Executed September 16, 2009 06:28 p.m. CDT by Lethal Injection in Texas
38th murderer executed in U.S. in 2009
1174th murderer executed in U.S. since 1976
17th murderer executed in Texas in 2009
440th murderer executed in Texas since 1976
(Race/Sex/Age at Murder-Execution)
(Race/Sex/Age at Murder)
Stephen Lindsey Moody
W / M / 34 - 52
|Joseph Franz Hall
W / M / 28
Moody v. Quarterman, 476 F.3d 260 (5th Cir. 2007) (Habeas).
"Yes sir, to Joseph's mom and son. I was unable to respond to you in the courtroom. I can only ask that you have the peace that I do. To my brother, you are a good brother. You're the best. And I love you. Can't beat ya. The beautiful lady standing next to you. Kathy you are next to my heart. Amber I love you. Warden, pull the trigger. I love you brother never forget it. Ronnie, Linda, Amber, Kathy. Chaplain Hart you're the best. Love you Thomas."
Texas Department of Criminal Justice - Executed Offenders (Moody)
Stephen Lindsey Moody
Date of Birth: 7/16/57
Date Received: 10/22/93
Education: 10 years
Occupation: oilfield worker
Date of Offense: 10/19/91
County of Offense: Harris
Native County: Harris
Hair Color: Brown
Eye Color: Brown
Height: 6' 0"
Summary of incident: Convicted in the robbery and murder of 28 year old Joseph F. Hall in Houston. Moody and a co-defendant followed Hall to his home, forced their way inside, and demanded money and drugs. While Hall, who was crippled, begged for his life, Moody shot him at close range with a sawed off shotgun. Moody and his accomplice then fled with $1,200 in cash from the home. Moody later told his co-defendant that he shot Hall because he kept trying to get up from the ground.
Co-defendants: Calvin Doby.Charges and disposition not known.
Prior Prison Record: TDCJ #277559, rec. 3/7/78, 8 years, Burglary of Habit WICT, Harris Co., paroled 1/20/81. TDCJ #328588, rec. from parole with new conviction 12/15/81, 6 years Auto Theft, Harris Co., mandatory release to Harris Co. 11/9/84, TDCJ #394923 rec. 4/3/85, 14 years, Burg. of Vehicle WICT, Harris Co., paroled 12/23/88. TDCJ #623085, rec. 9/23/92, 40 years., robbery, Harris Co. Released on Bench Warrant ot Harris Co. 10/15/92, returned with Death sentence 10/22/93.
Texas Execution Information Center by David Carson.
Stephen Lindsey Moody, 52, was executed by lethal injection on 16 September 2009 in Huntsville, Texas for the murder and robbery of a man in his home.
On 19 October 1991, Calvin Doby, 29, Lloyd Larrieu, 49, and Melvin Ellis drove to the Houston home of Larrieu's drug supplier, Joseph Hall, 28. After some discussion about robbing Hall, Doby telephoned Moody, then 34. About an hour and a half later, Moody and Doby met at Hall's house. They then forced their way inside and demanded money and drugs from Hall. While Hall pleaded for his life, Moody shot him at close range with a sawed-off shotgun. Moody and Doby then fled with $1,200 in cash. About 45 minutes later, they met at Ellis's house to divide the money.
The murder case went unsolved for nearly a year until a relative of Doby give police a tip. Hall's girlfriend, Rene McKeage, who witnessed the murder, then identified Moody from a photo lineup. By that time, Moody was already in prison, serving a 40-year sentence for robbing a Houston bank in December 1991.
At Moody's trial, McKeage testified that on the evening of the murder, she and Hall were returning home from dinner when she noticed two unknown men walking on the street, away from their house. Later, McKeage was in the bathroom when she heard someone rush into the house. She heard Hall yell out her name, and then heard another man's voice screaming "Where is the money?" Knowing that there were drugs in the house, McKeage said she initially thought the men may be police. She then heard Hall say, "You're not the cops. Let me see your badges." A moment later, Moody walked into the bathroom pointing a sawed-off shotgun at her. He said, "Stay there. Don't move."
Moody then left the bathroom. McKeage heard him ask Hall again, "Where is the money?" Hall answered that the money was in his pocket, and said, "Please don't shoot me." Moody then returned to the bathroom and ordered McKeage to stay there. "Okay, I won't move," she answered. Moody shut the bathroom door as he left. McKeage then jumped out of the window and made her way to the next-door neighbor's house. While she was fleeing, she heard a gunshot come from inside her house. She called 911 at the neighbor's house.
Melvin Ellis testified that he was with Doby and Larrieu in September when Doby asked Larrieu the name and whereabouts of the person who supplied his drugs, so he could rob him. He also stated that on the day of the murder, when the three of them went to Hall's house, Larrieu explained to Doby where Hall kept his money and described his car to him, so Doby could know whether Hall was home. Ellis further testified that after the murder, Moody and Doby came to his residence and both of them told him about the crime. Ellis testified that Moody said, "I shot him right in the heart." Ellis also said that he noticed a shotgun in the vehicle that Moody and Doby were driving.
When Ellis testified in court that Moody and Doby left $100 of the stolen money at his house, Moody blurted out, "He's a lying son of a bitch. He got $900."
Moody had three prior felony convictions, in addition to the December 1991 bank robbery. In 1978, he was convicted of burglary of a habitation and sentenced to 8 years in prison. He was paroled in 1981. Before the end of the year, he was back in prison with a new 6-year sentence for auto theft. He was released in 1984. In 1985, he was sentenced to 14 years for burglary of a vehicle. He served 3½ years of that of sentence before being paroled again in 1988. (At the time, early release was common in Texas due to strict prison population caps imposed by U.S. District Judge William Wayne Justice.)
A jury convicted Moody of capital murder in March 1993 and sentenced him to death. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the conviction and sentence in January 1996.
In his appeals, Moody challenged the trail court's decision not to hold a hearing concerning the state's exclusion of a black panelist from the jury. Moody's attorneys argued that the panelist's exclusion was racially-motivated, but the trial court ruled that Moody had no standing to contest the black panelist's exclusion for racial reasons because Moody was white. In September 2002, a U.S. district court ruled that the trial court erred in not holding a hearing on the issue, and it granted Moody a new trial.
The state appealed the federal district court's ruling to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. In a 2-1 decision, the Fifth Circuit overturned the lower court's ruling in January 2007. Although the trial court was clearly wrong in stating that Moody was not entitled to a hearing on the jury panelist's removal because of his race, the court wrote, Moody was nevertheless not entitled to hearing, because the prosecutor who struck the panelist offered a credible race-neutral reason for doing so. The lower court's ruling granting Moody a new trial was vacated. All of Moody's subsequent appeals in state and federal court were denied.
From death row, Moody told an interviewer that he shot Hall because he kept struggling when ordered to surrender his money. "He started fighting," Moody said. "He wouldn't listen to me. He wouldn't lay down."
Last spring, Moody petitioned his judge to set his execution date as soon as possible. Life on death row, he said, was "cruel and unusual punishment." As his execution date approached, he asked his lawyer not to file any last-minute appeals to try to have his execution stopped or delayed. "I'm ready, man. I ain't quitting. I went all the way."
Calvin Charles Doby was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to life in prison. He remains in custody as of this writing. A few days before Moody's execution, Moody asserted in a sworn statement that Doby is innocent. "My conscience will not let me remain silent any longer," he said. "It is not right that Calvin Doby has suffered in prison all these years for something he did not do." He said that another man - not Doby - was his accomplice, and that Melvin Ellis's testimony against Doby was unreliable because Ellis was taking psychiatric medications at the time of the murder.
A new appeal has been filed in Doby's case based on Moody's statement. "At the time of the crime, I was at home with my wife and our newborn," Doby told an interviewer. Doby's attorney said that Moody wanted to clear Doby five years ago, but Moody's attorneys would not allow him to make a formal statement because his appeals were still open, and anything Moody said could have jeopardized his own case.
In the interview, Moody said that he didn't plan to be difficult at his execution. "I'll cuss no one in there," he said. "I don't want to leave spewing a lot of hate. What good is that going to do?" Moody said, "Maybe they'll see I was a human being."
In his last statement, Moody addressed Hall's mother and son, saying that he hoped they could find peace. "Warden, pull the trigger," he then said. The lethal injection was started. He was pronounced dead at 6:28 p.m.
