Thompson v. State, CR-16-1311

CourtAlabama Court of Criminal Appeals
Writing for the CourtWELCH, Judge.
Citation310 So.3d 850
Docket NumberCR-16-1311
Decision Date16 November 2018
Parties Devin Darnell THOMPSON v. STATE of Alabama

310 So.3d 850

Devin Darnell THOMPSON
STATE of Alabama


Court of Criminal Appeals of Alabama.

November 16, 2018
Opinion Issued on Denial of Rehearing February 7, 2020
Certiorari Denied May 22, 2020
Alabama Supreme Court 1190426

James C. Larew and Claire M. Diallo, Iowa City, Iowa, for appellant.

Steve Marshall, atty. gen., and John A. Selden, asst. atty. gen., for appellee.

WELCH, Judge.

Devin Darnell Thompson, an inmate on death row at Holman Correctional Facility, appeals the Fayette Circuit Court's summary dismissal of his petition for postconviction relief filed pursuant to Rule 32, Ala. R. Crim. P., attacking his capital-murder convictions and sentences of death.

In 2005, Thompson was convicted of six counts of capital murder for murdering Fayette Police Officers Arnold Strickland and James Crump, and police dispatcher Leslie Mealer, during the course of a robbery. The jury recommended, by a vote of 10 to 2, that Thompson be sentenced to death. The circuit court accepted the jury's recommendation and sentenced Thompson to death.

On direct appeal, this Court affirmed Thompson's convictions and sentences of death. See Thompson v. State, 153 So.3d 84 (Ala. Crim. App. 2012). The Alabama Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court denied certiorari review. See Thompson v. State, 153 So.3d 191 (Ala. 2014) ; Thompson v. Alabama, 574 U.S. 894, 135 S.Ct. 233, 190 L.Ed.2d 175 (2014). This Court issued its certificate of judgment on May 6, 2014.

In April 2015, Thompson filed a timely petition for postconviction relief. In February 2016, Thompson filed an amended petition. The State filed a response and moved to dismiss the petition in June 2016. In July 2017, the circuit court issued a two-page order summarily dismissing Thompson's postconviction petition. This appeal followed.

On direct appeal, this Court stated the following facts surrounding Thompson's convictions:

"The State's evidence tended to show the following. At approximately 6:00 a.m. on the morning of June 3, 2003, Tim Brown, a paramedic with the Fayette Medical Center, was dispatched to the Fayette Police Department. Brown testified that when he approached the station he saw Mealer's body lying on the other side of the door to the police station, which was locked. After he forced his way inside, Brown said, he discovered that Mealer had been shot in the head. He proceeded through the building and found the bodies of Officer Crump and Officer Strickland. Both, he said, had been shot in the head and were lying in a pool of blood.

"Testimony showed that at around 3:00 a.m. on the morning of June 3, 2003, Officer Crump and Officer Strickland approached a vehicle parked in the lot of a local restaurant and found Thompson asleep in the vehicle. The dispatcher informed them that the vehicle had been stolen, and the officers took Thompson into custody.

"While the officers were booking Thompson they discovered that a dry-cleaning business, near where the car had been stolen, had been burglarized and clothing had been taken from that business. A shoe print had been discovered at the scene of that burglary. The officers removed Thompson's handcuffs in order to take his fingerprints and removed one of his shoes to get a shoe print.
310 So.3d 859
"While Thompson was being fingerprinted, he took Strickland's .40–caliber service pistol and shot Strickland in the head. Thompson then crossed the hall and shot Officer Crump in the head. As Thompson walked toward the exit of the police station he encountered Mealer. He shot Mealer multiple times and left the station.

"Thompson attempted to reenter the station when he realized that one of his shoes was still inside, but the door had automatically locked when it closed, and he was unable to reenter. Thompson proceeded to the Fayette Fire Station, which was located in the same building as the Fayette Police Department, and told two firemen that ‘something bad had happened up front.’ Thompson then stole a police cruiser and fled the scene. He was arrested later that day near Columbus, Mississippi. The pistol Thompson had taken from Officer Strickland was found in the police cruiser.

"At trial, Thompson did not dispute that he shot and killed the police officers and the dispatcher. His defense was that he was not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect. Thompson presented expert testimony to the effect that he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder ('PTSD') at the time of the murders and that he was in a dissociative state; therefore, he argued, he was not responsible for his actions. The State countered Thompson's expert testimony by presenting expert testimony to the effect that Thompson was not in a dissociative state when he committed the murders."

Thompson, 153 So.3d at 101-02.

