Lane v. State

CourtAlabama Court of Criminal Appeals
Citation169 So.3d 1076
Docket NumberCR–10–1343.
PartiesAnthony LANE v. STATE of Alabama.
Decision Date08 November 2013

169 So.3d 1076

Anthony LANE
STATE of Alabama.


Court of Criminal Appeals of Alabama.

Nov. 8, 2013.
On Return to Remand May 2, 2014.

Rehearing Denied Aug. 22, 2014.

Certiorari Denied Jan. 30, 2015

169 So.3d 1085

Stephen Chu, Charlotte Morrison, and Bryan A. Stevenson, Montgomery, for appellant.

Luther Strange, atty. gen., and J. Clayton Crenshaw and Kristi Deason Hagood, asst. attys. gen., for appellee.


BURKE, Judge.

Anthony Lane was convicted of murder made capital because it was committed during the course of a robbery in the first degree, see § 13A–5–40(a)(2), Ala.Code 1975. The jury, by a vote of 10–2, recommended that Lane be sentenced to death. The trial court accepted the jury's recommendation and sentenced Lane to death. This appeal follows.


The State's evidence tended to show the following. At approximately 9:00 p.m., on May 22, 2009, Frank Wright's body was found at a self-serve car wash in Birmingham. According to Officer Gregory Everett of the Birmingham Police Department, Wright's body was lying face down inside one of the wash bays with his pockets turned out as if someone had gone through them and emptied them. Wright had sustained multiple gunshot wounds and was dead when the police arrived. A short time later, police responded to a call that a vehicle was on fire a short distance away from the car wash behind Munchies convenience store (“Munchies”). The burned vehicle was eventually determined to belong to Wright.

Officer Travis Hendrix testified that Wright's vehicle was not severely damaged by the fire. However, Officer Hendrix stated that the vehicle was “literally ransacked.” (R. 298.) Officer Hendrix stated: “[Y]ou could tell that somebody went through it.” (R. 298.) Officer Hendrix also testified that he retrieved Wright's wallet from the passenger-side floorboard of the vehicle. Although the wallet contained Wright's identification, it did not contain any money.

169 So.3d 1086

Michael Johnson testified that he was at Munchies on the evening of May 22, 2009. Johnson stated that he saw a man, whom he identified as Lane, putting gasoline into a container outside the store. According to Johnson, Lane offered him the remainder of the gasoline that Lane had already purchased. Johnson accepted the gasoline and testified that, as Lane was walking away, Lane said “that he had to go get rid of some evidence.” (R. 391.) Johnson testified that Lane then walked behind the store. A short time later, Johnson heard a “loud boom or noise” coming from behind the store. (R. 393.)

Randy Shunnarah, the owner of Munchies, testified that he was working at his store on the evening of May 22, 2009, when he heard a “big boom go off.” (R. 413.) Shunnarah went outside to investigate the noise and, upon discovering a burning vehicle behind his store, immediately called the police. Shunnarah also testified that his store is equipped with surveillance cameras and that the cameras were in operation on May 22, 2009. Shunnarah allowed the police to have access to all the footage from the cameras. Based on that video footage, the police determined that Lane had been inside the store and had purchased a small amount of gasoline a short time before the explosion.

Lane was arrested the next morning and taken to police headquarters where he was questioned by Detectives Eric Torrence and Henry Lucas of the Birmingham Police Department. Before he was questioned, the detectives read Lane his Miranda1 rights. Lane stated that he understood his rights and signed a written waiver indicating that he wished to talk to Detectives Lucas and Torrence. Detectives Lucas and Torrence then proceeded to question Lane regarding his activities on May 22, 2009. A recording of the interrogation was played for the jury at trial.

Lane initially denied any involvement in Wright's murder and in burning Wright's vehicle. Lane insisted that he had not been inside Munchies on May 22, 2009. However, after being shown pictures from the surveillance cameras depicting him inside the store, Lane admitted that he had been in the store that night. After further questioning, Lane admitted that he shot Wright “three or four times,” then “hopped in [Wright's] car and sped off.” (State's exhibit 100.) Lane also admitted that he “toss[ed] gas on [Wright's] car” and “set it on fire.” (State's exhibit 100.) Lane told police that he gave the murder weapon to a man that he did not know with the understanding that the man would give Lane money for the gun at a later time.

