Ingram v. Stewart

Decision Date31 March 2021
Docket Number1:17-cv-01464-LSC
PartiesROBERT SHAWN INGRAM, Petitioner, v. CYNTHIA STEWART, Warden, Holman Correctional Facility, Respondent.
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of Alabama

This is a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 filed by Petitioner Robert Shawn Ingram ("Ingram"), a death row inmate at Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, Alabama. Ingram challenges the validity of his 1995 conviction on one count of capital murder and sentence of death in the Circuit Court of Talladega County, Alabama. Upon thorough consideration of the entire record and the briefs submitted by the parties, the Court finds that Ingram's petition for habeas relief is due to be denied.


The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals ("ACCA") on direct appeal described the killing and the surrounding circumstances as follows:

The state's evidence showed the following: On July 31, 1993, Ingram, along with Anthony Boyd, Moneek Marcell Ackles, and Dwinaune Quintay Cox, kidnapped Gregory Huguley, by force and at gunpoint, from a public street in Anniston, took him to a ballpark in a rural area of Talladega County, and, while he was pleading for his life, taped him to a bench, doused him with gasoline, set him on fire, and burned him to death. The state's evidence showed that Ingram was a principal actor in the murder, wielding the gun and using force to effect the kidnapping, pouring the gasoline on Huguley, and lighting the gasoline with a match. The evidence also shows that Huguley was abducted and killed because he failed to pay $200 for crack cocaine sold to him several days before the murder. The record further shows that after Huguley had been set on fire, the conspirators stood around for approximately 20 minutes and watched him burn to death.

Ingram v. State, 779 So. 2d 1225, 1238 (Ala. Crim. App. 1999) (footnotes omitted).


Ingram was charged with capital murder during the course of a kidnapping in the Circuit Court of Talladega County on June 28, 1994. After a jury trial, he was convicted of that one count of capital murder on May 18, 1995, and the jury then recommended a sentence of death by an 11-1 vote. The trial court sentenced Ingram to death on June 16, 1995.2

Through the same counsel who represented him at trial, Ingram appealed his conviction and death sentence, raising 24 issues. The ACCA affirmed his conviction and sentence. Ingram, 779 So. 2d at 1225. The Alabama Supreme Court also affirmed his conviction and sentence. Ex parte Ingram, 779 So. 2d 1283 (Ala. 2000). Ingram filed a writ of certiorari to the United States Supreme Court, but it was denied on February 26, 2001. Ingram v. Alabama, 531 U.S. 1193 (2001).

Represented by new counsel, on February 1, 2002, Mills timely filed a petition pursuant to Alabama Rule of Criminal Procedure 32 (hereinafter, "the Rule 32 petition") in the Talladega County Circuit Court challenging his conviction and sentence on various grounds. He requested, among other things, discovery, funds for expert and investigative expenses, and time to amend his petition. On March 18, 2002, the State filed an answer and a motion for partial summary dismissal of the Rule 32 petition. On April 18, 2002, Ingram filed an amended Rule 32 petition, raising an additional claim (hereinafter, the "first amended petition"). The State answered and filed a motion for summary dismissal of the first amended petition on July 26, 2002. On June 8, 2004, the trial court adopted verbatim a proposed orderthat had been submitted by the State on May 20, 2004, summarily dismissing the first amended petition in its entirety. (Vol. 15, Tab #R-48, C. 205.)

Ingram appealed the denial to the ACCA, which affirmed the summary denial. Ingram v. State, 51 So. 3d 1094 (Ala. Crim. App. 2006). Ingram filed a petition for writ of certiorari to the Alabama Supreme Court. The Alabama Supreme Court granted the writ and reversed the ACCA because the circuit court's order was not the product of the circuit court's independent judgment. Ex parte Ingram, 51 So. 3d 1119, 1121 (Ala. 2010). Noting that the circuit judge who ruled on Ingram's first amended petition was not the same judge who had presided over Ingram's trial, the Alabama Supreme Court determined that the circuit court's wholesale adoption of the State's proposed order constituted reversible error because the order contained erroneous statements, including statements that the circuit judge ruling on the petition had presided over Ingram's trial, which he had not; that the circuit judge had personally observed the performance of Ingram's trial counsel, which he had not; and that the circuit judge was basing his decision, in part, on events within his own personal knowledge of the trial of the case, but of which he actually had no personal knowledge. Id. at 1123-24. The Alabama Supreme Court held that "the nature of the errors present in the June 8 order . . . undermines any confidence that the trial court's findings of fact and conclusions of law are the product of the trialjudge's independent judgment and that the June 8 order reflects the findings and conclusions of that judge." 51 So. 3d at 1125. The Alabama Supreme Court thus reversed the ACCA's affirmance of the circuit court's summary dismissal of Ingram's first amended Rule 32 petition and remanded the case to the ACCA, see id., which in turn reversed the circuit court's order and remanded the case to the circuit court for further proceedings, see Ingram v. State, 51 So. 3d 1126 (Mem.) (Ala. Crim. App. 2010).

