Petersen v. State

CourtAlabama Court of Criminal Appeals
Citation326 So.3d 535
Docket NumberCR-16-0652
Parties Ryan Clark PETERSEN v. STATE of Alabama
Decision Date11 January 2019

326 So.3d 535

STATE of Alabama


Court of Criminal Appeals of Alabama.

January 11, 2019
Rehearing Denied March 29, 2019

Angela L. Setzer, Randall S. Susskind, and James M. Hubbard, Montgomery; and J.D. Lloyd, Birmingham (withdrew 10/09/2018), for appellant.

Steve Marshall, atty. gen., and Audrey K. Jordan, asst. atty. gen., for appellee.

JOINER, Judge.

Ryan Clark Petersen was convicted of one count of murder made capital because two or more persons were murdered by one act, scheme, or course of conduct, see § 13A-5-40(a)(10), Ala. Code 1975; three counts of murder made capital because three people were killed during the course of a burglary, see § 13A-5-40(a)(4), Ala. Code 1975; and one count of attempted murder, see §§ 13A-6-2 and 13A-4-2, Ala. Code 1975. During the penalty phase of Petersen's trial, the jury recommended by a vote of 10 to 2 that Peterson be sentenced to death on the capital-murder convictions. The circuit court then sentenced Petersen to death for his capital-murder convictions and to life imprisonment for his attempted-murder conviction. This appeal, which is automatic in a case involving the death penalty, followed.1 See § 13A-5-53, Ala. Code 1975.

Facts and Procedural History

In its sentencing order, the circuit court recited the following facts underlying Petersen's convictions and sentences:

"On August 9, 2012, Ryan Clark Petersen shot and killed Cameron Paul Eubanks, Tiffany Paige Grissett and Thomas Robins, and seriously wounded Scotty Russell at Teasers nightclub in rural Houston County. Petersen used a Glock [brand] 9mm pistol he purchased approximately one month earlier, and had been issued a concealed carry pistol permit by the Coffee County sheriff's department a few days before the shootings.

"Teasers is a lawfully operated nightclub, licensed to sell alcoholic beverages, and features scantily clothed women dancers, also referred to as performers, as entertainers for patrons. Teasers is located on U.S. highway 84 in the rural unincorporated area of Wicksburg in western Houston County. Typically, Teasers requires a ‘coverage charge’ for entry. But, the evening of August 9, 2012, the nightclub offered a special discount it called ‘Tattoo Thursday.’ Customers could show their personal tattoo and gain entry for free without paying a cover charge. Teasers and the dancers typically make money by either the customers paying the dancers for dances or customers purchasing drinks for the dancers. Either way, the proceeds are shared between the club and the dancers. Teasers does not accept any form of payment other than cash, and an ATM machine is on the premises. The building is divided into two areas for customers: a larger room that holds a bar, a DJ booth, numerous tables and chairs and dance stages for the dancers, and a smaller room with couches for ‘private dances,’ also referred to as ‘lap dances.’ During normal business operation the public areas are dimly lit and feature recorded music and strobe lighting. Teasers has a ‘no touch’ policy, meaning patrons are not permitted any physical contact with the dancers. Also, state licensing
326 So.3d 548
regulations require the dancers to have at least minimal coverage of the breasts [and] pelvic areas. Firearms are not permitted inside the nightclub. Teasers is operated as a private membership club under Alabama law.

"Petersen, an Enterprise resident, traveled alone in his car to Teasers, about fifteen miles east of Enterprise, the evening of August 9, 2012. Petersen entered the club by showing his tattoo and was not charged a fee. He had approximately three-hundred dollars in United States currency with him. Holly Lowery was a waitress who served Petersen. She testified Petersen was served beer and other drinks, and he purchased drinks for the dancers. Petersen remained in the larger dance room. Lowery stated that Petersen was not intoxicated, but that he was ‘buzzed.’ She also described Petersen as ‘rude.’ Crystal Sellers was a dancer that night and testified that Petersen was ‘drunk’ and was talking to everyone and touching other people. She stated he was stumbling, he was referring to himself as ‘Clark Kent’ and people were laughing at him.

"Bruce Middleton is a co-owner of Teasers (along with Paul Eubanks, Cameron's father). Middleton was working at Teasers on the night of August 9, 2012. An employee came to Middleton in his office and reported that Paige, one of the dancers, was having problems with Petersen. Middleton had Petersen brought to his office. Middleton testified that Petersen did not appear intoxicated, but he was upset over a dispute with a dancer about a ‘dollar dance.’ Middleton stated that Petersen told him he gave Paige a twenty dollar bill and he was being ‘ripped off.’ Middleton offered to refund twenty dollars to Petersen, who became belligerent. At this point, Middleton told Petersen he had to leave the club since he had been warned twice earlier in the evening about ‘groping’ dancers. Middleton stated Petersen began cursing and refused to leave.

