Stallworth v. State, CR–09–1433.

CourtAlabama Court of Criminal Appeals
Citation171 So.3d 53
Docket NumberCR–09–1433.
PartiesCalvin L. STALLWORTH v. STATE of Alabama.
Decision Date08 November 2013

171 So.3d 53

STATE of Alabama.


Court of Criminal Appeals of Alabama.

Nov. 8, 2013.
Opinion on Return to Remand May 2, 2014.

Rehearing Denied July 11, 2014.

Certiorari Denied Jan. 23, 2015

171 So.3d 60

William L. Pfeifer, Jr., Birmingham; Jerome T. Wolf, Kansas City, Missouri; and Mark A. Flessner, Chicago, Illinois, for appellant.

Troy King and Luther Strange, attys. gen., and Kevin Wayne Blackburn, asst. atty. gen., for appellee.


WINDOM, Presiding Judge.

Calvin L. Stallworth, currently an inmate on Alabama's death row at Holman Correctional Facility, appeals the circuit court's denial of his petition for postconviction relief filed pursuant to Rule 32, Ala. R.Crim. P.

In October 1998, Stallworth was convicted of two counts of capital murder for murdering Nancy Dukes and Linda Morton during the course of a robbery. The jury, by a vote of 10 to 2, recommended that Stallworth be sentenced to death. The circuit court followed the jury's recommendation and sentenced Stallworth to death. After remanding the case for the trial court to correct its sentencing order, this Court affirmed Stallworth's convictions and sentences of death. See Stallworth v. State, 868 So.2d 1128 (Ala.Crim.App.2001), cert. denied, 868 So.2d 1189 (Ala.2003). The United States Supreme Court denied certiorari review. See Stallworth v. Alabama, 540 U.S. 1057, 124 S.Ct. 828, 157 L.Ed.2d 711 (2003). This Court issued a certificate of judgment making Stallworth's direct appeal final on June 27, 2003. See Rule 41(a), Ala. R.App. P.

In June 2004, Stallworth filed a postconviction petition attacking his convictions and death sentence. He filed amended petitions in October 2005 and in June 2006.1 The State filed its answer to the postconviction petition, and Stallworth filed a brief in response to that answer. In May 2007, the circuit court issued an order dismissing the majority of Stallworth's claims after it found that the

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claims were insufficiently pleaded or failed to state claims upon which relief could be granted. In June 2009, the circuit court held an evidentiary hearing on the three claims that were not summarily dismissed. On May 12, 2010, the circuit court issued an order denying relief on those claims. Stallworth filed a timely notice of appeal to this Court.

This Court, in its opinion on direct appeal, set out the following facts surrounding Stallworth's convictions:

