Woods v. State

Decision Date29 April 2016
Docket NumberCR–10–0695.
Citation221 So.3d 1125
Parties Nathaniel WOODS. v. STATE of Alabama.
CourtAlabama Supreme Court

John L. Carroll (withdrew 09/15/2014) and LaJuana Davis, Birmingham, for appellant.

Luther Strange, atty. gen., and Stephanie E. Reiland and Lauren A. Simpson, asst. attys. gen., for appellee.

WELCH, Judge.

Nathaniel Woods, an inmate on death row at Holman Correctional Facility, appeals the Jefferson 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 sentence of death.

In December 2005, Woods was convicted of four counts of capital murder for murdering Birmingham Police Officers Carlos Owen, Harley A. Chisholm III,* and Charles R. Bennett, while they were on duty, and for murdering the three officers pursuant to one scheme or course of conduct, violations of § 13A–5–40(a)(5) and 13A–5–40(a)(10), Ala.Code 1975.1 Woods was also convicted of attempting to murder Officer Michael Collins. The jury recommended, by a vote of 10 to 2, that Woods be sentenced to death for his capital-murder convictions. The circuit court followed the jury's recommendation and sentenced Woods to death. Woods was sentenced to life imprisonment for the attempted-murder conviction.2

On direct appeal, this Court initially remanded the case to the circuit court for that court to correct its sentencing order. See Woods v. State, 13 So.3d 1 (Ala.Crim.App.2007). On return to remand, we affirmed Woods's convictions and sentence of death. See Woods v. State, 13 So.3d at 41 (opinion on return to remand). Woods neither filed an application for rehearing in this Court or a petition for a writ of certiorari to the Alabama Supreme Court; therefore, this Court issued a certificate of judgment on January 9, 2008. See Rule 41(a), Ala. R.App. P.

In May 2008, this Court was notified that Woods had attempted to file an out-of-time appeal in the Alabama Supreme Court. On May 6, 2008, the Supreme Court notified Woods and this Court that it would not consider that motion until this Court had denied a motion to file an out-of-time application for rehearing. On May 9, 2008, more than five months after this Court affirmed Woods's convictions, Woods moved that this Court set aside the certificate of judgment issued in January 2008 and allow him to file an application for rehearing. The State opposed this motion. In October 2008, this Court denied Woods's motion. In August 2009, the Alabama Supreme Court denied Woods's motion for an out-of-time appeal to that court.

Meanwhile, in December 2008, Woods filed a petition for postconviction relief in the Jefferson Circuit Court and a request that the circuit court stay the proceedings until the Alabama Supreme Court issued a ruling on his request for an out-of-time appeal. The circuit court granted Woods's motion and stayed the Rule 32 proceedings. In December 2010, after the Supreme Court denied Woods's request for an out-of-time appeal, the circuit court issued an 80–page order dismissing Woods's Rule 32, Ala. R.Crim. P., petition. This appeal followed.

In its order sentencing Woods to death, the circuit court set out the following facts surrounding the triple homicide:

"On June 17th, 2004 Birmingham police officers Carlos Owen, Harley A. Chisholm III, Charles R. Bennett and Michael Collins went to an apartment located at 1619 18th Street, Ensley, Birmingham, Alabama, to serve an arrest warrant on a Nathaniel Woods, who had been identified earlier in the day by these officers as being at this location. Prior to the officers's arrival at this location, a dispatcher at Fairfield Police Department verified that an assault warrant was valid and unserved on Woods. The officers obtained an NCIC [National Crime Information Center] printout of the outstanding charges and a photo of Nathaniel Woods. The location of the apartment where the officers had earlier contact with Nathaniel Woods was in an area comprised primarily of residential homes just a few blocks from the West Precinct of the Birmingham Police Department.
"Officers Carlos Owen and Michael Collins went to the rear door of the apartment, and Officers Chisholm and Bennett went to the front door of the apartment. Nathaniel Woods came to the rear door with the screen door still in place between the officers and Woods. Officer Owen informed Woods that he had an outstanding warrant for his arrest. Woods responded with, ‘F–––– you. I don't have no warrant.’
"Woods was told several times that they had a warrant for his arrest. Officer Chisholm came around to the back of the apartment and from outside the screen door showed Woods the NCIC report and his photo. Woods responded, ‘That's not me. F–––– that.’ He then turned and retreated into the apartment. Officer Chisholm opened the screen door to go after Woods. He was followed by Officer Owen and Officer Collins. While the officers were attempting to take Woods into custody in the doorway between the kitchen and the living room area of the apartment, Officer Collins heard Woods say, ‘Don't spray me with that mace.’ At about the same time, Officer Collins heard a radio transmission from Officer Bennett, wherein Bennett yelled, They are coming out the front.’
"Officer Collins turned and was leaving through the back screen door of the apartment to assist Officer Bennett at the front when he heard gunfire from inside the apartment and felt something hit him on his right side. He stood outside the apartment for a few seconds, and put out a radio broadcast, ‘Shots fired. Double aught. Officer down.’
"He could tell bullets were coming out the back door hitting different objects around him and knew he was being shot at by someone from inside the apartment. He took cover behind his patrol car and saw a male he later determined to be the co-defendant, Kerry Spencer, just outside the back door shooting at him with an SKS rifle."

