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Collins v. State

Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals

October 25, 2019

Sherman Collins
v.
State of Alabama

          Appeal from Sumter Circuit Court (CC-12-109)

         On Return to Second Remand

          PER CURIAM.

         Sherman Collins was convicted of capital murder for killing Detrick Bell for pecuniary gain, see § 13A-5-40(a)(7), Ala. Code 1975, and of conspiracy to commit murder, see § 13A-4-3, Ala. Code 1975. The jury recommended, by a vote of 10 to 2, that Collins be sentenced to death for his capital-murder conviction. The trial court followed the jury's recommendation. The trial court also sentenced Collins to 10 years in prison for his conspiracy conviction. Collins appealed.

         In our opinion on original submission, this Court affirmed Collins's convictions. Collins v. State, [Ms. CR-14-0753, Oct. 13, 2017] __So. 3d__(Ala.Crim.App.2017). As to Collins's death sentence, however, this Court remanded Collins's case to the trial court for that court to correct its sentencing order and instructed that court to comply with § 13A-5-47(d), Ala. Code 1975, [1] by making specific findings of fact concerning the existence or nonexistence of each aggravating and mitigating circumstance and by summarizing the offense and Collins's involvement in it. Id. at__.

         On February 7, 2018, the trial court made return to this Court, providing this Court with a corrected sentencing order. In that corrected sentencing order, the trial court summarized the offense and Collins's involvement in it, and found one aggravating circumstance to exist--that the murder was committed for "pecuniary or other valuable consideration or hire." (Corrected Record on Return to Remand, C. 4-6.) Although the trial court found no statutory mitigating circumstances to exist in Collins's case, it did find nonstatutory mitigating circumstances to exist. (Corrected Record on Return to Remand, C. 6-9.) Specifically, the trial court found Collins's "poor environment and lack of a father figure in the home" to be mitigating circumstances, but concluded that those facts "do little to mitigate." (Corrected Record on Return to Remand, C. 9.) After reweighing the aggravating and mitigating circumstances, the trial court again sentenced Collins to death. (Corrected Record on Return to Remand, C. 9-10.)

         After return was made to this Court, and in accordance with Rule 28A, Ala. R. App. P., this Court gave the parties an opportunity to file supplemental briefs on return to remand. Both Collins and the State did so.

         In his brief on return to remand, Collins argued that the trial court's corrected sentencing order was erroneous for two reasons. First, Collins claimed that the trial court "failed to give meaningful consideration to undisputed mitigating evidence." Collins v. State, [Ms. CR-14-0753, July 13, 2018] __So. 3d__, __(Ala.Crim.App.2017) (opinion on return to remand). Second, Collins claimed that the trial court did not properly weigh the jury's 10 to 2 recommendation for the death penalty and "improperly stated in its order that the jury's recommendation was unanimous." __So. 3d at__.

         The State, on the other hand, argued that Collins's claims were meritless but recognized that the trial court's corrected sentencing order did include a factual error. Thus, the State suggested that "this Court ... order a second limited remand to allow the trial court to correct" that error. (State's brief on return to remand, pp. 1, 10.)

         On July 13, 2018, this Court issued an opinion rejecting Collins's claim that the trial court failed to give meaningful consideration to undisputed mitigation evidence. __So. 3d at__. "In light of the factual errors and their significance," however, we remanded Collins's case to the trial court for that court to correct the "factual errors in its sentencing order." Collins, __So. 3d at __(opinion on return to remand). We further instructed the trial court to again "reweigh the aggravating circumstances and the mitigating circumstances after considering the correct recommendation made by the jury, i.e., 10 votes for death and 2 votes for life imprisonment without the possibility of parole." Id.

         On October 3, 2018, the trial court made return to this Court, providing this Court with its corrected sentencing order. (Record on Return to Second Remand, C. 3-10.) In its corrected sentencing order, the trial court noted that the "jury heard evidence of aggravating and mitigating circumstances, and the jury returned a verdict recommending the defendant be sentenced to death on a vote of ten (10) for death and two (2) for life imprisonment without the possibility for parole." (Record on Return to Second Remand, C. 3.) The trial court concluded its corrected sentencing order as follows:

"After giving full measure and weight to the aggravating and mitigating circumstances, and taking into account the recommendation of the jury contained in its advisory verdict, it is the judgment of this court that the single aggravating circumstance outweighs the mitigating circumstances shown by the evidence in this case. The aggravating circumstance speaks for itself and carries great weight in the court's mind. In addition, the jury voted ten (10) to two (2) for death. Further, it is reasonably clear that the murder of Detrick Bell by defendant, Sherman Collins, was deliberately and intentionally planned and carried out. When Sherman Collins was introduced to Detrick Bell and within seconds, shot him in the head and literally blowing his brains out, Collins unequivocally displayed a savage intention to kill another human being for Two Thousand Dollars ($2, 000). There is very little mistake about the evil intent of this defendant.
"When the court weighs the single aggravating circumstance against the mitigating circumstances in the manner required by law, there is no question and can be few questions in the minds of most human beings that the aggravating circumstance far outweighs the mitigating circumstances. Accordingly, it is ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND ...

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