United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Eastern Division
court entered a Memorandum of Opinion and Order of Dismissal
on May 26, 2016, denying Jimmy Davis's petition for writ
of habeas corpus relief from his state conviction
for capital murder and resultant death sentence, and denying
a certificate of appealability.
subsequently filed a timely motion to alter, vacate, or amend
the judgment pursuant to Rule 59(e) of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure. This opinion addresses that motion.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
text of Rule 59(e) does not set forth specific grounds for
relief.Accordingly, the decision of whether the
prior judgment should be altered or amended is committed, at
least in the first instance, to the sound discretion of the
district court. See, e.g., American Home Assurance Co. v.
Glenn Estess & Associates, Inc., 763 F.2d 1237,
1238-39 (11th Cir. 1985).
only grounds for granting a Rule 59(e) motion are
newly-discovered evidence or manifest errors of law or fact.
United States v. Marion, 562 F.3d 1330, 1335 (11th
Cir. 2009) (citing Arthur v. King, 500 F.3d 1335,
1343 (11th Cir. 2007) (per curiam)).
Rule 59(e) motions may “‘not be used to
relitigate old matters or to present arguments or evidence
that could have been raised prior to judgment.'”
Wilchombe v. TeeVee Toons, Inc., 555 F.3d 949, 957
(11th Cir. 2009) (quoting Michael Linet, Inc. v. Village
of Wellington, Fla., 408 F.3d 757, 763 (11th Cir.
a judgment should not be altered or amended when it would
serve no useful purpose. See 11 Charles Alan Wright,
Arthur R. Miller & Mary Kay Kane, Federal Practice
and Procedure § 2810.1 (3d ed. 2012).
ISSUES PRESENTED FOR RULE 59(e) REVIEW
Does this Court's Decision Denying Relief on Davis's
Claim That Counsel Were Ineffective for
Failing to Obtain Mitigation Evidence Regarding His Childhood
Trauma and Depravity Conflict With the Eleventh Circuit's
Decision in Daniel v. Commissioner, Alabama Department of
Corrections, 822 F.3d 1248 (11th Cir. 2016)?
argues that the court should alter or amend its judgment
denying relief on his claim that his trial attorneys were
ineffective for failing to obtain mitigation evidence
regarding his childhood trauma and depravity because that
decision conflicts with the Eleventh Circuit's decision
in Daniel v. Commissioner, Alabama Department of
Corrections, 822 F.3d 1248 (11th Cir.
2016). He maintains that, under Daniel,
he met both the performance and prejudice prongs of
Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668
petitioner in Daniel argued that he received
ineffective assistance of counsel because his trial attorneys
failed to investigate and present mitigation evidence during
the penalty phase of his trial. See 822 F.3d at
1254. Carolyn Daniel, the petitioner's mother and sole
witness called by the defense, briefly testified as to
“some of the low points” in her son's
life. Less than three hours after the penalty
phase began, the jury returned a 10-2 verdict in favor of
imposing the death penalty. Id. Following a
sentencing hearing, Daniel was sentenced to death by the
trial court. Id. Daniel's convictions and
death sentence ultimately were upheld in the appellate
courts. Daniel v. State, 906 So.2d 991
(Ala.Crim.App.2004), cert. denied, id.
(Ala. 2005), cert. denied, sub nom. Daniel v.
Alabama, 546 U.S. 405 (2005).
timely filed with the aid of new counsel a Rule 32 petition
in the trial court. Daniel's second amended petition was
accompanied by twenty-one exhibits,
including school, mental health, and social service records,
along with other documentary evidence, all in support of Mr.
Daniel's allegations that if trial counsel had conducted
even a cursory investigation of his background, they would
have discovered compelling mitigating evidence.
Daniel, 822 F.3d at 1257. The trial court summarily
dismissed the petition without allowing discovery or
conducting an evidentiary hearing. Id. The Alabama
Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the trial court's
summary dismissal of the petition at the pleading stage
because Daniel failed to sufficiently and specifically plead
his claims under Alabama law. Id. at 1258. The
Alabama Supreme Court summarily denied certiorari
timely filed a federal habeas petition, accompanied
by motions for discovery and an evidentiary hearing.
