Magwood v. Smith

Decision Date04 June 1986
Citation791 F.2d 1438
PartiesBilly Joe MAGWOOD, Petitioner-Appellant, Cross-Appellee, v. Fred SMITH, Commissioner, Alabama Department of Corrections; Willie E. Johnson, Warden, Holman Unit, Respondents-Appellees, Cross-Appellants. No 85-7270.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Eleventh Circuit

J.L. Chestnut, Turner & Williams, Robert H. Turner, Selma, Ala., for petitioner-appellant, cross-appellee.

Ed Carnes, Asst. Atty. Gen., Montgomery, Ala., for respondents-appellees, cross-appellants.

Appeals from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama.

Before VANCE and CLARK, Circuit Judges, and HENDERSON, Senior Circuit judge.

HENDERSON, Senior Circuit Judge:

Billy Joe Magwood, an Alabama state prisoner under sentence of death, petitioned the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama for a writ of habeas corpus, alleging nine grounds for relief. The district court rejected eight of the alleged errors, but granted the writ because the state trial judge erroneously rejected two mitigating circumstances during the sentencing phase of trial. We affirm.

The facts of this case are straightforward and uncontested. 1 On January 3, 1979, Billy Joe Magwood, a black male, was released from the Coffee County, Alabama jail where he had been serving a sentence for drug possession. Prior to his release, Magwood on several occasions had expressed an intense desire to retaliate against Coffee County Sheriff Neil Grantham for perceived injustices during his incarceration. On the morning of March 1, 1979, Magwood returned to the jail and shot Sheriff Grantham as the sheriff entered the building. This shooting was witnessed by Deputy Sheriff Thomas Weeks, who recognized Magwood from his prior imprisonment. Magwood was arrested later that day and charged with capital murder.

Magwood's court-appointed counsel requested the Circuit Court of Coffee County to investigate Magwood's competency to stand trial. Pursuant to Ala.Code Sec. 15-16-20, 2 the court ordered two local physicians, Dr. Donald Crook and Dr. Bancroft Cooper, to examine Magwood. The doctors conducted their examinations on June 6, 1979, and both found that Magwood was presently sane. Despite this report, the court ordered Magwood committed to Alabama's Searcy Hospital for further tests by a three-member lunacy commission pursuant to Ala.Code Sec. 15-16-22. On August 16, 1979, the lunacy commission reported that Magwood suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, was presently insane and probably was insane at the time of the murder. The court then ordered Magwood to remain at Searcy Hospital for treatment until his competency was restored.

In April of 1980, Magwood was declared competent and was returned to Coffee County for trial. On June 26, 1980, Magwood's counsel moved the court for public funds to retain a consulting psychiatrist, but the court denied the request. On April 15, 1981, the State of Alabama moved for a re-examination of Magwood's mental condition due to the passage of time since the last examination at Searcy Hospital. Magwood's counsel acquiesed to the motion and the court ordered Dr. Douglas McKeown, a clinical psychologist, to examine Magwood. Dr. McKeown expressed his belief that although Magwood suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, he knew the difference between right and wrong on the day of the murder.

Magwood was tried in June of 1981 in the Circuit Court for Coffee County. His principal defense was insanity. To establish insanity, Magwood relied on the report of the lunacy commission and the deposition testimony of Dr. William Rudder, a psychiatrist and member of the commission. In rebuttal, the State offered the testimony of Drs. Crook, Cooper and McKeown. The jury convicted Magwood of capital murder and recommended a death sentence. 3 At the sentencing hearing, the court found one circumstance supporting the death penalty: murder of an on-duty police officer. 4 It also found two mitigating factors: Magwood's age at the time of the murder (27) and his lack of significant prior criminal history. 5 The court specifically considered and rejected two proposed mitigating circumstances relating to Magwood's allegedly diminished mental condition at the time of the murder. Based on this evaluation, the court sentenced Magwood to death. This conviction and sentence were upheld on direct appeal, Magwood v. State, 426 So.2d 918 (Ala.Crim.App.1982), aff'd, 426 So.2d 929 (Ala.), cert. denied, 462 U.S. 1124, 103 S.Ct. 3097, 77 L.Ed.2d 1355 (1983), and in state writ of error coram nobis proceedings, Magwood v. State, 449 So.2d 1267 (Ala.Crim.App.), late appeal denied, 453 So.2d 1349 (Ala.1984).

