454 F.3d 410 (4th Cir. 2006), 04-33, United States v. Fulks

Docket Nº:04-33.
Citation:454 F.3d 410
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Chadrick Evan FULKS, Defendant-Appellant.
Case Date:July 27, 2006
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
 
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Page 410

454 F.3d 410 (4th Cir. 2006)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

Chadrick Evan FULKS, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 04-33.

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit.

July 27, 2006

Argued May 23, 2006.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina, at Florence, CR-02-992, Joseph F. Anderson, Jr., Chief District Judge.

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COUNSEL

ARGUED:

John Henry Blume, III, CORNELL LAW SCHOOL, Ithaca, New York, for Appellant.

Scott Newton Schools, Assistant United States Attorney, EXECUTIVE OFFICE FOR U.S. ATTORNEYS, Washington, D.C., for Appellee.

ON BRIEF:

Keir M. Weyble, BLUME & WEYBLE, L.L.C., Columbia, South Carolina; William F. Nettles, IV, Assistant Federal Public Defender, OFFICE OF THE FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER, Florence, South Carolina, for Appellant.

Reginald I. Lloyd, United States Attorney, Jonathan S. Gasser, Assistant United States Attorney, John C. Duane, Assistant United States Attorney, C. Todd Hagins, Assistant United States Attorney, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Columbia, South Carolina, for Appellee.

Before WIDENER, WILLIAMS, and KING, Circuit Judges.

Affirmed by published opinion. Judge King wrote the opinion, in which Judge Widener joined. Judge Williams wrote a concurring opinion.

OPINION

KING, Circuit Judge.

Chadrick Evan Fulks appeals from the death sentence imposed on him in the District of South Carolina on his federal convictions for carjacking and kidnapping resulting in the death of Alice Donovan in 2002. By this appeal, Fulks makes seven contentions of error, each of which relate to his 2004 capital sentencing trial in Columbia: (1) the district court erroneously permitted the prosecution to present testimony from two witnesses not included on its pretrial witness list; (2) the court abused its discretion in qualifying three jurors who were unconstitutionally prone to impose the death penalty; (3) the court abused its discretion in denying Fulks a new trial on the basis of a juror's failure to disclose during voir dire that her first husband had been murdered; (4) the court abused its discretion in qualifying two jurors whose life experiences rendered them incapable of impartially deciding Fulks's case; (5) the court abused its discretion in excluding testimony concerning three polygraph examinations of Fulks; (6) the court abused its discretion in permitting Donovan's sister to read to the jury a 1990 letter that Donovan had written her; and (7) the court erred in concluding that the relaxed evidentiary standard applicable to capital sentencing proceedings is constitutional. As explained below, we reject these contentions and affirm.

I.

A.

Fulks, who grew up in the tri-state area around Huntington, West Virginia, began dating an exotic dancer named Veronica Evans in April 2002. Shortly thereafter, Fulks, who was then twenty-five years old, began living with Evans and her three-year-old son Miles in the eastern Kentucky community of Lewisburg. On June 11, 2002, Fulks and Evans were married. Fulks supported his new family in the same way he had supported himself for years — by breaking into cars and stealing. And as he had with other women, Fulks often became violent with Evans, sometimes beating her severely and assaulting her sexually.

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On August 25, 2002, Fulks directed Evans to use a stolen credit card to buy a necklace at a Wal-Mart in Madisonville, Kentucky. Upon entering the store, Evans reported to police that Fulks was in the parking lot with a gun and that she was afraid he would kill her. The police responded and searched Evans's car, discovering, among other things, stolen credit cards and a pistol. The officers subsequently arrested Evans and Fulks and transported them to the Hopkins County Detention Center (the "HCDC"). Three-year-old Miles was placed in foster care. On August 27, 2002, Evans agreed to cooperate with the government and was released from the detention center. On the basis of evidence seized from their home, Fulks was ultimately charged with twelve counts of credit card fraud in Hopkins County, Kentucky.

Branden Basham had been housed at the HCDC on bad check charges for over a year when Fulks arrived in late August 2002. According to guards at the prison, Basham was disruptive and annoying, often pestering his fellow inmates. In order to protect him from other prisoners, Basham was frequently reassigned cell mates, and, in mid-October 2002, he was placed in a cell with Fulks. On November 3, 2002, after about two months in custody, the Kentucky State Police served Fulks with an indictment charging him with first degree abuse of a child aged twelve years or younger (Miles). The next evening, at approximately 6:30 p.m., a jailer released Fulks and Basham, at Basham's request, into an outdoor recreation area. The jailer became diverted administering medication to other inmates, and when she returned at about 8:00 p.m. to check on Fulks and Basham, they were gone. They had escaped from the HCDC through the ceiling of the recreation area by using a makeshift rope made of blankets and sheets.

