Hyman v. Aiken, Civ. A. No. 84-1763-1J.

Citation606 F. Supp. 1046
Decision Date31 March 1985
Docket NumberCiv. A. No. 84-1763-1J.
CourtUnited States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court of South Carolina
PartiesWilliam Gibbs HYMAN, Petitioner, v. James AIKEN, Warden, CCI, and Travis Medlock, Attorney General, State of South Carolina, Respondents.


Coming B. Gibbs, Jr., Charleston, S.C., for petitioner.

Donald J. Zelenka, Chief Deputy Atty. Gen., State of S.C., Columbia, S.C., for respondents.


HAWKINS, District Judge.

Petitioner William Gibbs Hyman was found guilty of murder and armed robbery by a jury. In a separate proceeding he was sentenced to death. Hyman now petitions this court for habeas corpus relief, 28 U.S.C. § 2254. The case was referred to United States Magistrate Robert S. Carr pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and the local rules of this court. Magistrate Carr recommends that this court enter its order denying the respondents' motion for summary judgment and granting the writ of habeas corpus unless the State of South Carolina grants Hyman a new trial within a reasonable period of time. His recommendation is based, in part, upon the finding that the trial judge's jury charge of a presumption of malice unconstitutionally established a mandatory or burden-shifting presumption which conflicted with the petitioner's presumption of innocence. He also found the same portion of the charge unconstitutionally confusing. In addition, he concluded that the trial court unconstitutionally precluded the jury from considering nonstatutory mitigating circumstances. Finally, Magistrate Carr found Hyman's trial counsel ineffective in several particulars, but he also found that, absent these errors, there was not a reasonable probability that the outcome of the trial would have been different.

The respondents and Hyman filed exceptions to Magistrate Carr's report. After carefully considering all the exceptions, this court is of the opinion that a writ of habeas corpus should not be granted. This court is also of the opinion that the respondents' motion for summary judgment should be granted.


After a four day trial, Hyman was convicted of murder and armed robbery on October 11, 1979. The next day, the jury recommended the death sentence in a separate proceeding conducted in accordance with S.C.CODE ANN. § 16-3-20-26 (cum. supp. 1984).1 The conviction and sentence were upheld on direct appeal to the South Carolina Supreme Court in State v. Hyman, 276 S.C. 559, 281 S.E.2d 209 (1981), cert. denied, 458 U.S. 1122, 102 S.Ct. 3510, 73 L.Ed.2d 1384 (1982), reh. denied, 458 U.S. 1132, 103 S.Ct. 18, 73 L.Ed.2d 1403 (1982).

On July 7, 1982, Hyman filed his first application for post-conviction relief. S.C. CODE ANN. § 17-27-10 et seq. (Law.Coop.1976). South Carolina State Circuit Court Judge James M. Morris held an extensive evidentiary hearing, the transcript of proceedings covers nearly 1700 pages. On March 8, 1983, Judge Morris dismissed Hyman's application in a thorough 45-page order. Following this, Hyman petitioned the State Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari. This, too, was denied. A second application for post-conviction relief was filed on July 11, 1984. This application was also denied by the South Carolina Supreme Court on July 25, 1984.

On July 26, 1984, Hyman filed this application for habeas corpus relief, asserting a plethora of grounds. On August 9, 1984, the respondents filed their return to the petitioner's application and moved for summary judgment.2


On Saturday night, March 24, 1979, William Gibbs Hyman, his wife, Doris, Sue Allday, Robert Hinson and Iris Midgett arrived at the Winchester Club, a bar and lounge in North Charleston, South Carolina. After seating themselves at a booth, the group ordered a round of drinks. At some point, the conversation turned to "shortage of money." Tr. 41. According to Sue Allday, "Gibbs said something about let's go out to Ravenel and get Iris's sic boys."3 Tr. 41. "Iris' boys" were Teagus and Collins Griffis. They were two elderly men who lived in a mobile home or trailer in Ravenel, South Carolina. They were called "Iris' boys" because Iris Midgett and another woman, Mary Taylor, previously robbed them of $1,690. Hoping that the men would again have a large amount of cash on hand, the group decided to rob them by either deception or violence.

After procuring a 20-gauge double-barreled shotgun and a bag full of shotgun shells, the group proceeded to Ravenel in Hyman's car. Sue Allday was given the responsibility of driving because she was considered to be more sober than anyone else in the party. After arriving at the Griffis home and parking the car, Gibbs Hyman, Doris Hyman, Sue Allday and Robert Hinson approached the trailer.4 Iris Midgett remained in the car.5 To avoid being seen by the occupants, Hinson and the petitioner took positions against the wall of the trailer on either side of the trailer door. Sue Allday and Doris Hyman knocked on the door. Someone inside the trailer asked for their identity. The women gave fictitious names and stated that they were experiencing car trouble. Collins Griffis opened the door. A short conversation followed; Mr. Griffis then invited the ladies inside the trailer to have a drink. Doris Hyman refused. Griffis, apparently angry over the refusal, went back inside the trailer, shut the door, and the women returned to the car.