On July 20, 1983, Magwood petitioned the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. Sec. 2254. The district court ordered a psychiatric evaluation of Magwood on July 13, 1984, which showed Magwood to be sane. Since Magwood did not request an evidentiary hearing, the district court then addressed the merits of Magwood's petition based on the briefs and record of the case. The court rejected Magwood's challenge to the guilt phase of his trial. The court, however, held that the state trial court committed clear error when it rejected the two proposed mitigating factors concerning Magwood's allegedly diminished mental condition at the time of the crime. Accordingly, the district court "remanded" the case to the Circuit Court of Coffee County for resentencing in light of these two now-established mitigating factors. Magwood v. Smith, 608 F.Supp. 218 (M.D.Ala.1985). Magwood appeals the denial of habeas corpus relief on eight of the grounds alleged and the State of Alabama cross-appeals the grant of the writ on the remaining ground. We will address each allegation of error in turn.

I. Magwood's Appeal

Magwood first contends that he was denied his sixth amendment right to counsel when Dr. Cooper and Dr. Crook examined him, without notice to counsel, pursuant to a court order and later testified at the trial to rebut Magwood's insanity defense. The source of this argument is Estelle v. Smith, 451 U.S. 454, 101 S.Ct. 1866, 68 L.Ed.2d 359 (1981), in which the Supreme Court of the United States held that an accused who had not raised the issue of his mental competency possesses fifth amendment and sixth amendment rights during a court-ordered psychiatric examination if testimony by the examining psychiatrist is offered against the accused at trial. See also Cape v. Francis, 741 F.2d 1287, 1292-97 (11th Cir.1984), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 106 S.Ct. 281, 88 L.Ed.2d 245 (1985); Booker v. Wainwright, 703 F.2d 1251, 1256-59 (11th Cir.), cert. denied, 464 U.S. 922, 104 S.Ct. 290, 78 L.Ed.2d 266 (1983); Spivey v. Zant, 661 F.2d 464, 473-76 (5th Cir.Unit B 1981), 6 cert. denied, 458 U.S. 1111, 102 S.Ct. 3495, 73 L.Ed.2d 1374 (1982); Battie v. Estelle, 655 F.2d 692, 699-703 (5th Cir.1981). 7

Based on the relevant case law, we find no violation of Magwood's sixth amendment rights. 8 A review of the chronology of events surrounding the examination establishes this point. In an undated motion filed sometime in May, 1979, Magwood's counsel asked the trial court "to institute an investigation as to the sanity of said Defendant under the provisions of Title 15-16-20, Code of Alabama 1975." Record on Appeal, Exhibit A, Vol. II, p. 381. The court granted this motion on May 31, 1979. In its order, the court set June 19, 1979, as the date for a hearing to determine Magwood's competency and, pursuant to Sec. 15-16-20, ordered Dr. Cooper and Dr. Crook to examine Magwood in the interim and to testify at the hearing concerning the results of their examination. Record on Appeal, Exhibit A, Vol. II, p. 382. The physicians examined Magwood six days later on June 6, 1979, and both testified at the June 19, 1979, hearing.

Magwood's counsel requested the examination and were aware of the time frame in which it would take place. As such, they had enough notice of the examination and ample opportunity to advise their client. This situation stands in marked contrast to Estelle v. Smith, in which counsel had no notice of the examination. See Estelle v. Smith, 451 U.S. at 458-59, 101 S.Ct. at 1871, 68 L.Ed.2d at 366.

Moreover, Magwood cannot claim surprise at the use of the physicians' testimony. The Alabama trial court ordered the June 6, 1979, examination to determine Magwood's competency to stand trial. Both physicians limited their psychiatric testimony to this issue. Neither expressed an opinion about Magwood's sanity at the time of Sheriff Grantham's murder. This again varies from the facts in Estelle v. Smith, in which the psychiatrist examined Smith to determine his competency to stand trial, but testified about Smith's future dangerousness. See Estelle v. Smith, 451 U.S. at 470-71, 101 S.Ct. at 1877, 68 L.Ed.2d at 374. See also Cape v. Francis, 741 F.2d 1287, 1297 (11th Cir.1984), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 106 S.Ct. 281, 88 L.Ed.2d 245 (1985) (resolution of Estelle v. Smith sixth amendment claim "turns upon the actual use of the testimony at trial").

As a last resort, Magwood requests this court to instigate a heightened inquiry because the testimony of mental competency came not from a psychiatrist, but from two local physicians. Although this distinction might influence the physicians' credibility as experts, it has no effect on our analysis of Magwood's rights. Magwood's counsel had sufficient notice of the examination and were not surprised by the use of testimony derived from that examination. There was no sixth amendment violation in this instance.

Magwood next complains that he was denied effective assistance of counsel when the state trial court denied his request for public funds to hire a consulting psychiatrist. In Ake v. Oklahoma, 470 U.S. 68, 105 S.Ct. 1087, 84 L.Ed.2d 53 (1985), the Supreme Court noted the importance of a...

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