After the execution, the victim's son, Joseph Hall, issued a statement denying that his father was a drug dealer. "Drugs had nothing to do with his death," he wrote. "He was robbed of money he received from an accident which left him crippled."
Texas Attorney General
Tuesday, September 10, 2009
Media Advisory: Stephen Moody scheduled for execution
AUSTIN – Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott offers the following information about Stephen Lindsey Moody, who is scheduled to be executed after 6 p.m. on Wednesday, September 16, 2009. A Harris County jury convicted Moody and sentenced him to death on March 19, 1993, for the robbery and murder of Joseph Franz Hall.
FACTS OF THE CRIME
On October 19, 1991, Moody and Calvin Doby went to Joseph Hall’s residence in Houston, where they demanded money from Hall and murdered him with a shotgun blast to the chest.
Following the murder, Moody and Doby went to the residence of Melvin Ellis and admitted to murdering Hall. Ellis testified that Doby confessed, “Man, we had some trouble over there, . . . we had to kill him.” Moody then responded, “Man, you know I didn’t — that I had to do it,”and told Ellis, “I shot him right in the heart.” Ellis also testified that, when Moody and Doby left, he noticed a shotgun in the vehicle on the side where Moody was sitting.
PRIOR CRIMINAL HISTORY
Evidence at the punishment phase of his trial indicated that Moody had twice been convicted of burglary of a habitation with intent to commit theft, and had been convicted of felony auto theft and felony burglary of a motor vehicle with intent to commit theft.
March 19, 1993. Moody was convicted and sentenced to death.
Jan. 17, 1996 The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed.
Nov. 3, 1999 The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied habeas corpus relief.
May 1, 2000 Moody filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in U.S. district court.
Sept. 30, 2002 The federal district court denied relief on two of Moody’s claims and granted relief on a third. Both Moody and the State appealed.
Oct. 7, 2003 The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed the grant of relief by the federal district court.
Oct. 1, 2007 The U.S. Supreme Court denied Moody’s petition.
In late September of 1991, Stephen Moody and his co-defendant, Calvin Doby drove from Houston to Dayton, Texas while accompanied by Melvin Ellis and Lloyd Larrieu. As the prosecution’s star witness, Ellis testified that, while en route, Doby asked Larrieu from whom Larrieu was getting his drugs, because Doby wanted to rob the individual. In response, Larrieu provided Doby with the name and whereabouts of Hall. According to Ellis, Moody did not participate in the conversation.
On October 19, 1991, the day of the murder, Ellis, Doby, and Larrieu drove to Hall’s residence where Larrieu pointed out Hall’s house and answered Doby’s questions regarding the whereabouts of Hall’s drugs and money. Larrieu informed Doby that Hall lived with his girlfriend, Rene McKeage, kept his money in his pocket, and that Doby would know if Hall was home by the Camaro in the driveway. Doby immediately contacted Moody by telephone and the two of them met at Ellis’ residence an hour and half later. Moody and Doby then went to Hall’s residence and murdered him with a shotgun blast to the chest.
On the evening of the murder, Rene McKeage and Joseph Hall were returning home from dinner when McKeage noticed two unknown men walking on the street away from the front of their house. Upon entering their residence, Rene was sitting in the bathroom when she heard Hall talking on the phone and then “somebody come rush in the house.” She heard Hall yell out her name and then heard another man’s voice screaming “Where is the money?” Rene stayed in the bathroom. She initially thought that it was the police because of the drugs that were in the house. She heard Hall say, “You’re not the cops. Let me see your badges.” Rene then heard some scuffling, and Moody walked into the bathroom and said, “stay there. Don’t move.” Moody was pointing a sawed-off shotgun at Rene.
Moody left the bathroom and Rene heard him again ask Hall, “where is the money?” Hall said the money was in his pocket, and he asked Moody, “Please don’t shoot me.” Moody returned to the bathroom, and he again said to Rene, “Stay there, don’t move.” Rene said, “Okay, I won’t move,” and Moody shut the bathroom door. Rene then jumped out of the bathroom window, jumped the fence in the backyard, and ran to the next-door residence of Arthur Jesse Flores. During this time, she heard a gunshot come from inside the house. When Rene entered Mr. Flores’ residence, she said that someone had shot Hall, and she called 911. Ms. Juarez and Ms. Chavez also heard the gunshot and a scream, and saw two men walk out of the residence and back down the street.
Following the murder, Doby and Moody returned to Ellis’ residence forty-five minutes later and admitted to him that they murdered Hall. Ellis testified that Doby confessed, “Man, we had some trouble over there,...we had to kill him.” Moody then responded, “Man, you know I didn’t - that I had to do it,” to which Doby replied, “Man don’t worry. Shit happens.” Ellis asked Moody if the man was dead, and Moody said, “Yeah, I shot him right in the heart.” Ellis also testified that upon the departure of Moody and Doby, he noticed the stock of a shotgun in the vehicle on the passenger’s side where Moody was sitting. Moody was indicted on October 6, 1992 for capital murder. Following a jury trial, Moody was convicted and sentenced to death in March 1993.
Huntsville Item Online
"Man executed for drug dealer’s slaying." (Associated Press September 17, 2009 02:03 pm)
— A Texas man convicted in the shooting death of a suspected drug dealer during a robbery 18 years ago was executed Wednesday at the Walls Unit in Huntsville, the 17th this year in the nation’s busiest death penalty state. Stephen Moody, 52, strapped to the Texas death chamber gurney in Huntsville, addressed his victim’s mother and son as they watched through a window.
“I was unable to respond to you in the courtroom,” he said. “I can only ask that you have the peace that I do.” Then after expressing love to his relatives and friends watching through an adjacent window, he said: “Warden, pull the trigger.” The lethal drugs began flowing into his arms at 6:20 p.m. CDT, and he was pronounced dead eight minutes later. Moody had asked that no last-minute appeals be filed to try to block his execution.
Moody accepted responsibility for killing Joseph Hall, 28, with a blast from a sawed-off shotgun at Hall’s Houston home in October 1991. Hall was described at Moody’s trial as a drug dealer known to carry a lot of cash, a characterization Hall’s son disputed in a statement released following the execution. “My father wasn’t a drug dealer, and drugs had nothing to do with his death,” Joseph Hall wrote. “He was robbed for money he received from an accident which left him crippled.” Hall’s brother, mother and niece added in a handwritten postscript: “Justice was served.”
The U.S. Supreme Court refused to review Moody’s case last year after a federal appeals court rejected questions raised about jury selection procedures at his 1993 trial. “I’m satisfied,” he told The Associated Press in an interview a few weeks ago. “I’m ready, man. I ain’t quitting. I went all the way. ... That’s how I look at it.” “We have to kind of sit on our hands,” Moody’s lawyer, Philip Hilder, said last week. “We wouldn’t be normally doing that, but it is his wishes.”
Moody and an accomplice had confronted Hall, who put up a struggle when he was ordered to surrender his money. “He started fighting,” Moody said. “He wouldn’t listen to me. He wouldn’t lay down.” Moody said he took about $2,000 from Hall’s pocket and fled.
Hall’s girlfriend, who saw him talking with two men, crawled through a bathroom window to run next door and call 911, heard a shot and returned to find Hall dead on the living room floor. At his trial, she identified Moody as the man with the sawed-off shotgun. The slaying went unsolved for nearly a year until a relative of the man accused of being Moody’s accomplice gave police a tip that led to their arrests. By then, Moody was in prison starting to serve a 40-year sentence for bank robbery. The accomplice in the shooting, Calvin Doby, received a life sentence. Moody got the death penalty.
“You do what you do,” Moody said. “You pay for what you do. ... I had plenty of chances in my life.” Besides the bank robbery conviction, the former oil field worker from Houston served prison time for auto theft and two terms for burglary. Harris County authorities were looking at Doby’s case again after Moody recently said another man, not Doby, was his partner at the Hall shooting. Moody signed a sworn affidavit earlier this month saying Doby was innocent. Moody was questioned by prosecutors a few days ago.