"When Petersen refused to leave the office, Middleton and Joe Glow (an employee) grabbed Petersen's wrists and arms and began to forcibly remove him. Cameron Eubanks, also an employee, who was working the entry area, aided the physical removal of Petersen. James Williams, the DJ, came and followed the men removing Petersen. William Gaines, the bartender, testified that Petersen was resisting the men and was ‘flailing’ and grabbing the door frame in resistance. However, Petersen [was] successfully physically removed with no injury to anyone, including Petersen. A portion of Petersen's removal [was] recorded on video by the nightclub's video surveillance system.

"Lorainne Peacock was in her vehicle in the Teasers parking lot and saw Petersen being forcibly removed through the front door. She testified that she witnessed Petersen calmly walk to his Ford Taurus automobile in the parking lot, and enter the front passenger door. Petersen then got out of the car with a pistol and walked back to the front door of Teasers. Cameron Eubanks was still standing just outside the front door. Petersen approached Eubanks and shot him with the pistol six times: twice in the chest, twice in the abdomen, once in the pelvic region and once in the head.

"Petersen then entered the front door by either stepping over Eubanks's body or around him. As Petersen made entry, a patron, Scotty Russell, was in the club and proceeding towards the front door exit. Russell was not aware of the murder that just occurred. Russell was suddenly and unexpectedly confronted by Petersen in the narrow hallway just inside the front door. Upon seeing ...
326 So.3d 549
Petersen with a handgun Russell instinctively threw his right arm up towards his head and Petersen shot him in the arm. Russell testified that he ‘played dead’ and heard Petersen say to someone else ‘alright bitch it's your turn now’ and he heard more shooting. Russell was able to exit the club. Russell spent three days in the hospital for his injury. The gunshot shattered the bone in his right arm, requiring the installation of a rod, plate and three pins in surgery, along with one hundred and thirty (130) stitches and physical therapy. Russell spent five months undergoing physical rehabilitation, and testified his right arm is eighty-eight (88) percent functional and shrapnel remains in his arm. Russell subsequently filed a lawsuit against Teasers in which he alleged, through his attorney, that Petersen was ‘visibly intoxicated.’

"Petersen, in the main room of the club, then shot Tiffany Paige Grissett, a dancer, twice in the back, causing her death. Both bullets passed through Grissett's body and at least one lodged in a wall. Petersen then entered the smaller private dance room and fatally shot Thomas Robins, a customer, in the chest. Petersen's gun had ten bullets, and at this point he has used each one in a deadly manner on another human being (eight in the torso, one in the head, one in an arm blocking the head).

"Petersen then left Teasers through the front door into the parking lot. He went around to the rear of the building. By this time, Paul Eubanks, who lived in a home immediately behind Teasers was aware of the shooting in the club. Paul Eubanks [saw] Petersen fleeing to the west behind the club and fire[d] three shots with his own pistol at Petersen, but [did] not hit him. Petersen successfully scale[d] a fence into an adjoining field in the darkness.

"The Houston County sheriff and deputies responded to the club, but [were] unable to locate Petersen during the night. In the early dawn of August 10, 2012, Petersen voluntarily [came] out of the field and [was] arrested. Petersen had visible scrapes and scratches from fleeing into the field. Petersen [was] immediately taken to the Houston County jail. As part of the booking process the jail's physician's assistant, Jason Smoak, examine[d] Petersen for physical injuries and [found] none, other than the scrapes and scratches from the field where he fled after the murders. When Smoak ask[ed] Petersen how he fe[lt], Petersen answer[ed] by saying ‘I feel like I just shot three people.’ Smoak further stated that Petersen did not appear to be under the influence of any substance, his speech was not slurred, and he responded appropriately to questions.

"Thereafter, on August 10, 2012, Bill Rafferty, an investigator with the Houston County sheriff's department interview[ed] Petersen. Petersen [told]

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    ...establish a prima facie case of racial discrimination" in the State's use of its peremptory strikes. 327 So.3d 730 Petersen v. State, 326 So. 3d 535, 567 (Ala. Crim. App. 2019). Thus, the statistics Lane cites are insufficient in and of themselves to support a prima facie case of racial dis......
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