257 F.3d 1194 (11th Cir. 2001), 00-15721, Grayson v Thompson

Docket Nº:00-15721
Citation:257 F.3d 1194
Party Name:DARRELL B. GRAYSON, Petitioner-Appellant, v. LESLIE THOMPSON, Respondent-Appellee.
Case Date:July 16, 2001
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

Page 1194

257 F.3d 1194 (11th Cir. 2001)

DARRELL B. GRAYSON, Petitioner-Appellant,


LESLIE THOMPSON, Respondent-Appellee.

No. 00-15721


July 16, 2001

Page 1195

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 1196

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 1197

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama. D. C. Docket No. 96-01017-CV-S.

Before ANDERSON, Chief Judge, BIRCH and HULL, Circuit Judges.

HULL, Circuit Judge:

Darrell Grayson appeals the denial of his 28 U.S.C. § 2254 petition for a writ of habeas corpus in his capital case. In June 1982, Darrell Grayson was convicted of the capital murder of an elderly widow and sentenced to death in the Circuit Court of Shelby County, Alabama. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2253, the district court granted a Certificate of Appealability with respect to certain issues in Grayson's § 2254 petition. After review and oral argument, we affirm the denial of Grayson's § 2254 petition.


The judge who sentenced Grayson to death found these facts regarding Grayson's crime:

Mrs. Annie Laura Orr was an eighty-six (86) year old widow who lived alone in her house in Montevallo, Alabama. At the time of her death, she stood about five feet three inches tall, and weighted [sic] some one-hundred seventeen pounds. Her granddaughter visited her during the day of December 23rd, 1980, and found her appearing to be in good health, ambulatory, and in possession of her mental faculties. Her personal physician, Dr. Lewis Kirkland, described her as being in good health for a woman of her age.

During the evening hours of December 23rd, 1980, the Defendant Darrell Grayson, Co-defendant Victor Kennedy, and two other individuals, met at Kennedy's residence, also in Montevallo, and a short distance from that of Mrs. Orr. They drank wine and played cards. Sometime shortly after midnight, and after the other individuals had gone, Kennedy and Grayson left Kennedy's house on foot, walking in the direction of Mrs. Orr's house. They were armed with a .38 Caliber handgun, which belonged to Kennedy. They decided to burglarize Mrs. Orr's residence in order to get some money. They had previously discussed such a burglary, that Mrs. Orr was elderly, and where she kept her money.

They entered the Orr house during the very early morning hours of December

Page 1198

24th, 1980, through a rear basement door. They then proceeded through the dirt basement, up several steps, and into the main living portion of the house near Mrs. Orr's bedroom. The Defendants used a flashlight to illuminate their way.

Once inside the living portion of the house they entered Mrs. Orr's bedroom where she was apparently sleeping. They subdued and beat her, striking her in the head with a blunt instrument and breaking several of her ribs. Darrell Grayson then placed a pillowcase over her head and wrapped two relatively long lengths of masking tape very tightly around her head so that when they were finished he[r] head then appeared to be that of a mummy. They then proceeded to look for money and other valuables.

When apparently they could not find a significant amount of cash, the[y] began threatening Mrs. Orr by beating her further, threatening to drown her, and firing two shots from Kennedy's pistol, into her bedroom block and wall. Also during their assault, they raped Mrs. Orr repeatedly. Darrell Grayson said he didn't want to rape Mrs. Orr but that he did so twice. Mrs. Orr lived through the assault of being raped, beaten, threatened, unable to see or adequately breathe, and begging her assailants not to hurt her but to take the money and leave, for a considerable period of time. She then died.

A. Grayson's Arrest

Around nine a.m. on December 24, 1980, Dr. Milton Orr discovered the dead body of his 86-year-old mother, Mrs. Annie Laura Orr, in the bedroom of her home in the small community of Montevallo, Alabama.1 He called law enforcement and a doctor. Law enforcement officers ("officers") discovered a trail of playing cards, that matched cards found inside Mrs. Orr's home, leading away from the crime scene in the direction of the home of Victor Kennedy, a known burglar. Captain Reed Smith, one of the officers investigating the crime, had worked on a burglary involving Kennedy approximately six weeks earlier that "went along the same route.". Another officer had arrested Kennedy fifteen or sixteen times prior to Mrs. Orr's murder and was familiar generally with the Grayson family. Officers knew that Kennedy and Grayson were friends and had been seen together the previous night. Officers were aware that Grayson had worked for Mrs. Orr previously and that he was familiar with her residence. Therefore, in the early afternoon of December 24, officers began looking for Grayson. Officers found him near his home "squatting in the bushes" in a wooded area and took him into custody. Following his arrest, Grayson confessed. In addition, officers recovered Mrs. Orr's wedding rings from Grayson's wallet and obtained physical evidence from Grayson linking him to the crime.

