Hyman v. Aiken

Citation824 F.2d 1405
Decision Date04 August 1987
Docket NumberNo. 85-4002,85-4002
PartiesWilliam Gibbs HYMAN, Appellant, v. James AIKEN, Warden, CCI, and Travis Medlock, Attorney General, State of South Carolina, Appellees.
CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)

Coming B. Gibbs, Jr. (Gibbs & Holmes, Ann M. Stirling, Charleston, S.C., on brief), for appellant.

Donald J. Zelenka, Chief Deputy Atty. Gen. (T. Travis Medlock, Atty. Gen., Columbia, S.C., on brief), for appellee.

Before RUSSELL and WIDENER, Circuit Judges, and BUTZNER, Senior Circuit Judge.

BUTZNER, Senior Circuit Judge:

The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of this court and directed us to consider the conviction and death sentence of William G. Hyman in light of its intervening decisions in Rose v. Clark, --- U.S. ----, 106 S.Ct. 3101, 92 L.Ed.2d 460 (1986), and Cabana v. Bullock, 474 U.S. 376, 106 S.Ct. 689, 88 L.Ed.2d 704 (1986). Upon reconsideration, we reverse the judgment of the district court and remand the case with instructions to grant a writ of habeas corpus unless within a reasonable time the state retries Hyman.

Judge Russell and Judge Widener concur in Parts I, II, III, and VIII of the opinion. Inasmuch as Hyman is entitled to a new trial they believe it is unnecessary to consider the punishment phase of the case; therefore, they do not concur in Parts IV, V, VI, and VII.

Judge Butzner believes that although Hyman is entitled to a new trial on the merits, the Supreme Court's mandate requires review of the punishment phase of the trial in light of Cabana. Accordingly, he has set forth his separate views of this issue in Parts IV, V, VI, and VII.

I

In March of 1979, Hyman set out with his wife, Doris, Sue Allday, Robert Hinson, and Iris Midgett to rob two brothers, Teagus and Collins Griffis, at the Griffis' trailer home in Ravenel, South Carolina. Allday, who was least intoxicated, drove Hyman's car. When they arrived at the trailer, Allday and Doris Hyman went to the door and told the brothers they were having car trouble. Turned away once, Allday knocked at the door again. From inside, a voice shouted that he knew they wanted to rob him and threatened to shoot. The door of the trailer opened suddenly and one of the brothers fired a shotgun, wounding Hinson in the leg. Allday fired a return shotgun blast into the trailer. These shots signaled the opening of a melee, which left Teagus Griffis dead from a gunshot to the chest and Collins badly beaten.

In an agreement with the Charleston County solicitor, Allday and Hinson pled guilty to murder and received life sentences. Midget pled to a charge of accessory before the fact of armed robbery and received an 18-year prison sentence. Hyman, however, refused the plea agreement offered Hinson and Allday even after the solicitor informed him he would seek the death penalty. Hyman told his counsel and others that Allday had killed Teagus Griffis and that he would not plead guilty to a murder he knew he did not commit. Doris Hyman also pled not guilty.

At the guilt phase of Hyman's trial for murder and armed robbery, neither he nor Doris Hyman testified. Allday admitted firing the shot into the open door but denied that it killed Teagus. She testified that she heard a shot and then saw Hyman, with a gun, standing in front of the wounded Griffis. Midgett and James Coulston, an associate of Hyman's, testified that Hyman had later confessed to shooting Griffis. The only witness to the melee who seemed to indicate that he actually had seen the killing take place was Collins Griffis. Griffis testified "the fellow ... shot my brother," stating, "I saw the man, sure. The man was the one who done the killing." 1

Both the solicitor and the state's witnesses--as well as defense counsel--indicated that Hyman was intoxicated at the time the crime was committed. Allday testified that when she met Hyman on the evening of the robbery he was already intoxicated. She said he continued drinking until the group set out for the Griffis' home two hours later, at which time Hyman considered himself too drunk to drive his own car. Hinson testified that he brought a quart of liquor as well as a shotgun for their trip to Ravenel. Midgett also stated that Hyman had been drinking heavily. The solicitor admitted that "the five people who committed this act [were] intoxicated" and that the combination of "whiskey and firearms ... brought about the death" of the victim.

