Executed September 17, 2008 06:20 p.m. CDT by Lethal Injection in Texas
22nd murderer executed in U.S. in 2008
1121st murderer executed in U.S. since 1976
9th murderer executed in Texas in 2008
414th murderer executed in Texas since 1976
(Race/Sex/Age at Murder-Execution)
(Race/Sex/Age at Murder)
William Alfred Murray
W / M / 28 - 39
W / F / 93
Murray v. Quarterman, S243 Fed.Appx. 51 (5th Cir. 2007) (Habeas).
Murray v. Quarterman, Slip Copy, 2006 WL 2691151 (N.D.Tex. 2006) (Habeas).
10 chili cheese enchiladas, a cheese pizza, one cheeseburger and sweet tea.
"I'm sorry for what I did," he told two nephews of his victim who watched him through a window in the death chamber. "I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me. The Lord has forgiven me." Murray then looked through an adjacent window where his mother and two brothers were among the witnesses. "I'll be there waiting for y'all, all right?" he told them. "God Bless."
Texas Department of Criminal Justice - Executed Offenders (William A. Murray)Inmate: Murray, William A.
Prior Prison Record: TDCJ-ID #798525, ten-year sentence from Kaufman County for one count of Burglary of a Habitation; 11/12/97 received Shock Probation.
Summary of incident: On 02/10/98, in Kaufman, Texas, during the nighttime hours, the subject beat, strangled and raped a 93-year old female. Law enforcement officers responded to a call concerning the victim at her residence. When the officers arrived, they found the residence to be in disarray and appeared to have been ransacked. They found the victim in the bedroom, nude from the waist down with wounds and bruising on and about her head area. The victim also had an Ace bandage tied around her neck and into her mouth, which was soaked with blood. It was stated that the victim's death was caused by strangulation and blunt force injuries. The subject confessed to entering the residence and ransacking it. The subject admitted that he physically and sexually assaulted the victim, and wrapped an Ace bandage around her face and mouth. The subject admitted he removed some change from a jar and a small knife.
Texas Execution Information Center by David Carson.
William Alfred Murray, 40, was executed by lethal injection on 17 September 2008 in Huntsville, Texas for the rape and murder of a woman while burglarizing her home.
On 10 February 1998, Murray, then 30, entered the Kaufman home of Rena Ratcliff, 93. While he was rummaging through Ratcliff's bedroom, looking for things to steal, she woke up. Ratcliff snuck up behind Murray and hit him on the back of his head with her cane or walker. Murray then began beating Ratcliff on her head. He also pulled her clothing down and raped her. He also tied an Ace bandage around her neck and stuffed the ends into her mouth. He then stole some change from a jar - about $10 - and a small knife, and left.
Murray was being questioned about another burglary in the area when he told the officer that he wanted to confess another crime. He then admitted to Ratcliff's murder.
Evidence at Murray's trial showed he was responsible for at least a dozen burglaries in Kaufman County. He had been convicted for one of them and given a 10-year prison sentence, but he was released only four months later on "shock probation" in November 1997. He also had a 1992 conviction for marijuana possession. While in jail, awaiting trial, he sexually assaulted two other inmates, and also escaped.
A jury convicted Murray of capital murder in June 1999 and sentenced him to death. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the conviction and sentence in January 2000. All of his subsequent appeals in state and federal court were denied.
In an interview from death row a few days before his execution, Murray - whose 5' 3" height earned him the nickname "Scooter" - told a reporter he was high on PCP and crack cocaine and had drunk 18 beers when he broke into Ratcliff's house. He intended to steal a television set, but it turned out to be too heavy to carry. He said he did not know the victim was in the bedroom when he went in to look for items to steal. "I messed up. Somebody hit me from behind, and I went off ... the next thing, I did what I did. I tripped out. It was crazy."
Murray said that he dropped out of school in the ninth grade. "After that, it started going downhill," he said. "That was the worst mistake I ever did." "Yes, I did do this," Murray said in the interview. "I'm not trying to blame this on somebody else. I want people to know I'm sorry for the crime. I pray to the Lord to forgive me and I'm asking them to forgive me. That's all I can do."