Id. The district court denied relief without an
evidentiary hearing or discovery, finding that the Rule 32
court properly dismissed Daniel's penalty phase
ineffective assistance of counsel claim for failure to plead
the claim with sufficient specificity or failure to state a
claim. Id. at 1258, 1260.
Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the district
court's order denying the claim, finding that the Rule 32
state courts' summary dismissal of the claim was contrary
to and an unreasonable application of clearly established
Supreme Court precedent. Daniel, 822 F.3d at
1263-81. The Court first found that Daniel's
“second amended Rule 32 petition pleaded more than
sufficient specific facts about trial counsel's acts and
omissions to show their penalty phase investigation
‘fell below an objective standard of
reasonableness.'” Id. at 1263 (quoting
Strickland, 466 U.S. at 688).
concluding that “no competent attorney in 2003 would
have failed to conduct timely and thorough background
interviews with the defendant and his immediate family
members when they were ready, willing, and available to speak
with trial counsel and even contacted counsel on their own,
” id. at 1264-65, the Eleventh Circuit pointed
to the following factual allegations:
For starters, Mr. Daniel pleaded that trial counsel had
almost no meaningful contact with him or his family prior to
trial. Specifically, he pleaded that “[t]rial [c]ounsel
first met [him] at the preliminary hearing for his capital
case in October of 2001. The next time [t]rial [c]ounsel
spoke to Mr. Daniel was sixteen months later - just three
days before the commencement of Mr. Daniel's capital
trial.” During the sixteen months Mr. Daniel was
waiting for his trial, he wrote letters to trial counsel
seeking to meet with them about his case. “Trial
[c]ounsel simply ignored his request for a meeting.”
Concerned about having such little contact with his trial
counsel, Mr. Daniel wrote the Alabama Bar Association before
his trial to lodge a complaint against trial counsel. Then
when trial counsel did eventually meet with Mr. Daniel,
rather than “focusing on the information about his case
that Mr. Daniel was attempting to relay, [trial counsel] Mr.
Hughes was far more interested in discussing Mr. Daniel's
complaint to the Alabama Bar Association.”
Mr. Daniel also pleaded that his family fared no better in
their attempts to communicate with trial counsel and as a
result, “[t]rial [c]ounsel never interviewed in any
meaningful way any members of [his] immediate family.”
Specifically, Mr. Daniel pleaded that trial counsel ignored
numerous efforts by his mother and sister to provide relevant
46. Carolyn Daniel, Mr. Daniel's mother, made a series of
attempts to contact Mr. Hughes by phone and left several
messages at his office. When Mr. Hughes finally returned one
of those messages, he gave her no more than twenty minutes of
his time and expressed no interest in meeting her or having
further discussions. The extent of [t]rial [c]ounsel's
pretrial communications with Mr. Daniel's mother was one
brief telephone call.
47. Had [t]rial [c]ounsel had even a five minute conversation
of substance with Mrs. Daniel, it is likely that they would
have discovered facts about Mr. Daniel's tragic
childhood, including that when Mr. Daniel was just 3 years
old he was present when his mother shot and killed his
biological father . . . and that his stepfather emotionally,
physically, and sexually abused Mr. Daniel including forcing
him to engage in sex acts with his two older sisters when Mr.
Daniel was less than ten years old.
48. Tammi Daniel, Mr. Daniel's sister, also attempted to
contact [t]rial [c]ounsel by telephone on a number of
occasions before her brother's trial. After Mr. Hughes
failed to return a single one of her calls, she took matters
in her own hands and drove all the way from Atlanta to
Birmingham to speak to Mr. Hughes in person. He was
49. Despite Tammi's demonstrated willingness to assist in
her brother's defense, Mr. Hughes spoke with Tammi for
less time than he spoke to her mother in the sixteen months
leading up to trial. Ms. Haskins never spoke with her. In the
one or two abbreviated conversations that they had, Mr.
Hughes never asked Ms. Daniel about . . . her family
background, Mr. Daniel's character, or her opinion of Mr.
Daniel's guilt. Nor did he seek her assistance in
contacting any other family members. Had Mr. Hughes engaged
in a meaningful conversation with Mrs. Daniel he would have
learned about Mr. Daniel's past.