Three shell casings were recovered at the crime scene. According to Officer Perry Gordon, an expert in firearms and tool-marks examination, the caliber of the bullet recovered from Wright's body was consistent with the shell casings recovered from the crime scene. Dr. Robert Brissie, who performed an autopsy on Wright, testified that Wright died as the result of multiple gunshot wounds.


Lane raises several issues in his brief to this Court, some of which were not raised at trial and are consequently unpreserved for appellate review. However, because Lane was sentenced to death, his failure to object at trial does not preclude this Court from reviewing those issues for plain error. Rule 45A, Ala. R.App. P., provides:

“In all cases in which the death penalty has been imposed, the Court of Criminal Appeals shall notice any plain error or defect in the proceedings under review,
169 So.3d 1087
whether or not brought to the attention of the trial court, and take appropriate appellate action by reason thereof, whenever such error has or probably has adversely affected the substantial right of the appellant.”

In Wilson v. State, 142 So.3d 732, 751 (Ala.Crim.App.2010) (opinion on return to remand), this Court stated:

“ ‘[T]he plain-error exception to the contemporaneous-objection rule is to be “used sparingly, solely in those circumstances in which a miscarriage of justice would otherwise result.” ’ United States v. Young, 470 U.S. 1, 15, 105 S.Ct. 1038, 84 L.Ed.2d 1 (1985) (quoting United States v. Frady, 456 U.S. 152, 163 n. 14, 102 S.Ct. 1584, 71 L.Ed.2d 816 (1982) ). ‘The standard of review in reviewing a claim under the plain-error doctrine is stricter than the standard used in reviewing an issue that was properly raised in the trial court or on appeal.’ Hall v. State, 820 So.2d 113, 121 (Ala.Crim.App.1999). Under the plain-error standard, the appellant must establish that an obvious, indisputable error occurred, and he must establish that the error adversely affected the outcome of the trial. See Ex parte Walker, 972 So.2d 737, 752 (Ala.2007) (recognizing that the appellant has the burden to establish prejudice relating to an issue being reviewed for plain error); Thomas v. State, 824 So.2d 1, 13 (Ala.Crim.App.1999) (recognizing that to rise to the level of plain error, an error must have affected the outcome of the trial), overruled on other grounds, Ex parte Carter, 889 So.2d 528 (Ala.2004). That is, the appellant must establish that an alleged error, ‘ “ ‘not only seriously affect[ed] [the appellant's] “substantial rights,” but ... also ha[d] an unfair prejudicial impact on the jury's deliberations.’ ” ' Ex parte Brown, 11 So.3d 933, 938 (Ala.2008) (quoting Ex parte Bryant, 951 So.2d 724, 727 (Ala.2002), quoting in turn Hyde v. State, 778 So.2d 199, 209 (Ala.Crim.App.1998) ). Only when an error is ‘so egregious ... that [it] seriously affects the fairness, integrity or public reputation of judicial proceedings,’ will reversal be appropriate under the plain-error doctrine. Ex parte Price, 725 So.2d 1063, 1071–72 (Ala.1998) (internal citations and quotations omitted). Although the ‘failure to object does not preclude [appellate] review in a capital case, it does weigh against any claim of prejudice.Ex parte Kennedy, 472 So.2d 1106, 1111 (Ala.1985) (citing Bush v. State, 431 So.2d 563, 565 (1983) ) (emphasis in original). As the United States Supreme Court has noted, the appellant's burden to establish that he is entitled to reversal based on an unpreserved error ‘is difficult, “as it should be.” ’ Puckett v. United States, 556 U.S. 129, 135, 129 S.Ct. 1423, 173 L.Ed.2d 266 (2009) (quoting United States v. Dominguez Benitez, 542 U.S. 74, 83, n. 9, 124 S.Ct. 2333, 159 L.Ed.2d 157 (2004) ).”

With these principles in mind, we will address each of Lane's arguments.


First, Lane asserts that he is mentally retarded and therefore ineligible for the death penalty under Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304, 122 S.Ct. 2242, 153 L.Ed.2d 335 (2002). In Atkins, the United States Supreme Court held that the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the execution of a mentally retarded offender. The trial court held a hearing on this issue after the guilt phase of Lane's trial. However, the court ultimately found that Lane did not meet his burden of proving that he was mentally retarded.

In Morris v. State, 60 So.3d 326, 339–41 (Ala.Crim.App.2010), this Court discussed

169 So.3d 1088

the law as it relates to capital defendants' claims of mental...

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