Moody was the first of four Texas prisoners set to die over the next two weeks and among at least 10 scheduled for execution in the next several months. Christopher Coleman, 37, is scheduled for lethal injection Tuesday for a December 1995 shooting spree that left three people dead in Houston. Two days later, Kenneth Mosley, 51, is set to die for fatally shooting a police officer, Michael Moore, during a bank robbery in the Dallas suburb of Garland in 1997.
"Texas man executed for Houston drug dealer's slaying," by Allan Turner. (Sept. 16, 2009, 8:38PM)
HUNTSVILLE — Stephen Moody, a one-time oil field worker sentenced to die for the 1991 shotgun murder of a Houston drug dealer, went to his death Wednesday with expressions of love for his family but no apologies for his crime. “Warden, pull the trigger,” Moody commanded from the death house gurney. The lethal drugs began to flow at 6:20 p.m. He was declared dead eight minutes later.
Moody was condemned for the Oct. 19, 1991, robbery-murder of Joseph Hall. He had directed his attorneys not to pursue an appeal to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles. Last spring he petitioned his judge to set his execution date as soon as possible. Life on death row, he said, was “cruel and unusual punishment.”
In his last statement Wednesday, Moody addressed his victim's mother and son, telling them, “I can only ask that you have the peace that I do.” As the drugs began to flow, the victim's mother placed her arm around her son. They were tearful, but not openly weeping. The son, Joseph J. Hall, later issued a statement denying his father was a drug dealer. “Drugs,” he wrote, “had nothing to do with his death. He was robbed of money he received from an accident which left him crippled.” The elder Hall was disabled, but was able to walk.
Moody's long criminal career included convictions for burglaries and auto theft. After the Hall killing, but before his arrest, Moody also robbed a Houston bank. In a death row interview with The Associated Press shortly before his execution, Moody accepted the consequences of the murder.
“I don't blame my situation on anybody but myself,” he said. In a self-described act of conscience days before he was executed, Moody asserted in a sworn statement that his presumed accomplice in the murder, Calvin Doby, is innocent. Doby, 47, has served 17 years of a life sentence for his role in the crime. A new appeal based on Moody's statement has been filed in his case.
Court records indicate that Moody and Doby burst into their victim's house intent on robbery. As the man pleaded for his life, Moody fired a shotgun blast into his chest. Moody later said he shot Hall because he offered resistance. Hall's girlfriend, Rene Psenka, who was in the bathroom at the time of the robbery, was not hurt. She later identified Moody in a photographic lineup.
When Texas death row inmates were relocated to Livingston's Polunksy Unit in 2000, Moody said he experienced a religious conversion. “A feeling of joy filled my heart that I find hard to describe,” he wrote in letter posted on an anti-death penalty Web site. “A weight was lifted off my soul and a feeling of compassion for all the struggling and suffering of the world was upon me that made me want to weep. “I couldn't believe this was happening to me and I knew within my heart how special it was. It changed my life ...This experience caused me to reread all that Jesus said in the Bible.”
Moody was the 17th Texas killer and the third from Harris County to be executed this year.
Alive's Death watch Speaks
Stephen Moody of Texas speaks - ALIVE's Death Watch Speaks. Greetings, My name is Stephen Moody, I've been here on the death row in Texas for the past 16 years.I have an execution date of September 16th,2009 with no further appeals pending.... I want to take a moment to thank all those people in Europe and all over the World, who support "Alive" in their fight against the death penalty.
I must tell you that it has been a great source of inspiration for me to see and feel the humanity and love of the European people. It gives me such hope and my strength and faith have been up lifted for I have had the good fortune to have had many great friendships over these past few or I should say many years...But now please give me the chance to tell each of you something that happened to me while I've been here at the Unit of Polunsky. It was the time of our arrival from the old death row on Ellis and about 14 of us death row prisoners decided to have a non violent protest of our conditions and a hunger strike. It was to last 21 days or 3 weeks with our drinking only water and taking no solid food.
About along the 14th day of this hunger strike I was there resting on my bed when a feeling of great peace came over me, like nothing I had ever felt in my life and as I lay there with this peace upon me, feeling of joy filled my heart that I find hard to describe with words and a weight was lifted off my soul and a feeling of compassion for all the struggling and suffering of the world was upon me that made me want to weep. I couldn't believe this was happening to me and I knew within my heart how special it was. It changed my life. I know I would never again be so fast to judge or condemn others. I felt the suffering and knew we were all lost and hurting and in turn hurting each other our judgments of one another...
This experience caused me to reread all that Jesus said in the bible. When I read that he wept, I could really finally understand how he seen each of us lost, suffering and hurting souls it caused me to seek truth and I found it in Jesus Christ who is alive in my heart, and I share this experience that I know God allowed me to have with each of you…
Moody v. Quarterman, 476 F.3d 260 (5th Cir. 2007) (Habeas).
Background: State prisoner convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death petitioned for writ of habeas corpus. The United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Kenneth M. Hoyt, J., provisionally granted the petition. The state appealed.
Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Carl E. Stewart, Circuit Judge, held that:
(1) state trial court's determination that Caucasian petitioner was not entitled to Batson hearing based on prosecutor's use of peremptory strike to remove African-American prospective juror was contrary to clearly established equal protection law;
(2) trial court's decision not to follow three-step analysis for Batson challenge was unreasonable application of clearly established law;
(3) District Court was required to defer to state appellate court's factual findings that prosecutor's race-neutral explanation was sufficiently nondiscriminatory, and that petitioner failed to prove discriminatory intent; and
(4) state appellate court's determination that prosecutor's use of peremptory strike did not violate Batson was not unreasonable, barring habeas relief. Vacated and remanded.
CARL E. STEWART, Circuit Judge:
The Director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Nathaniel Quarterman (“the State”), appeals from the district court's provisional grant of habeas relief in favor of Stephen Lindsey Moody (“Moody”). Moody filed the underlying petition for habeas relief asserting ineffective assistance of counsel and violation of his equal protection rights pursuant to Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79, 106 S.Ct. 1712, 90 L.Ed.2d 69 (1986). The district court denied relief on Moody's ineffective assistance of counsel claims and denied his request for a COA; however, the court granted Moody's request for habeas relief based on his Batson claim. The district court held that the Texas trial court improperly denied Moody's request for a Batson challenge to contest the State's use of peremptory strikes during jury voir dire. The district court reasoned that the Texas trial court failed to properly apply the Supreme Court's holding in Powers v. Ohio, 499 U.S. 400, 111 S.Ct. 1364, 113 L.Ed.2d 411 (1991). Because we conclude that the district court failed to give proper deference to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals' findings of fact pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, the order granting Moody's petition for habeas corpus on his equal protection claim is VACATED.
I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Because our review of this appeal pertains solely to the issue of whether the Texas trial court and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals committed reversible error in failing to allow Moody's Batson challenge, we limit our recitation of the facts and proceedings to those germane to the resolution of that issue.
In 1993, Moody was indicted on a charge of capital murder for the death of Joseph Franz Hall. The death occurred during the commission of a botched armed robbery in 1991. A jury subsequently found Moody guilty of the offense in 1993. After answering Texas's special issues in the affirmative during a separate punishment phase of the trial, the jury sentenced Moody to death by lethal injection.
During voir dire, the State used four of its thirteen peremptory challenges to strike four out of eight (50%) of the African-Americans on the venire. Moody objected to one of those strikes when the State used a peremptory strike to exclude Jerome Hightower. At the close of the voir dire, Moody requested a Batson hearing to challenge the propriety of the State's exclusion of Hightower. The trial judge denied Moody's request, explaining that because Moody was white he had no standing to raise a Batson equal protection claim when the excluded venireperson was of a different race. The State agreed with the state trial court's reasoning, but nevertheless volunteered a race-neutral explanation for its striking of Hightower; mainly, that Hightower had two brothers-in-law in prison. The State argued that Hightower's family circumstances would have adversely affected his beliefs concerning whether a defendant could be rehabilitated by a long prison sentence. Disregarding Moody's request for a Batson hearing, the trial court dismissed Hightower without conducting any step of the three-part Batson analysis, solely on the basis that Moody had no standing to challenge the striking of a black juror.
