United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Southern Division
RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE
F. MOORER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Terae Stefun Freeman (“Freeman”), an inmate of
the Alabama Department of Corrections, filed this petition
for habeas corpus relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254,
challenging his convictions and sentences in the Circuit
Court for Houston County, Alabama, for two counts of
first-degree robbery, one count of first-degree assault, and
one count of second-degree assault. Doc. 1. The court
recommends that the petition be denied and the case
found Freeman guilty in the robbery and assault of James
Boswell and James Freeman. Docs. 8-1 at 90-93, 8-7 at 2. The
trial court order him to pay fines and Victim's
Compensation Assessments. It sentenced him to twenty years in
prison for the robbery convictions and ten years in prison
for the assault convictions, to be served consecutively, for
a total of sixty years in prison. Docs 8-1 at 105-08, 8-7 at
appealed, arguing “the trial court exceeded its
discretion in limiting the closing arguments to 15 minutes
for each party.” Docs. 8-5 at 5-24, 8-7 at 3. In
particular, Freeman argued the case was complicated because
one of the victims also had the last name Freeman, and both
victims had the same first time. Doc. 8-7 at 3. In addition,
he argued, the case was complicated because it involved two
robberies and two assaults. Id. Finally, he argued
the assault charges could confuse the jury because
first-degree assault required “serious physical
injury” and second-degree assault required only
“physical injury, ” and the terms needed to be
defined to the jury. Id.; see also Doc. 8-5
Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals rejected the issue raised
on the ground that Freeman did not preserve it for appellate
review by making a timely, specific objection and obtaining
an adverse ruling on it. Doc. 8-7 at 3-5. Under the law in
Alabama, it explained:
“‘To preserve an issue for appellate review, the
issue must be timely raised and specifically presented to the
trial court and an adverse ruling obtained. The purpose of
requiring an issue to be preserved for review is to allow the
trial court the first opportunity to correct any error.'
Mitchell v. State, 913 So.2d 501, 505
(Ala.Crim.App.2005). ‘A motion for a new trial will not
preserve for appellate review issues that arose during trial
that were not objected to at the time they arose.'
Glass v. State, 14 So.3d 188, 194
Id. (quoting Cochran v. State, 111 So.3d
148, 153-54 (Ala.Crim.App.2012)). The Court of Criminal
Appeals recounted several opportunities when Freeman's
counsel could have, but did not, object to the time limit for
closing arguments and obtain an adverse ruling on it.
the trial court informed the parties they had only fifteen
minutes for closing arguments. Id. at 3. Counsel did
not object. Id. After the trial court handled an
objection by the prosecution during the defense's
closing, the trial court told defense counsel,
“You've got a minute and thirty seconds [Defense
Counsel].” Id. (alteration in original).
Counsel did not object. Id.
counsel first objected at the end of his own closing
argument, stating, “And I would object to not having
additional time.” Id. Counsel did not,
however, obtain a ruling on the objection or explain the
grounds for the objection. Id. at 5.
the jury began deliberating, defense counsel objected for a
second time to the fifteen-minute limit on closing arguments.
Id. at 3. Counsel explained the time limit affected
the defense more than the prosecution, especially because the
four separate charges were serious, and counsel did not have
enough time to cover the issues and evidence in fifteen
minutes. Id. at 4. The trial court responded,
“Your objection is noted.” Id. Again,
counsel did not obtain an adverse ruling. Id. at
4-5. The Court of Criminal Appeals pointed out that
Freeman's objection after the jury began deliberating was
too late for the court to correct the error. Id. at
5. It also pointed out that although Freeman's counsel
offered several reasons against the fifteen-minute limit when
he objected after the jury began deliberating, counsel did
not raise two of the three bases for the objection that
Freeman raised in his appeal. Id. at 5.
counsel argued in his posttrial motion that the trial
“court abused or exceeded its discretion in limiting
closing arguments to 15 minutes.” Id. at 4.
The trial court denied the motion. Id. The Court of
Criminal Appeals characterized this last objection as both
“lacking specificity” and unpreserved because the
issue “arose during trial but was not properly objected
to at the time it arose.” Id. at 5.
Court of Criminal Appeals went on to state that “there
is no indication that the trial court exceeded its
discretion.” Id. It explained, “Freeman
argues concerning what may have been confusing to the jury;
however, he makes no argument as to what he might have argued
to negate the jury's confusion or how more time would
have been beneficial.” Id. The Court of
Criminal appeals added that Freeman's arguments regarding
time limits on his closing argument were not preserved for
review, but trial courts do not have unlimited discretion in
setting time restraints for arguments. Id. It listed
certain circumstances where such limits might constitute an
abuse of discretion that denies a defendant due process and
the right to present the defendant's case to the jury.
Id. at 5-6.
Court of Criminal Appeals denied rehearing. The Alabama
Supreme Court denied further review. A certificate of