Riggs v. State

Decision Date23 August 2013
Docket NumberCR–09–1349.
Citation138 So.3d 1014
PartiesJeffery Tyrone RIGGS v. STATE of Alabama.
CourtAlabama Court of Criminal Appeals


Alicia A. D'Addario, Angela Setzer, and Randall S. Susskind, Montgomery; and Mari Morrison, Birmingham, for appellant.

Luther Strange, atty. gen., and James Clayton Crenshaw, asst. atty. gen., for appellee.

WINDOM, Presiding Judge.

Jeffery Tyrone Riggs appeals his capital-murder conviction and sentence of death. Riggs was convicted of murder made capital for taking the life of Norber Payne during the course of a burglary. See§ 13A–5–40(a)(4), Ala.Code 1975. The jury, by a vote of 10–2, recommended that Riggs be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. After weighing the aggravating circumstances and the mitigating circumstances, the circuit court rejected the jury's recommendation and sentenced Riggs to death. On July 26, 2010, Riggs filed a motion for new trial. Following a hearing, the circuit court denied Riggs's motion.


Riggs and Norber Payne had been involved in a relationship for several years before her death. In 2005, Riggs bought a house and asked Payne and her daughters to move in with him. Approximately two years later, Payne and her daughters moved out of Riggs's house and into an apartment in Center Point. 1 Payne was the only individual listed on the apartment lease. In 2007, Riggs moved into the apartment with Payne and her family.

According to Payne's daughters, Natasha and Tiffany, their mother ended her relationship with Riggs after an argument in October 2007 between Payne, Riggs, and Tiffany.2 Tiffany testified that she overheard an altercation between Riggs and Payne and walked into her mother's bedroom to find Riggs choking Payne. Tiffany repeatedly hit Riggs until he let go of Payne, and he then grabbed Tiffany by the neck. Afterwards, Payne told Tiffany to call the police, but Riggs threatened to “shoot [them] if she picked up the telephone. (R. 618.) Riggs further stated that they were “gonna die tonight.” (R. 618.) Later that night, Payne, Natasha, and Tiffany packed up Riggs's personal belongings in a plastic bin and took them to his mother's house. After this incident, Riggs no longer slept at the apartment. Natasha and Tiffany testified that during the three months preceding Payne's murder, Riggs did not pay rent or utility bills, and did not live with them in the apartment.

Approximately a week before the murder, a break-in occurred at Payne's apartment, during which the back door and its locking mechanism were damaged. When Payne returned to the apartment and saw the damage, she feared that someone was inside the apartment, and she telephoned Riggs for help. Riggs wedged a chair underneath the door knob as a temporary fix for the damaged lock.3 (R. 452–54.)

On the evening of January 9, 2008, Payne was working at the Burger King fast-food restaurant in Roebuck, where she was a general manager. Around 10:00 p.m., Payne telephoned Natasha, who worked at another Burger King fast-food restaurant, and asked her to help close the store because they were short-staffed at the Roebuck store. Shortly after Natasha and her boyfriend, Kenny Williams, arrived at the Roebuck Burger King, Riggs pulled into the parking lot to drop off Payne's granddaughter, Janiah, whom he often looked after while Payne and her daughters were working. Riggs remained at the restaurant until Payne was ready to leave. As Payne, Natasha, and Janiah were getting into their vehicle, Riggs asked Payne to step out of the car so they could talk. Payne and Riggs talked briefly before Payne got back into the vehicle with Natasha. On the ride home, Payne told Natasha that she didn't want [Riggs] back in her house.” (R. 437.)

Payne, Natasha, and Janiah arrived at their apartment around 1:30 a.m. on January 10, 2008. Tiffany was already at home and in bed. Natasha overheard Payne on the telephone with Riggs telling him that she was getting ready for bed. Natasha was in her room when she heard Payne calling for her from her bedroom. Several moments later, Tiffany heard a “loud boom” (R. 653) that sounded like the door being kicked open. Shortly thereafter, Natasha saw [Riggs] running down the hall with a gun in his hand.” (R. 464.) Natasha then saw Riggs go into her mother's bedroom, and she heard approximately four gunshots.4 Moments later, Natasha saw Riggs run back down the hall and out the back door.

At 2:18 a.m., Natasha dialed emergency 911 and reported that her mother had been shot. At 2:24 a.m., Riggs telephoned the sheriff's office from his mother's house and stated that he wanted to turn himself in to law enforcement. Sergeant Clyde Money, along with three other deputies, drove to Riggs's mother's house where Riggs was taken into custody and read his Miranda5 rights. Sergeant Money asked Riggs about his gun, and Riggs described his gun and the location where he placed it. Riggs's parents gave Sergeant Money consent to search their house for the weapon and indicated that Riggs lived there in the house with them. (R. 738–39.) Based on Riggs's statement, the gun was recovered and taken into evidence. Afterwards, Riggs was taken to a sheriff's office for questioning.