On direct appeal to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Moody raised seven claims of error, including the equal protection claim at issue here. Moody argued that the state trial court failed to conduct a Batson hearing as he requested in violation of the Supreme Court's decision in Powers v. Ohio, which has long since resolved the issue of whether a defendant could raise a Batson claim to contest the State's use of a peremptory strike when a venireperson is of a different race from the challenging defendant. In 1996, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed Moody's conviction and sentence, stating that although the state trial court improperly failed to conduct a proper Batson hearing, the prosecutor's race-neutral proffer was sufficient for a lawful exclusion of Hightower and that the prosecutor did not strike Hightower because of his race. Moody v. State, No. 71,687 (Tex.Crim.App. Jan. 17, 1996) (unpublished).
In 1997, Moody filed an application for a state writ of habeas corpus in the Texas trial court. Moody did not assert his Batson claim in his state habeas petition. In 1999, the state trial court denied Moody's request for habeas relief and entered findings of fact and conclusions of law in support of its ruling. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied relief holding that the trial court's findings of fact and conclusions of law were supported by the record. Ex parte Moody, No. 71,687 (Tex.Crim.App. Nov. 3, 1999) (unpublished).
Moody subsequently petitioned for habeas relief in federal court. Moody raised the same claims he raised on direct appeal-two ineffective assistance of trial counsel claims and the equal protection claim at issue here. The State filed a motion for summary judgment, and Moody filed a cross motion for summary judgment. The district court granted summary judgment to the State on Moody's ineffective assistance of counsel claim and denied Moody's request for a COA;FN1 however, it ordered additional briefing on the equal protection issue, including evidence and arguments as to the proper remedy that should be ordered to rectify the error, i.e., whether it should issue an order of remand to conduct a proper Batson hearing or an order of remand for a new trial.
FN1. Following the district court's denial of relief on his ineffective assistance claim, Moody sought a COA before this court solely on that issue. We denied Moody's application as to each of the arguments in support of that claim and dismissed his petition as to that claim. See Moody v. Dretke, 77 Fed.Appx. 7222 (5th Cir.2003) (unpublished).
In a renewed motion for summary judgment, the State argued that the state trial court's decision denying Moody's request for a Batson hearing should be affirmed because (1) the erroneous ruling did not prevent Moody from fully developing his Batson claim in the state trial court; (2) Moody did not establish a prima facie case of discrimination; and (3) Moody did not meet his burden of establishing discriminatory intent. In response to the State's arguments the district court concluded that: [w]ell after the Supreme Court had ruled on the issue [of the irrelevance of a prospective juror's race when a defendant raises a Batson claim,] the trial court committed the error denounced by Powers. The trial court abdicated its duty to make an inquiry into alleged racial discrimination by failing to recognize Petitioner's standing to contest the issue. [The State] now argues that, the trial court's erroneous ruling notwithstanding, Petitioner should have proceeded to a Batson inquiry by attempting to prove intentional discrimination. [The State] trivializes the practical effect of the trial court's ruling that Petitioner lacked standing to raise a Batson issue. As a practical matter, any attempt to analyze the merits of a Batson claim in that forum would have been pointless; the trial court had already erroneously prevented Petitioner from developing the issue. Any attempt to make an extensive record or persist in his claim would have been a waste of judicial resources.
As part of the Batson analysis, a “trial court ... will have the duty to determine if the defendant has established purposeful discrimination.” Batson, 476 U.S. at 98, 106 S.Ct. 1712. In ignoring its obligation through an inaccurate standing ruling, the trial court disabled Petitioner's efforts to comply with his burden. [The State] now asks this Court, on the basis of a cold record alone, to consider the Batson framework and the petition. [However,] [t]he trial court prevented Petitioner from making a case under Batson; [furthermore,] the record is silent as to the prosecutor's true intent, demeanor, or credibility. [Therefore,] [t]he Court of Criminal Appeals' failure to apply fully Powers to this case was both contrary to and an unreasonable application of Supreme Court precedent. Moody v. Dretke, H-00-CV-1450, at 2 (S.D.Tex. Sep. 30, 2002) (supplemental memorandum opinion and order). Based on these findings, the district court provisionally granted habeas relief on the equal protection claim.
The State now urges us to reverse the district court's final judgment provisionally granting Moody's petition for habeas corpus. The State's sole basis for reversal is that Moody failed to rebut the race-neutral explanation voluntarily proffered by the prosecutor. Moody, on the other hand, vigorously contends that the decision of the district court should be affirmed.
A. Standard of Review
In reviewing a grant of the writ of habeas corpus, this court reviews a district court's findings of fact for clear error and reviews de novo the district court's disposition of pure issues of law and mixed issues of law and fact. Valdez v. Cockrell, 274 F.3d 941, 946 (5th Cir.2001). Because Moody's petition was filed after the effective date of the enactment of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”), 28 U.S.C. § 2254, our review is governed by a more heightened standard of review. Accordingly, a federal writ of habeas corpus may not issue to a petitioner seeking relief under AEDPA, unless the state adjudication of his claim, (1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States; or (2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d); see also Ogan v. Cockrell, 297 F.3d 349, 355 (5th Cir.2002). Moreover, a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to § 2254 should not issue solely on the basis that the state court committed error. Rather, the writ should be granted only if the state court “arrive[d] at a conclusion opposite to that reached by [the Supreme Court] on a question of law or if the state court decide[d] a case differently than [the Supreme Court] has on a set of materially indistinguishable facts.” Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 413, 120 S.Ct. 1495, 146 L.Ed.2d 389 (2000).
Absent a direct conflict with Supreme Court authority, habeas relief is available only if the state court decision is factually or legally unreasonable in light of the evidence present in the state court proceeding. Montoya v. Johnson, 226 F.3d 399, 404 (5th Cir.2000). Notwithstanding, an unreasonable application of federal law is not the equivalent of an incorrect application of federal law. Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 412, 120 S.Ct. 1495, 146 L.Ed.2d 389 (2000). Indeed, a federal writ may not issue merely because the state court incorrectly applied federal law; the application must also be unreasonable. Id. at 411, 120 S.Ct. 1495. An unreasonable application occurs “if the state court identifies the correct governing legal principles from [the Supreme Court's] decision, but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the [petitioner] prisoner's case.” Id.
In the instant case, our focus is on the third step of the Batson inquiry, the court's determination as to whether the defendant carried his burden of proving purposeful discrimination. This determination is a question of fact. United States v. Kelley, 140 F.3d 596, 606 (5th Cir.1998) (“The district court's determination that a party has used peremptory strikes in a discriminatory manner is a finding of fact and thus cannot be overturned by this Court absent clear error.”). Accordingly, Moody is only entitled to relief if the state court's determination constituted “an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d).
B. Equal Protection Under Batson
The Supreme Court has long since made clear that the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits prosecutors from striking prospective jurors solely on the basis of race. Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79, 89, 106 S.Ct. 1712, 90 L.Ed.2d 69 (1986); accord United States v. Webster, 162 F.3d 308, 349 (5th Cir.1998) (recognizing that the Fifth Amendment prohibits use of peremptory strike of prospective jurors solely on the basis of race). In Batson, the Court delineated a three-step analysis for evaluation of a defendant's claim that a prosecutor used a peremptory strike in a racially discriminatory manner: (1) a defendant must make a prima facie showing that the prosecutor exercised his peremptory challenges on the basis of race; (2) the burden then shifts to the prosecutor to articulate a race-neutral reason for striking the juror in question; and (3) the trial court must determine whether the defendant carried his burden of proving purposeful discrimination. See Hernandez v. New York, 500 U.S. 352, 358-59, 111 S.Ct. 1859, 114 L.Ed.2d 395 (citing Batson, 476 U.S. at 96-98, 106 S.Ct. 1712). The ultimate burden of persuasion lies at all times with the defendant. See Purkett v. Elem, 514 U.S. 765, 768, 115 S.Ct. 1769, 131 L.Ed.2d 834 (1995); see also Miller-El v. Dretke, 361 F.3d 849, 853 (5th Cir.2004), rev'd on other grounds, 545 U.S. 231, 125 S.Ct. 2317, 162 L.Ed.2d 196(2005).