Standard of Review

Thompson appeals the circuit court's summary dismissal of his Rule 32 petition attacking his capital-murder convictions and sentence of death. According to Rule 32.3, Ala. R. Crim. P., "[t]he petitioner shall have the burden of pleading and proving by a preponderance of the evidence the facts necessary to entitle the petitioner to relief."

Rule 32.6(b), Ala. R. Crim. P., addresses the burden of pleading and states:

"Each claim in the petition must contain a clear and specific statement of the grounds upon which relief is sought, including full disclosure of the factual basis of those grounds. A bare allegation that a constitutional right has been violated and mere conclusions of law shall not be sufficient to warrant any further proceedings."

(Emphasis added.)

"The burden of pleading under Rule 32.3 and Rule 32.6(b) is a heavy one. Conclusions unsupported by specific facts will not satisfy the requirements of Rule 32.3 and Rule 32.6(b). The full factual basis for the claim must be included in the petition itself. If, assuming every factual allegation in a Rule 32 petition to be true, a court cannot determine whether the petitioner is entitled to relief, the petitioner has not satisfied the burden of pleading under Rule 32.3 and Rule 32.6(b). See Bracknell v. State, 883 So.2d 724 (Ala. Crim. App. 2003)."

Hyde v. State, 950 So.2d 344, 356 (Ala. Crim. App. 2006). "The pleading requirements of Rule 32 apply equally to capital cases in which the death penalty has been imposed." Taylor v. State, 157 So.3d 131, 140 (Ala. Crim. App. 2010).

"The sufficiency of pleadings in a Rule 32 petition is a question of law. ‘The standard of review for pure questions of law in criminal cases is de novo. Ex parte Key, 890 So.2d 1056, 1059 (Ala. 2003).’ "

310 So.3d 860

Ex parte Beckworth, 190 So.3d 571, 573 (Ala. 2013).

"Although postconviction proceedings are civil in nature, they are governed by the Alabama Rules of Criminal Procedure. See Rule 32.4, Ala. R. Crim. P. The ‘notice pleading’ requirements relative to civil cases do not apply to Rule 32 proceedings. ‘Unlike the general requirements related to civil cases, the pleading requirements for postconviction petitions are more stringent....’ Daniel v. State, 86 So.3d 405, 410–11 (Ala. Crim. App. 2011). Rule 32.6(b), Ala. R. Crim. P., requires that full facts be pleaded in the petition if the petition is to survive summary dismissal. See Daniel, supra. Thus, to satisfy the requirements for pleading as they relate to postconviction petitions, Washington was required to plead full facts to support each individual claim."

Washington v. State, 95 So.3d 26, 59 (Ala. Crim. App. 2012). In discussing the pleading requirements of Rule 32.6(b), Ala. R. Crim. P., we have stated:

" ‘ Rule 32.6(b) requires that the petition itself disclose the facts relied upon in seeking relief.’ Boyd v. State, 746 So.2d 364, 406 (Ala. Crim. App. 1999). In other words, it is not the pleading of a conclusion ‘which, if true, entitle[s] the petitioner to relief.’ Lancaster v. State, 638 So.2d 1370, 1373 (Ala. Crim. App. 1993). It is the allegation of facts in pleading which, if true, entitle a petitioner to relief. After facts are pleaded, which, if true, entitle the petitioner to relief, the petitioner is then entitled to an opportunity, as provided in Rule 32.9, Ala. R. Crim. P., to present evidence proving those alleged facts."

Boyd v. State, 913 So.2d 1113, 1125 (Ala. Crim. App. 2003).

The majority of claims raised by Thompson in his amended petition involve allegations that his counsel's performance was deficient at his trial and sentencing. When considering a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel we apply the standard articulated by the United States Supreme Court in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed.2d 674 (1984). The petitioner must establish: (1) that counsel's performance was deficient; and (2) that he was prejudiced by that deficient performance. When pleading claims of ineffective assistance of counsel, this Court has stated:

"To sufficiently plead an allegation of ineffective assistance of counsel, a Rule 32 petitioner not only must ‘identify the [specific] acts or omissions of counsel that are alleged not to have been the result of reasonable professional judgment,’ Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 690, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed.2d 674 (1984), but also must plead specific facts indicating that he or she was prejudiced by the acts or omissions, i.e., facts indicating ‘that there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different.’ 466 U.S. at 694, 104 S.Ct. 2052. A bare allegation that prejudice occurred without specific facts indicating how the petitioner was prejudiced is not sufficient."

Hyde v. State, 950 So.2d 344, 356 (Ala. Crim. App. 2006).

"[T]o satisfy the burden of pleading a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, a petitioner cannot merely allege that prejudice occurred or that there was some conceivable effect on the outcome of the trial; a petitioner must allege ‘specific facts indicating how the petitioner was prejudiced,’ i.e., how the outcome of the trial would

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