At the sheriff's office, Riggs was again read his Miranda rights, and he signed a waiver-of-rights form. Riggs then gave Sergeant Mike House his oral statement which was recorded and a written statement, in which he admitted to following Payne back to the apartment, to kicking the back door open after Payne slammed it in his face, to following Payne into her bedroom, and to shooting her with his gun. (R. 857.) The physical evidence collected from Riggs and the crime scene revealed that the tread pattern of a shoe print taken from Payne's back door matched the tread print of the shoe Riggs was wearing at the time he was taken into custody. Additionally, the blood found on Riggs's clothing was tested and found to be Payne's. (R. 863.) Evidence technicians collected four spent shell casings and two live rounds in Payne's bedroom. It was also determined that Riggs's gun contained one live round.

During the course of the investigation, Terrance Battle provided investigators with his cellular telephone and several digital voice-mail recordings left by Riggs. According to Battle, he began working with Payne in August 2006. Within a few weeks, Battle learned that Payne was no longer living with her boyfriend and had moved to Center Point. The two began a romantic relationship in October 2007. In December 2007, Battle received a telephone call between 5:00 and 6:30 a.m. from a male, who called himself “Jeff.” The caller asked whether Battle had seen Payne. Battle replied that he had not and the caller hung up. Approximately one month later, in January 2008, Battle received another telephone call from the same number, during which the caller threatened that if [Payne] came back to Battle's house, something would happen to her.” (R. 814–15.) In addition to the telephone calls, Battle received two voice mails on January 5, 2008, and a third voice mail on January 7, 2008. After receiving the second voice mail, Battle telephoned Payne to tell her that “Jeff” had left a threatening message, to which she responded that he[ was] following [her] and that [she would] call [Battle] back later.” (R. 819.) Approximately one week later, Battle received a call from Riggs, during which Riggs asked about Battle's relationship with Payne. Battle testified that he “blew [Riggs] off” and had not spoken to him or returned any messages since that day. (R. 821.)

The autopsy revealed that Payne died as a result of a gunshot wound to her chest. The autopsy further revealed that there were four entrance and four exit wounds, consistent with the four spent shell casings found in her bedroom. (R. 1131–32.) Several of the gunshot wounds had signs of stippling, indicating that Payne was shot at close range or with a particularly powerful gun. Additionally, the exit wound on Payne's back was classified as a “short exit wound” (R. 1141), leading the medical examiner to conclude that Payne was most likely lying in bed or falling into bed when she was shot.

After the State rested, Riggs testified in his own defense. Riggs stated that he bought a house in 2005 and that he asked Payne and her daughters to move into the house with him. Riggs admitted that their relationship was not perfect and that over the years he and Payne had had several arguments during which they threatened to throw one another out of the house. (R. 1289–90.) Riggs also admitted to leaving threatening voice-mail messages on Battle's cell phone but stated that he intended only to scare Battle.

Riggs testified that he encountered financial problems in 2007 and his house went into foreclosure. According to Riggs, Payne leased an apartment in her name after Riggs's application was denied because of the ongoing foreclosure proceedings. Riggs testified that he moved into the apartment with Payne and that he had helped purchase furniture for the apartment. Riggs stated that he lived in the apartment, paid a portion of the rent and utilities, kept his personal belongings there, and had his own key to the apartment until Payne's death on January 10, 2008. (R. 1231–32, 1251, 1272–73, 1308.) Additionally, the defense presented several witnesses who testified that Riggs was still living in the apartment with Payne on the morning that Payne was shot and killed.6

Riggs testified that on the evening of Payne's death, he brought Janiah to Burger King fast-food restaurant and waited as Natasha and Payne finished cleaning the store. Riggs left Burger King and drove to his mother's house. Riggs telephoned Payne and told her that he wanted to work things out and that they needed to talk. Riggs was still on the telephone with Payne when he arrived at the apartment. Riggs told Payne that he was at the back door. Payne, dressed in nothing but her...

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3 cases
  • Woolf v. State
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
    • May 2, 2014
    ... ... McGriff, 908 So.2d at 103334." Riggs v. State, 138 So.3d 1014, 102324 (Ala.Crim.App.2013). In Mullaney v. Wilbur, 421 U.S. 684, 95 S.Ct. 1881, 44 L.Ed.2d 508 (1975), a case on which the Alabama Supreme Court relied in Ex parte McGriff, supra, the United States Supreme Court explained that "the Due Process Clause requires the ... ...
  • Lane v. State
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    ... ... 16 Thus, to the extent that the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office has a history of discriminatory jury selection, that history is attenuated. Lane also contends that these alleged discriminatory practices still exist in Jefferson County. He cites Riggs v. State, 138 So.3d 1014 (Ala.Crim.App.2013), and asserts that the same prosecutor struck 11 out of 14 black veniremembers in that trial. However, Riggs was remanded for a new trial on grounds unrelated to Batson. Nothing in that opinion nor in the record before us suggests that there was a ... ...
  • Varnado v. State
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    • Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
    • March 12, 2021
    ... ... 506.) Varnado continued, "I'm just ... trying to protect him." (R. 510.) I. Varnado argues that the circuit court erred by not charging the jury on heat-of-passion manslaughter as a lesser-included offense of capital murder. Relying on Riggs v. State , 138 So. 3d 1014 (Ala. Crim. App. 2013), Varnado argues that he had a constitutional right to the requested jury charge and that it was error for the circuit court not to give it because, he says, he interjected sufficient legal provocation. 5 Varnado's brief, pp. 28-42. Page 6 " 'The ... ...

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