For the second step of the analysis, a prosecutor is not allowed to merely deny that he did not have a discriminatory motive; he must provide a specific explanation that is clear and reasonable. Elem, 514 U.S. at 768, 115 S.Ct. 1769. Although the prosecutor's explanation must be clear and reasonable, the explanation is not required to be persuasive or even plausible. Id. at 767-68, 115 S.Ct. 1769; see also United States v. Huey, 76 F.3d 638, 640-41 n. 12 (5th Cir.1996). The question is the “facial validity” of the explanation. Elem, 514 U.S. at 768, 115 S.Ct. 1769. Therefore, “[u]nless a discriminatory intent is inherent in the prosecutor's explanation, the reason offered [by the prosecutor] will be deemed race neutral.” Id. at 768, 115 S.Ct. 1769.
Whether a defendant has carried his burden under Batson's third step to prove purposeful discrimination is based on the persuasiveness and credibility of the prosecutor's justification for his exercise of the peremptory strike. Id. This step of the analysis is extremely fact intensive. Because of the importance of demeanor and credibility evidence in making such determinations, this step of the analysis should lie solely in the province of the trial judge. Id. Indeed, it is at this stage that the persuasiveness of a prosecutor's explanation becomes relevant. Accordingly, “implausible or fantastic justifications may (and probably will) be found to be pretexts for purposeful discrimination.” Id.
1. Texas Trial Court
As stated, “[u]nder the AEDPA deference scheme, pure questions of law and mixed questions of law and fact are reviewed under § 2254(d)(1), and questions of facts are reviewed under § 2254(d)(2).” Trevino v. Johnson, 168 F.3d 173, 181 (5th Cir.1999). Accordingly, Moody is not entitled to habeas relief unless the state court's decision is “based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.” § 2254(d)(2). Further, a state court's factual findings are presumed to be correct unless contravened by clear and convincing evidence. § 2254(e)(1). With this standard of deference in mind, we consider Moody's equal protection claim.
From our review of the record, it is patently clear that the state trial court's ruling was contrary to clearly established Supreme Court law. The trial court did not even consider Moody's request for a Batson hearing because it incorrectly concluded that Moody had no standing to challenge the prosecution's exclusion of Hightower. As noted above, the Supreme Court has held that defendants have standing to raise a prospective juror's equal protection claim by way of a Batson challenge, even if the prospective juror is of a different race. Powers, 499 U.S. at 415, 111 S.Ct. 1364. Because of the trial court's erroneous ruling in contravention of Powers, it did not broach the three-step analysis required to evaluate a defendant's Batson challenge. Given the Supreme Court's holding in Powers, we find that the state trial court's ruling was an unreasonable application of clearly-established Supreme Court law. As to AEDPA's requirement that this court defer to the state trial court's findings of fact, this directive is not applicable as to this state trial court because it failed to make any findings of fact relative to the heart of Moody's claim.
2. Texas Court of Criminal Appeals
Essentially acknowledging that the state trial court's decision is not entitled to deference under AEDPA, the State contends alternatively that the district court should have denied relief based on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals' holding regarding Moody's Batson claim. It contends that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals' rejection of Moody's Batson claim was proper because the prosecutor's reason for striking Hightower was a valid race-neutral explanation. The State argues that because of AEDPA's deferential standard requiring that reviewing federal courts defer to the factual findings of state courts, the district court committed error when it failed to accede to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals' factual findings that the prosecutor's race-neutral explanation was sufficient and that Moody failed to prove discriminatory intent. We agree.
The Supreme Court has held that “the presumption of correctness is equally applicable when a state appellate court, as opposed to a state trial court, makes the finding of fact.” Sumner v. Mata, 455 U.S. 591, 592-93, 102 S.Ct. 1303, 71 L.Ed.2d 480 (1982); see also Rolan v. Vaughn, 445 F.3d 671, 680 (3d Cir.2006) (applying presumption of correctness to appellate court's findings of fact where petition was filed after the effective date of AEDPA); Norton v. Spencer, 351 F.3d 1, 6 (1st Cir.2003) (same); Bugh v. Mitchell, 329 F.3d 496, 501 (6th Cir.2003) (same). In the instant case, we have already determined that the state trial court did not conduct the three-step Batson test. Nevertheless, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on direct appeal did so in its stead. First, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals presumed that Moody made the requisite showing necessary to establish a prima facie case to challenge the prosecutor's peremptory strike of Hightower. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals next concluded that the State had volunteered a valid race-neutral explanation sufficient to meet its burden under step two of the analysis. Based upon its review of the record, the court concluded that Moody failed to prove that the prosecutor was motivated by discriminatory intent and thus failed to satisfy his burden under step three of the Batson analysis.
In considering Moody's petition for federal habeas relief, instead of determining whether the record supported the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals' finding that the prosecutor was not motivated by discriminatory intent, the district court essentially concluded that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals erred by not remanding the case to the state trial court to conduct a proper Batson hearing. Recognizing the futility of ordering a remand to reconstruct the Batson hearing, the district court ordered a new trial.
Given the Supreme Court's directive in Batson that the third step of the analysis should lie solely in the province of trial judges, 476 U.S. at 98, 106 S.Ct. 1712, it is easy to understand the district court's analysis of this claim. The district court found that the Texas state courts erred, first by failing to recognize that Moody had standing under Powers to challenge the prosecutor's use of peremptory strikes, and second, by failing on direct appeal to remand the case back to the state trial court to conduct a proper Batson hearing.FN2 Nevertheless, the district court's task was not to assess whether it agreed with the state court's ruling, but to determine whether the state court's finding was entitled to the presumption of correctness and to decide whether that determination was unreasonable in light of the evidence presented. Cf. Rice v. Collins, 546 U.S. 333, 126 S.Ct. 969, 973, 163 L.Ed.2d 824 (2006) (“Though it recited the proper standard of review, the panel majority improperly substituted its evaluation of the record for that of the state trial court.”); Brown v. Payton, 544 U.S. 133, 143, 125 S.Ct. 1432, 161 L.Ed.2d 334 (2005) (“Even on the assumption that its conclusion was incorrect, it was not unreasonable, and is therefore just the type of decision that AEDPA shields on habeas review.”).
FN2. Indeed we agree that the better practice would have been for the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to remand the case to the trial court to conduct a Batson hearing. In Wardlow v. State, 6 S.W.3d 786 (Tex.App.1999), the trial court overruled the defendant's Batson violation, acknowledging that it was irrelevant but noting that the defendant was white and concluding based on the trial judge's experience with the prosecutors that they were not striking the jurors based on race. The appellate court noted the Supreme Court's decision in Powers and reversed and remanded the case to the trial court, holding that the prosecution's peremptory strike of the only remaining black venire-member established a prima facie case of a Batson violation. Id. at 787-88.
In Elem, 514 U.S. 765, 115 S.Ct. 1769, 131 L.Ed.2d 834, the Supreme Court considered the Eighth Circuit's reversal of a district court's denial of habeas relief in similar circumstances. During jury selection for Jimmy Elem's (“Elem”) trial, a defendant charged with second degree robbery for snatching a young woman's purse, Elem objected to the prosecutor's use of peremptory strikes to exclude two prospective black jurors, prospective jurors 22 and 24. Id. at 766, 115 S.Ct. 1769. The prosecutor, without request from the state trial judge, offered explanations for its strikes of the two prospective jurors. Id. With regard to prospective juror 22, the prosecutor explained that he struck the juror because he had “long, unkempt hair, a mustache, and a beard.” Id. at 769, 115 S.Ct. 1769. Prospective juror 24 was struck because the juror had previously been robbed with a sawed-off shotgun. Id. at 766, 115 S.Ct. 1769. The prosecution's rationale was that because juror number 24 was robbed with an actual gun, he would not be able to find Elem guilty of robbery because Elem did not use a gun to commit his offense. Id. “The state trial court, without explanation, overruled [Elem's Batson] objection and empaneled the jury.” Id. In other words, the state trial judge, concluding that Elem did not establish a prima facie case of race discrimination, failed to engage any of the three-step Batson analysis. See id. at 770, 115 S.Ct. 1769 (Stevens, J., dissenting). On direct appeal, the state appeals court affirmed the state trial court's judgment, finding that the “ ‘state's explanation constituted a legitimate ‘hunch’ and that ‘[t]he circumstances fail[ed] to raise the necessary inference of racial discrimination.’ ” Id. at 766, 115 S.Ct. 1769 (majority opinion) (quoting State v. Elem, 747 S.W.2d 772, 775 (Mo.App.1988)).