“On December 4, 1997, John Gregory entered the Dukes Parkway Shell gasoline service station in Foley and discovered Nancy Dukes behind the counter on her knees with her arms and face in a chair. She had been stabbed numerous times, but she was still breathing. Gregory called for help, but Dukes died before the paramedics arrived. The coroner testified that Dukes had been stabbed approximately 40 times and that she died as a result of those injuries. There was testimony that between $400 and $600 was missing from the cash register.
“On December 14, 1997, Van Gardener discovered Linda Morton's body lying face down on the floor behind the counter at the Diamond Gas Station and Convenience Store in Foley. The coroner testified that Morton had been stabbed six times and that she died as a result of those injuries. An audit of the cash register revealed that it was $934.00 short.
“While investigating Morton's murder, police used a bloodhound at the Diamond store. The bloodhound went to a trail behind the store that went through a small wooded area and led to the Aaronville community. On the trail, police discovered a broken VCR, identified as the VCR from the Diamond store, and a bag of receipts that contained checks and credit card receipts. An eyewitness, Olivia Woodyard, testified that around the time of Morton's murder she saw Stallworth leaving the trail behind the Diamond store. Woodyard testified that Stallworth was acting strangely and was nervous. She also testified that Stallworth had told her a few days before the robbery/murder that he was under a lot of stress because Christmas was near and he had no job. Another eyewitness testified that he saw a male wearing a dark, hooded jacket run from the Diamond store around the time of Morton's murder.
“Numerous witnesses testified that Stallworth was spending a lot of money between December 4 and December 16, although he was not employed. Christina Lorraine Waters, a former employee of Riviera Utilities, testified that on December 4, 1997, just hours after Dukes was robbed and killed, Stallworth paid a delinquent electric power bill for his fiancée in the amount of $167.12. (Stallworth's fiancée, Deborah Pickens, told him that the electric power had been cut off on the morning of December 4.) Waters also testified that when she was taking Stallworth's payment, another employee was on the telephone and you could overhear her talking about Nancy Dukes's murder. Waters said that when Stallworth heard the statement about Dukes's murder he reacted by saying ‘Oh, man’ and hanging his head. (R. 268.) Glenn Manning, the owner of Manning Jewelry in Foley, testified that on December 4, 1997, Stallworth paid him $100 for jewelry repairs that he had completed. Stallworth was also reported to have made several cash purchases at a Wal–Mart discount store.
“On December 16, 1997, the investigation focused on Stallworth, and police discovered that Stallworth was wanted
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for a probation violation. Police picked Stallworth up for the probation violation, questioned him about the two murders, and obtained a search warrant to search his fiancée's home, where he was living. Police seized a hooded jacket that had blood on the inside of one of the sleeves. DNA testing revealed that the blood on the jacket matched Dukes's DNA. The search of Stallworth's fiancée's house also revealed a serrated kitchen knife under the mattress. Experts testified that the knife was the same type of knife used to kill both Dukes and Morton.
“Stallworth gave several statements to police—each of which varied in some detail. Stallworth admitted that he was at the scene of both robbery/murders, but he denied killing either Dukes or Morton. Stallworth also admitted that he had removed the VCR from the Diamond store because, he said, he knew the videotape would show him in the store. Stallworth said that he took the VCR to a trail behind the Diamond store and he used a hammer to open it and destroy the tape. Stallworth also told police that he found a bag of money on the trail and that he took the money and left.
“Stallworth testified in his own defense at trial. He said that he had not been at either scene and that his statements to police were coerced. He said that he had an alibi for the time of both murders. (Defense witnesses also testified that he had an alibi.) Stallworth also testified that he paid his bills in December 1997 with his ‘cousin's help, shooting dice, and selling a little marijuana.’ (R. 3950.) He said that police coerced him to confess that he had been present at the Dukes station and the Diamond store after police threatened his daughter, his wife, his mother, and his brother. He further testified that Woodyard lied about seeing him near the Morton murder scene because, he said, he ‘wouldn't give her no drugs, no free drugs.’ (R. 3989.) He also said that somebody in the police department planted Dukes's blood on his jacket. (R. 4006.)”

868 So.2d at 1136–38 (footnotes omitted).

Standard of Review

Stallworth appeals the circuit court's partial denial and partial summary dismissal of his petition for postconviction relief attacking his capital-murder conviction and sentence of death. According to Rule 32.3, Ala. R.Crim. P., Stallworth has the sole burden of pleading and proving that he is entitled to relief. Rule 32.3, Ala. R.Crim. P., provides:

“The petitioner shall have the burden of pleading and proving by a preponderance of the evidence the facts necessary to entitle the petitioner to relief. The state shall have the burden of pleading any ground of preclusion, but once a ground of preclusion has been pleaded, the petitioner shall have the burden of disproving its existence by a preponderance of the evidence.”

When it reviewed Stallworth's claims on direct appeal, this Court applied a plain-error standard of review and examined every issue regardless of whether the issue was preserved for appellate review. See Rule 45A, Ala. R.App. P. However, the plain-error standard does not apply when evaluating a ruling on a postconviction petition, even when the petitioner has been sentenced to death. See Ferguson v. State, 13 So.3d 418, 424 (Ala.Crim.App.2008) ; Waldrop v. State, 987 So.2d 1186 (Ala.Crim.App.2007) ; Hall v. State, 979 So.2d 125 (Ala.Crim.App.2007) ; Gaddy v. State, 952 So.2d 1149 (Ala.Crim.App.2006). “The standard of review this Court uses in evaluating the rulings made by the trial

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court is whether the trial court abused its discretion.” Hunt v....

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