Ex parte Howard Whited.Annotate this Case
Howard Carl Whited was convicted of sodomy in the first degree. The trial court sentenced Whited to 35 years' imprisonment and ordered Whited to pay $50 to the Alabama Crime Victims Compensation Fund and court costs. The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed Whited's conviction and sentence in a 3-2 per curiam opinion. Whited petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari, contending that the decision of the Court of Criminal Appeals conflicted with "Strickland v. Washington," (466 U.S. 668 (1984)). After evaluating "all the circumstances surrounding the case at the time of [Whited's] counsel's actions," including Whited's trial counsel's inability to provide a strategic reason for waiving closing argument; the seemingly strong arguments available to Whited from which the jury could possibly conclude that reasonable doubt existed as to Whited's guilt; and the length and highly emotional nature of the State's initial closing argument, the Supreme Court concluded that trial counsel's decision to waive closing argument was an "error so serious that counsel was not functioning as the 'counsel' guaranteed the defendant by the Sixth Amendment" and that the waiver of Whited's closing was deficient under "Strickland." Furthermore, had trial counsel presented a closing argument to the jury, "there is a reasonable probability that ... the result of the proceeding would have been different." The Alabama Court granted the petition, reversed and remanded the case for a new trial.