On remand in the circuit court, there was briefing by the parties about whether Ingram should be allowed to file a second amended petition, insofar as whether that would be outside the scope of the Alabama Supreme Court's remand instructions. The circuit court ultimately refused to allow Ingram to file a second amended petition and once again summarily dismissed Ingram's first amended petition. (Vol. 22, Tab #R-72, C. 209.) Ingram filed a motion to reconsider, along with the second amended petition that he had sought to file. The motion to reconsider was denied. (Vol. 22, Tab #R-73, C. 283.)

Ingram then appealed the denial to the ACCA. On appeal, the ACCA reversed the circuit court's dismissal and remanded the case on the sole ground that the circuit court erred in denying Ingram's request to file a second amended petition. Ingram v. State, 103 So. 3d 86 (Ala. Crim. App. 2012).

On a second remand to the circuit court, Ingram filed a third amended petition on November 5, 2012. He also filed a motion for funds for mental health expert services. After the State answered and moved for partial dismissal, the circuit court issued an order summarily dismissing most of Ingram's claims in the third amended petition. (Vol. 26, Tab #R-90, C. 278.) On June 25, 2013, Ingram filed a fourth amended petition, which was followed by the State's answer on August 26, 2013. On October 9, 2013, the circuit court issued an order dismissing one of the claims raised in Ingram's fourth amended petition. (Vol. 27, Tab #R-93, C. 512.) Ingram filed his fifth and final amended petition on December 2, 2013. The State answered and moved for partial dismissal, and the circuit court entered an order dismissing two of the claims raised in the fifth amended petition but granting an evidentiary hearing on the five claims that survived.

Prior to the evidentiary hearing, Ingram had filed a motion for funds for mental health expert services, which was opposed by the State and denied by the circuit court. Ingram then secured as pro bono experts two individuals who were not mental health experts and who had never met or evaluated Ingram but whose expertise purportedly centered around neurotoxin exposure as mitigation evidence in capital cases and the relationship between exposure to lead poisoning and criminal behavior. Prior to the hearing Ingram listed these individuals as expert witnesses. In response,the State moved to have Ingram examined by a mental health expert contracted by the State, in order to rebut any possible mental health testimony Ingram intended to offer through these experts at the hearing. The circuit court granted the State's motion. Ingram challenged the ruling, asking the ACCA for a writ of mandamus directing the circuit judge to vacate its order and to stay the evidentiary hearing. The ACCA denied the mandamus petition. (Vol. 43, Tab #R-112.) Ingram then filed an emergency petition requesting the same relief from the Alabama Supreme Court. The Alabama Supreme Court denied the petition on the morning of the hearing. (Vol. 44, Tab #R-114.)

The hearing was held on April 3-4, 2013. On the first morning of the hearing, Ingram's counsel reiterated to the circuit court that, on counsel's advice, Ingram would not cooperate with any mental health examination by an expert contracted by the State. The circuit court then ruled that Ingram would not be able to call his two experts at the hearing.

Ingram testified on his own behalf at the hearing. He also called his former trial defense counsel and several family members as witnesses. (Vol. 30, Tab #R-102, C. 1.) After the hearing, the circuit court issued a nearly 100-page order denying Ingram post-conviction relief on June 28, 2017. (Vol. 29, Tab #R-97, C. 907.)

Ingram did not timely appeal that decision. However, on August 17, 2017, he filed a petition pursuant to Ala. R. Crim. P. 32.1(f) in the circuit court requesting an out-of-time appeal due to his post-conviction counsel's failure to receive notification that the circuit court had dismissed his fifth amended petition in time to seek an appeal.

On August 29, 2017, Ingram filed the instant habeas corpus petition with this Court. (Doc. 1.) He also asked this Court to grant him a stay of these federal habeas proceedings pending exhaustion of his post-conviction claims. (Doc. 2.) In support, Ingram explained that if his request...

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