Executed March 2, 2010 06:20 p.m. CDT by Lethal Injection in Texas
8th murderer executed in U.S. in 2010
1196th murderer executed in U.S. since 1976
3rd murderer executed in Texas in 2010
450th murderer executed in Texas since 1976
(Race/Sex/Age at Murder-Execution)
(Race/Sex/Age at Murder)
Michael Adam Sigala
H / M / 22 - 32
|Kleber Dos Santos
H / M / 28
Lilian Dos Santos
H / F / 25
Sigala v. State, 2004 WL 231326 (Tex.Cr.App. 2004). (Direct Appeal)
Sigala v. Quarterman, 338 Fed.Appx. 388 (5th Cir. 2009). (Habeas)
Deep-fried burritos and chocolate pudding.
"I would like to ask for forgiveness of the family. I have no reason for why I did it. I don't understand why I did it. I hope that you can live the rest of your lives without hate."
Texas Department of Criminal Justice - Executed Offenders (Sigala)
Sigala, Michael Adam
Date of Birth: 12/11/1977
Date Received: 10/29/2001
Education: 10 years
Date of Offense: 08/22/2000
County of Offense: Collin
Native County: Tarrant
Hair Color: Brown
Eye Color: Hazel
Height: 5' 5"
Prior Prison Record:None
Summary of incident: On 8/22/2000 in Plano, Sigala shot and killed a 27 year old Hispanic male, then sexually assaulted his 25 year old Hispanic female wife before he shot and killed her. Sigala took several items of jewelry from the home of the victims and later pawned the stolen items.
Co-defendants:Sigala's accomplice was not charged.
Texas Attorney General
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Media Advisory: Michael Sigala scheduled for execution
AUSTIN –Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott offers the following information concerning Michael Adam Sigala, who is scheduled to be executed after 6 p.m. on Tuesday, March 2, 2010. A Texas jury sentenced Sigala to death in 2001 for the murder of Kleber Dos Santos.
FACTS OF THE CRIME
On August 22, 2000, Sigala unlawfully entered the Plano apartment of Kleber and Lilian Dos Santos and shot Kleber in the head. He then tortured Lilian and then shot her twice in the head after apparently forcing her to remove her clothes and binding her hands and neck with telephone cords. After the murders, Sigala ransacked the apartment and took the Santos’ wedding rings and several other items.
Police arrested Sigala two months later after several of the stolen items were recovered from various shops and traced back to him. Sigala confessed to killing Kleber, ejaculating as Lilian lay on the bed, and stealing the couple’s rings. Testing of the semen discovered on the floor next to the bed revealed an “exact” DNA match to Sigala.
EVIDENCE OF FUTURE DANGEROUSNESS
During the penalty phase of Sigala’s trial, the State presented evidence of Sigala’s lengthy criminal history, which included juvenile delinquency, three convictions for theft, a misdemeanor conviction for marijuana possession, an arrest for burglary after a home invasion, and a conviction for robbery. Over three to four years, Sigala stole videos from retail stores and sold them for drugs and visits to topless bars.
Sigala believed that women wanted sadomasochistic sex. He told his mother that he was a sociopath; he found it funny when others were in pain; and he had no remorse for killing Kleber. According to an FBI agent, Sigala was “a member of a unique, particularly vicious subclass of offenders that are dangerous, but also represent a continuing threat to the community.” The FBI agent observed that Sigala had rehearsed the crime, was comfortable at the crime scene, and enjoyed a sense of accomplishment afterwards.
A psychiatrist testified for the state that Sigala suffered from antisocial personality disorder, which indicated that he would commit violent acts in the future.
08/22/00 - Sigala killed Kleber and Lilian Dos Santos.
10/08/01 - A Collin County jury convicted Sigala of capital murder.
10/15/01 - A Collin County state district court officially sentenced Sigala to death.
09/19/03 - Sigala filed an original application for a state writ of habeas corpus.
01/14/04 - The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed Sigala’s conviction and sentence.
06/14/04 - The U.S. Supreme Court denied Sigala’s petition for a writ of certiorari.
08/31/05 - The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied state habeas relief.
08/25/06 - Sigala filed a petition for a federal writ of habeas corpus.
03/28/08 - A U.S. district court denied habeas relief and issued final judgment.
07/20/09 - Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed the denial of habeas relief.
09/15/09 - The trial court scheduled Sigala’s execution for Tuesday, March 2, 2010.
11/05/09 - Sigala filed a petition for certiorari review with the U.S. Supreme Court.
02/22/10 -Sigala’s petition for certiorari review was denied by the Supreme Court.
Texas Execution Information Center by David Carson.
Michael Adam Sigala, 32, was executed by lethal injection on 2 March 2010 in Huntsville, Texas for robbing and murdering a couple in their home.
On 22 August 2000, Sigala, then 22, unlawfully entered the Plano apartment of Kleber and Lilian Dos Santos. He killed Kleber, 27, with a single gunshot to the head. He then forced Lilian, 25, to remove her clothing and wash herself. Next, he bound her hands and neck with telephone cords and made her lay on the bed. He whipped her buttocks with a belt or rod, cut the inside of her thigh, and dripped hot candle wax onto her genitals. While Sigala tortured Lilian, he masturbated. He then shot her in the face and again in the side of her head, killing her.
After the murders, Sigala lingered at the apartment. He attempted to wipe his fingerprints off of everything he touched, and he cleaned the carpet where he had ejaculated. He also helped himself to a drink and watched television. He went through the apartment, collecting the couple's wedding rings and some other items. Finally, he left. The bodies were found by a neighbor after Kleber failed to report to work.
Sigala was arrested two months later after several of the stolen items were recovered from various pawn shops and traced back to him. At the time of his arrest, he confessed to killing Kleber, ejaculating while Lilian lay on the bed, and stealing the couple's rings. He blamed Lilian's torture and killing on another perpetrator.
Testing of the semen on the floor next to the bed showed an exact match to Sigala. A firearms expert testified that all of the bullets recovered from the scene were fired from the same weapon. No evidence was found connecting another perpetrator to the scene.
Sigala later told police that he and his accomplice were at the apartment to sell Kleber Dos Santos some heroin. He said that he shot Kleber in self-defense after Kleber began attacking his accomplice with a baseball bat. Authorities found no evidence that the Dos Santoses used drugs, nor of a second attacker. They were unable to make any connection between Sigala and his victims. They were apparently targeted at random.
Adam Quanah Lay, 21, was arrested for helping sell the stolen items, but he was not charged in the killings. Lay, who was on probation for a previous aggravated robbery conviction, received 35 years in prison for violating his parole. He remains in custody as of this writing.
Sigala had no prior prison record, but he had several previous arrests and convictions for theft, robbery, and drug possession. At the time of the murders, he was on probation for robbery. He had been allowed to leave a Dallas-area drug abuse treatment center for the day to look for a job when he killed the Brazilian immigrant couple.
In October 2001, a jury convicted Sigala of murdering Kleber Dos Santos during a home invasion, and sentenced him to death. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the conviction and sentence in January 2004. All of his subsequent appeals in state and federal court were denied.
"I would like to ask for forgiveness of the family," Sigala said in his last statement. "I have no reason for why I did it. I don't understand why I did it. I hope that you can live the rest of your lives without hate." The lethal injection was then started. He was pronounced dead at 6:20 p.m.
"Texas man who murdered Brazilian couple set to die." (Associated Press)
HUNTSVILLE — Michael Sigala was on probation for robbery and allowed to leave a Dallas-area substance abuse treatment center for the day to look for a job. Instead, he violently ended the lives of a newlywed Brazilian couple and ended up on death row.
Sigala, 32, was set for execution Tuesday evening for the death of Kleber Santos, 28, a Brazilian engineer whose wife also was killed in an attack nearly a decade ago at their Plano apartment. Sigala would be the third Texas inmate to receive lethal injection this year and the first of four scheduled to die this month in the nation’s most active death penalty state. The U.S. Supreme Court last week refused to review his case and no new appeals were in the courts Monday.
Sigala, of Plano, was condemned for the fatal shooting of Santos, whose job brought him to Texas in January 2000, a month after he was married. His wife, Lilian, remained in Brazil to continue her veterinary studies at the University of Sao Paulo and was visiting her husband during a school break that August.
Evidence showed the 25-year-old woman was raped and also fatally shot several hours after her husband was killed. Their wedding rings were among items taken in the attack. Sigala also was charged with her slaying but was not tried. Their bodies were found by a neighbor after Santos failed to show up at work as a software developer for a cellphone manufacturer in nearby Richardson. His wife’s hands were tied with telephone wire. A phone cord also was around her neck.
“It was pretty sad, especially when you think of your husband being killed in front of you, then you’re dragged off, your clothes taken off, being tied up and who knows what,” Debbie Harrison, a Collin County assistant district attorney who prosecuted the case, said last week. Sigala was arrested about two months later after a camera taken from the apartment was found at a pawn shop in Arlington, some 30 miles to the southwest. That led investigators to the couple’s wedding rings, which had been pawned in Dallas.
Sigala declined to speak with reporters as his execution date neared. In a videotaped statement to police following his arrest, he initially denied any involvement but later said he shot the couple in self-defense because Santos struck an accomplice of his with a baseball bat. Authorities found no evidence of a second attacker. “I freaked out,” Sigala told detectives. “I didn’t mean to hurt nobody.”
He contended he and the friend, who he knew only as Billy, went to the apartment to sell Santos some heroin, but authorities found no evidence Santos or his wife ever used drugs. A toxicology report also found no illegal drugs in either victim. Sigala’s DNA was found in semen on the floor next to a bed. “He was in the apartment a very long time,” Harrison said. “He sat down and watched TV for a while. He cleaned the apartment immaculately. Everything was wiped down.” It’s uncertain why that apartment was chosen for the attack.
Another convict, Adam Lay, was implicated in the pawning of the stolen items but not charged in the slayings. He received 35 years in prison for violating probation from a previous aggravated robbery conviction and doesn’t become eligible for parole for another eight years.
