Wash v. State

Decision Date27 April 2012
Docket NumberCR–07–1351.
Citation95 So.3d 26
PartiesCharlie WASHINGTON v. STATE of Alabama.
CourtAlabama Court of Criminal Appeals


Bonnie Lee Branum, Birmingham; Matthew Lee Huffaker, Birmingham; Joyce P. Chang Anderson, Kevin M. Fee, Jeffrey D. Klingman, and Erin S. Mattson, Chicago, Illinois; Sharlene P.B. Hobson, Chicago, Illinois; and Thomas Reynolds Heisler, Chicago, Illinois, for appellant.

Troy King and Luther Strange, attys. gen., and James Clayton Crenshaw and Tina Coker Hammonds, asst. attys. gen., for appellee.

JOINER, Judge.1

Charlie Washington, an inmate on death row at Holman Correctional Facility, appeals the Elmore Circuit Court's denial of his petition for postconviction relief filed pursuant to Rule 32, Ala. R.Crim. P.

In January 2004, Washington was convicted of murdering Julian and Florence McKinnon pursuant to one scheme or course of conduct and during the course of a robbery and a burglary. The jury, by a vote of 10 to 2, recommended that Washington be sentenced to death. The circuit court followed the jury's recommendation and sentenced Washington to death. Washington's convictions and sentence of death were affirmed on direct appeal. See Washington v. State, 922 So.2d 145 (Ala.Crim.App.2005), cert. denied,546 U.S. 1142, 126 S.Ct. 1152, 163 L.Ed.2d 1008 (2006). We issued the certificate of judgment, making Washington's direct appeal final, on August 19, 2005.

In August 2006, Washington filed a timely petition for postconviction relief attacking his convictions and death sentence. He filed an amended petition in October 2006. In July 2007, the circuit court dismissed the majority of the claims raised in the amended petition and held an evidentiary hearing on the remaining claims—claims related to the performance of his counsel at the penalty phase of his capital-murder trial. In March 2008, the circuit court denied the claims presented at the evidentiary hearing. Washington appealed to this Court. SeeRule 32.10, Ala. R.Crim. P.

In this Court's opinion on direct appeal, we stated the following facts surrounding the double homicide:

“Washington worked for the McKinnons as a handyman, helping the McKinnons maintain their home and property in Millbrook. On Monday, January 20, 2003, Washington drove Mr. McKinnon to Clio in Mr. McKinnon's Chevrolet Suburban sport-utility vehicle, where Mr. McKinnon sold a piece of land he owned in Clio to Joe Carpenter. Outside the presence of Washington, Carpenter gave Mr. McKinnon $10,000 in cash, wrapped in a thousand-dollar money wrapper, as partial payment for the land; the cash was predominately in $100 bills, but also contained $10 and $20 bills. Mr. McKinnon put the money in his coat pocket and, pursuant to a prearranged agreement between Carpenter and Mr. McKinnon, when the two returned to Washington's presence, Carpenter told Mr. McKinnon that he would mail Mr. McKinnon a check for the land. Before leaving Clio, Mr. McKinnon and Washington stopped at a tractor repair shop, where Mr. McKinnon purchased a leveling arm. Mr. McKinnon paid for the leveling arm with a $100 bill he took from his wallet.

“Mr. McKinnon and Washington returned to the McKinnons' residence in Millbrook that afternoon at approximately 4:00 p.m., where Mrs. McKinnon was entertaining guests. Because guests were there, instead of driving Washington, who did not have a car at that time, to his home in Montgomery, Mr. McKinnon allowed Washington to borrow his Volkswagen Jetta automobile to drive home. That evening, at approximately 8:00 p.m., Ernestine Howard, Washington's live-in girlfriend, telephoned the McKinnons looking for Washington, who had not yet returned home. Mr. McKinnon informed Howard that he had lent his car to Washington and that Washington had left the McKinnons' residence at approximately 5:00 p.m. Later that evening, at approximately 10:00 p.m., Mr. McKinnon telephoned Howard and asked if Washington had made it home yet; he had not.