Despite admitting his guilt, Murray hoped he could avoid being executed. "I've been praying every day that the good Lord will let me out," he said. "They don't have to worry about me messing up any more." Murray's lawyer did not file any last-chance appeals on his client's behalf.
Four days before his execution, Hurricane Ike moved through the Huntsville area. Despite widespread power outages, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's Huntsville Unit had normal electric service. TDCJ officials said that even if power had been down, the judge's execution warrant would have been carried out, because the procedure does not require electricity.
Two of Ratcliff's nephews witnessed Murray's execution from a viewing room adjoining the death chamber. "I'm sorry for what I did," Murray told them. "I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me. The Lord has forgiven me." He then looked at his mother and brother, who were watching from the other viewing room. "I'll be there waiting for y'all, all right?" he said to them. "God bless." The lethal injection was then started. He was pronounced dead at 6:20 p.m.
Dallas Morning News
"William Murray executed for 1998 killing of Kauffman County woman." (Associated Press 10:26 PM CDT September 17, 2008)
HUNTSVILLE, Texas – Texas has executed condemned killer William Murray for raping and strangling a 93-year-old woman during a burglary of her Kaufman County home more than a decade ago. William Murray Murray was executed Wednesday night. He was the ninth Texas prisoner put to death this year. The total is the highest in the nation.
Murray blamed drug problems for committing at least a dozen burglaries, including the one in February 1998 where Rena Ratcliff was awakened while he rummaged through her bedroom. The widow hit him with her cane or walker, surprising him, and he said after that he "went crazy."
He took about $10 in change from a jar and a knife he later traded for drugs.
"Killer of woman in $10 burglary executed," by Michael Graczyk. (Associated Press Sept. 18, 2008, 8:28AM)
HUNTSVILLE, Texas — Condemned killer William Murray said he'd been looking for another chance to prove himself. "I've been praying every day that the good Lord will let me out," he said recently from death row. "They don't have to worry about me messing up any more." Freed on probation after serving just three months of a 10-year term for burglaries, he forfeited his chance, raping and strangling an elderly woman nearly a decade ago while committing another burglary just three months after he was released.
Wednesday evening, he was executed for the slaying of 93-year-old Rena Ratliff at her home in Kaufman County, just east of Dallas. "I'm sorry for what I did," he told two nephews of his victim who watched him through a window in the death chamber. "I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me. The Lord has forgiven me." Murray then looked through an adjacent window where his mother and two brothers were among the witnesses. "I'll be there waiting for y'all, all right?" he told them. "God Bless." Eight minutes later he was pronounced dead.
Scattered power outages in the Huntsville area, the result of last weekend's Hurricane Ike, had no effect on the execution. Officials said the procedures were not dependent on electricity and the Huntsville Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, where executions are carried out, had normal electric service Wednesday.
Murray, 39, became the ninth prisoner executed this year in the nation's busiest capital punishment state. Appeals were exhausted and Murray's lawyer filed no last-ditch efforts in the courts to try to stop the punishment. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to review his case earlier this year and a clemency bid to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles was turned down this week.
In a recent death row interview with The Associated Press, Murray acknowledged the slaying, blaming it on a drug problem. "I'm not trying to blame this on somebody else," he said. "I want people to know I'm sorry for the crime. I pray to the Lord to forgive me and I'm asking them to forgive me. That's all I can do."
Murray was linked to at least a dozen burglaries in his home area of Kaufman County, just east of Dallas. In February 1998, he awakened Ratcliff while he rummaged through her bedroom. The widow hit him with her cane or walker, surprising him, and he said after that he "went crazy." "I killed her," he said. "I feel bad." He took about $10 worth of change from a jar and a knife. He swapped the knife for drugs.