At Sigala’s trial, defense attorneys argued unsuccessfully for a life prison sentence, saying Sigala’s drug use and poor family life as he was growing up contributed to his criminal activity. When he was arrested, Sigala was on 10 years probation for a 1999 robbery conviction. He’d already spent 30 days in jail, then was assigned for a second time to a drug treatment center in Wilmer, south of Dallas, as part of his probation. On the day of the slayings, he was out on a one-day pass to look for work. Getting a job was among the requirements for a permanent release.
He’d earlier violated probation for illegal drug use. As a juvenile, he was on probation for theft, then received jail time for marijuana possession and another jail stint for theft. At age 13, he was arrested for burglary. A year later, he was banned from Plano public school grounds for carrying a gun. Records showed the 11th-grade dropout once worked as a security guard at Lone Star Park, a Dallas-area horse track.
Next week, an Indiana man, Joshua Maxwell, 31, was set to die for the abduction, robbery and fatal shooting Rudy Lopes, an off-duty Bexar County Sheriff’s Department sergeant, in 2000.
"Dallas man executed in killing of Brazilian engineer," by Juan A. Lozano. (AP March 3, 2010)
HUNTSVILLE — A Dallas-area man convicted of fatally shooting a newlywed Brazilian engineer whose wife was also killed in an attack nearly a decade ago was executed Tuesday evening in the nation’s busiest death penalty state.
Michael Sigala, 32, was condemned to death for the August 2000 fatal shooting of Kleber Santos, 28, who was killed along with his wife at their apartment in Plano, a suburb of Dallas. Sigala also was charged with the wife’s slaying but was not tried. Sigala is the third prisoner in Texas to be put to death by lethal injection this year and the first of four scheduled to die this month in the state. The U.S. Supreme Court last week refused to review his case. No new appeals were filed before his execution.
Sigala was on probation for robbery and allowed for the day to leave a Dallas-area substance abuse treatment center he was staying at in order to look for a job when the slayings happened.
During his final statement, Sigala asked for forgiveness from the slain couple’s relatives who attended the execution. “I have no reason for why I did it,” Sigala said. “I don’t understand why I did it. I hope that you can live the rest of your lives without hate.” As the drugs took effect, he snored at least once and then gasped. Nine minutes later, at 6:20 p.m. CST, he was pronounced dead.
Relatives of Kleber Santos and his wife, Lilian, did not speak with reporters afterward, but the parents of both victims issued statements saying they were grateful justice had been done. “For many people facing such tragedy, life would be worthless. For us, however, we have faith and we find meaning in an eternal life that our merciful God will provide us. We really believe that we will meet our dear son and daughter-in-law one day in heaven,” Jonas and Lizete Santos, Kleber Santos’ parents, said in their statement.
Work brought Kleber Santos to Texas in January 2000, a month after he got married. His wife remained in Brazil to continue her veterinary studies at the University of Sao Paulo and was visiting during a school break that August.
Authorities said Sigala, from Plano, entered the couple’s apartment and shot Kleber Santos in the head and then tortured Lilian Santos, 25, raping her before also fatally shooting her several hours later. Her hands were tied with telephone wire and a phone cord was around her neck. Their bodies were found by a neighbor after Santos didn’t go to work as a software developer for a cell phone manufacturer in nearby Richardson. Authorities say they don’t know why Sigala targeted the couple.
“So often in criminal cases people will sometimes put themselves in bad circumstances. But this one, these people seemed completely blameless. It was really hard to see their family out there dealing with what went on,” Debbie Harrison, a Collin County assistant district attorney who prosecuted the case, said last week.
Police arrested Sigala two months later after items from the apartment, including the couple’s wedding rings, were found at area pawn shops and traced back to him.
Sigala declined to speak with reporters before his execution. After his arrest, he denied killing the couple but later told police he shot them in self-defense because Kleber Santos hit an accomplice with a baseball bat. Sigala also claimed he and his accomplice were at the apartment to sell Santos some heroin. Authorities found no evidence Santos or his wife ever used drugs or that there was a second attacker.
Another convict, Adam Lay, was arrested for helping sell the stolen items but was not charged in the slayings. He received 35 years in prison for violating his parole on a previous aggravated robbery conviction.
At Sigala’s trial, defense attorneys argued unsuccessfully for a life sentence, saying Sigala’s drug use and upbringing contributed to his criminal activity, which began as a juvenile and included theft, marijuana possession and burglary. When he was arrested, Sigala, an 11th-grade dropout, was on 10 years probation for a 1999 robbery conviction.
Next week, an Indiana man, Joshua Maxwell, 31, is set to die in Texas for the abduction, robbery and fatal shooting of Rudy Lopes, an off-duty Bexar County Sheriff’s Department sergeant, in 2000.
"Texas Man Who Murdered Brazilian Couple Set to Die." (Monday, March 01, 2010)
HUNTSVILLE, Texas — Michael Sigala was on probation for robbery and allowed to leave a Dallas-area substance abuse treatment center for the day to look for a job. Instead, he violently ended the lives of a newlywed Brazilian couple and ended up on death row.
Sigala, 32, was set for execution Tuesday evening for the death of Kleber Santos, 28, a Brazilian engineer whose wife also was killed in an attack nearly a decade ago at their Plano apartment. Sigala would be the third Texas inmate to receive lethal injection this year and the first of four scheduled to die this month in the nation's most active death penalty state. The U.S. Supreme Court last week refused to review his case and no new appeals were in the courts Monday.
Sigala, of Plano, was condemned for the fatal shooting of Santos, whose job brought him to Texas in January 2000, a month after he was married. His wife, Lilian, remained in Brazil to continue her veterinary studies at the University of Sao Paulo and was visiting her husband during a school break that August. Evidence showed the 25-year-old woman was raped and also fatally shot several hours after her husband was killed. Their wedding rings were among items taken in the attack. Sigala also was charged with her slaying but was not tried. Their bodies were found by a neighbor after Santos failed to show up at work as a software developer for a cellphone manufacturer in nearby Richardson. His wife's hands were tied with telephone wire. A phone cord also was around her neck.
"It was pretty sad, especially when you think of your husband being killed in front of you, then you're dragged off, your clothes taken off, being tied up and who knows what," Debbie Harrison, a Collin County assistant district attorney who prosecuted the case, said last week. Sigala was arrested about two months later after a camera taken from the apartment was found at a pawn shop in Arlington, some 30 miles (48 kilometers) to the southwest. That led investigators to the couple's wedding rings, which had been pawned in Dallas.
Another convict, Adam Lay, was implicated in the pawning of the stolen items but not charged in the slayings. He received 35 years in prison for violating probation from a previous aggravated robbery conviction and doesn't become eligible for parole for another eight years.
On August 22, 2000, Michael Sigala unlawfully entered the home of a young married couple, Kleber and Lilian Dos Santos. Once inside, Sigala executed Kleber with a single gunshot to his head. He then apparently forced Lilian to remove her clothes and wash herself. In the bedroom, Sigala bound Lilian's hands and neck with telephone cords, then dripped hot wax from a nearby candle onto her labia, whipped her buttocks with a belt or something rod shaped, and cut the inside of her thigh. While torturing his victim, Sigala masturbated and ejaculated on the floor. Finally, he shot Lilian in the face and again in the side of the head, causing her death.
After the murders, Sigala tried to remove all evidence of his presence by wiping his prints off everything and cleaning the carpet where he had masturbated. He also helped himself to a drink, watched television, and selectively ransacked the apartment. When he left, Sigala took the Santos' wedding rings and several other items.
The police apprehended Sigala two months later after several of the stolen items were recovered from various shops and traced back to him. Sigala confessed to killing Kleber, ejaculating as Lilian lay on the bed, and stealing the couple's rings. Testing of the semen discovered on the floor next to the bed revealed an "exact" DNA match to Sigala. A firearms expert testified that all of the bullets recovered from the scene were fired from the same weapon.
Although Sigala attempted to blame Lilian's assault on another, no evidence connected another perpetrator to the scene. At the punishment stage of trial, the State presented evidence that Sigala abused drugs, attended drug rehabilitation without success, had been expelled from high school, and had a substantial criminal history including thefts, marijuana possession, robbery, and burglary. Sigala also admitted to one witness that he belonged to a gang. Finally, a mental-health expert testified that Sigala had an antisocial personality disorder and could be described as a "sadistic sexual predator." Although only twenty-three years of age at the time of this offense, Sigala already had a long history of criminal conduct which included thefts, burglaries, robberies, and drug abuse.
Sigala v. State, 2004 WL 231326 (Tex.Cr.App. 2004). (Direct Appeal)
Background: Defendant was convicted in the trial court, Collin County, of capital murder and was sentenced to death. On direct appeal,
Holdings: the Court of Criminal Appeals, en banc, Cochran, J., held that: (1) defendant failed to establish prejudicial pretrial publicity needed to entitle him to change of venue; (2) evidence supported finding that defendant's videotaped custodial statement was given voluntarily; (3) probative value of photographs depicting second victim's nude body and the surrounding area as found by the police outweighed its prejudicial value; (4) evidence presented during punishment phase was sufficient to support finding that defendant would be a future danger; (5) trial judge did not violate defendant's due process rights during punishment phase by prohibiting defendant from introducing psychiatrist's diagnosis of defendant's mental illness and symptoms into evidence; and (6) State's comment that defendant “has no remorse” did not constitute a direct comment on defendant's failure to testify during punishment phase. Affirmed.
COCHRAN, J., delivered the opinion of the unanimous court.
In October 2001, a jury convicted appellant of capital murder. Tex. Pen.Code Ann. § 19.03(a). Pursuant to the jury's answers to the special issues set forth in Texas Code of Criminal Procedure article 37.071, §§ 2(b) and 2(e), the trial judge sentenced appellant to death. Tex.Code Crim. Pro. art. 37.071, § 2(g).FN1 Direct appeal to this Court is automatic. Id. at 37 .071, § 2(h). Appellant raises twenty-one points of error, including a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence to support the jury's finding that appellant would be a continuing threat to society. See id. at art. 37.071, § 2(b). We affirm.
STATEMENT OF FACTS
On August 22, 2000, appellant unlawfully entered the home of Kleber and Lilian Dos Santos. Once inside, appellant executed Kleber with a single gunshot to his head. He then apparently forced Lilian to remove her clothes and wash herself. In the bedroom, appellant bound Lilian's hands and neck with telephone cords, then dripped hot wax from a nearby candle onto her labia, whipped her buttocks with a belt or something rod shaped, and cut the inside of her thigh. While torturing his victim, appellant masturbated and ejaculated on the floor. Finally, he shot Lilian in the face and again in the side of the head, causing her death.
