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Ex parte Carroll

Supreme Court of Alabama

April 5, 2019

EX PARTE Taurus Jermaine CARROLL In re Taurus Jermaine Carroll,
v.
State of Alabama.

         Rehearing Denied September 20, 2019.

Page 2

         PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF CRIMINAL APPEALS St. Clair Circuit Court, CC-09-242; Court of Criminal Appeals, CR-12-0599.

         Randall K. Richardson of Pruitt & Richardson, P.C., Pell City, for petitioner.

          Steve Marshall, atty. gen., and Beth Jackson Hughes, asst. atty. gen., for respondent.

         BOLIN, Justice.

         Taurus Jermaine Carroll was convicted in the St. Clair Circuit Court of one count of murder for intentionally causing the death of Michael Turner, a fellow inmate, after having been convicted of another murder within the preceding 20 years, see § 13A-5-40(a)(13), Ala. Code 1975, and a second count of murder made capital for committing murder while Carroll was under a sentence of life imprisonment, see § 13A-5-40(a)(6), Ala. Code 1975.

         Before he was sentenced, Carroll argued to the circuit court that he is intellectually disabled and therefore, under Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304');">536 U.S. 304, 122 S.Ct. 2242, 153 L.Ed.2d 335 (2002), ineligible to be sentenced to death. The circuit court rejected that argument and, following the jury's unanimous recommendation, sentenced Carroll to death for each capital-murder conviction. The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed Carroll's convictions and sentences. Carroll v. State, 215 So.3d 1135 (Ala.Crim.App. 2016) ("Carroll I").[1] This Court denied Carroll's petition for a writ of certiorari.

         On May 1, 2017, the United States Supreme Court granted Carroll's petition for a writ of certiorari, vacated the judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeals, and remanded the cause to that court "for further consideration in light of Moore v. Texas, 581 U.S. ___[, 137 S.Ct. 1039][197 L.Ed.2d 416](2017)." 581 U.S. ___, 137 S.Ct. 2093, 197 L.Ed.2d893(2017). On remand, the Court of Criminal Appeals again affirmed Carroll's convictions and sentences. Carroll v. State, [Ms. CR-12-0599, Dec. 15, 2017] ___ So.3d ___ (Ala. Crim. App. 2017)

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("Carroll II"). We granted Carroll's petition for a writ of certiorari.

         I. THE STANDARD

         Intellectual disability must be proven by a preponderance of the evidence, and the trial court's determination is entitled to deference on appeal. Ex parte Lane, 286 So.3d 61, ___ (Ala. 2018) (citing Ex parte Smith, 213 So.3d 313, 319 (Ala. 2010)). A trial judge exceeds his or her discretion when there is no evidence on which the judge could have rationally based his or her decision regarding the defendant's intellectual disability. Ex parte Lane, 286 So.3d at ___.

         II. THE LAW ON INTELLECTUAL DISABILITY

         A. The Developing Law post Atkins

         Carroll asserts that the Court of Criminal Appeals' decision conflicts with the United States Supreme Court decisions in Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304');">536 U.S. 304, 122 S.Ct. 2242, 153 L.Ed.2d 335 (2002); Hall v. Florida, 572 U.S. 701, 134 S.Ct. 1986');">134 S.Ct. 1986, 188 L.Ed.2d 1007 (2014); Brumfield v. Cain, 576 U.S. 305, ___, 135 S.Ct. 2269, 2278-79, 192, L.Ed.2d 356 (2015); and Moore v. Texas, 581 U.S. ___, 137 S.Ct. 1039, 197 L.Ed.2d 416 (2017).

         In Moore v. Texas, the United States Supreme Court summarized the law on intellectual disability:

"The Eighth Amendment prohibits `cruel and unusual punishments,' and `reaffirms the duty of the government to respect the dignity of all persons,' Hall [v. Florida], 572 U.S. [701] at 708 [134 S.Ct. 1986');">134 S.Ct. 1986, 188 L.Ed.2d 1007 (2014)](quoting Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551, 560[125 S.Ct. 1183, 161 L.Ed.2d 1](2005)). `To enforce the Constitution's protection of human dignity,' we `loo[k] to the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society,' recognizing that `[t]he Eighth Amendment is not fastened to the obsolete.' Hall, 572 U.S. at 708[134 S.Ct. 1986] (internal quotation marks omitted).

"In Atkins v. Virginia, [536 U.S. 304');">536 U.S. 304, 122 S.Ct. 2242, 153 L.Ed.2d 335 (2006),] we held that the Constitution `restrict[s]... the State's power to take the life of any intellectually disabled individual. 536 U.S. at 321[122 S.Ct. 2242]. See also Hall, 572 U.S. at 707-710[134 S.Ct. 1986');">134 S.Ct. 1986]; Roper, 543 U.S. at 563-564[125 S.Ct. 1183]. Executing intellectually disabled individuals, we concluded in Atkins, serves no penological purpose, see 536 U.S. at 318-320[122 S.Ct. 2242]; runs up against a national consensus against the practice, see id., at 313-317[122 S.Ct. 2242]; and creates a `risk that the death penalty will be imposed in spite of factors which may call for a less severe penalty,' id., at 320[122 S.Ct. 2242] (internal quotation marks omitted); see id., at 320-321[122 S.Ct. 2242].