On federal habeas review, the district court, applying the deferential standard required under § 2254(d), affirmed the state appeals court, holding that based on the record “the Missouri courts' determination that there had been no purposeful discrimination was a factual finding entitled to a presumption of correctness.” Id. at 767, 115 S.Ct. 1769. On review to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, the panel reversed the district court's decision and remanded the case with instructions that the district court grant Elem's petition for writ of habeas corpus. Id. The Eighth Circuit essentially concluded that the prosecution's explanation for striking prospective juror 22 was pretextual. Id.
The Supreme Court granted certiorari and reversed the Eighth Circuit, concluding that the panel had conflated steps two and three of the Batson analysis. Id. 768, 115 S.Ct. 1769. The Court stated that the panel erred by “requiring that the justification tendered at the second step be not just neutral but also at least minimally persuasive.” Id. The Court admonished the panel stating, “[i]t is not until the third step that the persuasiveness of the justification becomes relevant-the step in which the trial court determines whether the opponent of the strike has carried his burden of proving purposeful discrimination.” Id. (citing Batson, 476 U.S. at 98, 106 S.Ct. 1712). The Court stated that the prosecutor's explanation for striking prospective juror 22, i.e., that “he had long, unkempt hair, a mustache, and a beard,” was a sufficient race-neutral basis to satisfy the prosecution's burden under step-two of the analysis. Id. at 769, 106 S.Ct. 1712. The Court then concluded that from the prosecutor's race-neutral explanation, “the inquiry properly proceeded to step three, where the state court found that the prosecutor was not motivated by discriminatory intent.” Id.
On remand, the Eighth Circuit followed the Supreme Court's instructions “to reevaluate, under the proper § 2254(d) standard, [the Missouri Court of Appeal's] ‘finding of no racial motive.’ ” Elem v. Purkett, 64 F.3d 1195, 1200 (8th Cir.1995) (quoting Purkett v. Elem, 514 U.S. at 769, 115 S.Ct. 1769). The court's review of the record revealed the following:
When petitioner's counsel objected to the prosecutor's use of peremptory strikes to eliminate jurors 22 and 24, the trial judge noted, and then the prosecutor argued, that there was no evidence that jurors 22 and 24 were in fact African American. The prosecutor nonetheless stated that he struck jurors 22 and 24 because of their mustaches and beards, which “look[ed] suspicious,” and because of their hair, which the prosecutor “[didn't] like.” Responding to the trial court's comment and the prosecutor's responsive argument, the defense attorney requested that the court either allow him to ask the two jurors if they were black or take judicial notice of the fact that they were black, in order to establish a record of the jurors' race. The trial court responded, “I am not going to do that, no, sir.” Elem, 64 F.3d at 1199 (alterations in original) (citations omitted). The Eighth Circuit explained that “after the prosecution offered its reasons for striking jurors 22 and 24, petitioner made no attempt to persuade the trial court that the prosecutor's reasons for striking juror 22 were merely a pretext for purposeful discrimination.” Id. at 1201. Indeed, defense counsel's response to the trial court's refusal of his request was: “Okay. Nothing further.” Id. at 1200 n. 7. Accordingly, the Eighth Circuit held that because the prosecutor proffered reasons for striking juror 22 that were facially race-neutral, and petitioner made no attempt to persuade the state trial court that the prosecutor's reasons for striking juror 22 were merely a pretext for purposeful discrimination, the trial court's finding of no racial motive is fairly supported by the record, and petitioner is not entitled to habeas relief on his Batson claim. Id. at 1201.
In the instant case, when the trial court erroneously stated that Moody could not assert a Batson claim, defense counsel responded “Thank you. Note our exception.” FN3 The judge then indicated that Mr. Hightower was free to go; however, the prosecutor immediately offered his race-neutral reason for dismissing Hightower. The judge once again stated that Mr. Hightower was free to leave. Defense counsel did not respond. We understand why defense counsel may have been reluctant to pursue the issue before the trial court; nevertheless, we conclude that Moody's failure to argue on appeal that the prosecution's reasons were pretextual is fatal to any argument that he was denied an opportunity to carry his burden.
FN3. The colloquy transpired as follows: MR. GUERINOT: We would like the record to reflect that this juror is a black male, and we would ask the State to specifically state in the record, after your voir dire and mine, the racially impartial reason that they are exercising a strike. THE COURT: That will be denied, being the fact that the Defendant in this case is white. He is not part of any racial minority. MR. GUERINOT: Thank you. Note our exception. THE COURT: Give the gentleman an excuse and tell him he is free to go. MR. MORRIS: In addition to that, if it be needed-probably doesn't need to-our point would be, of course, the records of the two brother-in-laws [sic], one robber and one dope pusher, and he says they can be rehabilitated, even though they have been up twice before. THE COURT: Tell him he's free to go and thank him for being with us.
On appeal to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, defense counsel did not even attempt to argue that the prosecution's reasons for striking Hightower were pretextual. Instead, counsel argued only that “[t]he State failed to articulate a racially neutral reason, or any other reason, for exercising a peremptory strike on Mr. Hightower.” But, as we noted above, the prosecutor's stated reason for striking Hightower was that he had two brothers-in-law that had been imprisoned and who he believed could be rehabilitated. It is understandable that defense counsel did not attempt to respond to the prosecutor's stated reasons following the trial judge's ruling that Moody lacked standing; nevertheless, we hold that Moody's failure to do so before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals precludes a finding that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals' determination was unreasonable.
Our conclusion is bolstered by defense counsel's objection to the prosecution's strike of a second juror on Batson grounds. In an effort to preempt a second erroneous ruling that Batson did not apply, defense counsel established a prima facie case that the prosecutor exercised a peremptory strike on the basis of race. The prosecutor then articulated several reasons for the strike including the juror's memory loss and her statement that she could not follow the evidence. Defense counsel responded by arguing that the prosecutor's explanation was not supported by the witness's testimony. The trial judge then made a finding that the juror was not struck because of her race. In his brief to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Moody contended that there was nothing in the record to support the prosecutor's stated reasons for striking Lathon; however, he did not point to any evidence, or lack thereof, with regard to the prosecutor's stated reasons for striking Hightower. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals found that the prosecutor's stated reasons for striking Hightower are supported by the record and that Hightower was struck for those reasons and not because of his race. Moody has not rebutted these findings by clear and convincing evidence. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1).
The district court's opinion and Moody's argument that the third stage of the Batson test necessarily requires a trial judge, not a reviewing appellate court, to scrutinize the demeanor, and thereby, the credibility of a prosecutor's offering are quite forceful and are indeed supported by the Supreme Court's own admonition. See Batson, 476 U.S. at 98, 106 S.Ct. 1712; Hernandez v. New York, 500 U.S. 352, 365, 111 S.Ct. 1859, 114 L.Ed.2d 395 (1991) (plurality opinion) (“In the typical peremptory challenge inquiry, the decisive question will be whether counsel's race-neutral explanation for a peremptory challenge should be believed. There will seldom be much evidence bearing on that issue, and the best evidence often will be the demeanor of the attorney who exercises the challenge.”). Further, we are mindful that the Supreme Court has observed that “[t]here might be instances, however, in which the presumption [of correctness] would not apply to appellate factfinding .... For example, the question .... might in a given case turn on credibility determinations that could not be accurately made by an appellate court on the basis of a paper record.” Cabana v. Bullock, 474 U.S. 376, 388 n. 5, 106 S.Ct. 689, 88 L.Ed.2d 704 (1986), overruled in part on other grounds, Pope v. Illinois, 481 U.S. 497, 107 S.Ct. 1918, 95 L.Ed.2d 439 (1987); see also Buxton v. Lynaugh, 879 F.2d 140, 146 (5th Cir.1989). But Moody did not argue that the prosecutor's demeanor demonstrated that his reasons for striking Mr. Hightower were pretextual; indeed, Moody has made no argument that the prosecutor's reasons were pretextual. Consequently, we cannot conclude that the state court's determination that the prosecutor did not strike Hightower because of his race was unreasonable in light of this record.
Accordingly, although we might disagree with the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals' failure to remand the case to the trial court, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals' finding that the prosecutor's striking of prospective juror Hightower was not a violation of Moody's equal protection rights was not unreasonable and is therefore not grounds for habeas relief. The district court's determination to the contrary is VACATED.