Daniel, 822 F.3d at 1263-64 (alterations and
ellipsis in original) (footnote omitted).
addition, the Eleventh Circuit found that the second amended
Rule 32 petition pleaded sufficient facts to show prejudice
under Strickland and its progeny. Id. at
1274-77. The court found that the allegations of Daniel's
excruciating life history, which were never presented to the
jury, were sufficient to establish a reasonable probability
that, but for counsel's failure to present the evidence
to the jury, he would have been sentenced to life without
parole instead of death:
Daniel's second amended Rule 32 petition specifically
pleaded that trial counsel's deficient performance during
the penalty phase prejudiced him as follows:
192. Trial [c]ounsel's absolute and admitted lack of
preparation for the penalty phase all but ensured that Mr.
Daniel's constitutional rights would be violated. As a
result of [t]rial [c]ounsel's gross ineffectiveness, the
jury never heard of the chronic physical and sexual abuse Mr.
Daniel suffered at the hands of Mrs. Daniel's second
husband, despite obvious indications of the presence of such
evidence. The jury also never heard that Mrs. Daniel shot and
killed Mr. Daniel's father when Mr. Daniel was only three
years old, or that she was incarcerated for this crime, or
that Mr. Daniel witnessed his father's death as a
toddler. The picture [t]rial [c]ounsel painted for the jury
of Mr. Daniel's mental capacity through Mrs. Daniel's
testimony was also woefully incomplete. The jury never heard
of the chronic problems that Mr. Daniel had in school, and
was unaware that he had been diagnosed with borderline
intelligence by state officials at a young age and likely
suffered from mental retardation. Nor did the jury hear that
Mr. Daniel's mother was formally diagnosed with manic
depression, a bipolar disorder that is known to run in
families, or that Mr. Daniel currently suffers from auditory
and visual hallucinations as a result of his childhood
trauma. The jury heard no evidence concerning Mr.
Daniel's long and troubled history of addiction or his
nonviolent character, and was left with the impression that
he came close to committing the heinous crime of rape.
193. Had available mitigating evidence been presented, there
exists a reasonable probability that Mr. Daniel would have
been sentenced to life without possibility of parole. See
Wiggins, 539 U.S. at 536, 123 S.Ct. 2527 (noting that
“had the jury been confronted with this considerable
mitigating evidence, there is a reasonable probability that
it would have returned with a different sentence”);
see also Collier, 177 F.3d 1184 (failure to present
the available evidence of defendant's upbringing,
compassion, his poverty, and gentle disposition rendered
performance ineffective); Harris v. Dugger, 874 F.2d
at 756 (because the jury knew little about defendant
including the fact that family members described defendant as
a devoted father, husband, and brother, counsel was
ineffective); Armstrong v. Dugger, 833 F.2d at 1434
(finding the “demonstrated availability of undiscovered
mitigating evidence clearly met the prejudice
requirement” under Strickland );
Blanco, 943 F.2d at 1505 (finding a
“reasonable probability” that “jury might
have recommended a life sentence” had counsel presented
the mitigating evidence that would have been available
“had they more thoroughly investigated”). But for
[t]rial [c]ounsel's errors, there is a reasonable
probability that the jury would have recognized a very
different balance of aggravating and mitigating
circumstances. See Strickland, 466 U.S. at 687, 104
Beyond these paragraphs taken verbatim from Mr. Daniel's
second amended Rule 32 petition, any fair reading of his Rule
32 petition and its supporting exhibits includes many details
about Mr. Daniel's background and character that were
never discovered by trial counsel. We have quoted many of
those details already, such as Mr. Daniel's childhood
sexual abuse and borderline intellectual functioning, and
need not repeat them here.
Daniel, 822 F.3d at 1274-75 (alterations in
Davis challenges this court's conclusion that
counsel's failure to obtain mitigation evidence
concerning his childhood was excused by the failure of both
Davis and his family to divulge more detailed, unsavory
evidence that he claims would have been beneficial to his
case. Davis argues that the court's
conclusion was “inconsistent with the Eleventh
Circuit's recent opinion in the Daniel [c]ase,