After the murders, appellant tried to remove all evidence of his presence by wiping his prints off everything and cleaning the carpet where he had masturbated. He also helped himself to a drink, watched television, and selectively ransacked the apartment. When he left, appellant took the Santos' wedding rings and several other items.
The police apprehended appellant two months later after several of the stolen items were recovered from various shops and traced back to him. Appellant confessed to killing Kleber, ejaculating as Lilian lay on the bed, and stealing the couple's rings. Testing of the semen discovered on the floor next to the bed revealed an “exact” DNA match to appellant. A firearms expert testified that all of the bullets recovered from the scene were fired from the same weapon. Although appellant attempted to blame Lilian's assault on another, no evidence connected another perpetrator to the scene.
At the punishment stage of trial, the State presented evidence that appellant abused drugs, attended drug rehabilitation without success, had been expelled from high school, and had a substantial criminal history including thefts, marijuana possession, robbery, and burglary. Appellant also admitted to one witness that he belonged to a gang. Finally, a mental-health expert testified that appellant had an antisocial personality disorder and could be described as a “sadistic sexual predator.”
PRE-TRIAL AND VOIR DIRE
Appellant complains in his twelfth point of error that the trial court erred in failing to grant his motion for a change of venue. Article 31.03(a)(1) provides that a change of venue may be granted on a defendant's motion if “there exists in the county where the prosecution is commenced so great a prejudice against him that he cannot obtain a fair and impartial trial.” The mere existence of media attention or other publicity does not automatically establish prejudice or require a change of venue. In fact, selected jurors do not have to be totally ignorant of the facts and issues of a particular case. Bell v. State, 938 S.W.2d 35 (Tex.Crim.App.1996). To warrant a change of venue, pretrial publicity must be so pervasive and prejudicial as to create a reasonable probability that an impartial jury cannot be empaneled even with the most careful voir dire. Narvaiz v. State, 840 S.W.2d 415, 428 (Tex.Crim.App.1992). An appellate court reviewing a trial judge's decision on this matter may reverse only for abuse of discretion. Willingham v. State, 897 S.W.2d 351, 357 (Tex.Crim.App.1995). Appellant bears the burden of showing that the trial judge's ruling was not within the realm of reasonableness. Penry v. State, 903 S.W.2d 715, 727 (Tex.Crim.App.1995); Narvaiz, 840 S.W.2d at 428.
In the instant case, appellant filed a motion for a change of venue alleging that he could not receive a fair and impartial trial in Collin County because the trial had been extensively publicized in a prejudicial manner. Appellant's motion was accompanied by his own affidavit in which he stated that, based on the publicity surrounding his case, there existed a prejudice so great that he simply could not obtain a fair and impartial trial in Collin County. He also noted that he could not receive a fair and impartial trial based on the demographics of the county and the lack of minority representation. Appellant provided affidavits virtually identical to his own from three additional residents of Collin County. The State controverted appellant's motion with affidavits from thirteen residents of the county in which each affiant asserted that the conclusions stated in appellant's affidavits were incorrect, that a fair and impartial jury could be impaneled in Collin County, and that appellant could obtain a fair and impartial trial in that county. During the pretrial hearing on the motion, neither party called witnesses and both relied on the affidavits supporting their respective positions. As additional support, appellant filed as exhibits six articles from the local newspaper spanning a six month time period. These articles appeared to fairly and accurately reflect the facts in the case.FN2
FN2. The record indicates that the pre-trial conference on appellant's change of venue motion was held on March 21, 2001. The most recent newspaper article contained in the record is dated February 8, 2001. This short article briefly recapped the facts of the murders and reported that the Collin County District Attorney would be seeking the death penalty. Voir dire did not begin until September 5, 2001, nearly seven months after this article was published. This record does not support a finding that pretrial publicity was either “pervasive” or “prejudicial.”
Appellant has not shown that pretrial publicity was so pervasive and prejudicial as to create a reasonable probability that an impartial jury could not be empaneled. Narvaiz, 840 S.W.2d at 428. Based upon the record before us, appellant has failed to meet his burden of showing that the trial judge's decision was outside of the realm of reasonableness. Penry, 903 S.W.2d at 727. Point of error twelve is overruled.
In his second point of error, appellant asserts that the trial court violated his due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment by allowing the State to exercise a peremptory challenge on veniremember Widener after she had been accepted by both parties. The record shows that the parties began questioning Widener just six days after the destruction of the World Trade Center Towers. During questioning, the veniremember hesitated and exhibited nervousness in giving some responses. Toward the end of the State's questioning, the prosecutor noted that Widener had a trip to New York scheduled. She also stated that the proposed date to begin the trial, October 1, 2001, would conflict with Widener's trip. Widener told the prosecutor that she did not know if she was still going to go. She and her traveling companions were holding off on that decision until they knew whether the United States was going to war. Widener also stated that she had other business trips scheduled for October.
At the conclusion of the questioning, the State accepted Widener then passed her to appellant who also accepted her. However, when the judge told Widener that she had been accepted as a juror and began discussing scheduling, Widener became noticeably upset. After further discussion, the judge asked Widener to step back into the jury room for a few moments. He then asked the parties whether they wanted to question Widener further in light of the last exchange. The prosecutor accepted the extra time, stating that Widener “started bawling” when the judge told her she was on the jury and suggested that her reaction needed to be explored. Appellant, on the other hand, claimed that Widener had already been accepted and asked the Court to explain the reason for the extra time. The court then took a break to review the law on the issue.
Upon further questioning of the prospective juror, defense counsel elicited the fact that the events of the past week had made Widener emotional, nervous, and stressed. She also admitted that she was concerned for her personal safety and had been thinking about Demi Moore and the movie “The Juror.” Both the trial judge and the defense assured her that it was most unlikely that her personal safety was in jeopardy. Widener stated that she originally thought that she could do the job required of her as a juror, but the national tragedy and the life and death nature of the trial made her fear for her safety, and she “just lost it.” When asked again whether she could perform the duties of a juror, she hesitated and gave equivocal answers. Finally, when pressed, Widener stated that after her emotional outburst, she did not feel that she could perform the job required. When pressed further, she said that she could follow her oath.
The judge again asked Widener to step into the jury room while the court and the parties discussed the situation. As soon as Widener left, the State asked to exercise a peremptory challenge on her. Appellant again complained that the juror had already been accepted as a juror. The State then explained that two new pieces of information had come to light since that time: (1) that Widener could not handle being accepted as a juror, and (2) that both the State and the defense had witnesses lined up to begin trial on October 1, but accommodating Widener's vacation plans (if she decided to go) would push back the start date of the trial and cause the State “extreme inconvenience.” When asked whether Widener would cancel her plans, the veniremember answered that she could not make a decision at that time because her plans were intertwined with those of three others. The court then allowed the State's exercise of a peremptory strike and recognized that it was “over the defense's objection.” FN3
FN3. Although appellant made various comments and complaints during Widener's voir dire, he never clearly voiced an “objection.” Furthermore, it is not clear in appellant's arguments at trial precisely what he was complaining about. It is also unclear whether appellant's complaint encompasses due process concerns or simply statutory issues. See art. 35.13. Because the trial judge recognized appellant's statement as an objection, we will address the merits of appellant's contention, and we will presume that the objection sufficiently comported with appellant's claim on appeal.
Article 35.13 provides that a prospective juror, once qualified, shall be passed for acceptance or challenge first to the State and then to the defendant. Challenges are either peremptory or for cause. Tex.Code Crim. Proc. art. 35.13. However, the procedure controlling the order and timing of the exercise of peremptory challenges is not absolute. Ex parte Busby, 990 S.W.2d 263, 265 (Tex.Crim.App.1999). Furthermore, at any time before the entire jury has been selected and sworn, the judge has discretion to allow further examination of a venireperson and to entertain additional challenges when it comes to his attention that a previously selected juror may be objectionable for cause, excusable, or otherwise disqualified from jury service. Draughon v. State, 831 S.W.2d 331, 335 (Tex.Crim.App.1992). The trial court also has broad discretion to excuse prospective jurors for good reason. Wright v.. State, 28 S.W.3d 526, 533 (Tex.Crim.App.2000), cert. denied, 531 U.S. 1128, 121 S.Ct. 885, 148 L.Ed.2d 793 (2001); Tex.Code Crim. Proc. art. 35.03. This authority continues even after an individual juror has been sworn, exists until the entire jury is empaneled and sworn, and can be exercised with or without the consent of the parties. Wright, 28 S.W.3d at 533.
Thus, even if the trial court improperly allowed the State to exercise a peremptory challenge after the juror had been accepted, the error was harmless: the trial judge still retained discretion to excuse the juror without any peremptory challenge. Given the national tragedy, the fear and emotion that it engendered in Widener, and the veniremember's equivocating and vacillating answers to questions, the judge was within his discretion under article 35.03 to determine that Widener was not fit to serve on this jury. Id. Point of error two is overruled.
Appellant complains in his fourth point of error that the trial court erred in denying his challenge for cause to prospective juror Hudson, in violation of the Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. To preserve error on a denied challenge for cause, an appellant must demonstrate on the record that: (1) he asserted a clear and specific challenge for cause; (2) he used a peremptory challenge on the complained-of venireperson; (3) all his peremptory challenges were exhausted; (4) his request for additional strikes was denied; and (5) an objectionable juror sat on the jury. Feldman v. State, 71 S.W.3d 738, 743-45 (Tex.Crim.App.2002); Green v. State, 934 S.W.2d 92, 105 (Tex.Crim.App.1996). The record reflects that appellant failed to exhaust all fifteen of his peremptory challenges, therefore, he has failed to preserve any error for review on appeal. Feldman, 71 S.W.3d at 744. Appellant's fourth point of error is overruled.
