from Etowah Circuit Court (CC-07-480.80)
WINDOM, Presiding Judge.
Andre Towles appeals his capital-murder conviction and
sentence of death. Towles was convicted of murder made
capital for the intentional killing of Geontae Glass, who was
under the age of 14. See § 13A-5-40(a)(15), Ala
Code 1975. The jury unanimously recommended that the circuit
court sentence Towles to death. The circuit court followed
the jury's recommendation and sentenced Towles to death.
was involved in a romantic relationship with Shalinda Glass.
Shalinda had two children, Geontae Glass and Shaliyah Glass.
The children considered Towles their father. Shalinda and her
children sometimes spent the night at her apartment. They,
however, often spent their nights with Towles at one of his
two houses -- one located on Broad Street in Albertville and
the other located on Shady Grove Road in Boaz.
December 2006, Geontae was a five-year-old boy in
kindergarten at John S. Jones Elementary School in Etowah
County. Kelly Page, Geontae's teacher, used a system to
grade her students' conduct each day. Under her system,
students who had behaved well received a smiling face,
students who had received a warning or two for their behavior
received a straight face, and students who had not behaved
received a frowning face. On Friday, December 1, 2006, Page
gave Geontae a straight face. Upon receiving the straight
face, Geontae became upset, cried, and said that his
"daddy [was] going to spank [him] when [he got]
home." (R. 1898.)
Saturday after Geontae had brought home the straight face on
his conduct report, the family went to a barbeque restaurant
that Towles owned and operated. While at the restaurant,
Towles and/or Shalinda punished Geontae by making him stand
in the corner all day. That night, Towles, Shalinda, and the
children left the restaurant and went to spend the night at
Towles's Shady Grove residence.
following morning, Shaliyah woke up and watched television in
the den. While she was watching television, Shaliyah saw
Towles lead Geontae through the den and outside of the house.
Shaliyah heard Towles say that Geontae "had to
pay." (R. 2216.) Later, Shaliyah saw Towles carry
Geontae into the house, through the den, and toward some
rooms on the other side of the house. Shaliyah never saw
Geontae alive again.
Towles left Geontae in one of the rooms on the other side of
the house, he joined Shaliyah in the den. Shaliyah saw that
Towles was crying. Shaliyah watched television for a while,
and then asked Towles to let her ride a four-wheeler type,
all-terrain vehicle. Towles agreed, and the two of them rode
four-wheelers for the rest of the day. Both Towles and
Shaliyah testified that Towles took Geontae food Sunday
evening. At some point, Geontae died from injuries he had
received by being struck on the buttocks with a board.
Geontae died, Towles and Shalinda devised a plan in which
they would put Geontae's body in Shalinda's car,
drive to a gasoline station, and stage a car
theft/kidnapping. Thereafter, between 2:30 and 3:00 a.m. on
Monday, Towles called Bobby Spidell, an individual he had
known most of his life, and asked Spidell to come pick him
up. Spidell drove his blue pickup truck to Towles's Broad
Street residence, where he met Towles and Shalinda between
4:30 and 5:00 a.m., and they talked in the driveway for a
while. Thereafter, Towles got into Spidell's truck and
told Spidell to drive him to a Conoco brand gasoline station
on Baltimore Avenue in Albertville.
morning Shaliyah got ready for school. When Shaliyah got in
the car to go to school, Geontae's body was already in
the backseat. Shalinda told Shaliyah that Geontae was asleep
and to leave him alone. They then drove to the Conoco
gasoline station on Baltimore Avenue. When they arrived at
the gas station, Shalinda and Shaliyah left Geontae in the
car and went inside the store. Once inside the store,
Shaliyah tried to use the restroom, but it was out of order.
She then went with her mother to the store clerk to purchase
drinks and snacks.
Shalinda and Shaliyah were in the store, Spidell's truck
pulled into the parking lot of the gas station. A person
matching Towles's description got out of the truck, got
into Shalinda's car, and sped away, followed by the
truck. Meanwhile, Shalinda paid for Shaliyah's snacks,
and they went outside where they saw that the car was
missing. Shalinda then went to a pay telephone and telephoned
Towles. When Towles did not answer his telephone, Shalinda
telephoned 911 emergency and reported her car stolen and
Shalinda reported Geontae missing, an AMBER Alert was issued
for him, and City, County, and Federal law-enforcement
officers became involved in investigating his
whereabouts. Shalinda, Shaliyah, and Towles were all
interviewed by law-enforcement officers. During her
interview, Shaliyah described the residence where she had
been the preceding Sunday -- the Shady Grove residence. In
his interview, Towles omitted any information about the Shady
Grove residence but gave law-enforcement officers permission
to search his Broad Street residence. While searching the
Broad Street residence, officers noticed that the residence
did not match the description given to them by Shaliyah. The
officers also found a power bill for the Shady Grove
residence in the name of Towles's wife, Vicky Towles.
