Spradley v. State

Decision Date30 September 2011
Docket NumberCR–07–1270.
Citation128 So.3d 774
PartiesMontez SPRADLEY v. STATE of Alabama.
CourtAlabama Court of Criminal Appeals


John H. Holdridge and Anna M. Arceneaux, Durham, North Carolina; and Bryan A. Stevenson and Randall S. Susskind, Montgomery, for appellant.

Troy King and Luther Strange, attys. gen., and Joshua Bearden, J. Clayton Crenshaw, Thomas R. Govan, Jr., Beth Jackson Hughes, and Henry M. Johnson, asst. attys. gen., for appellee.

WINDOM, Judge.

Montez Spradley appeals his capital-murder conviction, his conviction for intimidating a witness, and his resulting sentences. Spradley was convicted of murder made capital because he shot and killed Marlene Jason during the course of a robbery, see§ 13A–5–40(a)(2), Ala.Code 1975, and of intimidating a witness, see§ 13A–10–123, Ala.Code 1975. The jury, by a vote of 10 to 2, recommended that Spradley be sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. The circuit court then ordered and received a presentence report. After holding a judicial sentencing hearing, the circuit court rejected the jury's recommendation and sentenced Spradley to death for his capital-murder conviction and to 20 years in prison for his conviction for intimidating a witness.

On January 9, 2004, Marlene Jason's body was found lying on the side of a road in Birmingham. Nancy Dempsey, a nurse and part-time pizza-delivery employee, testified that on that evening she was delivering pizzas on Second Way Northwest when she discovered Jason's body. Dempsey could not detect a pulse, and she telephoned emergency 911. Dr. Gary Simmons, a medical examiner with the Jefferson County Coroner/Medical Examiner Office, testified that Jason had suffered blunt-force trauma and that she had died as a result of a gunshot wound to her head.

The lead investigator, Det. Don Edge with the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, testified that when he arrived at the scene, he found Jason on the ground near her car. Jason's car was parked on the street in front of her house and was still running. The trunk of the car was open. A .40 caliber shell casing was found near Jason's body. Jason's purse was not in her car or in her house, so Det. Edge contacted Jason's credit-card company to see if there had been activity on any of her accounts after her death. Det. Edge testified that Jason's USAA Mastercard had been used on Friday, January 9, 2004, after her death, at the Roger Jolly Chevron, and again on Sunday at various service stations around town. Det. Edge further testified that Lt. Phillip Green went to the various locations where Jason's Mastercard had been used to see if there was any security-camera footage from the times that the card had been used.1 According to Det. Edge, Lt. Green secured footage from two locations where the card had been used—Ensley Seafood and Cowboy's service station. Det. Edge testified that one videotape depicted another police officer, Officer Steve Bashears, arriving at Ensley Seafood. Det. Edge spoke with Officer Bashears and read Officer Bashears's report. Officer Bashears's report indicated that Melvin Henderson and Orlando Rankin told Officer Bashears that on January 11, 2004, a male in a green Cadillac automobile was trying to sell them gasoline using a credit card. Police identified the vehicle that the person selling gasoline was driving, but could not identify the individual. Several months later, police located the Cadillac automobile and determined that it was owned by Antonio Atkins. According to Det. Edge, Atkins told officers that Spradley used a credit card to purchase gasoline on January 11, 2004.

Matthew Bryant testified that he had been incarcerated in the Jefferson County jail at the same time as Spradley and that Spradley talked to him about murdering a woman in Center Point. Bryant stated that he was in jail on a charge of capital murder in connection with his father's death and that he faced the death penalty. According to Bryant, Spradley told him that Spradley and Atkins followed the woman from Eastbrook Mall and approached her from behind while she was unloading her vehicle. Spradley choked her and shot her. Bryant stated that Spradley told him that because the woman had no money, Spradley got Atkins to sell gasoline using her credit card. Bryant explained that [e]very time that [Spradley] does something like [that], he gets a clover tattooed on him; four-leaf clover.” (R. 298.) Bryant specifically identified a tattoo depicting a clover leaf and a leprechaun as the tattoo Spradley told him he got after he murdered Jason. Spradley had several clover-leaf tattoos on his arms but the photographs showed only one clover-leaf tattoo with a leprechaun.

Atkins, a friend of Spradley, testified that on January 11, 2004, he was at his grandmother's house when Spradley came by the house to talk to him. Atkins said that he and Spradley went to a Chevron service station near his grandmother's house and Spradley put gasoline in Atkins's green Cadillac automobile while Atkins was “under the hood.” (R. 332.) According to Atkins, he knew that Spradley used a credit card to pay for the gasoline for his car because neither of them had any cash; however, he did not know where Spradley got the credit card and he did not see the credit card. Atkins further testified that after they got gasoline, they went to Ensley Seafood and Spradley got into a blue Chevrolet automobile.

Atkins said that he was working a late shift at a McDonald's fast-food restaurant at the time of the murder. He said that before trial he was approached on the street by an unknown individual and was threatened if he testified against Spradley.