By the following day, November 5, 2002, Fulks and Basham had made their way on foot to the residence of James Hawkins, about eight to twelve miles from the HCDC. Basham approached the residence and, after using the phone, persuaded Hawkins to drive him and Fulks to a nearby convenience store. Shortly after departing from the house, Hawkins agreed to drive Fulks and Basham to their car, which they claimed to be located about forty miles away in Robards, Kentucky. At some point, Basham pulled a knife on Hawkins, and Fulks ordered Hawkins to pull to the side of the highway so that Fulks could drive. Soon thereafter, Fulks stopped the truck on a remote state road, intending to abandon Hawkins. Basham started to tie Hawkins to a tree, but Fulks, dissatisfied with Basham's effort, soon took over the job. Once Fulks was convinced that Hawkins would be unable to escape, he and Basham departed in Hawkins's truck. Hawkins freed himself some fifteen hours later, hailed a passing motorist, and called the police. According to Hawkins's testimony at trial, although Basham held him at knifepoint throughout the carjacking incident, Fulks remained in charge, with Basham merely following Fulks's orders.

After leaving Hawkins, Fulks and Basham drove to Portage, Indiana, where, on November 6, 2002, they abandoned Hawkins's truck at a hotel and proceeded on foot to a trailer shared by Tina Severance and Andrea Roddy. Fulks had met Severance at the Westville (Indiana) Correctional Institute in 2001, while he was serving time there and she was working as a correctional officer. After a few hours in the trailer, Fulks and Basham became very nervous, and the four of them (Fulks, Basham, Severance, and Roddy) travelled in Severance's van to the Sands Motel in northern Indiana, where they spent the next two nights. At some point while at

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the Sands Motel, Fulks told Severance that he had escaped from prison because he feared a lengthy prison sentence on the pending child abuse charges. During their second night at the Sands Motel, Fulks asked Severance if she knew where they could obtain firearms. She replied that a friend, Robert Talsma, kept firearms at his home in nearby Michigan City, Indiana. On the morning of November 8, 2002, in accordance with a preconceived plan, Severance and Roddy lured Talsma away while Fulks and Basham broke into his home and stole several firearms, as well as a ring and some checks.

The four of them then drove Severance's van to Sturgis, Michigan, where they rented a motel room. Basham and Roddy spent the night of November 8, 2002, at the motel, while Fulks and Severance spent that night in Goshen, Indiana, smoking marijuana and methamphetamine with Fulks's brother, Ronnie Fulks. The next day, Fulks and Severance returned to the Sturgis motel to find Basham crouched on the floor holding a gun. Apparently convinced that the authorities had caught up with them, Basham was highly agitated, repeatedly asserting that he was going to shoot a police officer. He eventually calmed down, and the four then drove to the Indiana home of Ronnie Fulks, where they spent the night.

On November 10, 2002, Fulks, Basham, Severance, and Roddy, with Fulks driving Severance's van, travelled to Piketon, Ohio, where they checked into a Town and Country Motel. They then drove to a nearby Wal-Mart, where Basham wrote bad checks for items that Roddy later returned for cash. Also on November 10, 2002, at a KMart in Piketon, Ohio, Fulks met a young woman with a butterfly tattoo (later determined to be Heather Jacobi) with whom he used drugs. On that same date, Fulks stole a purse and cell phone belonging to nineteen-year-old Amy Ward from a vehicle parked at a Wal-Mart in Waverly, Ohio. On the following day, Fulks, Basham, Severance, and Roddy drove to Kenova, West Virginia, and rented a room at the Hollywood Motel. Fulks and Basham then left the motel, not to return until the early morning hours of November 12, 2002.

According to statements Fulks made to the FBI in 2003, after he and Basham left the Hollywood Motel on November 11, 2002, they smoked methamphetamine and then drove to the Barboursville Mall, near Huntington, West Virginia, intending to break into cars and steal purses. When they arrived at the mall, they split up. The next time Fulks saw Basham, he was driving a car up and down the rows of the parking lot and yelling Fulks's name. In the passenger seat was the owner of the car, a nineteen-year-old Marshall University student named Samantha Burns. After spotting Basham, Fulks...

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