The trial judge noted the evidence of Hyman's intoxication. He instructed the jury that "voluntary intoxication is no reason or is no excuse for committing a crime." 2 But he added:

Those offenses such as the offense of murder and armed robbery in which there must be a specific intent, the Defendant's drunkenness, if shown by the evidence may be considered by you in determining whether the Defendant committed the offense with the intent to do so or whether he was present aiding, assisting others in the commission of the offense.

South Carolina law defines murder as "the killing of any person with malice aforethought, either express or implied." S.C.Code Ann. Sec. 16-3-10. The trial judge charged:

[M]alice is implied, it's presumed from the willful, the deliberate, the intentional doing of an unlawful act without just cause or excuse.

So, generally speaking, malice means the doing of a wrongful act, intentionally and without any justification or excuse. Now, even if all the facts has [sic] proven and is sufficient to raise a presumption of malice, this presumption would be rebuttable and it's for you on the Jury to determine from all of the evidence whether or not malice has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Malice is presumed or implied from the use of a deadly weapon. Where the circumstances relating to the death of the deceased are brought out in the evidence, the presumption of malice which is implied from the use of the deadly weapon vanishes and the burden is on the State to prove malice whenever a deadly weapon is used by evidence which satisfies you on the Jury beyond a reasonable doubt.

The solicitor told the jury that the element of malice could be presumed. In his closing argument at the guilt phase, he stated:

Well, the law says that a person who uses a deadly weapon may be presumed to act with malice. It's not an absolute presumption, but the use of a deadly weapon, knife, a club, a gun, shotgun, rifle, pistol. Certainly a person who uses such a weapon on another person has evil in his heart. The law says that a person who intentionally commits an unlawful act acts with malice. So that a person who goes into a convenience store with a gun to rob has malice in his heart and when he kills the proprietor of that convenience store, he has committed murder because he has acted with malice. He walked into that store with malice and he killed with malice in his heart.

Also, the solicitor suggested that Hyman had shot Griffis after grabbing the shotgun from Allday. But he emphasized that Hyman should be convicted of Griffis's murder even if Hyman did not shoot him. The solicitor told the jury:

It doesn't matter who pulled the trigger. It doesn't matter at all. In this case, it doesn't matter who pulled the trigger. All who were in the trailer with the intention to aid and assist the other in robbing these two old men are guilty. The hand of one is the hand of all.

The court also instructed the jury that "when two or more persons combine together to commit a crime and the crime is in fact committed, all of those present at the scene of the crime to aid and assist in its commission are equally guilty. The act of one ... becomes the act of all."

The jury's guilty verdict did not identify the actual killer.

During the sentencing proceedings Hyman testified: "I did not kill the man." The solicitor presented no new evidence at the sentencing phase on the question of who killed Teagus Griffis, relying instead on the record from the guilt phase. But in his summation, the solicitor told the jury, "If you find that [Hyman] did not pull the trigger, you should not recommend the death penalty." The court, however, charged the jury that the state alleged two statutory aggravating circumstances: "One that the murder was committed while in the commission of an armed robbery. And two, that the murder was committed while in the commission of a burglary." The court also charged: "In the event that you unanimously find beyond a reasonable doubt that one or more of the alleged aggravating circumstances existed at the time the victim in this case was murdered, then you would be authorized to recommend that the death sentence be imposed on the Defendant."

Three hours into its deliberations, the jury's foreman inquired: "Do we have to prove that he did the actual killing?" In response, the court reiterated his instruction about accomplice guilt and South Carolina's system of weighing aggravating and mitigating circumstances in capital cases, telling them they could recommend a death sentence even if they found a mitigating circumstance so long as they also found an aggravating circumstance. He further instructed them that whether Hyman fired the gun was to be considered among the aggravating and mitigating circumstances. 3

Within an hour the jury returned a verdict recommending a sentence of death. It found as a statutory aggravating circumstance "[t]hat murder was committed while in the commission of armed robbery." The jury made no finding that Hyman killed, attempted to kill, or intended to kill the victim.

II

The South Carolina Supreme Court affirmed Hyman's conviction and death sentence. State v. Hyman, 276 S.C. 559, 281 S.E.2d 209 (1981). Hyman's application for state postconviction relief was denied. His federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus was referred to a magistrate who recommended that Hyman be granted a writ on the ground that his trial jury was given an instruction which impermissibly shifted the burden of proof....

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