In his eleventh point of error, appellant claims that the trial court erred in admitting his videotaped custodial statement because it was not made voluntarily. Specifically, appellant claims that his statement was not the product of a free and unconstrained choice because: (1) after appellant's arrest, the police kept him in a small room for three hours without allowing him to make a telephone call; (2) the videotape fails to show that appellant affirmatively waived his right to remain silent; (3) the detectives began questioning appellant after midnight and continued until approximately 3:00 a.m.; (4) appellant had “a less than average ability to resist pressure due to physical fatigue”; (5) appellant had been diagnosed as bipolar but the detectives never investigated his mental state; and (6) appellant was very cold throughout the process.
“[A] defendant in a criminal case is deprived of due process of law if his conviction is founded, in whole or in part, upon an involuntary confession, without regard for the truth or falsity of the confession, and even though there is ample evidence aside from the confession to support the conviction.” Jackson v. Denno, 378 U.S. 368, 376, 84 S.Ct. 1774, 12 L.Ed.2d 908 (1964). Coercive police activity is a necessary predicate to the finding that a confession is not “voluntary.” Colorado v. Connelly, 479 U.S. 157, 167, 107 S.Ct. 515, 93 L.Ed.2d 473 (1986). A court must determine whether the defendant's will was overborne by the circumstances surrounding the giving of the confession. Dickerson v. United States, 530 U.S. 428, 434, 120 S.Ct. 2326, 147 L.Ed.2d 405 (2000). It must take into consideration the totality of all the surrounding circumstances, including both the characteristics of the accused and the details of the interrogation. Id. The defendant has a right to a hearing outside the presence of the jury to determine whether the confession was voluntary. Jackson, 378 U.S. at 377. The trial court is the sole fact-finder at the hearing and may believe or disbelieve any or all of the witnesses' testimony. Alvarado v. State, 853 S.W.2d 17, 23 (Tex.Crim.App.1993). This Court generally will not disturb any factual finding which is supported by the record. Id.
During the hearing on appellant's motion to suppress his statement, Detective Scott Epperson testified that police officers arrested appellant in Dallas around 8:15 p.m. on October 19, 2000, pursuant to a capias issued on a motion to revoke his probation in another case. They then drove him to the Plano Police Department.FN4 It is unclear from the record exactly how long it took to drive appellant from where he was arrested in Dallas to the Plano Police Department. It is also unclear where appellant was from the time he arrived at the station until he was taken to the interview room. Around midnight, appellant was taken to an interview room where he was joined shortly thereafter by Plano Detectives Epperson and Keith Grisham. Upon entering the interview room, the detectives noticed that appellant was cold, so they obtained a blanket for him.
FN4. Although it was argued at trial and is mentioned in the judge's findings and conclusions, appellant does not argue on appeal, and we will not address, the validity of his arrest or the attenuation of any taint caused by an invalid arrest. Tex.R.App. P. 38.1.
At the beginning of the videotaped interview, Epperson clarified with appellant that he had expressed a desire to talk with the officers. He also told appellant his rights under MirandaFN5 and article 38.22. After Epperson related each right, appellant nodded that he understood. After relating all of his rights, Epperson asked appellant if he understood and “[felt] okay about talking.” Appellant responded affirmatively. Epperson also asked appellant whether he felt threatened by him, and appellant replied that he did not. Appellant expressed a desire to call his mother before commencing the interview but the detectives suggested that they talk for a while first and then he would be given that opportunity. The three then talked for more than an hour after which appellant was taken to use a phone to call his mother. As he exited the interview room, appellant mentioned that he had been diagnosed as bipolar but had not had any medication for some time. After speaking with his mother, appellant returned to the interview room and talked with the detectives for a little longer. Around 3:00 a.m., appellant stated that he was no longer comfortable talking with the detectives and he needed to talk with an attorney. The detectives terminated the interview. FN5. Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966).
Sometime after the suppression hearing, the judge made written findings of fact and conclusions of law. The judge found that the detectives began interviewing appellant around 12:24 a.m. and terminated the interview at approximately 3:00 a.m. However, not all of that time was spent interviewing appellant because appellant was allowed to leave the interview room to call his mother. The judge further found that while appellant was noticeably cold, the detectives obtained a blanket for him. The judge found that Epperson had given appellant the appropriate warnings and concluded that appellant knowingly and voluntarily waived those rights and freely made the statements reflected in the videotape. The judge found that appellant's demeanor, attitude, and participation in the discussion, as shown on the videotape, clearly demonstrated that he was not coerced or induced into giving the statements. This also indicated that appellant's alleged bipolar condition did not affect his ability to voluntarily give a statement. After he was allowed to contact his mother, appellant freely continued to answer the detectives' questions. Appellant's understanding of his rights was further illustrated by his later termination of the questioning and request for counsel.
The record supports the trial court's findings and conclusions; it does not support appellant's allegations. The trial court did not abuse its discretion in overruling appellant's motion to suppress his videotaped statement. Appellant's eleventh point of error is overruled.
Appellant argues in his thirteenth point of error that the trial court erred in admitting a number of photographs into evidence. The admissibility of a photograph is within the sound discretion of the trial judge. Generally, a photograph is admissible if verbal testimony as to matters depicted in the photograph is also admissible. See Long v. State, 823 S.W.2d 259, 271-72 n. 18 (Tex.Crim.App.1991). Autopsy photographs are also generally admissible unless they depict mutilation of the victim caused by the autopsy itself. See Rojas v. State, 986 S.W.2d 241, 249 (Tex.Crim.App.1998); Long, 823 S.W.2d at 271-72. Otherwise, admissibility of photographs is governed by Rule 403 of the Texas Rules of Evidence which states: [a]lthough relevant, evidence may be excluded if its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of the issues, or misleading the jury, or by considerations of undue delay, or needless presentation of cumulative evidence. See Long, 823 S.W.2d at 271-72. Rule 403 favors the admission of relevant evidence and carries a presumption that relevant evidence will be more probative than prejudicial. Montgomery v. State, 810 S.W.2d 372, 389 (Tex.Crim.App.1990); see also Jones v.. State, 944 S.W.2d 642, 651-52 (Tex.Crim.App.1996), Long, 823 S.W.2d at 271. The trial court's decision will not be disturbed on appeal unless it falls outside the zone of reasonable disagreement. Jones, 944 S.W.2d at 651-52.
A court may consider many factors in determining whether the probative value of photographs is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice. FN6 These factors include: the number of exhibits offered, their gruesomeness, their detail, their size, whether they are in color or black and white, whether they are close-up, and whether the body depicted is clothed or naked. Id. A court, however, should not be limited by this list. The availability of other means of proof and the circumstances unique to each individual case should also be considered. Id.
FN6. On appeal appellant complains that the use of a PowerPoint display of these photographs in conjunction with the witness's testimony explaining their relevance made the photographs unfairly prejudicial because they were “plastered onto a big screen.” However, appellant did not object at trial to the use of a PowerPoint projector. Therefore, he has not preserved this particular issue for review. Tex.R.App. P. 33.1
In his argument on appeal, appellant separates the complained-of photographs into three groups. The first group consists of photographs of the crime scene, the second consists of pictures developed from a roll of film found at the crime scene, and the third consists of autopsy photographs. We will address each group separately.
In the first group of photographs, appellant complains of State's Exhibits 115 through 132 and 137. These crime scene exhibits depict Lilian's nude body and the surrounding area as found by the police. At trial, appellant objected that the exhibits were not relevant because Lilian was not the named murder victim. He asserted that this fact also made the pictures more prejudicial than probative. See Tex.R. Evid. 401-403.
Appellant was indicted in a three paragraph indictment. The first paragraph alleged that appellant murdered Kleber while in the course of committing aggravated sexual assault on Lilian. While she was not the named murder victim, Lilian was a named victim of the crime that elevated Kleber's murder to capital status. Consequently, evidence concerning the sexual assault, including photographs thereof, was highly relevant. Tex.R. Evid. 401-402.
With regard to appellant's Rule 403 objection, these exhibits appear in the record as 8? x 10? color photographs, however, they were shown to the jury on a large screen through a PowerPoint presentation. Each photograph depicts the scene from a different angle with some showing a particular aspect of the scene close-up. In some of the photographs, Lilian's body has been rolled on its side to better show the extent of her injuries. While the exhibits do show a fair amount of blood, they depict only the injuries that appellant inflicted on the victim. The judge was within his discretion in finding that the probative value of these exhibits was not substantially outweighed by any prejudicial effect. See, e.g., Etheridge v. State, 903 S.W.2d 1, 21 (Tex.Crim.App.1994).
The second group of photographs about which appellant complains consists of State's Exhibits 238-240 and 244-250.FN7 These exhibits consist of photographs which were developed from a roll of film found at the crime scene. Some of the pictures are of the interior of the victims' apartment and others show the victims on vacation. The only objection appellant made to these photographs at trial was that the State had failed to lay the proper predicate for their admission. Because appellant does not argue on appeal that the State failed to lay the proper predicate, he has not adequately briefed this point with respect to these photographs. Tex.R.App. P. 38.1. FN7. In his brief, appellant challenges the admission of State's Exhibit 241. This exhibit is not a photograph. We assume that appellant intended to refer to State's Exhibit 240.
In the last group of photographs, appellant complains of State's Exhibits 274, 277-279, 281, 284, 288-292, 297-298, 300-301, and 303-306. The first six of these exhibits depict Lilian's nude body as the police found it. The remaining pictures show Lilian's body after it was taken to the medical examiner. At trial, appellant objected “under Rule 403 of the Texas Rules of Evidence.” Appellant failed to specifically object that any of these photographs were cumulative or duplicative of other exhibits entered into evidence.
As noted with regard to the first set of photographs, the fact that Lilian was a named victim in the indictment made both crime scene and autopsy pictures relevant. With regard to appellant's Rule 403 objection, these exhibits appear in the record as 4? x 6? color photographs. Each photograph depicts Lilian's body from a different angle or focuses on a different injury. Only the first six photographs show any amount of blood. In the remaining exhibits, Lilian's body has been cleaned. All of the exhibits show only the injuries appellant inflicted on the victim; no alteration by the medical examiner other than cleaning is apparent. The judge acted within his discretion in finding that the probative value of these exhibits was not substantially outweighed by any prejudicial effect. See, e.g., Etheridge, 903 S.W.2d at 21. Point of error thirteen is overruled.
