Ingram v. State

Decision Date08 December 2006
Docket NumberCR-03-1707.
Citation51 So.3d 1094
PartiesRobert Shawn INGRAM v. STATE of Alabama.
CourtAlabama Court of Criminal Appeals

John H. Blume, Columbia, South Carolina; and Richard S. Jaffe, Birmingham, for appellant.

Troy King, atty. gen., and James R. Houts and Beth Jackson Hughes, asst. atty. gen., for appellee.

WISE, Judge.

The appellant, Robert Shawn Ingram, currently an inmate on death row at Holman Correctional Facility, appeals the summary denial of his Rule 32, Ala.R.Crim.P., petition for postconviction relief.1

In June 1995, Ingram was convicted of murdering Gregory Huguley during the course of a kidnapping, an offense defined as capital by § 13A-5-40(a)(1), Ala.Code 1975. The jury, by a vote of 11 to 1, recommended that Ingram be sentenced to death. The circuit court followed the jury's recommendation and sentenced Ingram to death. Ingram's capital-murder conviction and death sentence were affirmed on direct appeal. Ingram v. State, 779 So.2d 1225 (Ala.Crim.App.1999), aff'd, 779 So.2d 1283 (Ala.2000), cert. denied, 531 U.S. 1193, 121 S.Ct. 1194, 149 L.Ed.2d 109 (2001). The direct appeal became final when we issued the certificate of judgment on September 26, 2000. See Rule 41, Ala.R.App.P.

On February 1, 2002, Ingram filed a Rule 32 petition and a request to proceed in forma pauperis. In March 2002, theState filed its response to the petition and moved for summary dismissal. Ingram filed a response to that motion. Two years later the State filed a proposed order for the circuit court to adopt when denying the Rule 32 petition. On June 8, 2004, the circuit court adopted the State's order denying the Rule 32 petition.2 This appeal followed.

At Ingram's trial, the State's evidence tended to show that on July 31, 1993, Ingram and his codefendants—Anthony Boyd, Moneek Marcell Ackles, and Dwinaune Quintay Cox 3—kidnapped Gregory Huguley, took him to a ballpark in Talladega County, taped him to a bench, doused him with gasoline, set him on fire, and watched as he burned to death. Testimony showed that Huguley was abducted and murdered because he failed to pay the defendants $200 for cocaine he had purchased several days before he was murdered.

Standard of Review

Ingram appeals the denial of his collateral petition challenging his capital-murder conviction and sentence of death. According to Rule 32.3, Ala.R.Crim.P., Ingram has the sole burden of pleading and proving his claims by a preponderance of the evidence.

"The standard of review this Court uses in evaluating the rulings made by the trial court is whether the trial court abused its discretion. See Elliott v. State, 601 So.2d 1118, 1119 (Ala.Crim.App.1992). However, '[w]hen the facts are undisputed and an appellate court is presented with pure questions of law, that court's review in a Rule 32 proceeding is de novo.' Ex parte White, 792 So.2d 1097, 1098 (Ala.2001). 'If the circuit court is correct for any reason, even though it may not be the stated reason, we will not reverse its denial of the petition.' Reed v. State, 748 So.2d 231, 233 (Ala.Crim.App.1999). The plain-error standard of review does not apply when this Court evaluates the denial of a collateral petition attacking a death sentence. See Ex parte Dobyne, 805 So.2d 763 (Ala.2001), and Rule 45A, Ala.R.App.P. The procedural bars in Rule 32, Ala.R.Crim.P., apply to all cases, even those involving the death penalty. Hooks v. State, 822 So.2d 476 (Ala.Crim.App.2000)."

Hunt v. State, 940 So.2d 1041, 1049 (Ala.Crim.App.2005).

I.

Ingram argues that the circuit court erred in adopting verbatim the State's proposed order denying the Rule 32 petition. Specifically, he argues that such a practice is "universally condemned." He further argues: "Permitting an adversarial party to perform the judicial function also conflicts with the need for both the reality and appearance that the process for imposing death be scrupulously fair, objective, and reliable." (Ingram's brief at pp. 12-13.)

In Dobyne v. State, 805 So.2d 733, 741 (Ala.Crim.App.2000), we addressed this same issue and stated:

" ' "While the practice of adopting the state's proposed findings and conclusions is subject to criticism, the general rule is that even when the court adopts proposed findings verbatim, the findings are those of the court and may be reversed only if clearly erroneous. Anderson v. City of Bessemer City, N.C., 470 U.S. 564, 105 S.Ct. 1504, 84 L.Ed.2d 518 (1985); Hubbard v. State, 584 So.2d 895 (Ala.Cr.App.1991); Weeks v. State, 568 So.2d 864 (Ala.Cr.App.1989), cert. denied, , 111 S.Ct. 230, 112 L.Ed.2d 184 (1990); Morrison v. State, 551 So.2d 435 (Ala.Cr.App.[1989]), cert. denied, 495 U.S. 911, 110 S.Ct. 1938, 109 L.Ed.2d 301 (1990)."
" ' Bell v. State, 593 So.2d 123, 126 (Ala.Cr.App.1991), cert. denied, 593 So.2d 123 (Ala.), cert. denied, 504 U.S. 991, 112 S.Ct. 2981, 119 L.Ed.2d 599 (1992).' "

Quoting Jones v. State, 753 So.2d 1174, 1180 (Ala.Cr.App.1999).