For the foregoing reasons, the order of the district court granting Moody's petition for habeas relief is VACATED. This case is REMANDED for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. VACATED AND REMANDED.
DENNIS, Circuit Judge, dissenting:
When Moody's state trial counsel made a Batson objection to the state prosecutor's peremptory challenge of a black juror, the state trial court cut him off at the knees, ruling sua sponte that Moody did not have standing to object because Moody is white. Undisputedly, the state trial court's no-standing decision was contrary to the rule of federal law clearly established by the Supreme Court in Powers v. Ohio. 499 U.S. 400, 111 S.Ct. 1364, 113 L.Ed.2d 411 (1991) (holding that under the Equal Protection Clause, a criminal defendant may object to race-based exclusions of jurors effected through peremptory challenges whether or not the defendant and the excluded jurors share the same race).
The state trial court's ruling foreclosed any opportunity for: (1) Moody to make a prima facie showing of discrimination; (2) the State to make a valid proffer of a race-neutral basis for the challenge; or (3) Moody to show that the State's proffer would have been pretextual and that the challenge was race-based. Thus, the state trial court's immediate, sua sponte ruling also precluded the making of a record from which an appellate court could reasonably make a factual finding of racial discrimination vel non or a determination that the legal errors and omissions were harmless.
All this is evident from the unbroken train of events that rapidly followed Moody's objection to the peremptory challenge: (1) the trial court immediately ruled sua sponte that Moody did not have standing to object; (2) defense counsel noted his exception to the court's ruling; (3) the trial court excused the black juror from further jury service; (4) the prosecutor agreed with and accepted the benefit of the trial court's no-standing ruling, but interjected a reference to his reasons for the strike, stating that “[i]n addition to that, if it be needed-probably doesn't need to-... the records of the two brother-in-laws [of the juror], one robber and one dope pusher, and he says they can be rehabilitated, even though they have been up twice before ...;” and (5) the trial court signified his insistence on his no-standing ruling and sustained the prosecutor's peremptory challenge by directing that the black juror be told that he was “free to go” and thereby released from further jury duty.
The district court correctly determined that a writ of habeas corpus must be granted because (1) the state trial court unquestionably violated the clear, firm rule of Powers by holding that Moody lacked standing to object to the race-based exclusion of a black juror through peremptory challenge because Moody “is white ... [and] not part of any racial minority”; (2) the state trial court compounded its Powers error by also violating the clearly established rules of Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79, 106 S.Ct. 1712, 90 L.Ed.2d 69 (1986), when it failed to conduct any of the three steps required by Batson after Moody objected that the state prosecutor had used a race-based peremptory challenge to exclude a black juror; (3) the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (“CCA”), despite its recognition that the state trial court's decision was contrary to Powers, acted contrary to or unreasonably applied Batson by purporting to find as a fact that the prosecution's peremptory challenge had not been based on racial discrimination, although the record before it was completely devoid of any semblance of the state trial court's compliance with any of the three clearly established steps and procedures required by Batson.
The majority scouts for a way to say that the CCA's decision, although flatly contrary to Batson, was not unreasonable. But each theory it advances is itself contrary to or an unreasonable application of those clearly established Supreme Court holdings. First, the majority vaguely suggests that the collection of decisions related to Purkett v. Elem is a reasonable basis to think that a state appellate court might decide a Batson challenge originally and ab initio despite the trial court's failure to undertake any of the three steps. See Purkett v. Elem, 514 U.S. 765, 115 S.Ct. 1769, 131 L.Ed.2d 834 (1995); Elem v. Purkett, 64 F.3d 1195 (8th Cir.1995); State v. Elem, 747 S.W.2d 772 (Mo.Ct.App.1988). But the Elem gestalt is diametrically different and inapposite at every juncture: there, after the trial court accepted the defendant's prima facie showing and the prosecution's making of a valid race-neutral proffer, the defendant failed to prove that the proffered reason was a pretext for racial discrimination. Elem affirms and follows Batson. Here, contrary to the Elem decisions, as the majority repeatedly admits, Moody was not allowed to broach any of the Batson phases; and the prosecutor's interjection, coming after he agreed that Moody lacked standing to complain about the State's racially based peremptories, was tacitly but clearly rejected by the trial court as an invalid and unnecessary proffer. Second, the majority's notion that in the state appellate court Moody somehow waived his right to object to race based peremptories that he was denied the standing to assert in the trial court is also incorrect. Neither the CCA opinion nor the State's briefs there or here even hint at a waiver, as the majority in effect holds, in the sense of an express or implicit failure to avail oneself of a known right or to assert a claim, and the majority's opinion presents no reasonable basis for supposing that Moody somehow declined to assert his Batson claim in the CCA while at the same time complaining vigorously that he had been denied standing to assert it below.
In my opinion, Powers and Batson clearly establish that Moody had standing to object to the peremptory challenge, to make a prima facie case and to prove racial discrimination on the merits in the trial court, and Batson unmistakably does not allow a state appellate court to make the factual determination of racial discrimination in peremptory challenges vel non in the absence of a record of such a previous finding by the trial court. In Batson, the Supreme Court applied by analogy from its equal protection jurisprudence a burden-shifting framework for the analysis of objections to peremptory strikes as discriminatory. It established a three-step analysis: first, the defendant must make a prima facie showing that the peremptory challenge was racially motivated; second, the prosecutor must then articulate a race-neutral reason for the strike; and third, the trial court must determine whether the defendant has established purposeful discrimination. Batson, 476 U.S. at 96-98, 106 S.Ct. 1712. Batson noted that at the third step, “[s]ince the trial judge's findings in the context under consideration here largely will turn on evaluation of credibility, a reviewing court ordinarily should give those findings great deference.” Id. at 98 n. 21, 106 S.Ct. 1712. Batson involved a virtually identical fact pattern, and the court remanded to the trial court “[b]ecause the trial court flatly rejected the objection without requiring the prosecutor to give an explanation for his action.” Id. at 100, 106 S.Ct. 1712.
Batson plainly does not authorize an appellate court to take evidence or to act as the initial fact-finder regarding whether a peremptory challenge was racially motivated. Nor does it allow appellate judges to speculate as to what would have happened in the absence of the trial court's Batson error or to hypothesize a record for review in a case in which the trial court failed to make findings as to whether the defendant made out a prima facie case of racial discrimination, whether the prosecution had proffered a race neutral explanation, and whether the defendant prevailed on the ultimate issue of intentional racial discrimination. In the final analysis, the CCA's decision in the present case is, at best, a review of a hypothesized three-step inquiry that was never made by the state trial court, or, at worst, rank speculation that the prosecutor's uninvited, unaccepted, and untraversed faux-proffer concerning Hightower's brothers-in-law must have been the true basis for the prosecutor's peremptory challenge.
Nothing in AEDPA or the Supreme Court's jurisprudence reasonably supports the CCA in making credibility calls on peremptory challenges against black jurors based on a trial record devoid of evidence, traverse, contradictory hearing, or judicial questioning. It was well settled prior to AEDPA that, in habeas corpus proceedings in federal courts, the factual findings of state courts were presumed to be correct, but that the presumption was rebuttable and the findings could be set aside if they were “ ‘not fairly supported by the record.’ ” Purkett, 514 U.S. at 769, 115 S.Ct. 1769 (citing 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(8); Marshall v. Lonberger, 459 U.S. 422, 432, 103 S.Ct. 843, 74 L.Ed.2d 646 (1983)). Under this rebuttable presumption rule, it was not material that the factual findings were made by a state reviewing court rather than a trial court. See Sumner v. Mata, 455 U.S. 591, 592-93, 102 S.Ct. 1303, 71 L.Ed.2d 480 (1982); Sumner v. Mata, 449 U.S. 539, 546, 101 S.Ct. 764, 66 L.Ed.2d 722 (1981).
However, the Supreme Court held that although the Sumner cases established that the presumption applies to facts found by appellate as well as trial courts, there were instances in which the presumption would not arise with respect to appellate fact-finding-for example, in a case which turned on credibility determinations that could not be accurately made by an appellate court on the basis of a paper record. See Cabana v. Bullock, 474 U.S. 376, 388 n. 5, 106 S.Ct. 689, 88 L.Ed.2d 704 (1986) (citing Anderson v. Bessemer City, 470 U.S. 564, 575, 105 S.Ct. 1504, 84 L.Ed.2d 518 (1985); Wainwright v. Witt, 469 U.S. 412, 429, 105 S.Ct. 844, 83 L.Ed.2d 841 (1985)).