In his fourteenth point of error, appellant complains that the evidence presented at trial was legally insufficient to support the jury's finding that he would be a future danger. See Tex.Code Crim. Proc. art. 37.071 § 2(b)(1). In reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence at punishment, this Court looks at the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict to determine whether any rational trier of fact could have believed, beyond a reasonable doubt, that appellant would probably commit criminal acts of violence that would constitute a continuing threat to society. See Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560 (1979); Allridge v. State, 850 S.W.2d 471 (Tex.Crim.App.1991). A jury can rationally infer future dangerousness from the circumstances of the offense and the surrounding events alone. Bell, 938 S.W.2d at 41; Sonnier v. State, 913 S.W.2d 511, 517 (Tex.Crim.App.1995).
The facts of the instant case show that appellant executed Kleber, tortured and sexually assaulted Lilian while sexually gratifying himself, executed Lilian, and then attempted to cover his tracks while making himself at home in the victims' apartment. The facts of the offense alone were sufficient to support the jury's affirmative answer to the future dangerousness issue. Nonetheless, the State presented more. Although only twenty-three years of age at the time of this offense, appellant already had a long history of criminal conduct which included thefts, burglaries, robberies, and drug abuse.
Given these facts, we hold the evidence legally sufficient to support the jury's affirmative answer to the future dangerousness issue. Jackson, 443 U.S. 307, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560; Martinez v. State, 924 S.W.2d 693, 696-97 (Tex.Crim.App.1996). Point of error fourteen is overruled.
In his first point of error, appellant asserts that the trial court erred in allowing victim impact testimony from Liezete Dos Santos. However, the only objection he voiced to the testimony at trial was that certain answers were non-responsive. Because the objections at trial do not comport with the complaint raised on appeal, appellant has not preserved this issue for our review. Trevino v. State, 991 S.W.2d 849, 855 (Tex.Crim.App.1999); Tex.R.App. P. 33.1. Appellant also complains in this point that the State should not have been allowed to introduce photographs of the victims taken before their deaths. However, when this evidence was offered, appellant affirmatively stated that he had “[n]o objection.” This response forfeited any claim appellant might have had to their admissibility. Moody v. State, 827 S.W.2d 875, 889 (Tex.Crim.App.1992). Appellant's first point of error is overruled.
Appellant alleges in his third point of error that the trial court erred in limiting the testimony of Dr. Laura Slaughter regarding her treatment of appellant. He asserts that this violated his right to due process as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Prior to trial, the State filed a motion requesting that appellant be required to submit to a psychiatric examination if he intended to introduce psychiatric evidence based on an examination by a defense expert. Appellant gave notice that he intended to call Dr. Slaughter to testify on his behalf at punishment. Outside the jury's presence, appellant established that Dr. Slaughter would testify that she was a psychiatrist in private practice. One day a week, she contracted her services to the Collin County Detention Center which included meeting with inmates in the county jail. She interviewed appellant on four different occasions while he was in jail awaiting trial in this case. Pursuant to her own examination and that of her predecessor, Dr. Slaughter determined that appellant had a history of mental illness and suffered from bipolar disorder. She told the court that she was also treating appellant for depression and sleep problems related to this disorder. Dr. Slaughter then defined bipolar disorder and told the court what medications she had prescribed appellant. Finally, Dr. Slaughter testified that she had not had any problems with appellant, and she was not afraid of him.
The State objected to any evidence concerning a psychiatric diagnosis of appellant. In the alternative, the prosecutor stated that the State would withdraw its objection if a State expert was allowed to examine appellant prior to the admission of the testimony. The court sustained the objection and granted the State's motion disallowing the testimony unless appellant submitted to a court-ordered psychiatric exam. Objecting to the ruling and making it clear that he would not submit to such an exam, appellant then sought to offer a limited version of Dr. Slaughter's testimony. The court ruled that it would allow Dr. Slaughter to testify to: (1) the fact that she ordered the dispensing of certain medications; (2) the names of those medications but not their purpose; (3) the number of times she met with appellant; and (4) the fact that appellant never caused her any problems. Appellant specifically complains on appeal that the trial court prohibited him from introducing Dr. Slaughter's diagnosis of his mental illness and symptoms into evidence.
In Chamberlain v. State, we held that a trial court has the authority to exclude testimony from a defendant's psychiatric expert which is based upon an examination of the defendant unless he submits to an examination by the State's expert. Chamberlain v. State, 998 S.W.2d 230, 233-34 (Tex.Crim.App.1999), cert. denied, 528 U.S. 1082, 120 S.Ct. 805, 145 L.Ed.2d 678 (2000); Lagrone v. State, 942 S.W.2d 602 (Tex.Crim.App.1997); Soria v. State, 933 S.W.2d 46 (Tex.Crim.App.1996). As we explained in Chamberlain, this holding is governed by the principle that if a defendant breaks his silence to speak to his own psychiatric expert and introduces testimony based on such interview, he has constructively taken the stand and waived his Fifth Amendment right to refuse to submit to the exam by State's psychiatric experts. 998 S.W.2d at 233-34.
The focus is on the defendant's choice to waive his right to silence and whether the psychiatric testimony he intended to introduce was based on his own participation in the psychiatric testing and examination. Id. If the defendant wishes to introduce psychiatric testimony based upon his participation in a psychiatric examination, then he has waived his Fifth Amendment privilege in the same manner as if he elected to testify at trial. Id. The essential principles at work are waiver and parity-if a defendant testifies, the State is allowed to cross-examine him. Id.
The testimony appellant sought to introduce here was based upon his willing participation in psychiatric interviews. Without the limitation imposed by the trial court, appellant would have placed this testimony into evidence while effectively limiting the State's ability to cross-examine him. We conclude, therefore, that the trial judge did not violate appellant's due process rights by refusing to give appellant this advantage. Appellant's third point of error is overruled.
In points of error five through seven, appellant complains about the testimony of Dr. Lisa Clayton, a psychiatrist the State called in rebuttal at the punishment phase of trial. Appellant claims that the admission of Clayton's testimony denied him due process under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and his “right to reliability and individualized sentencing” under the Eighth Amendment. Specifically, he asserts on appeal that her testimony was false and misleading. However, except for one objection to a non-responsive answer, appellant did not object at trial to Clayton's testimony, and even constitutional error can be waived by failing to object. Wright, 28 S.W.3d at 536. Because appellant failed to object at trial he has failed to preserve these issues for our review. Tex.R.App. P. 33.1. Points of error five through seven are overruled.
In his eighth point of error, appellant contends that the State's improper comment on his lack of remorse constituted a comment on his failure to testify and thus violated his right to remain silent guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment. Specifically, appellant complains about the prosecutor's argument at the punishment phase:
The answer to the future dangerousness [question] is yes, he will always be dangerous. There is no mitigation. Not even any. The answer to that question is, no. There is no reason he should serve life in prison, none at all. That would be an act of mercy that he doesn't deserve. He had no remorse. You heard it from his mother. He doesn't care about other people. He finds their suffering funny. The defense did not object to this argument.
In Griffin v. California, 380 U.S. 609, 85 S.Ct. 1229, 14 L.Ed.2d 106 (1965), the United States Supreme Court interpreted the Fifth Amendment guarantee against self-incrimination to mean that a comment on the defendant's failure to testify was an unconstitutional burden on this basic right. To violate the prohibition against commenting on a defendant's failure to testify, a comment must be manifestly intended to be (or be of such a character that the jury naturally and necessarily takes it to be) a comment on the accused's failure to testify. Goff v. State, 931 S.W.2d 537, 548 (Tex.Crim.App.1996). The fact that the language might be construed as an implied or indirect allusion to a defendant's failure to testify is not sufficient. Id.
A statement referencing evidence which can only come from the defendant is a direct comment on the defendant's failure to testify. Goff, 931 S.W.2d at 548; Madden v. State, 799 S.W.2d 683, 700 (Tex.Crim.App.1990). The present statement that appellant “had no remorse” could be deduced from sources other than appellant, including, as the State explicitly noted, his own mother's testimony. Appellant's Fifth Amendment rights were not violated. Point of error eight is overruled.
INEFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE OF COUNSEL
In point of error nine, appellant contends that his trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance at the guilt or innocence phase of trial when he failed to use all of his peremptory strikes thereby failing to preserve error for the claim he raised in point of error four, supra, regarding his challenge for cause to prospective juror Hudson. In his tenth point of error, appellant complains that his counsel rendered ineffective assistance at the punishment phase of trial when he: (A) failed to object to victim impact testimony given by Liezete Dos Santos ( see point of error one); (B) failed to object to Dr. Clayton's opinion testimony that mitigation factors are “useless” and to her ultimate opinion regarding punishment ( see points of error five through seven); (C) failed to recall Dr. Slaughter to testify regarding her diagnosis of appellant as being bipolar ( see point of error three); (D) failed to object to hearsay regarding extraneous offenses committed by others in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Institutional Division (hereinafter “TDCJ-ID”); (E) failed to introduce the psychiatric records of appellant's mother; (F) failed to object to the prosecutor's argument that appellant lacked remorse thereby failing to preserve appellant's Fifth Amendment claim ( see point of error eight); (G) failed to elicit important mitigating information during the punishment phase.
The proper standard for reviewing an ineffective assistance of counsel claim was established in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed.2d 674 (1984) (adopted by this Court in Hernandez v. State, 726 S.W.2d 53 (Tex.Crim.App.1986)). Under Strickland, a defendant must first demonstrate that his trial counsel's performance was deficient. Secondly, he must show that his counsel's deficient performance was so serious that it prejudiced his defense, rendering the trial unfair and the verdict suspect. Strickland, 466 U.S. at 687; see also Lockhart v. Fretwell, 506 U.S. 364, 113 S.Ct. 838, 122 L.Ed.2d 180 (1993). In other words, appellant must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that trial counsel's representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness under prevailing professional norms and that this deficient performance rendered the result of the proceeding unreliable. Strickland, 466 U.S. at 687. Appellate review of defense counsel's representation is highly deferential and presumes that counsel's actions fell within the wide range of reasonable and professional assistance. Bone v. State, 77 S.W.3d 828, 833 (Tex.Crim.App.2002); Chambers v. State, 903 S.W.2d 21, 33 (Tex.Crim.App.1995). The analysis of effective assistance is undertaken in light of the “totality of the representation” rather than by examining isolated acts or omissions of trial counsel. Wilkerson v. State, 726 S.W.2d 542, 548 (Tex.Crim.App.1986). The fact that another attorney may have pursued a different tactic at trial is insufficient to prove a claim of ineffective assistance. King v. State, 649 S.W.2d 42 (Tex.Crim.App.1983).
