Prince v. State of Ala.

Decision Date31 January 1975
Docket NumberNo. 73-3108,73-3108
Citation507 F.2d 693
PartiesThomas R. PRINCE, Petitioner-Appellant, v. STATE OF ALABAMA, Respondent-Appellee.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Fifth Circuit

Robert R. Bryan, Birmingham, Ala. (Court-appointed), for petitioner-appellant.

William J. Baxley, Atty.Gen., Don C. Dickert, Joseph G. L. Marston, III, Asst. Attys. Gen., Montgomery, Ala., for respondent-appellee.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama.

Before GODBOLD, SIMPSON and INGRAHAM, Circuit Judges.

SIMPSON, Circuit Judge:

We review a denial of a habeas corpus petition which alleged that the appellant, Thomas R. Prince, was not afforded his Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment right to a speedy trial by virtue of a nine year delay between his indictment in Alabama on two counts of robbery and subsequent trial on those charges. The district court denied the petition on grounds articulated by the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals, which had similarly denied Prince's appeal for post-conviction relief. The Alabama court found that Prince had not been denied his speedy trial right because: (i) Prince had made no serious demand for a speedy trial; (ii) Prince was not 'available' for return to Alabama for trial because of his incarceration in California; and (iii) Prince had thwarted attempts by the State of California to grant his parole by refusing to waive extradition to Alabama. Prince v. State, Ala.Cr.App. 1973, 50 Ala.App. 368, 279 So.2d 539, 542-545.

Our review of the record convinces us that the Alabama court erred as a matter of law in determining that Prince had not effectively demanded a speedy trial and that Prince was not 'available' for extradition to Alabama during the period of his incarceration in California. We further find no substantial support in the record for the Alabama court's finding that Prince thwarted California's attempts to grant his parole, with the exception of a single instance of insignificant import. Accordngly, we reverse and remand for the granting of the appropriate relief.

I. Facts

The State of Alabama acquired an interest in the appellant, Prince, as a result of two robberies both allegedly occurring in Birmingham, Jefferson County, Alabama, on May 7, 1962. In one incident a local A & P food store was robbed of $160 at gunpoint; the robber fired a shot at the store manager as he was leaving the store. A second incident involved the taking of $140, again at gunpoint, from an individual with whom the appellant had been shooting dice. Both the cashier of the A & P store and the disgruntled crapshooter identified Prince as the robber. A Jefferson County, Alabama, grand jury returned indictments on May 10, 1962 charging Prince with the two robberies.

Less than two months later, on June 29, 1962, Prince was arrested in Los Angeles, California, and charged with grand theft and armed robbery. Upon learning of Prince's arrest, Emmet Perry, the State Solicitor for Alabama's 10th Judicial Circuit, having jurisdiction over Jefferson County, lodged a detainer with the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department on July 12, 1962. The letter from Solicitor Perry to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's department read in pertinent part:

Please let us know the status of the pending charges there and the likelihood of his being returned here. If he should become available please ascertain if he will waive extradition, and if so, notify this office and we shall promptly send our agent for him.

The reply was in kind: 'Your Warrant has been filed as a Detainer, . . . and you will further be advised if and when this subject is available to your department.' As it developed, Prince did not become 'available' for almost nine years.

Prince was convicted on the grand theft and robbery charges in Los Angeles Superior Court and received on December 11, 1962, concurrent sentences of six months to ten years and five years to life. Prince was then transferred to the custody of the California Department of Corrections (CDC) Reception-Guidance Center at Chino, California. At this time, CDC wrote to the Sheriff of Jefferson County, Alabama, and inquired about the existence of any detainers against Prince. In reply, Solicitor Perry informed the CDC of the outstanding indictments against Prince, and requested that CDC 'please advise the approximate release date . . .. This office will extradite at our expense.' The CDC answered: 'You will be given the usual sixty (60) days' notice prior to his release from the Department of Corrections.'