“At approximately 9:00 a.m. the next morning, Tuesday, January 21, 2003, Howard telephoned the McKinnons; she received a busy signal. Joe Carpenter also attempted to telephone Mr. McKinnon several times on Tuesday, January 21, but received a busy signal each time. The McKinnons' daughter also received a busy signal on January 21 when she tried to reach her parents. On the morning of Wednesday, January 22, 2003, Carpenter drove from Clio to Millbrook to meet with Mr. McKinnon to complete the sale of the land. On the drive, Carpenter telephoned Mr. McKinnon several times from his cellular telephone and again received a busy signal. When Carpenter arrived at the McKinnons' residence in Millbrook, he knocked on the door, but no one came to the door. While Carpenter was at the McKinnons' residence, Howard arrived looking for Washington, whom she had not seen since Monday morning, January 20, when she had driven him to the McKinnons' residence for work. Howard also knocked on the McKinnons' door, but no one came to the door. Carpenter then telephoned the McKinnons' daughter, who told Carpenter where the spare key to the house was located and asked Carpenter to check on her parents. Upon entering the home Carpenter discovered Mrs. McKinnon's body; he immediately left the home and telephoned emergency 911.

“Law-enforcement officers from the Millbrook Police Department and the Alabama Bureau of Investigation (‘the ABI’) responded to the report. Mrs. McKinnon's body was found at the base of the staircase leading to the second floor of the house; she appeared to have suffered blunt-force trauma. There were bloodstains and splattered blood on the staircase and several gouges in the stairs at the top of the staircase, indicating that Mrs. McKinnon had been attacked at the top of the stairs, and that the attacker, while striking Mrs. McKinnon, missed her and hit the stairs. Mr. McKinnon's body was discovered in the master bedroom on the second floor; he also appeared to have suffered blunt-force trauma. Several coins—mainly foreign coins, but also some United States half-dollar coins—were found near his body. The telephone in the master bedroom was on the floor, off the hook, and a thousand-dollar money wrapper was found in the master bathroom. The house had been ransacked, and a window in the kitchen area was broken and open. The shattered glass from the window was inside the house, indicating that the window had been broken from the outside; the broken pane of glass was the pane directly above the latch, indicating that the perpetrator had broken the glass and reached in to unlatch and then open the window in order to gain entry into the residence. An autopsy revealed that Mr. and Mrs. McKinnon had both died from blunt-force trauma to the head, which had resulted in skull fractures and brain damage. In addition, Mrs. McKinnon suffered blunt-force trauma to her back, which broke every one of her ribs. The medical examiner testified that the murder weapon was most likely a hard, dense object or tool.

“During the initial investigation at the scene, law-enforcement officers spoke with both Carpenter and Howard. They learned that Washington had been employed by the McKinnons; that Washington had traveled with Mr. McKinnon to Clio on Monday, January 20; that Mr. McKinnon had received $10,000 in cash at that time for the sale of land; that the McKinnons' Jetta was missing from the house and had been loaned to Washington sometime earlier in the week; and that Howard had not seen Washington in two days. The $10,000 was not found in the house or anywhere on the McKinnons' property, and law enforcement issued a BOLO—be on the lookout—for the Jetta. That afternoon, patrol officers with the Montgomery Police Department saw the Jetta in the parking lot of John's Motel on Air Base Boulevard in Montgomery. When the officers learned that Washington had rented a room at the motel, they knocked on the door and arrested Washington when he opened the door. During a subsequent search of the motel room, law-enforcement personnel discovered $1,700 in cash, mostly in $100 bills, crack cocaine, a black baseball-style cap, and various articles of clothing. In the Jetta, they found an additional $6,300 in cash, all in $100 bills, as well as several United States half-dollar coins and one foreign coin.

“Washington was taken to ABI headquarters where he was interviewed. In his statement, Washington stated that Mr. McKinnon had loaned him the Jetta; that he had driven a friend to Atlanta on the night of Monday, January 20, to purchase drugs; that, on the way, they stopped at a truck stop at the Wire Road exit on Interstate 85; that he had ‘had words' with a waitress at the truck stop regarding his order (C. 289); and that his friend had given him $2,500 in cash for making the trip. Washington did not provide the name of the friend he had allegedly driven to Atlanta. After Washington gave his statement, law-enforcement personnel obtained a search warrant for the clothes Washingtonwas wearing as well as fingernail clippings from Washington. Subsequently, on February 6, 2003, law-enforcement personnel obtained a seizure order for samples of Washington's hair and saliva.


The State presented evidence indicating that a hair found clenched in Mr. McKinnon's left hand was the same size, color, and shape of Washington's hair; that a smear of blood on the doorframe between the dining room and the laundry room in the McKinnons' residence contained Washington's DNA; that a bloodstain on the shirt Washington was wearing when he gave his statement contained both Mr. McKinnon and Mrs. McKinnon's DNA, as well as Washington's DNA; and that a bloodstain on one of Washington's socks found in the motel room contained Mr. McKinnon's DNA. The McKinnons' DNA was not found on the jeans Washington was wearing when he gave his statement and no DNA at all was found on the boots Washington was wearing. No fingerprints were found in the McKinnons' residence and no blood was found in the...

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