Under most circumstances, the record on direct appeal will not be sufficient to show that counsel's representation was so deficient and so lacking in tactical or strategic decision-making as to overcome the strong presumption that counsel's conduct was reasonable and professional. Bone, 77 S.W.3d at 833. As this Court recently explained, rarely will the trial record contain sufficient information to permit a reviewing court to fairly evaluate the merits of such a serious allegation. “[I]n the majority of cases, the record on direct appeal is simply undeveloped and cannot adequately reflect the failings of trial counsel.” Id . A reviewing court can frequently speculate on both sides of an issue, but ineffective assistance claims are not built on retrospective speculation; rather, they must “be firmly founded in the record.” Id.
The record in this case is not sufficiently developed on appellant's claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. From the information available to us, we can only speculate as to why counsel acted or failed to act as he did, and such speculation is beyond the purview of this Court. Id.; see also Ex parte Torres, 943 S.W.2d 469, 475 (Tex.Crim.App.1997); Jackson v. State, 877 S.W.2d 768, 771-72 (Tex.Crim.App.1994) (Baird, J., concurring). Without more, we must presume that counsel acted pursuant to a reasonable trial strategy. Id. Points of error nine and ten are overruled.
CONSTITUTIONALITY OF ARTICLE 37.071
In his fifteenth point of error, appellant argues that the “12/10 Rule” of article 37.071, §§ 2(d)(2) and 2(f)(2) is unconstitutional. We have previously addressed and rejected this contention, and appellant raises no new argument here. Wright, 28 S.W.3d at 537. Point of error fifteen is overruled.
In his sixteenth point of error, appellant contends that the trial court failed to define in the punishment charge the terms “probability,” “criminal acts of violence,” and “continuing threat to society.” See Tex.Code Crim. Proc. art. 37.071, §§ 2(b) & (e). Appellant argues that this failure rendered the charge unconstitutionally vague.
This Court has repeatedly held that the trial court need not define such terms because the jury is presumed to understand them without instruction. See, e.g., Ladd v. State, 3 S.W.3d 547, 572-73 (Tex.Crim.App.1999). Appellant has given us no reason to revisit these holdings. Point of error sixteen is overruled.
In his seventeenth point of error, appellant claims that the Texas death penalty law violates the state and federal constitutions because it simultaneously restricts and allows unlimited juror discretion to impose the death penalty. Appellant relies on Justice Blackmun's dissenting opinion in Callins v. Collins, 510 U.S. 1141, 114 S.Ct. 1127, 127 L.Ed.2d 435 (1994), to support his argument. We have previously addressed and rejected this claim. See Chamberlain, 998 S.W.2d at 238. Point of error seventeen is overruled.
In his eighteenth point of error, appellant claims that the Texas death penalty statute, which authorizes a sentence of death without requiring that the special issues be alleged in the indictment, violated his due process rights under the Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Appellant relies on Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466, 120 S.Ct. 2348, 147 L.Ed.2d 435 (2000), to support his argument that the special issues should have been pled in the indictment.
Appellant argues that in Apprendi, the United States Supreme Court held that any fact that increases the penalty for a crime beyond the prescribed statutory maximum must be alleged in the indictment and proven to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt. He claims that the Texas statute provides for a life sentence upon conviction, but, if the State seeks the death penalty, a separate proceeding is held to see if the sentence can be enhanced from life to death. Thus, he claims the special issues are enhancement factors which must be pled in the indictment.
Article 37.071, § 1 provides that if a defendant is found guilty of capital murder in a case in which the State does not seek the death penalty, the punishment is life imprisonment. Section 2 provides that if a defendant is tried for a capital offense in which the State seeks the death penalty, then a separate sentencing proceeding is held “to determine whether the defendant shall be sentenced to death or life imprisonment.” Thus, when the State is seeking the death penalty, the prescribed statutory maximum is death. See also Tex. Pen.Code § 12.31. It is not an “enhancement” of a prescribed maximum sentence of life; it is an alternatively available sentence. We have stated previously,
Apprendi applies to facts that increase the penalty beyond the “prescribed statutory maximum.” Under Article 37.071, the statutory maximum is fixed at death. There are no statutory enhancements. A positive jury finding on the mitigation issue does not have the potential of increasing the penalty; rather, it has the potential to reduce a defendant's sentence. Resendiz v. State, 112 S.W.3d 541, 550 (Tex.Crim.App.2003). Apprendi does not require the State to allege the special issues under article 37.071 in the indictment. Point of error eighteen is overruled.
In his nineteenth point of error, appellant claims that the Texas death penalty statute placed the burden of proof on him to show that his life should be spared due to mitigating circumstances, in violation of his rights under the Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Appellant argues that under Apprendi, 530 U.S. at 476, and Ring v. Arizona, 536 U.S. 584, 122 S.Ct. 2428, 153 L.Ed.2d 556 (2002), the State should bear the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that there is insufficient mitigation evidence to support a life sentence.
In Resendiz, 112 S.W.3d at 550, we rejected the defendant's claim that Apprendi requires the State to bear the burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the mitigation issue should be answered in the negative. We said the defendant was reading Apprendi too broadly. We also noted that “with respect to appellant's claim the State should bear the burden of proof as to mitigation, Apprendi does not address this burden.”
Neither does Ring support appellant's argument. Appellant relies on the following passage from Ring to support his argument that the State should bear the burden of proof on the mitigation issue: [u]nder the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment and the notice and jury trial guarantees of the Sixth Amendment, any fact (other than prior conviction) that increases the maximum penalty for a crime must be charged in the indictment, submitted to a jury, and proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Ring, 536 U.S. at 600. This passage, like Apprendi, refers to an increase in penalty over the statutory maximum. In Texas, the statutory maximum for a capital offense is death. The mitigation issue does not increase the statutory maximum. To the contrary, the mitigation issue is designed to allow for the imposition of a life sentence which is less than the statutory maximum. The mitigation issue does not violate appellant's due process rights. Point of error nineteen is overruled.
Appellant claims in his twentieth point of error that the Texas death penalty statute is unconstitutional under the federal and state constitutions because it fails to require the State to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that appellant is dangerous. In other words, he asserts that the Ring decision now requires the State to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that appellant is a continuing threat, not just that there is a probability that appellant is a continuing threat. As noted above, the statutory maximum penalty in a capital murder case is death. Ring does not change this. Likewise, Ring does not render the future dangerousness question unconstitutional. Point of error twenty is overruled.
Appellant asserts in his twenty-first point of error that the “cumulative effect” of the above errors denied him due process under the federal constitution and due course of law under the Texas Constitution. A number of errors may be found harmful in their cumulative effect. Chamberlain, 998 S.W.2d at 238. However, cumulative error has not been shown here. See Wright, 28 S.W.3d at 537. Point of error twenty-one is overruled.
We affirm the judgment of the trial court.
Sigala v. Quarterman, 338 Fed.Appx. 388 (5th Cir. 2009). (Habeas)
Background: Following state court conviction for capital murder and assessment of death sentence, affirmed on appeal, 2004 WL 231326, petitioner sought federal writ of habeas corpus. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas denied petition but granted certificate of appealability as to certain claims.
Holdings: The Court of Appeals held that: (1) trial counsel was not ineffective for failing to preserve right to individualized sentencing, and (2) trial counsel was not ineffective in developing and investigating mitigating factors at sentencing. Petition denied.
Texas state prisoner Michael A. Sigala filed a federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus seeking to vacate the death sentence he received following his conviction for capital murder. The district court denied Sigala the writ, but granted a certificate of appealability on three issues. After careful review of the record and applicable law, and following oral argument, we affirm the judgment of the district court denying the petition.
I. FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS
Sigala's guilt is not at issue in this appeal. A state jury convicted Sigala of capital murder for causing the death of Kleber Dos Santos during a home invasion. Sigala also murdered and sexually tortured Kleber's wife, Lilian Dos Santos, during the same episode. Following a one-week post-conviction punishment trial, the jury found that there was a probability that Sigala would commit acts of criminal violence and constitute a continuing threat to society, and that there were not sufficient mitigating circumstances to warrant a sentence of life imprisonment rather than death. In accordance with Texas law, the state trial judge then sentenced Sigala to death.
Sigala filed a direct appeal with the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which affirmed his conviction and sentence. Sigala v. State, 2004 WL 231326 (Tex.Crim.App. Jan.14, 2004) (unpublished). After the United States Supreme Court denied certiorari, Sigala v. Texas, 542 U.S. 909, 124 S.Ct. 2847, 159 L.Ed.2d 276 (2004), Sigala petitioned the Texas state court for collateral relief. The state trial court issued proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law and recommended denying relief. By per curiam order, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals adopted the trial judge's findings and conclusions and denied relief. Ex parte Sigala, No. 62,283-01 (Tex.Crim.App. Aug. 31, 2005).
Sigala timely filed a federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The federal district court denied relief, Sigala v. Quarterman, No. 5:05-CV-177 (E.D.Tex. Mar. 28, 2008), but granted a certificate of appealability (COA) on three claims. These claims, characterized by the district court as Claims II, III, and IX, allege, respectively, violations of Sigala's right to individualized sentencing, ineffective assistance of counsel in preserving that right, and ineffective assistance of counsel in developing and investigating mitigating factors at sentencing. This appeal followed.
A. Standard of Review
1. The Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996
Because Sigala filed his habeas petition after the effective date of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”), 28 U.S.C. § 2254, review of his petition is governed by the procedures and standards provided therein. See Parr v. Quarterman, 472 F.3d 245, 251-52 (5th Cir.2006). When a state court has adjudicated a prisoner's claim on the merits, we must defer to the state court and deny the prisoner's habeas claim unless the state court's adjudication of the 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. § 2254(d)(1)-(d)(2). In Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 120 S.Ct. 1495, 146 L.Ed.2d 389 (2000), the Supreme Court clarified these provisions. Justice O'Connor wrote in her majority opinion that a state court's decision will certainly be contrary to [the United States Supreme Court's] clearly established precedent if the state court applies a rule that contradicts the governing law set forth in our cases ... [or] if the state court confronts a set of facts that are materially indistinguishable from a decision of this Court and nevertheless arrives at a result different from our precedent. Id. at 405-06, 120 S.Ct. 1495.