The night of the killing, he said he drank 18 beers and took some PCP and crack cocaine. He'd hoped to steal a television but it was too heavy for the 5-foot-3 Murray, known on death row as "Scooter." Besides the burglaries, his record showed he escaped from jail while awaiting trial, sexually assaulted two other inmates while he was locked up and also was seen smoking marijuana in jail. At one point, he was employed as a city worker in Kaufman but got fired for marijuana possession.
Another inmate, Joseph Ries, had been scheduled to die on Thursday but the judge who set the execution date moved it a few weeks ago to October. Ries is among four convicted killers set to die next month and among at least 15 with execution dates into early next year. Scheduled to die next is Kevin Watts, set for execution Oct. 16 for a triple slaying during the robbery of a San Antonio restaurant in 2002.
Less than four months after being released from "shock probation" after serving only three months of a ten year sentence for a count of burglary of a habitation, William A. Murray robbed, beat, raped and murdered a 93-year-old woman. The convicted murderer's mother had once cared for the elderly woman as a home nursing aide. After his arrest, Murray told his mother he killed the woman in a drug frenzy after breaking into her home. The widow hit him with her cane or walker, surprising him, and he said after that he "went crazy."
Evidence showed Murray had two earlier marijuana convictions. According to court documents, Murray attacked Rena after she woke up while he was in her room looking for valuables and confronted him. Police acting on a warrant that tied Murray to an earlier burglary arrested him when they found evidence linking him to the slaying.
The facts in evidence show that, on the night of February 10, 1998, in Kaufman, Texas, Murray beat, strangled and raped 93-year-old female Rena Ratcliff. Law enforcement officers responded to a call concerning the victim at her residence. When the officers arrived, they found the residence to be in disarray and appeared to have been ransacked. They found the victim in the bedroom, nude from the waist down with wounds and bruising on and about her head area. The victim also had an Ace bandage tied around her neck and into her mouth, which was soaked with blood. It was stated that the victim's death was caused by strangulation and blunt force injuries. Murray confessed to entering the residence and ransacking it. Murray admitted that he physically and sexually assaulted the victim, and wrapped an Ace bandage around her face and mouth. Murray admitted he removed about $10 worth of change from a jar and a small knife which he later traded for drugs.
UPDATE: A man who raped and murdered a 93-year-old woman in her Dallas-area home was executed Wednesday after he apologized to his victim's relatives. "I'm sorry for what I did," William Murray told two nephews of Rena Ratcliff who watched him through a window in the death chamber. "I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me. The Lord has forgiven me." In an recent interview with the Associated Press, Murray said, "Yes, I did do this. I'm not trying to blame this on somebody else. I want people to know I'm sorry for the crime. I pray to the Lord to forgive me and I'm asking them to forgive me. That's all I can do." Murray blamed drug problems for committing at least a dozen burglaries, including the one in February 1998 where Ratcliff was awakened while he rummaged through her bedroom. The widow hit him with her cane or walker, surprising him, and he said after that he "went crazy. I didn't know she was in there," he said. "I messed up. Somebody hit me from behind and I went off. I did what I did."
Murray v. Quarterman, S243 Fed.Appx. 51 (5th Cir. 2007) (Habeas).
Background: Petitioner convicted in state court of capital murder and sentenced to death filed petition for writ of habeas corpus. The United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas, 2006 WL 2691151, denied petition but granted certificate of appealability (COA).
Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Jerry E. Smith, Circuit Judge, held that:
(1) petitioner's depression and suicidal ideation was insufficient to raise bona fide issue of petitioner's competence to waive appeal;
(2) state appellate court's use of postcard to inform petitioner of denial of request for rehearing on waiver of right to appeal did not violate due process;
(3) petitioner was not entitled to federal habeas review of claims of ineffective assistance of counsel that were not exhausted in state court; and
(4) petitioner did not have due process right to present parole eligibility information to jury. Affirmed.
William Murray was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death. The district court denied habeas corpus relief but granted a certificate of appealability. We affirm.
Murray entered the home of ninety-three-year-old Rena Ratcliff and looked through her home and bedroom for valuables. Ratcliff woke up while Murray was in her room and confronted him. Murray hit and choked Ratcliff, eventually raping and killing her. He was convicted by a jury and sentenced to death.
