United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division
RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE
STEPHEN M. DOYLE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
case is before the court on a petition for writ of habeas
corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 filed by Alabama inmate
Mary Wiggins (“Wiggins”) on November 9, 2016.
2009, a Conecuh County grand jury indicted Wiggins for
capital murder, in violation of § 13A-5-40(a)(7), Ala.
Code 1975 (“[m]urder done for a pecuniary or other
valuable consideration or pursuant to a contract or for
hire”), for Wiggins's part in the murder of her
husband, Rudy, who was shot and killed by her son, Joe
Ruffin. Wiggins's case went to trial in August 2011. The
Alabama Court of Criminal summarized the evidence adduced:
[T]he State through testimony and other evidence established
that [Joe] Ruffin offered both [Josh] Griffin and [Chris]
Mobley $2, 500 to ride with him in a rental car from Ozark to
Evergreen. During the trip, Ruffin telephoned his
mother, Wiggins, several times to update her on their
location and what time they would arrive in Evergreen. When
Ruffin, Griffin, and Mobley arrived in Evergreen they drove
to Jerusalem Church Road-a oneway, dead-end street-and parked
their rental car behind a church. Ruffin then telephoned
Wiggins and told her to “send him out.” Wiggins
asked Rudy to go outside and retrieve a bag out of her SUV.
When Rudy walked outside, Ruffin approached him and fired
several shots hitting Rudy three times-in his neck, his
chest, and his arm. Ruffin, Griffin, and Mobley left
Evergreen and drove to Montgomery. While driving to
Montgomery, Griffin threw Ruffin's clothes in a trash can
and Ruffin threw the gun out of the passenger-side window of
the rental car. After the three arrived in Montgomery they
drove back to Ozark. The evidence further established that
Rudy had an accidental life insurance policy of $750 plus
additional coverage of $125, 000, of which Wiggins was the
beneficiary. Because the policy covered only accidental
death, Wiggins could not recover under the policy if Rudy,
who was 74 years old and in poor health at the time of the
shooting, died of natural causes. Even though Wiggins was not
present when Ruffin shot Rudy, there was ample circumstantial
evidence to show that she intended to assist in the
commission of the offense when she sent Rudy out of the
mobile home under the guise of getting a bag out of her SUV
after Ruffin told her to “send him
Doc. 7-1 at 16.
August 16, 2011, the jury found Wiggins guilty of the
capital-murder charge in the indictment. On October 6, 2011,
the trial court sentenced Wiggins to life imprisonment
without the possibility of parole.
appealed, arguing that (1) the main evidence connecting her
to the murder was inadmissible hearsay testimony; (2) the
involvement of a police detective who was fired shortly after
her trial improperly influenced her case; and (3) the
State's evidence was insufficient to support her
11, 2012, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed
Wiggins's conviction and sentence by memorandum opinion.
Doc. 7-1 Wiggins applied for rehearing, which was overruled.
On August 10, 2012, the Alabama Supreme Court denied
Wiggins's petition for writ of certiorari. Doc. 7-2.
August 9, 2013, Wiggins, through retained counsel, filed a
petition in the trial court seeking relief under Rule 32 of
the Alabama Rules of Criminal Procedure. Doc. 7-3 at 6-10. In
her Rule 32 petition, Wiggins presented claims that (1) the
State violated Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83
(1963), by failing to disclose exculpatory evidence to the
defense, specifically, a memo written by ABI investigator
Simon Benson in which Benson noted that Ruffin told him after
his arrest that his reasons for killing Rudy went
“deeper than insurance” and that he had
“been trying to get Rudy for a long time because of
something that happened when he was a child”; and (2)
Wiggins's trial counsel was ineffective for failing to
seek the suppression of certain statements attributed to
Wiggins by law enforcement officers.
trial court held an evidentiary hearing on Wiggins's Rule
32 petition on November 19, 2014. Doc. 7-3 at 45-125. The
court heard testimony from Joseph Sawyer, Wiggins's trial
counsel, and Kenneth Ausby, an investigator with the Conecuh
County District Attorney's Office. In a written order
including findings of fact and conclusions of law, the trial
court denied Wiggins's Rule 32 petition on April 21,
2015. Doc. 7-3 at 31- 33.
appealed, pursuing the claims she raised in her Rule 32
petition and asserting two new claims of ineffective
assistance by her trial counsel. On February 2, 2016, the
Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals issued a memorandum opinion
affirming the trial court's judgment. Doc. 7-4. In its
memorandum opinion, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
upheld the trial court's merits rulings denying
Wiggins's Brady claim and her claim that her
counsel was ineffective for failing to seek the suppression
of her statements to law enforcement. Doc. 7-4 at 8-9. The
Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals further held that
Wiggins's two new claims of ineffective assistance of
counsel were not subject to appellate review because Wiggins
raised them for the first time in her brief on appeal. Doc.
7-4 at 8. Wiggins applied for rehearing, which was overruled.
On August 12, 2016, the Alabama Supreme Court denied
Wiggins's petition for writ of certiorari. Doc. 7-5.
November 9, 2016, Wiggins, represented by counsel, initiated
this habeas action by filing a § 2254 petition
reasserting the Brady claim in her Rule 32 petition.
See Docs. 1 & 2. Wiggins maintains that the
factual conclusions reached by the state courts in denying
her Brady claim were “patently
unreasonable.” Doc. 2 at 20. The Respondents argue that
the state courts correctly denied this claim. Doc. 7. For the
reasons that follow, the Magistrate Judge finds that
Wiggins's § 2254 petition should be denied without
an evidentiary hearing.