2. Review of claims not decided on the merits by the state court
AEDPA standards do not apply, however, where a federal court reviews the denial of a claim on procedural grounds because in such cases there has not been an “adjudication on the merits” by the state court within the meaning of AEDPA with respect to such a claim. Hughes v. Quarterman, 530 F.3d 336, 340 (5th Cir.2008), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 129 S.Ct. 2378, 173 L.Ed.2d 1299 (2009). We review conclusions by the district court that the petitioner procedurally defaulted on a claim de novo. Kittelson v. Dretke, 426 F.3d 306, 315 (5th Cir.2005).
B. Claim II: Right to Individualized Sentencing under Lockett
Sigala argues that his Eighth Amendment right to individualized sentencing in the capital context, first articulated in Lockett v. Ohio, 438 U.S. 586, 604-05, 98 S.Ct. 2954, 57 L.Ed.2d 973 (1978) (plurality opinion), was violated. “[T]he Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments require that the sentencer ... not be precluded from considering, as a mitigating factor, any aspect of a defendant's character or record and any of the circumstances of the offense that the defendant proffers as a basis for a sentence less than death.” Eddings v. Oklahoma, 455 U.S. 104, 110, 102 S.Ct. 869, 71 L.Ed.2d 1 (1982) (quoting Lockett, 438 U.S. at 604, 98 S.Ct. 2954). The focus of Sigala's Lockett claim is the trial court's ruling regarding the admission of the testimony of a psychiatrist, Dr. Laura Slaughter,FN1 and his medical records.
FN1. Sigala met with Dr. Slaughter four times in sessions lasting approximately fifteen minutes each during his time in custody at the Collin County Detention Center.
1. Limitations on psychiatric testimony and medical records The state filed a pretrial motion requesting that the court order Sigala to submit to a psychiatric examination by the state's expert on his future dangerousness if he sought to present testimony on the subject. The court conducted a voir dire hearing of Dr. Slaughter, whose testimony Sigala sought to present. Sigala's trial counsel complained that the jury ought to be permitted to hear her testimony without his client's having to submit to examination by the state's expert, risking self-incrimination. Counsel's theory was that Dr. Slaughter “is a fact witness in this case ... She was not hired by Mr. Brewer or myself on behalf of Mr. Sigala.” The trial court granted the state's motion over Sigala's objection. In the wake of the trial court ruling, Sigala declined to submit to the examination of the state's expert. Accordingly, the trial court permitted Dr. Slaughter to testify to “(1) the fact that she ordered the dispensing of certain medications; (2) the names of those medications but not their purpose; (3) the number of times she met with appellant; and (4) the fact that appellant never caused her any problems.” Sigala, 2004 WL 231326, at *9. Dr. Slaughter then testified to these facts. The trial court also ordered the defense to redact the portion of the medical records from the jail that contained the diagnosis by Drs. Shoop and Slaughter that Sigala had bipolar disorder.
Claim II (and Claim III, indirectly) requires us to determine whether this ruling narrowed the scope of Dr. Slaughter's testimony and Sigala's records in a way that violated Sigala's constitutional right to individualized sentencing under Lockett. In his brief, Sigala characterizes the part of Dr. Slaughter's voir dire testimony that he was not permitted to present to the jury as follows: Dr. Laura Slaughter testified that her predecessor, Dr. [James] Shoop, had been a contract, governmental employee, working at the County Detention Center. One of his patients had been Mr. Sigala. When the contract terminated, Dr. Slaughter took over the duties and patients of Dr. Shoop.
Like Dr. Shoop, Dr. Slaughter also had been a contract, governmental employee, working at the Collin County Detention Center.... Dr. Slaughter had been Mr. Sigala's treating physician while he was detained in the Collin County Detention Center. Dr. Slaughter saw Mr. Sigala on four occasions. As a treating physician, Dr. Slaughter had diagnosed Mr. Sigala as having a history of mental illness, and she had treated him for bipolar disorder, depression and sleep problems related to that disorder.
Sigala also complains he was not able to present the following portion of Dr. Slaughter's voir dire testimony regarding bipolarity: Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder. It's also called manic depressive disorder, and it's characterized by episodes of a very high, often irritable, expansive mood that can be accompanied with things like impulsive behavior, disturbed sleep, decreased need for sleep, rapid speech, those types of things. Those are manic episodes. And then there's also separate depressive episodes which are low, depressed, sad moods that also have sleep/appetite disturbances.
Dr. Slaughter further testified that “the actual mood episodes can clear up on their own, but they tend to be recurring throughout the person's life.” She also stated that she adopted Dr. Shoop's findings, records, and interviews in her treatment of Sigala. The significance Sigala attaches to the trial court's ruling is that the court prevented Dr. Slaughter “from testifying as to her and Dr. Shoop's diagnoses of Mr. Sigala's mental illness and its symptoms, and [wrongly] order[e]d that Dr. [Mark] Cunningham, a defense forensic psychologist, could not use the redacted information to form his opinion about Mr. Sigala.” FN2. For a discussion of the effect of this ruling, see note 3, infra.
2. Collateral review of the trial court's order
As discussed supra, Sigala attacks the state trial court's ruling on Dr. Slaughter's testimony and his medical records on grounds that it denied him the right to present “any relevant mitigating evidence” as part of the Eighth Amendment individualized sentencing determination to which he was entitled under Lockett. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, on habeas review, found that Sigala had procedurally defaulted on this claim because he failed to raise it both at trial and in his direct appeal. It also found that this failure did not render Sigala's trial counsel constitutionally ineffective because Sigala failed to demonstrate that the trial court's order violated his rights under Lockett. Ex parte Sigala, slip op. at 6 (“[C]ounsel will not be found ineffective for failing to preserve an alleged error where the law was nonexistent or not definitive at the time of trial.... Appellate counsel is not required to present frivolous or futile claims or even every colorable claim.”) (citing Vaughn v. State, 931 S.W.2d 564, 568 (Tex.Crim.App.1996) (per curiam), Jones v. Barnes, 463 U.S. 745, 751-754, 103 S.Ct. 3308, 77 L.Ed.2d 987 (1983)). Finally, the court rejected the Lockett claim (Claim II) on the merits, holding that any error by the trial court in limiting the testimony of Dr. Slaughter and the admission of Sigala's medical records was harmless. In his federal habeas petition, Sigala renews his Lockett claim.
As an initial matter, we must decide whether the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals' alternative holdings constituted rulings on the merits or on procedural grounds. “[T]he rule in this circuit is that, when a state court bases its decision upon the alternative grounds of procedural default and a rejection of the merits, a federal court must, in the absence of good ‘cause’ and ‘prejudice,’ deny habeas relief because of the procedural default” rather than reevaluating the claim on the merits. Hughes v. Dretke, 412 F.3d 582, 592 (5th Cir.2005) (quoting Cook v. Lynaugh, 821 F.2d 1072, 1077 (5th Cir.1987)). Because procedural default does not constitute an “adjudication on the merits” for AEDPA purposes, the state court's finding of procedural default itself is reviewed de novo, however. Valdez v. Cockrell, 274 F.3d 941, 946-47 (5th Cir.2001). In his brief to this court, Sigala does not dispute that his trial counsel procedurally defaulted on the Lockett claim (Claim II). Accordingly, we must examine whether Sigala can establish “good ‘cause’ ” and “prejudice” to excuse the default. Hughes, 412 F.3d at 592.
As good cause for the default, Sigala cites the ineffective assistance of his trial counsel. This argument necessarily brings his Lockett claim back within AEDPA's reach, however: as we discuss infra, the state court did adjudicate, on the merits, the claim (Claim III) that Sigala's counsel was ineffective in failing to raise his Lockett claim; it rejected it. Under AEDPA, then, this court, like the district court, must defer to the state court's findings on Claim III unless they violate § 2254(d). For the reasons explained in Part II.C., we find they do not violate that provision. FN3. Because we hold that Sigala has failed to demonstrate good cause for his default, we need not reach the prejudice analysis. However, we agree with the state court that any error by the trial court was harmless and without prejudice to Sigala.
Sigala complains that Dr. Slaughter was not able to testify to the conclusions she and Dr. Shoop, her predecessor in treating Sigala, reached after treating Sigala. But his counsel cross-examined the state's expert, Dr. Lisa Clayton, on that very subject. Specifically, Sigala's counsel elicited from Dr. Clayton that she had trained Dr. Slaughter, and that she thought Dr. Slaughter was a good psychiatrist. Sigala's counsel admitted Sigala's medical records (Defendant's Exhibit 4), into evidence, and asked Dr. Clayton about them. Dr. Clayton testified, on the basis of those records, that Dr. Slaughter had diagnosed him as bipolar. She then explained what bipolar meant. She further stated that two psychiatrists had diagnosed Sigala as bipolar and had also prescribed medication for him. She explained what that medication did, specifically its effect on controlling a person's urges. Although she noted all these things, Dr. Clayton said she simply disagreed with Dr. Slaughter's (and Dr. Shoop's) diagnosis.
At closing argument, Sigala's counsel revisited this issue, arguing: “And look at the evidence. Dr. Clayton, again, what did she say? I had her review the records from the Collin County jail. Two psychiatrists have seen Michael and diagnosed him as bipolar, put him on medication to treat that disease, that mental illness, but to her that was just a big waste. Those two psychiatrists were wrong. She never even looked at those records.”