"In Hall v. Florida, we held that a State cannot refuse to entertain other evidence of intellectual disability when a defendant has an IQ score above 70. 572 U.S. at 721-724[134 S.Ct. 1986');">134 S.Ct. 1986]. Although Atkins and Hall left to the States `the task of developing appropriate ways to enforce' the restriction on executing the intellectually disabled, 572 U.S., at 719[134 S.Ct. 1986');">134 S.Ct. 1986] (quoting Atkins, 536 U.S. at 317[122 S.Ct. 2242], States' discretion, we cautioned, is not `unfettered,' 572 U.S. at 719[134 S.Ct. 1986');">134 S.Ct. 1986]. Even if `the views of medical experts' do not `dictate' a court's intellectual-disability determination, id., at 721[134 S.Ct. 1986');">134 S.Ct. 1986], we clarified, the determination must be `informed by the medical community's diagnostic framework,' id., at 721[134 S.Ct. 1986');">134 S.Ct. 1986]. We relied on the most recent (and still current) versions

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of the leading diagnostic manuals — the DSM-5 and AAIDD-11. Id., at 705, 710, 712, 722-723[134 S.Ct. 1986]. Florida, we concluded, had violated the Eighth Amendment by `disregard[ing] established medical practice.' Id., at 712[134 S.Ct. 1986');">134 S.Ct. 1986]. We further noted that Florida had parted ways with practices and trends in other States. Id., at 712-718[134 S.Ct. 1986]. Hall indicated that being informed by the medical community does not demand adherence to everything stated in the latest medical guide. But neither does our precedent license disregard of current medical standards."

581 U.S. at ___, 137 S.Ct. at 1048-49.

         Consequently, it is unconstitutional to impose a death sentence upon a defendant with an intellectual disability. Moore, 581 U.S. at ___, 137 S.Ct. at 1048; Atkins, 536 U.S. at 321, 122 S.Ct. 2242. Therefore, in the Atkins context, when considering whether Carroll is intellectually disabled, the Court must consider whether the evidence established that: (1) Carroll has significant subaverage intellectual functioning and (2) significant or substantial deficits in adaptive functioning; and (3) these problems manifested themselves before the age of 18. See Smith v. State, 213 So.3d 239 (Ala. 2007) (citing Ex parte Perkins, 851 So.2d 453, 455-56 (Ala. 2002)).

         It is undisputed that Carroll's IQ score of 71, adjusted for the standard of measurement, yields a range of 66 to 76. Indeed, the Court of Criminal Appeals found that lower end of Carroll's score range falls at or below 70. Carroll II, ___ So.3d at ___. Thus, there is no dispute that Carroll has "subaverage intellectual functioning." Rather, the dispute in this case centers around whether Carroll has significant or substantial deficits in adaptive functioning that manifested themselves before the age of 18.

         B. The Specific Components ofMoore v. Texas

         The United States Supreme Court remanded Carroll's case to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals for further consideration in light of Moore v. Texas, supra. In Moore, the United States Supreme Court reversed a decision of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which had determined that the defendant was not intellectually disabled for purposes of imposing the death penalty.

         The Supreme Court found several flaws in the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals' analysis. First, the Supreme Court found that the Texas court violated Hall by disregarding the defendant's lower IQ scores and failing to consider "the standard error of measurement." Moore, 581 U.S. at ___, 137 S.Ct. at 1049. Next, the Supreme Court found that the Texas court had improperly "overemphasized [the defendant's] perceived adaptive strengths." 581 U.S. at ___, 137 S.Ct. at 1050. For example, the Texas court determined that facts establishing that the defendant had "lived on the streets, mowed lawns, and played pool for money" outweighed the fact that he suffered from adaptive deficits in other areas, such as a lack of understanding of the days of the week, the months of the year, and the seasons, and a limited ability to tell time, read, or do basic arithmetic. The Supreme Court held that the medical community "focuses the adaptive functioning inquiry on adaptive deficits," not strengths. 581 U.S. at ___, 137 S.Ct. at 1050.

         The Supreme Court also criticized the Texas court for its emphasis on Moore's improved behavior in prison.

"Clinicians ... caution against reliance on adaptive strengths developed `in a controlled setting,' as a prison surely is.

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DSM-5,[[2] ] at 38 (`Adaptive functioning may be difficult to assess in a controlled setting (e.g., prisons, detention centers); if possible, corroborative information reflecting functioning outside those settings should be obtained.'); see AAIDD-11[[3] ] User's Guide 20 (counseling against reliance on `behavior in jail or prison')."

581 U.S. at ___, 137 S.Ct. at 1050.

         In Moore, the Supreme Court also discussed whether states may define intellectual disability in a manner that is (1) uninformed by the medical community or (2) based on outdated medical standards. First, the Supreme Court rejected the Texas court's use of the Ex parte Briseno, 135 S.W.3d 1 (Tex. Crim App. 2004), factors. In Ex parte Briseno, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, following Atkins, created a standard for determining intellectual disability, in which the court set forth several factors to determine whether the average Texas citizen would agree that an individual should be protected from execution because of an ...


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