(Trial Record, C.R. 92–94.)3

In this Court's opinion on Woods's direct appeal, we detailed the overwhelming evidence that was presented against Woods to show that Woods was an accomplice to the shootings:

"The State established that Woods and Spencer had engaged in a hostile, profanity-laced argument with Officers Owen and Collins on the morning of the shootings, and that Woods threatened Officer Owen by stating: ‘Take off that badge and I will f–––– you up.’ (R. 501.) Officer Sanders testified that Officer Chisolm had told him that Woods had taunted the police by saying, ‘You can't get me,’ and then running into the apartment. (R. 639.) Marquita McClure and Markesha Williams testified that, after the police left, Woods stated that he would kill the police. Fernando Belser testified that Spencer said that if the police did not stop harassing him, he would ‘light ‘em up,’ and that Woods had said [b]asically the same thing’ Spencer had said. (R. 762.) McClure asked Woods to leave the apartment with her, but Woods told her that he wanted to stay with Spencer in case the police came back.
"Officer Collins testified that when the officers returned to the apartment to arrest Woods, a man who had been outside said that he wanted no part of what was to take place. When the officers told Woods that they had a warrant for his arrest and attempted to take him into custody, Woods cursed them and refused to come outside. He told the officers, ‘If you come in here, we'll f–––– you up.’ (R. 694.) He then turned and ran toward the back of the apartment, causing the officers to pursue him to the doorway between the kitchen and the living room. Belser had previously testified that no one went beyond the kitchen area of the apartment unless Woods or Spencer invited them, and he said that anyone who did so could ‘get hurt pretty bad’ or ‘something could happen to them.’ (R. 754.) Spencer appeared with the assault rifle, and he fired it repeatedly, shooting Officers Owen and Chisolm multiple times. Woods told Spencer that another officer was at the front door, and Spencer turned and also shot Officer Bennett multiple times.
"Spencer and Woods ran from the apartment together; they ran to John Prather's house because Woods knew Prather. After they burst into Prather's house, Spencer and Woods let Prather know that he would be compensated for letting them stay there, and Prather deduced that the pair had been involved in the shooting nearby. Woods told Spencer, ‘You came through for me,’ Prather said. (R. 842.) Michael Scott was inside Prather's house when Woods and Spencer entered, and he heard Woods say something like, "They f––––ed with the wrong niggers. We shot their asses." (R. 860.) Scott described Woods's demeanor as calm, not upset, when he made this statement.
"After Woods was arrested, Officer Owen's weapon was recovered from Prather's house, behind a heater near where Woods had been sitting. Although Spencer testified at his trial that he took Officer Owen's gun before he left the apartment, in his statement to the police on the afternoon of the shooting, Spencer denied taking the weapon, thus permitting an inference that Woods walked into the kitchen after the shooting and took the officer's weapon before he and Spencer left the apartment."

13 So.3d at 28–29.

Standard of Review

Woods appeals the circuit court's summary dismissal of his Rule 32 petition. 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; in December 2010 it provided:

"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

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    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
    • July 10, 2020
    ...services of an expert, the petitioner must identify the expert by name and plead his/her expected testimony." Woods v. State, 221 So. 3d 1125, 1138-39 (Ala. Crim. App. 2016).Here, Brooks did not identify, by name, any expert witness his trial counsel should have hired to examine the "gun/ba......
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  • Saunders v. State
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    ...the petitioner include in its pleading the expert's identity and the content of that expert's expected testimony." Woods v. State, 221 So.3d 1125, 1137 (Ala. Crim. App. 2016). See also Daniel v. State, 86 So.3d 405 (Ala. Crim. App. 2011) ; Windsor v. State, 89 So.3d 805 (Ala. Crim. App. 200......
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