Given that Sigala's counsel succeeded in admitting all this evidence, to say that limiting Dr. Slaughter's testimony was not merely error, or constitutional error, but that it would probably have resulted in a different outcome, is untenable. C. Claim III: Sixth Amendment Claim of Ineffective Assistance as Grounds for Procedural Default on Lockett Claim (Claim II) In Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed.2d 674 (1984), the Supreme Court established a two-prong test for claims of ineffective assistance of counsel under the Sixth Amendment. To prevail on such a claim, a petitioner must demonstrate both that “(1) counsel's performance was deficient [“cause prong”] and (2) counsel's deficient performance caused actual prejudice to the petitioner's defense [“prejudice prong”].” Richards v. Quarterman, 566 F.3d 553, 564 (5th Cir.2009) (citing Strickland, 466 U.S. at 687, 104 S.Ct. 2052). To meet the cause prong, Sigala must establish that his counsel's actions were objectively unreasonable. Strickland, 466 U.S. at 687-91, 104 S.Ct. 2052. “[A] showing that the factual or legal basis for a claim was not reasonably available to counsel, or that some interference by officials made compliance impracticable, would constitute cause under this standard.” Murray v. Carrier, 477 U.S. 478, 488, 106 S.Ct. 2639, 91 L.Ed.2d 397 (1986) (citations and quotation marks omitted). To meet the prejudice prong, he must demonstrate that there is a reasonable probability that the result in the case would have been different had his counsel performed reasonably. Strickland, 466 U.S. at 692-96, 104 S.Ct. 2052.
Sigala's ineffective assistance claim was decided on the merits by the state court. Accordingly, AEDPA governs. To prevail on Claim III, therefore, Sigala must show that the rights he claims were ineffectively represented were “clearly established” at the time his conviction became final. § 2254(d)(1).
In rejecting Sigala's ineffective assistance claim on the merits, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals held that “[t]rial counsel was not ineffective for failing to lodge an Eighth Amendment objection” because Sigala had not demonstrated that his Lockett rights had been violated. Ex parte Sigala, slip op. at 6. “[C]ounsel will not be found ineffective,” the court found, “for failing to preserve an alleged error where the law was nonexistent or not definitive at the time of trial.” Id.
Although his post-trial proceedings are now in their eighth year, Sigala remains unable to substantively allege that his Lockett claim, had it been timely raised and developed, was “clearly established” at the time his conviction became final (or even whether it is today). He points to several decisions of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in other cases and a secondary source FN4 that he claims distinguish between the testimony of a treating physician and that of a psychiatric expert retained for litigation. Because the state court's decision on Claim III was on the merits, AEDPA requires that we defer unless the state court decision conflicts with United States Supreme Court precedent. See § 2254(d)(1) (challenged state court ruling must have constituted “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 ” in order for federal court to grant habeas) (emphasis added). Decisions of the Texas courts in other cases, even if they were on point, plainly would not satisfy this requirement.
FN4. Dexter E. Gilford, Constructive Waiver and Compelled Defendant Interviews: Understanding the Lagrone Doctrine and Implementing Strategies for Limiting its Effect part one, Voice for the Defense, Mar. 2006, at 14, 19.
In addition to the secondary source and Texas Court of Criminal Appeals precedents, Sigala claims that Lockett and other United States Supreme Court decisions support overturning the state court's decision regarding Claim III. A state court's decision is contrary to Supreme Court precedent, and thus habeas may be granted by a federal court in an AEDPA case, if (1) “the state court arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by [the Supreme Court] on a question of law,” or (2) “the state court confronts facts that are materially indistinguishable from a relevant Supreme Court precedent and arrives at a result opposite to [that of the Supreme Court].” Williams, 529 U.S. at 405, 120 S.Ct. 1495. Although the decisions Sigala references FN5 require that evidence of mitigation be permitted at sentencing, and that a defendant be given considerable latitude in presenting such evidence, including evidence of a defendant's psychological make-up, they do not plainly stand for Sigala's proposition. No Supreme Court decision has looked at Lockett and its impact in a situation like Sigala's, so he cannot argue that the state court reached a conclusion opposite to that reached by the Supreme Court. He therefore cannot meet the AEDPA requirement to show a “clearly established” right to his preferred presentation of such evidence under Lockett. Accordingly, we must defer to the state court's decision that his counsel's failure to attempt to “preserve” such a right was not unreasonable.FN6
FN5. E.g., Penry v. Lynaugh, 492 U.S. 302, 319, 109 S.Ct. 2934, 106 L.Ed.2d 256 (1989) (concluding that “ ‘evidence about the defendant's background and character is relevant because of the belief, long held by this society, that defendants who commit criminal acts that are attributable to a disadvantaged background, or to emotional and mental problems, may be less culpable than defendants who have no such excuse.’ ” (quoting California v. Brown, 479 U.S. 538, 545, 107 S.Ct. 837, 93 L.Ed.2d 934 (1987) (O'Connor, J., concurring))), overruled on other grounds by Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304, 122 S.Ct. 2242, 153 L.Ed.2d 335 (2002); McCleskey v. Kemp, 481 U.S. 279, 306, 107 S.Ct. 1756, 95 L.Ed.2d 262 (1987); Skipper v. South Carolina, 476 U.S. 1, 4-5, 106 S.Ct. 1669, 90 L.Ed.2d 1 (1986). FN6. Because Sigala cannot satisfy the first prong of Strickland here, we need not reach the question of prejudice. However, we believe, for the reasons explained supra at note 3, that Sigala was not prejudiced by the curtailment of the right he seeks to claim.
D. Claim IX: Ineffective Assistance of Counsel in Presenting Mitigating Evidence Sigala asserts in Claim IX a second claim of ineffective assistance of counsel: at the punishment phase of his trial, he alleges, his trial counsel failed to investigate, develop, and present crucial mitigating evidence, in violation of his Sixth Amendment rights under Strickland. The state court decided this claim on the merits, Ex parte Sigala, slip op. at 21; therefore, AEDPA governs. To overcome the deference to which the state court is entitled under that statute, Sigala must first show that the state court's adjudication of this claim was either contrary to, or an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law, as determined by the United States Supreme Court. § 2254(d)(1). If demonstrated, this would satisfy the first Strickland prong, cause, because it would show that his counsel's representation was unreasonable.
The federal district court concluded that Sigala's counsel had made poor strategic decisions regarding mitigation that are “precisely the course of conduct the Supreme Court deemed unreasonable [for Strickland cause purposes] in Wiggins [ v. Smith, 539 U.S. 510, 524, 123 S.Ct. 2527, 156 L.Ed.2d 471 (2003) ].” Sigala, slip op. at 18. But even assuming arguendo that the strategic decisions of Sigala's counsel were unreasonable, Sigala cannot demonstrate, as he is required to by the second Strickland prong, that they prejudiced his mitigation case.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals held that Sigala “presented substantial evidence fairly portraying [Sigala's] background that the jury could have viewed as mitigating” but that because the crimes had been egregious, he had a criminal history, and he did not express remorse, “it is improbable that additional, especially cumulative, evidence would have benefited [Sigala].” Ex parte Sigala, slip op. at 21. In order to grant relief for Sigala's ineffective assistance claim, we would have to find the state court's decision not merely erroneous, but objectively unreasonable. See Neal v. Puckett, 286 F.3d 230, 246 (5th Cir.2002) (en banc). We agree with the district court, and the state court, that the additional evidence of mitigation Sigala contends his trial counsel should have introduced would have been unlikely to help him, and that accordingly, he is unable to demonstrate Strickland prejudice. See Sigala, slip op. at 19-21.
The transcript of the punishment phase of the trial supports this conclusion. During that stage, the jury learned that Sigala abused drugs and had attended drug rehabilitation centers; had been expelled from school; that his mother had taken pains to take care of him financially and medically; and that he had had a substantial criminal history involving thefts, marijuana possession, and robbery. He also participated in gang activities. In addition, he was diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder and described as a “sadistic sexual predator.” It is hard to see how the additional evidence Sigala claims Dr. Slaughter would have offered, or the fact that it would have come from a treating physician, would have added so significantly to his mitigation case that the outcome would likely have been different.FN7 Accordingly, under AEDPA, we must defer to the state court's reasonable finding that Sigala has not shown that the sentencing outcome would probably have been different but for the asserted error.FN8
FN7. Sigala also contends that two responses to jury questionnaires support his claim that the jury would have been more sensitive to more mitigating factors had they been informed of them. We disagree. Both answers respond to the question, “What is the most persuasive argument for sentencing someone to a term of life imprisonment who is guilty of murder?” The first response was, “If there were mitigating circumstances which would call for life and not death”; the second was simply “individual instability.” These answers merely indicate considerations in the abstract that might disincline these jurors to support the death penalty. It is unlikely that these questionnaire responses, given the substantial evidence of mitigation and of Sigala's mental problems that the jury did hear-including the testimony of his own forensic psychologist, Dr. Cunningham; his medical records; and the favorable information he elicited on cross examination from the state's expert, Dr. Clayton-would allow Sigala to satisfy the demanding burden of Strickland, i.e., to establish a reasonable probability that the sentence would have been different. This is especially true given the grisly nature of the crime. See Strickland, 466 U.S. at 699, 104 S.Ct. 2052 (finding no prejudice given that “the aggravating circumstances were utterly overwhelming”); Jones v. Johnson, 171 F.3d 270, 277 (5th Cir.1999) (similar analysis). For a discussion of the details of the crime, see Sigala, 2004 WL 231326, at *1; Sigala, slip op. at 1-2.
FN8. At oral argument, counsel for Sigala raised for the first time the additional argument that Sigala's trial counsel had failed to introduce during the punishment phase “hard scientific evidence” rather than evidence of “what [psychologist] Dr. Cunningham did.” Counsel contended at oral argument that “the scholarly literature” suggests that Sigala's drug addiction meant “there's a very real likelihood that he could be brain damaged,” and that Sigala's trial counsel were therefore “on notice of ... possible brain damage, they were on notice that they needed to hire some sort of ... have the neurotesting done and have the MRI's done to determine whether or not there was in fact brain damage.”
Arguments raised for the first time at oral argument are deemed waived. E.g., Walker Int'l Holdings Ltd. v. Republic of Congo, 395 F.3d 229, 232 (5th Cir.2004). Were we to consider this argument, however, the result in this case would be no different. Sigala's appellate counsel has failed to cite any authority establishing the proposition that the Constitution per se requires counsel for defendants with a history of drug use to proffer at the punishment phase the results of “neurotesting” and an MRI instead of, or in addition to, the psychological, character, and other mitigating evidence they choose to proffer. This court certainly has not so held.
For the reasons set forth above, we AFFIRM the judgment of the district court. The petition for a writ of habeas corpus is DENIED.