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Revells v. Wise

United States District Court, Middle District of Alabama, Eastern Division

September 24, 2014

WARDEN DAVID WISE, et al., Respondents.



Before the court is a 28 U.S.C. § 2254 petition for habeas corpus relief filed on July 25, 2011, by Petitioner Johnathan Ray Revells (“Revells”), an inmate of the Alabama Department of Corrections.[1] In this petition, Revells challenges his conviction for capital murder imposed on him by the Circuit Court of Lee County, Alabama on March 7, 2007. After reviewing the § 2254 petition, Respondents’ answers, and Petitioner’s responses, the court concludes that no evidentiary hearing is required, and that the petition is due to be denied in accordance with the provisions of Rule 8(a), Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in United States District Courts.


On September 23, 2004, Revells was indicted for capital murder in violation of Ala. Code § 13A-5-40(a)(2) (1975). In an unpublished opinion on direct appeal, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals set forth the pertinent, undisputed facts surrounding the crime.

On August 25, 2004, Revells, who was under the influence of crack cocaine, shot and killed his neighbor, Leroy Jones, as Jones sat on his front porch. Revells went into Jones’s house and took Jones’s wallet, a knife, and the keys to Jones’s Mercedes. Revells left the scene in the Mercedes.
Before anyone in law enforcement was aware of the events at Jones’s house, a Lee County sheriff’s deputy saw the Mercedes traveling at a high rate of speed and gave chase. She lost sight of the car but heard a crash. She came upon the car, which had been wrecked, but no one was inside or near the car.
Sheriff’s deputies found blood and Jones’s wallet inside the car. Law enforcement officials traced the Mercedes’s license plate and found the car was registered to Jones. A deputy was dispatched to Jones’s home, and that is when Jones’s body was discovered.
A day after Jones was killed, Revell[s] was seen coming out of the woods at his grandmother’s home. By this time, officials had placed Revells’s grandmother’s home under surveillance. On September 1, 2004, Donnie Surrett and Eric McCane, investigators with the Lee County Sheriff’s Department, saw Revells driving his grandmother’s pickup truck. They followed the truck and a short, high-speed chase ensued. Revells suddenly stopped, got out of the truck and ran into the woods. The investigators stopped, and Surrett ran after him. Revells stopped and raised his hands, but he refused Surrett’s demand that he lie down on the ground.
Revells and Surrett began struggling with each other. Both Revells and Surrett received minor injuries in the struggle. Two other law enforcement officials arrived and helped Surrett place handcuffs on Revells.
Revells was taken back to the street, where he was treated for his injuries. He was arrested on outstanding warrants for drug offenses. Although he was a suspect in Jones’s murder, he was not placed under arrest in connection with the murder. The evidence is undisputed that, at the time of his arrest, Revells was not advised of his rights pursuant to Miranda v. Arizona, 38 U.S. 436 (1966) because authorities did not intend to interrogate him at that time.
Revells was taken to the jail in Opelika. The next morning, investigators questioned Revells. At that time, he confessed to killing Jones.

(Doc. # 11, Ex 4 at 2-3).[2]

When Revells was arrested, he made statements to Van Jackson (“Jackson”), an investigator with the Lee County Sheriff’s Department. The trial court conducted a suppression hearing on the admissibility of the statements Revells provided to Jackson.

During the suppression hearing held in the trial court, Revells challenged Jackson’s failure to read him his Miranda[3] rights when he was initially arrested on the outstanding drug warrants. The relevant portion of the suppression hearing transcript provides as follows:

Q. Was he placed under arrest concerning outstanding felony warrants for possession of drugs?
A. Yes, sir, he was.
Q. When he was brought out of the woods, did you have any contact with him?
A. I did.
Q. Prior to that, I guess, having any conversation with him, did you advise him of his constitutional rights?
A. No, sir.
Q. Did you have any intention to even interview him at that point?
A. No, sir.
Q. Did he spontaneously make a statement to you?
A. He did.
Q. And what did he say?
A. When he – when they brought him out of the woods, he was in handcuffs. He had some injuries, so we had asked for some medical attention to see if we could get some treatment done to some of his injuries, and while we were standing in the roadway, Mr. Revels was standing there next to me, and, of course, I am familiar with Mr. Revels, and he told me that – he said, well, I guess if you had put me in jail before, all this stuff wouldn’t have happened, was the initiating comment made to me by Mr. Revels.
Q. Did you reply back to him?
A. Sure. I told him, I said, well, you know, it could, but you just don’t ever know.
Q. Did he make any comment back to you?
A. Yes. He at that point said that, well – he told me that it really probably wouldn’t have mattered if he had been in jail or not because he probably would have made bond. But he told me that the crack – he said that that stuff really had a hold on him; that – that – he said that he had tried to make an attempt to contact – that he called the person Bobby, but he referring to Investigator Yates; Donnie Yates that works in the investigative division as a Sergeant now. He said that he had made a couple of attempt (sic) to contact him; that he could have been some help to us because he knew all the people that was dealing drugs, and that he had been dealing with them for so long. He also said that after he couldn’t make contact with Bobby, that – that he just decided that we were going to go ahead and arrest him, anyway, and at that point he said that – he thought he was going to spend a long time in jail because of all this stuff that had happened.
Q. During that whole series of events, what you have related just then, you had never asked him a question? Correct?
A. No, I did not.
Q. You did respond to what he was spontaneously saying to you?
A. Sure, I did.
Q. After he made that last statement, did you cease any further conversation unless he volunteered something?
A. Sure. Right around the time that he made the final comment about spending a long time in jail or being gone for a long time, the medical personnel, they did put some bandages on him and do some treatment on some of the scratches and injuries that he had, but he was placed in the patrol car and transported to the Lee County jail.

(Doc. # 13, Ex. 1 at 58-61).[4]

Revells was booked into the Lee County Detention Center where he was allowed to sleep and given food. The next day, Jackson interviewed Revells at the Lee County Detention Center. Prior to interviewing Revells, Jackson read him the Miranda warnings.

Immediately after advising him of his rights, Revells inquired about an attorney.[5]

A. Well, right after I advised him of his rights, I read him his rights, he said that he – he said, you know, I think I might want to wait for a lawyer, and he followed up from – when he said that with, would that take a long time. And I told him, no, that we could – we could try to get him a court appointed attorney, and I don’t know how long it would take, but we could do it as soon as possible.
Q. At that point, did you cease questioning him?
A. No. Well, you know, I was waiting for him to decide what he wanted to do. And ...

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