Georgia Attorney General Thurbert E. Baker offers the following information in the case against Robert Karl Hicks, who is currently scheduled to be executed at 7:00 p.m. on June 30, 2004.
On June 17, 2004, the Superior Court of Spalding County filed an order, setting the seven-day window in which the execution of Robert Karl Hicks may occur to begin at noon, June 29, 2004, and end seven days later at noon on July 6, 2004. The Commissioner of the Department of Corrections has set the specific date and time for the execution as 7:00 p.m., June 30, 2004, pursuant to the discretion given the Commissioner under state law. Robert Karl Hicks has concluded his direct appeal, as well as state and federal habeas corpus proceedings.
The Supreme Court of Georgia summarized the facts of the Hicks’ case as follows:
Early in the evening of July 13, 1985, the victim, Toni Rivers, drove to an area on Rawls Road to meet a friend with whom she planned to visit Callaway Gardens. When the friend arrived, the victim's automobile was there, but the victim was not.
At about 8:00 p.m. that evening, a resident of Blanton Mill Road heard a loud scream from a nearby pasture area, and then a woman's voice saying, "Don't do that." He saw a car parked near the end of his driveway and walked to it. From there, he looked over a fence, through a gap in the woods, and into the pasture, where he saw someone lying on the ground and saw someone else "jump from the other side [and then] hunker down."
He flagged down two men driving by in a pickup and told them to call the police, that something was going on in the pasture. The two men, Robbie McCune and Charles Garner, heard screams themselves, and, looking toward the pasture, saw a shirtless man with blond hair and a black beard bending over and making stabbing motions. Garner testified that as the man straightened up, he wiped something off and put it into his pocket. Garner and McCune got the license number of the car parked by the side of the road and drove away to find a telephone. As they did, they saw the blond male exit the woods, get into his car, drive a few yards up the road, and stop. (The car had run out of gas.)
Garner and McCune found a telephone at the first house down the road, called the sheriff, and returned just in time to see the blond male climb into the back of a black pickup that had stopped to give him a ride. A deputy sheriff approached the area and McCune flagged him down. He told the deputy that the man he had called about was in the back of the other pickup. Meanwhile, Garner got out and ran to the pasture to find the woman.
Sheriff's deputy Chuck Hudson testified that Garner and McCune "flagged me down and told me that the guy sitting in the back of the [pickup] I had just passed was the one they had seen . . . in the wooded area where . . . all the screaming and all had taken place . . . [W]hen they told me that, I turned around and went back and stopped the black pickup truck." Hudson was informed by the driver, whom he knew, that the man in the back had asked for a ride to a gas station.
Hudson asked the man, whom he later identified as the defendant, if he knew anything about a girl or if he had heard anything in the area. The defendant answered negatively. Hudson offered to help the defendant with his car problems, and told him that if "everything was all right, I'd help him get some gas and get his car going." Then, Hudson testified, "Mr. Hicks came down off the truck and started to get in the back of my patrol car, and I made him stop, and I searched him." Hudson found a "folding pocket knife" in the defendant's right front pocket, that was covered in a "dark red substance that appeared to be blood -- fresh blood."
Meanwhile, Garner had found the victim, nude from the waist down and covered with blood. She told him she was dying. When Hudson and another deputy arrived at the scene, she begged for help, saying she could not breathe. She clawed at the ground making choking noises until just before the EMT's arrived, when she stopped moving. She soon died.
The victim had "five large, gaping lacerations of the throat . . ., an open gash on the abdomen . . . and eight stab wounds." She died from a near-total loss of blood.
Inside the defendant's automobile, deputy Hudson discovered a pair of women's shorts, a bloody pair of men's socks, a pair of sandals, and a key ring with the initials "T. R." Blood on the seat of the car, and on the defendant's pants, socks and knife, was identified as being consistent with that of the victim.
Hicks v. State, 256 Ga. 715-716, 352 S.E.2d 762 (1987).
The Trial Proceedings
The Spalding County Grand Jury indicted Hicks for the murder of Toni Rivers during the October Term, 1985. Hicks was tried on January 13-16, 1986, and found guilty as charged in the indictment by a jury in the Superior Court of Spalding County, Georgia on January 16, 1986. On January 17, 1986, Hicks was sentenced to death for the murder.
The Direct Appeal Proceeding
The Supreme Court of Georgia affirmed Hicks’ conviction and sentence on February 13, 1987. Hicks v. State, 256 Ga. 715, 352 S.E.2d 762 (1987). Hicks’ motion for reconsideration was denied by the Supreme Court of Georgia on March 3, 1987. Hicks’ petition for writ of certiorari was denied by the United States Supreme Court on June 15, 1987. Hicks v. Georgia, 482 U.S. 931 (1987).
First State Habeas Corpus Petition
Hicks, represented by John Relman and George H. Kendall, filed his first petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the Superior Court of Butts County, Georgia on September 4, 1987. Following an evidentiary hearing on December 12-13, 1988, the state habeas corpus court denied Hicks state habeas corpus relief on December 28, 1988. Hicks’ application for a certificate of probable cause to appeal filed in the Supreme Court of Georgia was denied on October 5, 1989. Hicks’ petition for writ of certiorari was denied by the United States Supreme Court on April 2, 1990 in Hicks v. Kemp, 494 U.S. 1074 (1990).
First Federal Habeas Corpus Petition
Hicks filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Newnan Division, on December 11, 1990. The district court dismissed the petition without prejudice on February 22, 1991.
Second State Habeas Corpus Petition
Hicks filed his second petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the Superior Court of Butts County, Georgia, on May 31, 1991. Following a hearing conducted on November 23, 1992, the state habeas corpus court dismissed this petition as successive on March 3, 1994. Hicks then filed an application for a certificate of probable cause to appeal in the Supreme Court of Georgia which was denied on September 30, 1994. Hicks’ petition for a writ of certiorari was denied by the Supreme Court of United States on March 20, 1995.
Second Federal Habeas Corpus Petition
Hicks filed his second petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Newnan Division, on April 24, 1997. The district court denied relief to Hicks on September 5, 2000. The federal district court denied a motion to alter and amend judgment on February 23, 2001. On March 28, 2001, Hicks filed an application for certificate of appealability. On May 1, 2001, the United States District Court denied Hicks’ application for certificate of appealability.
Appeal to the Eleventh Circuit
On May 24, 2001, Hicks filed an application for certificate of appealability in the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. On November 21, 2001, the Eleventh Circuit granted Hicks’ motion for a Certificate of Appealability on the sole issue of whether Ake violations are subject to harmless error analysis. Oral argument was held on November 7, 2002. On June 16, 2003, the Eleventh Circuit issued an opinion which affirmed the denial of federal habeas corpus relief. Hicks v. Head, 333 F.3d 1280 (11th Cir. 2003). Hicks filed a petition for panel rehearing on August 11, 2003, which was denied on September 12, 2003. Hicks originally filed a petition for writ of certiorari in the United States Supreme Court on February 9, 2004, and was then directed by the Court to file a corrected petition, which was ultimately filed on April 14, 2004. Respondent filed his response on May 14, 2004. The United States Supreme Court denied certiorari on June 14, 2004.