“Under [the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996], a federal court may not issue a writ of habeas corpus for a defendant convicted in state court unless the state court's adjudication ‘(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 *53 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.’ ” Parr v. Quarterman, 472 F.3d 245, 252 (5th Cir.2006) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1)-(2)). “[W]e review the district court's findings of facts for clear error and its conclusions of law de novo, applying the same standards to the state court's decision as did the district court.” Busby v. Dretke, 359 F.3d 708, 713 (5th Cir.2004) (citing Martinez v. Johnson, 255 F.3d 229, 237 (5th Cir.2001)).
“A decision is contrary to clearly established Federal law ‘if the state court arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by [the Supreme Court] on a question of law or if the state court decides a case differently than [the] Court has on a set of materially indistinguishable facts.’ ” Hill v. Johnson, 210 F.3d 481, 485 (5th Cir.2000) (quoting Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 413, 120 S.Ct. 1495, 146 L.Ed.2d 389 (2000)). “Factual determinations by state courts are presumed correct absent clear and convincing evidence to the contrary.” Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 324, 123 S.Ct. 1029, 154 L.Ed.2d 931 (2003) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1)).
Murray first asserts that the state trial court's decision not to require a psychological examination to determine whether Murray was competent to waive his appeal was objectively unreasonable. We disagree.
The trial court had a considerable amount of evidence relating to Murray's competence. Murray's counsel stated Murray was competent to waive his appeal; Murray testified at the waiver hearing that he was competent to waive his appeal; one expert told the court that, based on an informal evaluation, he had no reason to suspect Murray was incompetent, though he was not sure, because he had not been asked to do a formal evaluation; and one expert provided a pretrial report stating Murray was competent to stand trial five months before the waiver hearing.
Murray claims his own testimony should have alerted the trial court to the need for an examination. In his testimony, he claimed that his decision was based on emotion, not rational reasoning, as shown by the fact he gave unfounded emotional reasons for his waiver: He said he wanted to “get it over” for the victim's family's sake, even though he knew it was a “mistake.” Moreover, he claims that his major depression and suicidal ideation should have caused the court to order a psychological examination.
In Mata v. Johnson, 210 F.3d 324 (5th Cir.2000), we analyzed when a federal district court must obtain a psychological examination for a defendant waiving his right to continue habeas appeals. In that case, the district court did not require an examination, and we examined whether the evidence raised a bona fide issue of competence. Id. at 330. The record contained evidence that raised a bona fide question of competence, because there was evidence that the defendant suffered from an organic brain disorder, had made numerous suicide attempts, and had a delusional disorder. Id. at 332. The district court erred by relying on an expert report that was twelve years old. Id. Also, in that case the defendant did not appear before the court for the court to observe his behavior personally. Id. at 333.
Having carefully reviewed Murray's brief and supporting documents, we conclude that the state trial court did not base its decision on an unreasonable determination of the facts in failing to require a *54 psychological exam. The evidence in the record did not raise a question of Murray's competence. His depression and suicidal ideation are unlike the repeated suicide attempts and documented delusional disorder in Mata. The five-month-old expert report stating Murray was competent to stand trial is quite different from the twelve-year-old report in Mata; nothing indicates the report in this case was insufficiently current. Finally, the state court examined Murray, personally observing his behavior, and concluded he was competent. The federal district court did not err in finding that the state court's failure to require a psychological exam was not unreasonable.
Murray urges that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (“TCCA”) denied him procedural due process because it used a postcard to deny his motion for rehearing of its affirmance of his conviction. He also asserts that he should have been able to withdraw his waiver of his right to appeal because his motion for rehearing was made only a few months after he had requested permission to waive his right to appeal.
Murray filed a motion that stated that he had informed his counsel that he wanted to waive his right to appeal. Three months later, the TCCA affirmed his sentence, noting he had waived his right to appeal. About two weeks later, Murray moved for rehearing, stating he had changed his mind about waiving. The TCCA denied the motion for rehearing with a postcard that noted that three of the nine members of the court dissented from the denial.