Hinson and the petitioner followed them. Hyman and his wife had a heated exchange of words because she had angered their victims. At this point, it was suggested that the robbery be aborted. Hyman said "he wasn't going no where without the money." Tr. 60.

Thereafter, the petitioner, Sue Allday6 and Robert Hinson went back to the trailer door. While Allday knocked on the door, Hinson and Hyman "crouched down right beside the steps." Tr. 62. Someone inside the trailer asked them to leave, "and he inferred that he knew that they were there for a robbery." Tr. 63. The party did not retreat even though the occupant threatened to shoot them. Suddenly the door swung open and one of the Griffis brothers shot Robert Hinson in the leg. Allday, from the ground, fired a shot up inside the trailer. A melle ensued. Collins Griffis was struck in the head several times with the butt and barrel of a shotgun. Blood was splattered throughout the trailer. Teagus Griffis was shot twice.7 One shot, fired from a distance of greater than two to three feet, entered his chest at a downward angle. The wound it inflicted was about the size of a quarter. As a result of this shot, "the main part of the right side of the heart was destroyed...." Tr. 264. The second shot, fired at an upward angle, caused "a grazed wound" Tr. 265 to the right shoulder. Teagus Griffis died immediately. The shotgun owned by the Griffis' was taken from the trailer. After assisting the wounded Hinson to the car, the party drove back to Charleston and dropped him off at a local hospital.

About a week later, Hyman, as well as all the other participants, were arrested and charged with murder and armed robbery. Hyman's family, through his brother, retained D.J. Stratos, Esq. of the Charleston County Bar to represent the petitioner and his wife. Doris Hyman subsequently obtained other counsel.

At the May 1979 term of the Court of General Sessions for Charleston County, Gibbs Hyman, Doris Hyman, Iris Midgett, Robert Hinson and Sue Allday were indicted for the shotgun murder of Teagus Griffis. They were also indicted for armed robbery because they allegedly took the victims' shotgun.

Pursuant to a plea agreement with the Charleston County Solicitor, Robert Hinson pled guilty to common law murder on July 20, 1979. He received a life sentence. Under a similar agreement, Sue Allday pled guilty to common law murder and received a life sentence. Iris Midgett pled guilty to accessory before the fact of armed robbery. She was sentenced to serve 18 years in prison. Until the eve of trial, the solicitor offered Gibbs Hyman the same plea agreement that was offered to Hinson and Allday. Despite numerous recommendations by his attorneys that he accept the plea, Hyman was adamant that he did not kill Teagus Griffis and that he was "going forward with the trial." Tr. 6.8

Sometime between July 6 and July 9, 1979, the solicitor notified Hyman of his intent to seek the death penalty in accordance with S.C.CODE ANN. § 16-3-26(A) (cum. supp. 1984). On July 9, 1979, Clyde A. Eltzroth, Presiding Judge, Ninth Judicial Circuit, denied petitioner's motion to relieve Mr. Stratos as counsel. Because the death penalty was being sought, Judge Eltzroth, pursuant to S.C.CODE ANN. § 16-3-26(B) (cum. supp. 1984), instructed the Clerk of Court to appoint an additional attorney. Landon Louthian, Esq., also of the Charleston County Bar, was appointed as Hyman's second attorney on July 24, 1979.

As mentioned above, the solicitor continued to offer a plea bargain whereby the state would abandon its request for the death penalty in return for a guilty plea to murder. Mrs. Stratos and Mr. Louthian met separately and together with Hyman and advised him that the evidence against him was overwhelming. Therefore, they strongly recommended that it would be in his best interest to plead guilty and accept a life sentence. On October 8, 1979, the case proceeded to trial. Hyman was convicted of murder and armed robbery. Following a mitigation trial, the jury recommended the sentence of death on October 12, 1979.

A. Presumption of Malice

Hyman's claim for habeas relief is that the trial court's jury charge on a presumption of malice created either a mandatory presumption or a burden-shifting presumption. As such, the petitioner claims that the charge deprived him of due process of law in violation of the fourteenth amendment to the United States Constitution.

Magistrate Carr agreed with him. At pages 36-46 of his report, he set forth his reasoning and then reached the following...

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2 cases
  • Hyman v. Aiken
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Fourth Circuit
    • August 4, 1987
    ...which impermissibly shifted the burden of proof. Rejecting the magistrate's report, the district court denied the writ. Hyman v. Aiken, 606 F.Supp. 1046 (D.S.C.1985). On appeal, we concluded that Hyman was not entitled to a new trial with respect to guilt. We held that he had been sentenced......
  • Hyman v. Aiken
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Fourth Circuit
    • November 25, 1985
    ...writ should issue. The district court sustained the state's objections to the magistrate's report and denied the writ. Hyman v. Aiken, 606 F.Supp. 1046 (D.S.C.1985). In South Carolina, capital cases are tried in two stages. The first is on the issue of guilt or innocence, and the second is ......

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