B. Grayson's Confessions

After Grayson was taken into custody on the afternoon of December 24, Grayson gave a series of statements. Before each statement, the officers informed Grayson of his Miranda rights. When Grayson was first taken into custody, Sergeant John Pratt advised Grayson of his Miranda rights and told Grayson that he would sit down and talk with him at police headquarters regarding the death of Mrs.

Page 1199

Orr the previous evening. Pratt informed Grayson that he should think carefully about the previous evening in order to participate in that conversation. In what has been characterized as his first statement, Grayson responded by stating something like "Yes sir, I understand what you are talking about."

Approximately one hour after Grayson was transported to the police department, Pratt and Chief Troy Kirkland questioned him regarding the death of Mrs. Orr after advising him of his Miranda rights a second time and obtaining his signature on a Notification of Rights form.2 During that interview, Grayson told the officers that he had performed yard work for Mrs. Orr in the past, was familiar with her house, and had entered her home with Victor Kennedy in the early morning hours of December 24. He admitted that they had awakened Mrs. Orr and had repeatedly raped her in the course of searching the house for valuables. After taking what money and valuables they could find, Grayson and Kennedy left Mrs. Orr on her bed and left the house.

Within thirty minutes of this interview, Grayson orally waived his Miranda rights a third time. The officers then conducted another interview and tape recorded Grayson's story about the rape and burglary. Grayson repeated the account of the crime previously given to officers. Although he admitted that he had known where to look for money in Mrs. Orr's house as a result of doing work for her in the past, Grayson claimed that both the burglary and rape were Kennedy's ideas. Grayson explained that he and Kennedy had consumed several gallons of wine the preceding evening.

Two days later, on the afternoon of December 26, Grayson gave another recorded statement to Captain Reed Smith. After again signing a Notification of Rights form waiving his Miranda rights and expressing his willingness to speak with the police without a lawyer, Grayson gave another account of the crime. Grayson explained that he and Kennedy had been planning for a couple of weeks to rob Mrs. Orr to get money for Christmas. Grayson said that Mrs. Orr was selected as a target because he had worked for her and was familiar with her house and where she kept money.

Grayson stated that Mrs. Orr had begged them not to hurt her and told them to take her money. Grayson explained that he had taped a pillowcase over Mrs. Orr's face to prevent her from recognizing him, although he stated that he did not think Mrs. Orr would recognize him since it had been years since he had worked for her. After he taped the pillow case over her head, Grayson could not understand what she was saying and that her words

Page 1200

sounded like mumbling. He described both Kennedy and himself raping Mrs. Orr repeatedly and their unsuccessful search for money and other valuables. He admitted that he had taken Mrs. Orr from her bedroom into the bathroom at one point during the crime and had returned with her to the bedroom and raped her again. He stated that he could not remember why he took her to the bathroom or what transpired there. Grayson stated that Kennedy urged him repeatedly to leave the house while he was raping Mrs. Orr and that he left Mrs. Orr on her bed with the pillowcase taped over her head and face and exited the house. .

C. Grayson's Motion to Suppress Confessions

Attorney Richard Bell was appointed to defend Grayson, who entered a plea of not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity. Prior to trial, Bell moved to suppress Grayson's confessions. Bell argued that they were given without a knowing and intelligent waiver of his right to counsel because Grayson: (1) was "extremely intoxicated and unable to comprehend or understand the implications raised by the admissions" at the time; (2) was "a person with an extremely limited education who could not possibly be expected to understand the implications raised by the admissions"; and (3) made the statements "as the result of promises of probation, lighter sentence, or benefit . . . by the fact of his admitting certain facts."

The trial court held an evidentiary hearing on the motion to suppress. Sergeant Pratt testified that he administered full Miranda warnings to Grayson prior to all four...

To continue reading