Magwood v. State

Decision Date18 May 1982
Docket Number4 Div. 935
PartiesBilly Joe MAGWOOD v. STATE.
CourtAlabama Court of Criminal Appeals

J.L. Chestnut, Jr., Chestnut, Sanders, Sanders & Turner, Selma, for appellant.

Charles A. Graddick, Atty. Gen., and Edward E. Carnes, and P. David Bjurberg, Asst. Attys. Gen., for appellee.

BARRON, Judge.

Appellant was convicted under § 13-11-2(a)(5), Code 1975, for the murder of Coffee County Sheriff Neil Grantham. After a separate sentence hearing on aggravating and mitigating circumstances, the jury fixed the punishment at death. Subsequently, the trial court weighed the aggravating and mitigating circumstances pursuant to § 13-11-3 and § 13-11-4, Code 1975, and sentenced appellant to death. The court issued written findings of fact which set forth the aggravating circumstances the court found sufficient to support the sentence of death. 1

Thomas Weeks, a Coffee County Deputy Sheriff, testified he was employed as the county jailer on March 1, 1979, under Coffee County Sheriff Neil Grantham. The witness stated he observed appellant, whom he recognized as a former jail inmate, sitting in a car parked in Sheriff Grantham's parking space at approximately 6:45 a.m. Shortly before 7:00 a.m., he observed Sheriff Grantham drive up and park his vehicle. He got out of the automobile, walked to some garbage cans and deposited a trash bag, and then walked towards the jail door. Appellant got out of his automobile with something in his hand and met Sheriff Grantham at the rear of the car. At that point, Deputy Weeks heard three gunshots and saw Sheriff Grantham fall. The witness then turned back into the jail and obtained a gun. He observed appellant get back into his car and saw that he held a pistol in his hand. He exchanged fire with appellant as he drove away. Deputy Weeks then went over to where Sheriff Grantham lay on the ground and observed that the Sheriff's face was blue and that he appeared not to be breathing, having apparently been hit in the face and neck. Deputy Weeks stated he observed no one else in the area at the time the Sheriff was killed.

William Hurd testified he answered a call as a member of the Elba Rescue Squad on March 1, 1979. He observed Sheriff Grantham on the pavement in the front of the jail. They placed the Sheriff in the ambulance and transported him to the Elba General Hospital emergency room.

Dr. Bruno Santa Rossa stated he observed Sheriff Grantham at the Elba General Hospital on the morning of the shooting and, after assessing his condition, pronounced him dead upon arrival.

Dr. Richard Roper of the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences testified he examined the body of Sheriff Grantham on March 1, 1979, in Elba and found three gunshot wounds to the chest, right face, and left side of the head. In his opinion, Sheriff Grantham's death was caused by acute hemorrhage and central nervous system trauma, due to multiple gunshot wounds to the body and head. On cross-examination, he testified his notes reflected that the body exhibited a set of natural teeth. He identified a photograph of Sheriff Grantham as that of the man he examined on March 1, 1979.

Billy Ray Cooper stated he became acquainted with appellant as a fellow inmate at the Coffee County Jail in 1976. Toward the end of 1977, he heard appellant state on two or three occasions that he was being held without any reason and that he would "get even and kill that S.O.B.," referring to Sheriff Grantham. On cross-examination he was asked when this occurred. He stated it was in November, and that on the third occasion, appellant struck the jailer and tried to go downstairs to get to the Sheriff.

James Kenneth Holder, another fellow inmate of appellant's, testified he heard appellant state that they had no reason to hold him in jail, that he didn't belong there, and that he was going to get even one way or the other. The State rested at the close of Holder's testimony, and appellant's motion for acquittal, based upon the State's failure to prove a prima facie case, and motion to exclude were denied.

The appellant called Ms. Bernice Clay who stated she was the record keeper for Dr. James L. Clay. The records indicated that Dr. Clay, a dentist, had relined a set of upper and lower dentures for Sheriff Grantham in 1969.

The defense next called Dr. William H. Rudder to testify. Dr. Rudder, a psychiatrist on the staff of Searcy Hospital, did not appear. The trial court refused to issue a bench warrant for his appearance after it was learned that the Sheriff's office, in the county where Dr. Rudder was located, was closed for a legal holiday and it could not be ascertained if Dr. Rudder had actually been served with a subpoena. Appellant's counsel conceded to the trial court that by statute a member of the Searcy staff could not be compelled to attend court proceedings. After the court denied appellant's motion for a continuance to perfect service on Dr. Rudder, a deposition taken from Dr. Rudder was read into evidence at appellant's request in lieu of Dr. Rudder's appearing at trial.