It appears that Prince was transferred to the CDC Medical Facility at Vacaville, California. The Solicitor of Jefferson County was advised of Prince's transfer on February 27, 1963. He remained at Vacaville Until June 1967. In April 1964, CDC-- Vacaville notified Solicitor Perry that Prince would be appearing before the Adult Authority for parole and sentence consideration in June 1964, and sought a response as to Alabama's intentions with regard to Prince at that time. The Solicitor's reply was: 'It is our intention to take custody of subject when he is released by you.' Similar exchanges between CDC and the Solicitor's office in Birmingham are reflected annually through 1967. Each letter from the Solicitor's office to CDC iterated Alabama's intention to return Prince for trial on the pending charges 'when available.' The only indication in the record as to the outcome of Prince's appearances before the Adult Authority is contained in a letter from CDC to Earl C. Morgan, Perry's successor in office as Solicitor for the 10th Judicial Circuit of Alabama, in which the CDC stated that Prince was denied parole at his April 1966 hearing before the Adult Authority.

In the meantime, Prince had communicated with the Solicitor's office on his own behalf. His letters were essentially requests that Alabama withdraw its detainer or dismiss its charges against him to aid in his receiving the most favorable treatment and training programs offered by CDC. In his first letter, dated October 28, 1963, Prince stated his concern as follows:

I am endeavering to take advantage of the excellent Mental Health Program in the State of California. This state has facilities for out patient Psycho Therapy for parolee's to attend under close supervision of Psychiatrists in cordination with the supervision by the California Parole Department. I do not except to be released at a early date, but if your County drops there hold I will be eligible for the future continuous Mental Health Program. Then on completion, I would become eligible to be paroled out to a Out Patient Clinic, in this State, under there guidance and there full responsibility. This a long range program of many years, but with your cooperation and consideration I will be well on the road to a complete recovery and able to be a better citizen to society. This request will be deeply appreciated and relieve my many worries for the future.

The record does not indicate that Prince received any reply from the Solicitor's office in response to this communication. In October 1965, Prince again wrote requesting that charges be dropped and furnished as a basis for his request his belief that he had been rehabilitated by his experience under the care of the CDC. Again Prince apparently received no response from the Solicitor's office for pencilled in on the bottom of Prince's letter from the Solicitor's file is the notation 'No necessity for a reply.' Following the notation are the initials 'B.H.', the record containing no clue to the identity of 'B.H.' Prince wrote a third letter to the Solicitor's office in November 1966, again asking that the detainers be withdrawn and stating that their prndency was having an adverse impact on his consideration for parole programs in California. This time, he received the following response from Solicitor Morgan: 'This is to advise that disposition of the cases pending against you cannot be made until you are returned to this jurisdiction.' This exchange ended Prince's attempts to deal directly with the Solicitor's office in Birmingham so far as the record discloses.

On June 12, 1967 Prince was transferred from the Medical Center at Vacaville to the CDC facility at San Quentin Prison. Prince turned at about this time toward use of the judicial process to have the Alabama charges dismissed. He sought the assistance of nearly a dozen attorneys or organizations, such as the NAACP, in his efforts. He received, with one exception-- assistance from a law student at Hastings College of Law in San Francisco-- little more than helpful advice and polite 'No-thank-yous.'

On his own behalf and with the assistance of the Hastings law student acting under the tutelage of a licensed attorney Prince filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the Superior Court for Marin County, California, seeking to have the Alabama detainer declared unenforceable in the courts of California on grounds that Alabama had denied him his right to a speedy trial. The petition was denied and Prince appealed to the California First District Court of Appeal. While this appeal was pending, Prince also filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus with the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. The federal court dismissed the petition without prejudice to its renewal when state remedies had been exhausted. Thereafter, Prince's appeal was decided adversely by the state District Court of Appeal, and Prince sought review by the California Supreme Court. When his petition was there denied, he returned to federal district court to seek habeas relief. His petition to that court was pending at the time of his release to Alabama officials in February, 1971.

During the period after his transfer to San Quentin, Prince had also sought relief from the courts of Alabama and July 1968 Prince forwarded to the Solicitor in Jefferson County a pro se 'Motion...

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