Wynn v. State, CR-14-1261

CourtAlabama Court of Criminal Appeals
Writing for the CourtWELCH, Judge.
Citation246 So.3d 163
Parties Gregory R. WYNN v. STATE of Alabama
Decision Date09 September 2016
Docket NumberCR-14-1261

246 So.3d 163

Gregory R. WYNN
v.
STATE of Alabama

CR-14-1261

Court of Criminal Appeals of Alabama.

September 9, 2016
Rehearing Denied March 17, 2017
Certiorari Denied August 25, 2017


Alabama Supreme Court 1160534

246 So.3d 166

Patrick Mulvaney and Ryan Primerano, Atlanta, Georgia, for appellant.

Luther Strange, atty. gen., and James R. Houts, asst. atty. gen., for appellee.

WELCH, Judge.

246 So.3d 167

The appellant, Gregory R. Wynn, appeals the circuit court's dismissal of his petition for postconviction relief filed pursuant to Rule 32, Ala. R. Crim. P.

In August 1999, Wynn was convicted of murdering Denise Bliss during the course of a robbery and a burglary, offenses defined as capital by §§ 13A–5–40(a)(2) and 13A–5–40(a)(4), Ala. Code 1975. The jury unanimously recommended that Wynn be sentenced to death. The circuit court followed the jury's recommendation and sentenced Wynn to death. On direct appeal, this Court remanded the case to the circuit court for that court to vacate two of Wynn's capital-murder convictions on double-jeopardy grounds and to correct its sentencing order. On return to remand, we affirmed Wynn's convictions and sentence. See Wynn v. State, 804 So.2d 1122 (Ala.Crim.App.2000). This Court issued its certificate of judgment on June 1, 2001.

In March 2003, Wynn filed a timely petition for postconviction relief in the Calhoun Circuit Court. Wynn filed amendments to that petition in August 2003, September 2006, October 2012, and twice in April 2014.

In 2005, while Wynn's postconviction petition was pending in the Calhoun Circuit Court, the United States Supreme Court released its decision in Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551, 125 S.Ct. 1183, 161 L.Ed.2d 1 (2005). The Supreme Court held that a sentence of death for a juvenile who was under the age of 18 when he or she committed the offense was unconstitutional. Wynn was 17 years of age at the time of the offense; therefore, in accordance with the Supreme Court's decision in Roper, the circuit court vacated Wynn's death sentence and resentenced Wynn to a mandatory term of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

In May 2013, the circuit court summarily dismissed some of Wynn's postconviction claims. (CR. 1738-54.) An evidentiary hearing was held on the remaining claims in August 2014. In May 2015, the circuit court dismissed Wynn's postconviction petition in a 24-page order. (CR. 1738-54.) This appeal followed.

At Wynn's trial, the State's evidence showed that in the early morning hours of April 9, 1998, an employee of the Hardee's fast-food restaurant off McClellen Boulevard in Anniston opened the restaurant, discovered a pool of blood on the floor, and immediately telephoned police. Police discovered the body of Denise Bliss in the walk-in refrigerator. The forensic pathologist testified that Bliss had been severely beaten, that she had many defensive wounds, that 40 or more blows had been inflicted to her body, and that she died of multiple blunt-force trauma to her head and neck. Testimony established that Bliss had been beaten with a window washing device, commonly known as a squeegee, and a metal pipe that the restaurant used to compact its trash. Approximately $1,100 in currency, checks, and coins was missing from the restaurant.

The State's evidence presented against Wynn was compelling.1 There was testimony that Wynn had previously worked at Hardee's and that he had been fired by Bliss about two weeks before the murder. Two witnesses saw a black male very near Hardee's shortly before 10:00 p.m. on the night of the murder. At trial, one of those witnesses identified this male as Wynn. Randy Smith, a friend of Wynn's, testified that Wynn called him on the evening of April 8, 1998, and asked him for a ride to

246 So.3d 168

Hardee's because, he told Smith, he was going to rob the place and get some money. However, Smith said, he could not get his parents' car that evening.

Seven people testified that Wynn confessed to them that he robbed and killed a woman at the Hardee's restaurant. Brandy Mancil testified that in April 1998 she was living in a trailer park, that she was at Brandy Yott's trailer on April 8, 1998, and that Wynn was with them. Mancil said that Wynn left the trailer at around 10:00 p.m. that evening on his bicycle but that he came back to the trailer later that night. Wynn wanted to talk to her, she said, and he told her that he had "robbed Hardee's" and he showed her money that was in a "blue like bank bag." A little later, she said, he told her and Yott that he had killed a woman. Mancil testified to what Wynn told her:

"He said that he walked into Hardee's and that he was going to rob them but he changed his mind so he walked out. And then he got halfway towards like Fun Fever [an arcade] and he turned around and he said, ‘F––– it,’ that he was going to go ahead and do it. And he went in and he hid behind the bathroom doors in the women's bathroom because I guess he knew they checked it before it closed. When the lady opened the door she didn't see him so I guess she went ahead and locked up. And he went in the back. And I can't remember, it was some kind of iron pole off of like a garbage disposal or something and he said that he had beat her with it. And then he -- he didn't -- he told her to give him all the money first and he said he wasn't going to kill her until she said, ‘Greg, please don't kill me. I won't call the police.’ And then after she said that he got scared and panicked I guess and just started beating her with that pole. And then he told me -- he said he didn't know if he had killed her or not. So if he didn't kill her he [dragged] her in the freezer and she would freeze to death before anyone found her the next day."