officers searched the Shady Grove residence and found
Shalinda's car with Geontae's body in the trunk. They
also found, among other things, illegal drugs, an assault
rifle, a pistol, a bulletproof vest, and $33, 382. After
officers located Geontae's body, Investigator Mike Jones
of the Etowah County Sheriff's Office and Agent Brenn
Tallent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation interviewed
Towles again. During the interview, Towles stated that he was
responsible for what had happened to Geontae and that he did
not want Shalinda charged in Geontae's death. Towles then
told the officers that two or three masked men came to his
Shady Grove residence to rob him and, during the robbery,
caused Geontae's death. Specifically, Towles told the
officers that he was outside his Shady Grove residence on
Sunday when masked men approached him and demanded that he
bring Geontae to them. Towles complied with the masked
men's demand. Once the men had Geontae, they demanded
money. Towles said he gave the men approximately $15, 000.
Before the men left, one of them took Geontae behind the
house and beat him while another masked man held Towles at
gunpoint. After the beating, Towles took Geontae inside the
residence. Towles said that he knew Geontae was injured and
planned to take Geontae to the doctor the next morning.
Geontae, however, died from his injuries.
Emily Ward, a state medical examiner, performed the autopsy
on Geontae. Dr. Ward noted injuries all over Geontae's
body that she considered to be nonlethal. Geontae had new
injuries and old injuries that had begun to heal. Dr. Ward
testified that Geontae's body had incisions to the right
buttock and thigh and that there was a large accumulation of
blood in the muscles in that area. Dr. Ward explained that
the accumulation of blood was significant because it
indicated that the injury was extremely forceful. Further,
the muscular damage sustained by Geontae caused an increase
in his bloodstream of myoglobin, which Dr. Ward classified as
a highly toxic substance capable of causing kidney failure.
Geontae's lower back did not appear to have injuries to
the skin, indicating that Geontae did not receive a direct
blow to that area. However, the force applied to the buttocks
was significant enough to cause hemorrhaging that reached
Geontae's spinal cord. Based on the level of hemorrhaging
in the nerve fibers of the lower portion of the spinal cord,
Dr. Ward surmised that Geontae's injuries resulted in
paralyzation. Dr. Ward testified that in her opinion Geontae
died of complications from blunt-force injuries but that he
could have survived had he received medical attention. Dr.
Ward further testified that a portion of the skin on
Geontae's buttocks was denuded. Dr. Ward testified that
the denuded-skin injury was consistent with having been
struck with a piece of wood.
the autopsy, officers went back to the Shady Grove residence
to search for any items that could have caused the injuries
that led to Geontae's death. In the backyard officers
found a four-foot long, two-inch by four-inch piece of lumber
with red/brown stains. The stains tested positive for blood.
Subsequent testing established that the stains contained
Towles has been sentenced to death, this Court must search
the record for "plain error." Rule 45A, Ala. R.
App. P., states:
"In all cases in which the death penalty has been
imposed, the Court of Criminal Appeals shall notice any
plain error or defect in the proceedings under
review, whether or not brought to the attention of the trial
court, and take appropriate appellate action by reason
thereof, whenever such error has or probably has adversely
affected the substantial right of the appellant."
Ex parte Brown, 11 So.3d 933 (Ala. 2008), the
Alabama Supreme Court explained:
"'"To rise to the level of plain error, the
claimed error must not only seriously affect a
defendant's 'substantial rights, ' but it must
also have an unfair prejudicial impact on the jury's
deliberations."' Ex parte Bryant, 951 So.2d
724, 727 (Ala. 2002) (quoting Hyde v. State, 778
So.2d 199, 209 (Ala.Crim.App.1998)). In United States v.
Young, 470 U.S. 1, 15 (1985), the United States Supreme
Court, construing the federal plain-error rule, stated:
"'The Rule authorizes the Courts of Appeals to
correct only "particularly egregious errors, "
United States v. Frady, 456 U.S. 152, 163 (1982),
those errors that "seriously affect the fairness,
integrity or public reputation of judicial proceedings,
" United States v. Atkinson, 297 U.S. , at
160 [(1936)]. In other words, the plain-error exception to
the contemporaneous-objection rule is to be "used
sparingly, solely in those circumstances in which a