen had away from her tonight.' He told Debra K. Twilley that he had burned the house down." R. 223.

The trial court overruled defense counsel's objection. The prosecutor had earlier explained that the burning of the house, shortly before the murder, was part of the appellant's plan or scheme to harm the victim. R. 216-17.

2) "Loretta will testify that he told her he wanted to get out of jail and wanted to escape and would she get him some money." R. 225.

The trial judge sustained defense counsel's objection.

3) "We will show you a card, an identification card that he gave to Loretta while he was in jail." R. 226.

In response to the prosecutor's argument that he intended to prove "flight to avoid prosecution," the trial judge instructed the district attorney, "Let's don't do that, Charles.... That has nothing to do with the murder. I can go with the arson but that is taking it out a little far." R. 226. The trial judge then denied the appellant's request for a mistrial. R. 226-27.

4) "His own sister will take this witness stand and tell you that he conveyed to her and testified to her that he, indeed, killed Karen Lane. That they were having an argument and that he had been drinking and that he had been taking some pills that he had gotten from a doctor and that they had been drinking and that he beat her or hit her and just lost his head." R. 224-25.

There was no objection to this comment.

The appellant complains of the following comments by the prosecutor in his guilt-phase closing argument to the jury:

5) "She [the victim] and he had been seeing each other and had had a stormy relationship and he had been drinking that night and taking some type of drugs, prescription drugs, maybe non-prescription drugs." R. 848.

There was no objection to this comment.

6) "James Sanders, the boy who testified from the jail, said he was taking cocaine.... He said he was using cocaine." R. 848-49.

There was no objection to these comments.

The appellant complains of the following incident which occurred during the prosecutor's direct examination of state's witness Loretta Martin:

7) "Q. Did you have any conversation with him relevant to his drinking or anything?

"A. Yes, I had asked him if he had been drinking and he said yes he was drinking and taking some medication that the doctor had prescribed for him." R. 279.

There was no objection at trial.

The appellant complains of the following incident, which occurred during the prosecutor's direct examination of state's witness Jamie Sanders:

8) "Q. Greg [the appellant] came to her apartment?

"A. Right. To talk to her, you know, cause he said he was in love with her, to try to get her back and all. They...

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