Hinton v. AlabamaAnnotate this Case
Anthony Ray Hinton petitioned the Jefferson Circuit Court for relief under Rule 32, Ala. R. Crim. P., arguing that his trial counsel had provided ineffective assistance of counsel by failing to provide a qualified expert in his defense at his capital-murder trial. The circuit court denied Hinton's Rule 32 petition on the basis that Andrew Payne, the expert retained by defense counsel, was qualified to testify as a firearms-identification expert at Hinton's trial. Hinton appealed to the Court of Criminal Appeals; the Court of Criminal Appeals, after remanding twice for the circuit court to address the issue, affirmed the circuit court's denial of Hinton's petition. Hinton then petitioned the Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari to review the Court of Criminal Appeals' decision. The Supreme Court concluded that the circuit court did indeed base its determination that Payne was qualified to testify as an expert upon the "cold trial record." As a result, it was in no better position than was an appellate court to make the determination it made. Accordingly, the Court of Criminal Appeals erred in applying the abuse-of-discretion standard of review. The Supreme Court reversed the appellate court's judgment and remanded the case to the Court of Criminal Appeals for it to apply a de novo standard of review in reviewing the circuit court's judgment that Payne was qualified to testify as a firearms-identification expert.