Murray claims that the TCCA's use of a postcard to deny his motion for rehearing was “the essence of arbitrary action” and that the refusal to permit him to withdraw his waiver was an abuse of discretion that affected “the fundamental fairness of the trial.” Yet, Murray has not shown that the TCCA's procedure was contrary to any clearly established federal law as determined by the Supreme Court. He provides no law stating that defendants have a right to a rehearing or that they have a right to have their rehearing denied with a written opinion that is not on a postcard. The Supreme Court has “defined the category of infractions that violate ‘fundamental fairness' very narrowly,” Dowling v. United States, 493 U.S. 342, 352, 110 S.Ct. 668, 107 L.Ed.2d 708 (1990), and the procedure followed here does not fit into that narrow category, because it does not violate “those fundamental conceptions of justice which lie at the base of our civil and political institutions, and which define the community's sense of fair play and decency.” Id. at 353, 110 S.Ct. 668 (internal quotations omitted).
Murray contends that the federal district court erred in denying his claim that he was denied effective assistance of counsel at trial and on appeal. Murray admits that he did not exhaust his state remedies, so he is not entitled to relief under § 2254(b)(1)(A). But, he claims that his failure to exhaust his claims does not limit relief available under § 2254(b)(1)(B). FN1
FN1. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1) states:An application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court shall not be granted unless it appears that-(A) the applicant has exhausted the remedies available in the courts of the State; or(B)(i) there is an absence of available State corrective process; or(ii) circumstances exist that render such process ineffective to protect the rights of the applicant.
To qualify for an exception under § 2254(b)(1)(B), a prisoners must “ ‘demonstrate cause for the default and actual prejudice as a result of the alleged violation of federal law, or demonstrate that failure to consider the claims will result in a fundamental miscarriage of justice.’ ” FN2 “To prove ‘cause’ [Murray] must establish that some ‘external force’ impeded the defense's efforts to comply with the procedural rule.” Id. at 756 (citing Coleman, 501 U.S. at 753, 111 S.Ct. 2546). “To meet the ‘miscarriage of justice’ test, [Murray] needed to supplement his constitutional claim with a colorable showing of factual innocence, i.e., ‘a fair probability that, in light of all the evidence, including that ... evidence tenably claimed to have been wrongly excluded or to have become available only after the trial, the trier of the facts would have entertained a reasonable doubt of his guilt.’ ” Id. (quoting Sawyer v. Whitley, 505 U.S. 333, 339 & n. 5, 112 S.Ct. 2514, 120 L.Ed.2d 269 (1992) (citations and quotations omitted)). Murray has not met either of these requirements, and we cannot discern any argument in his brief that appears designed to do so. Because he has not established that he qualifies for an exception to the exhaustion requirement, he is not entitled to relief on the basis of ineffective assistance.
FN2. Bagwell v. Dretke, 372 F.3d 748, 755 (5th Cir.2004) (quoting Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 750, 111 S.Ct. 2546, 115 L.Ed.2d 640 (1991)). Murray argues that we should abandon this requirement based on the statutory language and public policy reasons. Because we are bound by our past decisions, such as Bagwell, we do not abandon that requirement today.
Murray posits that Texas's method of selecting who is prosecuted for the death penalty is objectively unreasonable under the Fourteenth Amendment because it gives prosecutors excessive discretion and permits similarly situated criminals to be treated differently. As pointed out in the proceedings in the district court, however, the Supreme Court has rejected the foundation for this claim. See Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153, 199, 96 S.Ct. 2909, 49 L.Ed.2d 859 (1976). Murray's assertion is meritless.FN3
FN3. In Gregg, the Court characterized the type of argument Murray asserts here:The petitioner's argument is nothing more than a veiled contention that Furman indirectly outlawed capital punishment by placing totally unrealistic conditions on its use. In order to repair the alleged defects pointed to by the petitioner, it would be necessary to require that prosecuting authorities charge a capital offense whenever arguably there had been a capital murder and that they refuse to plea bargain with the defendant. If a jury refused to convict even though the evidence supported the charge, its verdict would have to be reversed and a verdict of guilty entered or a new trial ordered, since the discretionary act of jury nullification would not be permitted. Finally, acts of executive clemency would have to be prohibited. Such a system, of course, would be totally alien to our notions of criminal justice. Gregg, 428 U.S. at 199 n. 50, 96 S.Ct. 2909.