In Childress v. Johnson, 103 F.3d 1221, 1226 n. 7 (5th Cir.1997), this court held that AEDPA retained the traditional presumption of correctness afforded to state court factual determinations, id. at 1225 (citing 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1)), but that the presumption continues to be rebuttable because, post-AEDPA, “[s]ection 2254(d)(2) authorizes issuance of the writ if the state court decision ‘was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented.’ ” Id. at 1226 n. 7. Consequently, section 2254(d) does not require this court to defer to the CCA's finding of fact exonerating the State of racial bias in striking Hightower, the black juror. That finding lacks support in the record and was thus an “unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence.” Id. Moreover, that unsupported finding appears to have been designed to improperly shield and excuse the trial court's clear violation of the constitutional requirements set forth in Batson and Powers.
The trial court in this case never initiated the Batson inquiry, and the record does not contain even a first-step analysis. Rather, the trial court refused to consider the issue on the ground that Moody lacked standing to make the objection. We have previously described Batson findings by the trial court as a “prerequisite for proper appellate review.” United States v. Romero-Reyna, 889 F.2d 559, 560 (5th Cir.1989). The Supreme Court has made the importance of these findings taking place at the trial court level plain in Hernandez v. New York, 500 U.S. 352, 365, 111 S.Ct. 1859, 114 L.Ed.2d 395 (1991), which held that:
In the typical peremptory challenge inquiry, the decisive question will be whether counsel's race-neutral explanation for a peremptory challenge should be believed. There will seldom be much evidence bearing on that issue, and the best evidence often will be the demeanor of the attorney who exercises the challenge. As with the state of mind of a juror, evaluation of the prosecutor's state of mind based on demeanor and credibility lies “peculiarly within a trial judge's province.” Wainwright v. Witt, 469 U.S. 412, 428, 105 S.Ct. 844, 83 L.Ed.2d 841 (1985), citing Patton v. Yount, 467 U.S. 1025, 1038, 104 S.Ct. 2885, 81 L.Ed.2d 847 (1984).
The trial court's Powers error here led it to default completely on its duty under Batson to make a three-step analysis. The CCA here attempted to conduct the third step of the Batson analysis on its own, despite the Supreme Court's admonition in Hernandez that this role was peculiarly within the trial judge's province and despite the trial judge's failure to make findings as to any of the three steps. It based its findings on a cold, woefully incomplete record and an uninvited, equivocal, unaccepted and unexamined proffer of a race-neutral reason by the prosecutor. It had no opportunity to observe the demeanor of the prosecutor, described by Hernandez as often the “best evidence” in this situation. The CCA was required to remand for a three-step analysis as per Batson, and to do anything else was contrary to or an unreasonable application of Batson.
Finally, while Moody may not have gone outside of the trial court record before the CCA to identify a particular aspect of the prosecutor's demeanor which suggested racial motivation in this case, as the majority surmises, this does not detract from the general rule that an appellate court errs by attempting to make a credibility determination at the appellate level on a cold or hollow record.
Subtle and nonverbal cues such as a wink, a glance, or a brief hesitation are often perceived by a fact-finder only indirectly and subconsciously. The rule requiring that it be a trial judge who scrutinizes the demeanor of a witness is in place precisely because these cues would be difficult, if not impossible, to identify on appeal. “A transcript cannot reveal tone, speech inflections, mood and other indicia of a mental state and certainly cannot pick up subtle but crucial changes in [the prosecutor's] demeanor.” Bruce v. Estelle, 536 F.2d 1051, 1062 (5th Cir.1976). Moreover, such an appellate credibility determination based on a trial court record devoid of judicial inquiry, contradictory hearing or evidence is patently devoid of fairness and due process.
Moody plainly preserved this argument by, at the first available opportunity in his briefs to the federal district court, arguing that a “[t]rial judge at least might recall the demeanor of the prosecutor and prospective jurors while reviewing the record. The CCA absolutely could not.” After citing law to the effect that only a trial court may make in-person credibility assessments, FN1 Moody argued that “the TCCA did not, and could not, make an ‘in person credibility assessment,’ and there was no such assessment in front of it for review. This means, the TCCA could not make a reasonable assessment of racial discrimination vel non.” FN1. See United States v. Montgomery, 210 F.3d 446, 453 (5th Cir.2000) (citing United States v. Wallace, 32 F.3d 921, 925 (5th Cir.1994)).
The majority's further contention that Moody failed to argue that the prosecutor's stated reasons for striking Hightower were pretextual is also troubling. First, Moody was not required to make such an argument, considering the trial court's clear legal errors in its ruling and proceedings contrary to Powers and Batson. Second, Moody's briefs to the district court certainly made this argument anyway, flatly stating that “[t]he record of individual voir dire proves, however, that the prosecution['s] explanation for its strike was pretextual.” Moody pointed both to statistical evidence of a disproportionate number of black jurors being struck from the venire in this case and to several white jurors who Moody argues stated similar views and yet were not struck by the prosecutor. While Moody's briefs before the CCA did not detail the reasons why Moody believed the strike of Hightower to be pretextual, this failure certainly does not amount to a waiver, as implied by the majority. In response to Moody's briefs identifying a clear error and requesting remand (which the majority concedes is the appropriate remedy), the CCA on its own initiative chose to engage in appellate fact-finding. Moody could hardly have been expected to foresee and brief this sua sponte action by the court. Furthermore, we cannot state with certainty that Moody did not challenge the strike as pretextual because the record on appeal does not contain a transcript of any oral proceedings before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and contains no indication that an evidentiary hearing was held prior to the appellate fact-finding. We have no indication that Moody was ever permitted to offer evidence that the strike was pretextual, as he requested of the district court. In fact, it appears that this appellate finding of fact was made without an evidentiary hearing-which, given the refusal of the trial court to allow the Batson inquiry to proceed to even the first step, gave Moody no opportunity to meet his burden at the unreached third step by introducing evidence challenging the State's backhanded proffer of a reason for the strike as pretextual.
The burden of proving any waiver by Moody of his arguments lies on the State. See, e.g., 31 C.J.S. Estoppel and Waiver § 213 (2006) (“The burden of proving waiver is on the party claiming or asserting it, or alleging and relying on it, or raising an issue as to it.”). The State's brief to the district court describes the facts as if no evidentiary hearing ever occurred, arguing in a footnote that the only “hearing” necessary for a state appellate court to make a finding of fact is to allow the parties opportunity for written and oral argument. The State's briefs before us contain no allegation of waiver and do not give us any indication as to whether oral argument occurred in the CCA or what was said at any hearing. We cannot, on the incomplete record before us and on our own initiative, presume a waiver. Moody's first opportunity to challenge the CCA's sua sponte effort to reach the third step of the Batson inquiry was before the district court, and it is plain that he argued there that the state's proffered reason was pretextual.
For these reasons, I respectfully dissent from the majority's reversal of the district court's judgment. Ordinarily, I believe a remand to re-conduct the Batson analysis is the most appropriate remedy. However, in this case the hearing took place over a decade ago, and the prosecutor has submitted an affidavit stating that he does not remember the reasons motivating his strike and could not now testify to them. On these circumstances, I cannot say that the district court erred in ordering a new trial. See Barnes v. Anderson, 202 F.3d 150, 157 (2d Cir.1999) (ordering a new trial instead of a hearing on the Batson issues because the passage of time and an incomplete record made a hearing unlikely to allow a reliable analysis of the voir dire); Riley v. Taylor, 277 F.3d 261, 293 (3d Cir.2001) (holding that the passage of time rendered remand for a Batson hearing inappropriate as a remedy and that “statistical evidence, which might be the subject of some analysis at such a hearing, is relevant but not dispositive to our decision” and could not alone justify a remand over a new trial); Brown v. Kelly, 973 F.2d 116, 121-22 (2d Cir.1992) (holding that, by contrast, an evidentiary hearing was a more appropriate remedy where the prosecutor testified that he vividly remembered his reasons for striking the jurors and testified about them in detail, the defense counsel had contemporaneous notes taken at the voire dire, and only six years had passed).
For these reasons, I respectfully dissent.