Officer Steve Bashears of the Birmingham Police Department testified that on January 11, 2004, he was dispatched to Ensley Seafood to respond to a complaint from the owner, Viet Van Doe, that someone was stealing gasoline. Officer Bashears testified that Van Doe told him that Van Doe thought that Orlando Rankin and Melvin Henderson were stealing gasoline and that Henderson had said that “a person was offering to fill their tanks up with gas for five dollars.” 2 (R. 361.)

Melvin Henderson testified that he was currently in Draper Correctional Facility serving a 22–year sentence for robbery. The prosecutor questioned him concerning purchasing gasoline using a credit card on January 11, 2004, but Henderson refused to answer any questions. Henderson said, “I don't want to be involved in it” and that he was afraid of both the State and Spradley. (R. 321–22.)

Officer Randy Martinez of the Birmingham Police Department testified that he met Alisha Booker when she filed a complaint against Spradley alleging that he had physically assaulted her. Officer Martinez said that when Booker came to the West Precinct of the Birmingham Police Department on December 21, 2005, she had been beaten, and one of her eyes was bloodshot and swollen. She told him that she and Spradley had had an argument and that he had slapped her, had hit her several times, and had choked her. Officer Martinez read the following from his report: [Spradley] then stated he was mad because she was talking to a police detective and he [thought] she [was] trying to send him to jail.” (R. 369.)

Booker, Spradley's ex-girlfriend at the time of trial and the mother of three of his children, testified that Spradley confessed to her that he and a friend killed Jason and took her credit card because she had no money in her purse. She said that Spradley told her that they “felt stupid” for killing Jason because they did not get much of anything except credit cards. (R. 406.) Booker further testified that Spradley beat her and said he would kill her because she had talked to a law-enforcement officer about the murder.

The jury convicted Spradley of capital murder and of intimidating a witness. A separate sentencing hearing was held, and the jury recommended, by a vote of 10 to 2, that Spradley be sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. The circuit court sentenced Spradley to 20 years on his conviction for intimidating a witness. The circuit court rejected the jury's recommendation on the capital-murder conviction and sentenced Spradley to death. This appeal followed. See§ 13A–5–55, Ala.Code 1975.

Because Spradley has been sentenced to death, according to Rule 45A, Ala. R.App. P., this Court must search the record for “plain error.” Rule 45A states:

“In all cases in which the death penalty has been imposed, the Court of Criminal Appeals shall notice any plain error or defect in the proceedings under review, whether or not brought to the attention of the trial court, and take appropriate appellate action by reason thereof, whenever such error has or probably has adversely affected the substantial right of the appellant.”

(Emphasis added.)

In Ex parte Brown, 11 So.3d 933 (Ala.2008), the Alabama Supreme Court explained:

“To rise to the level of plain error, the claimed error must not only seriously affect a defendant's ‘substantial rights,’ but it must also have an unfair prejudicial impact on the jury's deliberations.” ' Ex parte Bryant, 951 So.2d 724, 727 (Ala.2002) (quoting Hyde v. State, 778 So.2d 199, 209 (Ala.Crim.App.1998)). In United States v. Young, 470 U.S. 1, 15, 105 S.Ct. 1038, 84 L.Ed.2d 1 (1985), the United States Supreme Court, construing the federal plain-error rule, stated:

‘The Rule authorizes the Courts of Appeals to correct only “particularly egregious errors,” United States v. Frady, 456 U.S. 152, 163 (1982), those errors that “seriously affect the fairness, integrity or public reputation of judicial proceedings,” United States v. Atkinson, 297 U.S. [157], at 160 [(1936) ]. In other words, the plain-error exception to the contemporaneous-objection rule is to be “used sparingly, solely in those circumstances in which a miscarriage of justice would otherwise result.” United States v. Frady, 456 U.S., at 163, n. 14.’

See also Ex parte Hodges, 856 So.2d...

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    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
    • January 10, 2020
    ...made in the recording, tape, etc., was voluntarily made without any kind of coercion or improper inducement.’ " Spradley v. State, 128 So. 3d 774, 780-82 (Ala. Crim. App. 2011) (quoting Ex parte Fuller, 620 So. 2d 675, 678 (Ala. 1993) ).Surveillance videos may be admissible under the pictor......
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    ...489 U.S. 1086, 109 S.Ct. 1547, 103 L.Ed.2d 851 (1989) ; Tillis v. State, 469 So.2d 1367, 1370 (Ala.Cr.App.1985).' ”Spradley v. State, 128 So.3d 774, 785 (Ala.Crim.App.2011) (quoting Sawyer v. State, 598 So.2d 1035, 1038 (Ala.Crim.App.1992) ).In Smith v. State, 795 So.2d 788 (Ala.Crim.App.20......
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    ...the testimony of an expert in order for that footage to be admitted under that theory. As this Court stated in Spradley v. State , 128 So.3d 774 (Ala.Crim.App.2011) :"In Pressley v. State , 770 So.2d 115 (Ala.Crim.App.1999), this Court applied the requirements necessary for introducing a vi......
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