Murray avers that the state court's failure to inform jurors on the effect of the parole law violated equal protection and due process. Our precedent, however, precludes his argument, because we have consistently held that a defendant does not have a due process right to present parole eligibility information to the jury. Thacker v. Dretke, 396 F.3d 607, 617 (5th Cir.2005).FN4 Regarding his equal protection argument, Murray presents no reason that the state court's “adjudication resulted in a decision that was contrary to ... clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court,” so he cannot prevail on this claim.
FN4. Simmons v. South Carolina is inapplicable. “ Simmons requires that a jury be informed about a defendant's parole ineligibility only when (1) the state argues that a defendant represents a future danger to society, and (2) the defendant is legally ineligible for parole.” Miller v. Johnson, 200 F.3d 274, 290 (5th Cir.2000). Because Murray could be paroled after forty years, he is not legally ineligible for parole. AFFIRMED.
Murray v. Quarterman, Slip Copy, 2006 WL 2691151 (N.D.Tex. 2006) (Habeas).
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
JORGE A. SOLIS, District Judge.
Now before the Court is Petitioner's Second Amended Petition for Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. United States Magistrate Judge William F. Sanderson, Jr., issued his Findings, Conclusions, and Recommendation on January 30, 2003. Petitioner objected on February 10, 2003. In regards to the first, second, fourth, fifth, and sixth grounds for relief, the Court is of the opinion that the Findings, Conclusions, and Recommendation are correct and hereby accepts them as the findings and conclusions of the Court. In regards to ground three, the Court states below its reasons for denying Petitioner's request for relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Because Petitioner has failed to assert valid grounds for relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, the Court hereby DENIES the Petitioner's Second Amended Petition for Habeas Corpus. A Certificate of Appealability is GRANTED.
I. Background and Procedural History
This is a suit for habeas corpus relief, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, filed by William A. Murray, who has received a death sentence for capital murder from the State of Texas. Murray was convicted and sentenced to death in June 1999 for murdering Rena A. Ratcliff in the course of committing or attempting to commit aggravated sexual assault.
Having received the death sentence, Murray's conviction was automatically appealed to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. However, before briefs were submitted, Murray's appellate counsel filed a motion seeking to abate the appeal and extend the time for briefing as a result of Murray's expressed desire to waive his right to appeal. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted this motion and remanded the case to the state district court for “a hearing on appellant's professed ‘desire to waive my right to appeal.’ “ William A. Murray v. Texas, No. 73,454, slip. op. at 2 (Tex.Crim.App. Nov. 1, 1999).
The state district court held this hearing on November 18, 1999. Petitioner was the only witness who testified at the hearing, but his counsel did also state some opinions regarding his decision-making and ability to understand the proceedings. No psychiatric or psychological testimony was taken, although the trial judge did refer to the testimony of two psychiatrists at trial.
Following this hearing, the state district court issued the following findings:
After reviewing the evidence before the Court and the pertinent law, the Court finds that William A. Murray, has been fully admonished of his right to appeal. The Court further finds that William A. Murray has voluntarily, knowingly and intelligently given up his right to appeal. Texas v. Murray, No. 19071 (86th Dist. Ct., Kaufman County, Tex. Dec. 6, 1999). The Court of Criminal Appeals subsequently accepted the waiver, reviewed the conviction and sentence for fundamental error, and affirmed the conviction and death sentence in an unpublished opinion delivered on January 20, 2000. Murray subsequently filed a motion for rehearing to reinstate his appeal on February 7, 2000, and this motion was denied on March 29, 2000. A petition for writ of certiorari was filed with the Supreme Court of the United States on June 30, 2000, and denied on October 16, 2000.