As we more recently stated in Hyde v. State, 950 So.2d 344, 371 (Ala.Crim.App.2006):

"Hyde contends that the circuit court erred in adopting the State's proposed order. Specifically, he argues that there are numerous factual and legal errors in the order that indicate that the order does not represent the court's own independent judgment, but shows a wholesale adoption of the State's proposed order without consideration of his claims. However, this Court has repeatedly upheld the practice of adopting the State's proposed order when denying a Rule 32 petition for postconviction relief. See, e.g., Coral v. State, 900 So.2d 1274, 1288 (Ala.Crim.App.2004), overruled on other grounds, Ex parte Jenkins, 972 So.2d 159 (Ala.2005), and the cases cited therein. 'Alabama courts have consistently held that even when a trial court adopts verbatim a party's proposed order, the findings of fact and conclusions of law are those of the trial court and they may be reversed only if they are clearly erroneous.' McGahee v. State, 885 So.2d 191, 229-30 (Ala.Crim.App.2003)."

Thus, even when a circuit court adopts a proposed order by the State in toto, the petitioner must show that the findings of fact and conclusions of law are "clearly erroneous" before an appellate court will reverse the order on the sole basis that the order was drafted by the State. For the following reasons, we find that the facts and conclusions of law in the circuit court's order were not clearly erroneous.

II.

Ingram next argues that he was deprived of his constitutional right to due process when the circuit court denied the Rule 32 petition without first appointing counsel, without ruling on outstanding motions, and without providing him notice and an opportunity to be heard.

The record shows the following chronology of events:

February 1, 2002—Rule 32 petition and in forma pauperis declaration filed in the Talladega Circuit Court.
February 27, 2002—In forma pauperis status granted by the circuit court.
March 18, 2002—State filed its response to the Rule 32 petition.
March 18, 2002—State filed a motion for partial dismissal pursuant to Rule 32.6(b), Ala.R.Crim.P.
April 23, 2002—Ingram filed a motion for permission to proceed ex parte on a request for funds for expert assistance.
April 23, 2002—Ingram filed his first amended petition. In this amended petition, Ingram requested full discovery,citing the Supreme Court's decision in Ex parte Monk, 557 So.2d 832 (Ala.1989), and funds for experts.
April 23, 2002—Ingram filed a motion in opposition to State's motion for a partial dismissal of the Rule 32 petition.
July 26, 2002—State filed response to Ingram's opposition to State's motion for a partial dismissal.
July 26, 2002—State filed a response to Ingram's motion to proceed ex parte on request for funds for expert assistance.
July 26, 2002—State filed a motion for a partial dismissal pursuant to Rule 32.2(a), Ala.R.Crim.P.
July 26, 2002—State filed a motion for a partial dismissal pursuant to Rule 32.6(a), Ala.R.Crim.P.
July 26, 2002—State filed its answer to Ingram's amended Rule 32 petition.
May 20, 2004—State filed a proposed order denying the Rule 32 petition.
June 8, 2004Circuit court issued an order denying Rule 32 petition.
July 16, 2004—Ingram filed an untimely motion to reconsider.
July 16, 2004—Ingram filed a timely notice of appeal.
July 21, 2004Circuit court purported to grant Ingram's untimely motion to reconsider and set aside its June 8, 2004, order denying the Rule 32 petition.
July 30, 2004Court of Criminal Appeals issued an order requesting that the circuit court cite this Court to any authority for setting aside its June 8, 2004, order more than 30 days after it had been entered.
September 8, 2004Court of Criminal Appeals issued order setting aside the circuit court's July 21, 2004, order as void for lack of jurisdiction.

When discussing a petitioner's burden of pleading sufficient grounds to warrant further proceedings in the circuit court, this Court has stated:

" 'Rule 32.6(b) requires that the petition itself disclose the facts relied upon in seeking relief.' Boyd v. State, 746 So.2d 364, 406 (Ala.Crim.App.1999). In other words, it is not the pleading of a conclusion 'which, if true, entitle[s] the petitioner to relief.' Lancaster v. State, 638 So.2d 1370, 1373 (Ala.Crim.App.1993). It is the allegation of facts in pleading which, if true, entitle a petitioner to relief. After facts are pleaded, which, if true, entitle the petitioner to relief, the petitioner is then entitled to an opportunity, as provided in Rule 32.9, Ala.R.Crim. P., to present evidence proving those alleged facts."

Boyd v. State, 913 So.2d 1113, 1125 (Ala.Crim.App.2003). More recently in Hyde v. State, 950 So.2d at 356, we stated:

"The burden of pleading under Rule 32.3 and Rule 32.6(b) is a heavy one. Conclusions unsupported by specific facts will not satisfy the requirements of Rule 32.3 and Rule 32.6(b). The full factual basis for the claim must be included in the petition itself. If, assuming every factual allegation in a Rule
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