(Trial R. 1107-08.)

Yott testified that in the early morning hours of April 9, 1998, Wynn came to the trailer where she was living to see her roommate Brandy Mancil. Yott said that she overheard Wynn tell Mancil that he had robbed somebody and "wanted to know if we wanted to go get a room." (Trial R. 1209.) Yott said that they went to a motel in Oxford, that Wynn paid for the room, and that Wynn gave her money to get beer. As Wynn was talking to them, she said, he told her and Mancil that he had "killed a woman" at Hardee's and that he had beaten her with a "stick or something." (Trial R. 1213.) The next morning, she said, they walked over to a mall and Wynn paid for all the purchases that they made that day.

Anthony Roper testified that he is a general manager for Hardee's. He testified that for each nightly deposit a number is recorded from the highest bill denomination that is deposited. The reason, he said, "is in case the deposit gets lost or if it’s stolen it [is] something the police could use to find it." (Trial R. 832.) Reginald Elston testified that the day Wynn was arrested he was at Brandy's trailer with Wynn and Wynn asked him to give him change for a hundred dollar bill. That bill was traced to the daily deposit that had been prepared by Bliss on the night of the murder.

A search was conducted of Wynn's house, which was approximately one mile from Hardee's. On April 11, 1998, police discovered torn checks made out to Hardee's and dated the day of the robbery/murder. Bloody clothing was also discovered at Wynn's house.

246 So.3d 169

Standard of Review

Wynn appeals the circuit court's denial of his petition for postconviction relief attacking his capital-murder conviction. Wynn initiated the proceedings and, according to Rule 32.3, Ala. R. Crim. P., bears the sole burden of pleading and proving that he is entitled to relief. Rule 32.3 states:

"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."

"The standard of review this Court uses in evaluating the rulings made by the trial court is whether the trial court abused its discretion." Hunt v. State, 940 So.2d 1041, 1049 (Ala.Crim.App.2005).

With these principles in mind, we review the issues raised by Wynn in his brief to this Court.

I.

Wynn first argues that the circuit court erred in refusing to allow him to amend his postconviction petition to add a new Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 83 S.Ct. 1194, 10 L.Ed.2d 215 (1963), claim 45 days before the scheduled evidentiary hearing. Specifically, Wynn argues that, according to the Alabama Supreme Court's decision in Ex parte Rhone, 900 So.2d 455 (Ala.2004), the only grounds that will support the denial of a motion to amend a postconviction petition are "actual prejudice" or "undue delay." Wynn's proposed amendment was 56 pages in length and argued that exculpatory evidence, in the form of witness statements, had not been disclosed for several of the state witnesses. (CR. 1989-2045.)2

In Ex parte Rhone, the appellant filed a pro se postconviction petition alleging that his trial counsel was ineffective. Two weeks later Rhone sought to amend that...

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3 practice notes
  • Bishop v. State, CR-19-0726
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
    • July 9, 2021
    ...to amend a postconviction petition may be harmless depending on the issue or issues raised in the proposed amendment." Wynn v. State, 246 So. 3d 163, 171 (Ala. Crim. App. 2016). Generally, this Court has held that the refusal to accept an amendment is harmless when the claim or claims raise......
  • Wynn v. State, CR-19-0589
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
    • May 28, 2021
    ...review, and we remanded the cause for the circuit court to vacate Wynn's sentence and to conduct a resentencing hearing. Wynn v. State, 246 So. 3d 163 (Ala. Crim. App. 2016). In doing so, we summarized the facts of the crime as follows:"At Wynn's trial, the State's evidence showed that in t......
  • Spain v. State, CR-19-0708
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
    • October 16, 2020
    ...was insufficiently pleaded, the circuit court's erroneous refusal to let Spain amend his petition was harmless. See, e.g., Wynn v. State, 246 So. 3d 163, 171 (Ala. Crim. App. 2016), and Wilson v. State, 911 So. 2d 40, 46 (Ala. Crim. App. 2005) (both holding that the refusal to accept an ame......
3 cases
  • Bishop v. State, CR-19-0726
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
    • July 9, 2021
    ...to amend a postconviction petition may be harmless depending on the issue or issues raised in the proposed amendment." Wynn v. State, 246 So. 3d 163, 171 (Ala. Crim. App. 2016). Generally, this Court has held that the refusal to accept an amendment is harmless when the claim or claims raise......
  • Wynn v. State, CR-19-0589
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
    • May 28, 2021
    ...review, and we remanded the cause for the circuit court to vacate Wynn's sentence and to conduct a resentencing hearing. Wynn v. State, 246 So. 3d 163 (Ala. Crim. App. 2016). In doing so, we summarized the facts of the crime as follows:"At Wynn's trial, the State's evidence showed that in t......
  • Spain v. State, CR-19-0708
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
    • October 16, 2020
    ...was insufficiently pleaded, the circuit court's erroneous refusal to let Spain amend his petition was harmless. See, e.g., Wynn v. State, 246 So. 3d 163, 171 (Ala. Crim. App. 2016), and Wilson v. State, 911 So. 2d 40, 46 (Ala. Crim. App. 2005) (both holding that the refusal to accept an ame......

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