On March 27, 2001, Petitioner filed an Application for Writ of Habeas Corpus with the state trial court. The trial court issued Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law recommending that relief be denied on September 5, 2001, and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied habeas relief on the basis of these findings and conclusions on October 3, 2001.
Petitioner filed his original § 2254 petition on April 24, 2002, and his first amended petition on September 13, 2002. On January 30, 2003, United States Magistrate Judge William F. Sanderson, Jr., recommended that the petition be denied. Petitioner filed objections on February 10, 2003.
On January 30, 2004, the Court authorized Murray to file his second amended petition to add a claim based on Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304, 122 S.Ct. 2242, 153 L.Ed.2d 335 (2002). Since that time, Murray has abandoned his Atkins claim.
On October 18, 2004, Murray filed a Trial Brief in support of his petition and objections to the Magistrate Judge's Recommendation. Respondent filed an Advisory to the Court on November 30, 2004, asserting that the case was ripe for a decision.
* * *
D. The State Court's Factual Determination Regarding Petitioner's Competence to Waive Further Appeals Was Not Objectively Unreasonable
As discussed above, Petitioner is precluded from habeas relief unless he can show that the state court unreasonably determined that Petitioner was competent to waive further appeals in light of the record before it. While this is a close call, the Court ultimately concludes that the state court's determination was not objectively unreasonable.
In deciding whether an inmate is competent to waive his appeal in a capital case, “[t]he extent and severity of the petitioner's history of mental health problems which have been brought to the court's attention influence the breadth and depth of the competency inquiry required.” Mata v. Johnson, 210 F.3d 324, 330 (5th Cir.2000). Under Rees, however, there is a “presumption that psychiatric and other medical examinations will be included in the decision making process.” Id. at 328.
Here, the state court relied upon expert testimony that Petitioner was competent to stand trial given five months before the waiver decision, but did not require additional psychiatric or medical examinations to determine whether Petitioner was competent to waive his appeal. On this particular record, the Court finds that the absence of such evidence did not make the state court's fact-finding process objectively unreasonable.
While it is true that the standard for determining competency to stand trial differs from the standard for competency to waive appeals in a capital case, there are substantial similarities between the two. See id. at 329 n. 2. Both “inquire about the discrete capacity to understand and make rational decisions concerning the proceedings at issue, and the presence or absence of mental illness or brain disorder is not dispositive.” Id. Indeed, some courts have found no difference between them. See, e.g., United States v. Hogan, 986 F.2d 1364, 1371 (11th Cir.1993) (“There is no significant difference between the relative fact-versus-law content of the standard for competency to stand trial and that of the standard for competency to waive post-conviction federal review.”); Giarratano v. Procunier, 891 F.2d 483, 487 (4th Cir.1989) (“[T]here is no substantive difference between the two standards” because “[b]oth seek to assure that one charged with crime will not be tried or punished unless he has the mental capacity to understand the situation that confronts him and the ability to consult rationally with his counsel about his defense.”); see also Groseclose ex rel. Harries v. Dutton, 594 F.Supp. 949, 957 (M.D.Tenn.1984) (stating that the Dusky standard “is equivalent to the Rees competency test” and that both “highlight[ ] the constitutional necessity that a criminal defendant understand the proceedings and then be capable of aiding his legal counsel in choosing among legal alternatives.”).FN8 The Supreme Court, for its part, recently stated that “there is no indication in [ Rees ] that the phrase [‘rational choice’] means something different from ‘rational understanding.’ “ Godinez v. Moran, 509 U.S. 389, 398 n. 9, 113 S.Ct. 2680, 125 L.Ed.2d 321 (1993).