Dr. Rudder stated in his deposition that he had examined appellant on July 3, 1979. His final diagnosis after 8 to 10 hours' observation of appellant over a period of 10 months was paranoid type schizophrenia in partial remission on medication. He stated that this was a mental disease, and in his opinion, appellant did not know right from wrong at the time of the alleged offense on March 1, 1979. Appellant was completely out of touch with reality and, in Dr. Rudder's words, would be considered "crazy" under any definition in any part of the world. At the end of the time appellant spent at the institution, he was in fairly good remission from the mental disease as a result of drug therapy. The defense rested after presenting Dr. Rudder's deposition.

The State called Dr. Donald Crook as a rebuttal witness. Dr. Crook, a medical doctor practicing in Alabama, examined appellant for 30 minutes at the request of the circuit court on June 6, 1979. He found appellant's behavior and answers were appropriate to the questions asked of him. In his opinion, appellant was sane at that time and exhibited no symptoms indicative of schizophrenia. Dr. Crook testified he was also familiar with appellant, having treated him for minor ailments on a couple of occasions from the time appellant was 15 years old.

Dr. Bancroft Cooper, a practicing physician in Elba, testified he examined appellant for 20 minutes on June 6, 1979 at the circuit court's request. In Dr. Cooper's opinion, appellant was not insane at the time he examined him.

Douglas McKeown, a licensed clinical psychologist, examined the appellant over a period of 8 to 10 hours on April 23 and April 27, 1981, at the Houston County Jail in Dothan, Alabama. Appellant's objection to the introduction of Dr. McKeown's testimony, based upon privileged communication and equal protection, was overruled. In Dr. McKeown's opinion, appellant knew the difference between right and wrong on March 1, 1979. His diagnostic impression was, however, that appellant was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, a disease of the mind. Dr. McKeown had never seen appellant, however, when he was not under the medication prescribed for his mental problems. The State rested at the close of Dr. McKeown's testimony and requested that the court dismiss Counts 3, 4, and 5 of the indictment. Appellant's motion to exclude the evidence as to Counts 1 and 2 for failure to prove the Sheriff was "on duty" was denied.


Appellant argues the jury's verdict was contrary to the law and the evidence presented, in that the jury should have returned a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity.

In reviewing the question of insanity, the court must apply the following general principles, enumerated in Herbert v. State, 357 So.2d 683 (Ala.Cr.App.), cert. denied, 357 So.2d 690 (Ala.1978):

"1. By statute, there is a presumption of sanity extending to all persons over the age of 14.

"2. The defense of insanity is an affirmative defense. The burden of proving this defense rests upon the defendant and never shifts to the state.

"3. The burden upon the defendant is to establish the issue of legal insanity by a preponderance of the evidence and to the reasonable satisfaction of the jury.

"4. The question of insanity at the time of the commission of the crime is a matter to be determined by the jury from a consideration of all the evidence.

"5. In making its determination, the jury may reject all expert testimony though it is without conflict.

"6. However, opinion testimony, even of experts must be weighed by the jury and may not be arbitrarily ignored."

However, where proof of insanity is both overwhelming and uncontradicted, the evidence of insanity may be so strong and undisputed that the jury should be so instructed, and a jury verdict to the contrary must be reversed. Christian v. State, 351 So.2d 623 (Ala.1977).

The evidence pertaining to appellant's sanity in the instant case is both extensive and contradictory. Appellant's sanity was first brought into question by a pre-trial motion by appellant's counsel requesting an investigation of appellant's sanity pursuant to § 15-16-20, Code 1975. The trial court appointed Dr. Donald Crook and Dr. Bancroft Cooper to examine the appellant. Both were medical doctors of considerable experience, but neither specialized in psychiatry. Each doctor testified at trial that, in his opinion, appellant was not insane at the time of his examination of appellant on June 6, 1979. Dr. Crook stated that based upon the short time he spent with appellant, he believes appellant was sane at that time. He also testified that he had treated appellant several times over a period of years for various complaints, and that appellant had never exhibited any symptoms of schizophrenia. He stated he would, however, defer in his opinion of appellant's sanity to a psychiatrist who had...

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