FN8. But see Rumbaugh, 753 F.2d at 412 (Goldberg, dissenting) (“The measure of an individual's competency under Rees to waive federal habeas review in a death case is informed by considerations very different from those underlying the standard for competency to stand trial. Focusing not merely on the minimal cognitive and communicative capabilities necessary to stand trial, Rees requires a finding of incompetency if there is a possibility that a mental disease or defect substantially impairs the individual's rationality.... Unlike the question of capacity to participate meaningfully at trial, the question of capacity for rational choice requires a more probing inquiry, where the observer's interpretation is of much greater consequence than his perception.”).
Additionally, there was no evidence before the state court that Petitioner's condition had changed between the time Dr. Grigson gave his testimony and the waiver decision. See Mata, 210 F.3d at 332. Certainly, a significant intervening event had occurred in that Petitioner had been sentenced to death. Nevertheless, nothing in the record before the state court suggested that this event had triggered a significant change in Petitioner's mental condition.
In light of the substantial similarity between the standard for competency to stand trial and the standard for competency to waive appeals in a capital case, the short duration of time between the expert testimony on competency to stand trial and the waiver decision, and the absence of evidence suggesting a change in Petitioner's mental condition between these events, the Court finds that it was reasonable for the state court to rely upon expert testimony regarding Petitioner's competence to stand trial in determining competency to waive further appeals. See id. at 333 (stating that a district court deciding whether to allow a capital petitioner to waive further collateral review would be “justified in presuming that a petitioner continues to be competent” following “a reliable, constitutionally adequate competency determination”). FN9
FN9. The Fifth Circuit panel did also note, however, that “such a presumption cannot survive a twelve year gap, coupled with ... extensive evidence of incompetency....” Mata, 210 F.3d at 333.
The Court also notes that the state court gave Petitioner an opportunity to present evidence regarding his competence, engaged in face-to-face dialogue with him, and observed his testimony at the waiver hearing. Id. Moreover, no one at the time of the waiver hearing, not even Petitioner's attorney, argued that Petitioner was incompetent.
Based on this record, the Court concludes that the state court's factual determination regarding Petitioner's competency to waive further appeals was not objectively unreasonable. While the better practice may have been for the state trial court to have ordered additional psychiatric and medical examinations before finding Petitioner competent to waive his appeal, that is not the applicable test under § 2254(d)(2). Under the habeas statute, the state court adjudication must have resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the state court proceedings. Based on this record, the Court cannot say that this is true here. As such, Petitioner is not entitled to habeas relief under § 2254(d)(2).
IV. Certificate of Appealability
Under AEDPA, Petitioner must obtain a Certificate of Appealability (hereinafter “COA”) before he can appeal this Court's denial of habeas relief. See Coleman v. Quarterman, No. 05-70005, 2006 U.S.App. LEXIS 18056, at *3-4 (5th Cir. July 18, 2006). In order to be entitled to a COA, Petitioner “must make ‘a substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right,’ 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2), such ‘that reasonable jurists would find the district court's assessment of the constitutional claims debatable or wrong,’ Slack v. McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473, 484, 120 S.Ct. 1595, 146 L.Ed.2d 542 (2000).” Id. at *4. “Because the present case involves the death penalty, any doubts as to whether a COA should issue must be resolved in [Petitioner's] favor.” Hernandez v. Johnson, 213 F.3d 243, 248 (5th Cir.2000). In this case, reasonable jurists would debate whether the Court was correct in finding that the habeas corpus petition is barred by § 2254(d)(2). As such, the Court hereby GRANTS a Certificate of Appealability sua sponte.
Given the finality of capital punishment as well as society's interest in reliability in capital proceedings, the Court is troubled by (1) appellate counsel's decision not to obtain psychiatric and other medical examinations regarding Petitioner's competence to waive his direct appeal, (2) the state trial court's failure to require such evidence, and (3) the state appellate court's decision to deny a motion for rehearing just months after the waiver decision where this was the only waiver/revocation and there was no indication or finding that Petitioner intended to manipulate the appellate process. Nevertheless, for the reasons stated above, the Court concludes that Petitioner is not entitled to relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. As such, the Court hereby DENIES Petitioner's Second Amended Petition for Habeas Corpus and GRANTS a Certificate of Appealability.