805 F.3d 940 (10th Cir. 2015), 13-5119, Jackson v. Warrior

Docket Nº:13-5119
Citation:805 F.3d 940
Opinion Judge:KELLY, Circuit Judge.
Party Name:SHELTON JACKSON, Petitioner - Appellant, v. MAURICE WARRIOR, Interim Warden, Oklahoma State Penitentiary, [*] Respondent - Appellee
Attorney:John T. Carlson, Assistant Federal Public Defender, Denver, Colorado (Virginia L. Grady, Federal Public Defender, Denver, Colorado, Jacob Rasch-Chabot, Research and Writing Specialist, Denver, Colorado, and Mark Henricksen of Henricksen & Henricksen, Lawyers, Inc., Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, with h...
Judge Panel:Before KELLY, LUCERO, and MORITZ, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:November 10, 2015
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
SUMMARY

Petitioner-Appellant Shelton Jackson appealed the denial of his petition for writ of habeas corpus challenging his conviction and death sentence. In 1997, Jackson was charged with the murder of Monica Decator in Tulsa, Oklahoma and was subsequently convicted and sentenced to death. Jackson raised three issues on appeal: (1) whether the state court’s submission to the jury of an allegedly invalid... (see full summary)

 
FREE EXCERPT

Page 940

805 F.3d 940 (10th Cir. 2015)

SHELTON JACKSON, Petitioner - Appellant,

v.

MAURICE WARRIOR, Interim Warden, Oklahoma State Penitentiary, [*] Respondent - Appellee

No. 13-5119

United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit

November 10, 2015

APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF OKLAHOMA - TULSA. (D.C. No. 08-CV-0204-JHP-FHM).

Page 941

John T. Carlson, Assistant Federal Public Defender, Denver, Colorado (Virginia L. Grady, Federal Public Defender, Denver, Colorado, Jacob Rasch-Chabot, Research and Writing Specialist, Denver, Colorado, and Mark Henricksen of Henricksen & Henricksen, Lawyers, Inc., Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, with him on the briefs), for Petitioner - Appellant.

Jennifer L. Crabb, Assistant Attorney General, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (E. Scott Pruitt, Attorney General State Oklahoma, with her on the brief), for Respondent - Appellee.

Before KELLY, LUCERO, and MORITZ, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 942

KELLY, Circuit Judge.

Petitioner-Appellant Shelton Jackson appeals from the district court's denial of his petition for writ of habeas corpus challenging his conviction and death sentence. Jackson v. Workman, No. 08-CV-204-JHP-FHM, 2013 WL 4521143 (N.D. Okla. Aug. 26, 2013). In 1997, Mr. Jackson was charged with the murder of Monica Decator in Tulsa, Oklahoma and was subsequently convicted and sentenced to death. Mr. Jackson raises three issues on appeal: (1) whether the state court's submission to the jury of an allegedly invalid sentencing aggravator unconstitutionally skewed the jury's deliberations during the penalty phase of his trial; (2) whether his defense lawyers provided constitutionally deficient representation during the penalty phase; and (3) whether the combined effect of these two errors warrants habeas relief even if, viewed individually, each error is harmless.

We have jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § § 1291 and 2253(a), and we affirm.

Background

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals (OCCA) set forth the relevant facts in its published opinion on direct appeal. Jackson v. State, 2006 OK CR 45, 146 P.3d 1149, 1154-55 (Okla.Crim. App. 2006). We presume these facts are correct. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1).

On the morning of April 8, 1997, Mr. Jackson killed his girlfriend Monica Decator, with whom he had been living for several months. The previous day, Mr. Jackson had been watching Ms. Decator's two-year-old son when he " lost his patience" due to the child's fussiness and crying. Jackson, 146 P.3d at 1154. He " picked the child up by the neck, and tossed him to the ground several times." Id. Later, when the child began crying again, Mr. Jackson pushed the child down repeatedly. After this abuse, the child could not walk, and his eyes were " glazy." Id. Mr. Jackson used a screwdriver to pry the child's mouth open because he was having difficulty breathing.

The parties contest the timing and sequence of the next series of events. According to the state, Mr. Jackson covered the severely injured child with a large piece of carpet and hid him in the crawlspace of a nearby vacant house. He then went to a gas station, where he purchased a gallon of gasoline and used an ATM to empty Ms. Decator's bank account. Later that evening, he watched wrestling at his uncle's apartment, as he regularly did. When he returned home, he killed Ms. Decator to prevent her from reporting his child abuse to the authorities. He left town at noon on April 8.

Mr. Jackson provided a different sequence of events to the police. He stated he left the injured child at home in bed when he went to his uncle's house to watch wrestling. When Ms. Decator returned to the house that evening, she heard her child crying and discovered his severe injuries. This discovery led to a fight with Mr.

Page 943

Jackson when he returned, which ended when he knocked her unconscious by hitting her in the head several times with a brick. According to Mr. Jackson, at that time he carried the child to the vacant house. When he returned to Ms. Decator, she had regained consciousness, and she attacked him with a knife. He hit her again with the brick, gained control of the knife, and stabbed her.

Ms. Decator's body was discovered at 8:30 a.m. on April 8, when firefighters responded to a fire at her home. Investigators concluded that someone had set the fire intentionally. Police arrested Mr. Jackson later that afternoon, when his Houston-bound bus stopped in McAlester, Oklahoma. He had no visible injuries. In McAlester, Mr. Jackson gave detectives a general location for the hidden child, but they could not find him. Mr. Jackson was then taken to a police station in Tulsa, where he provided more specific directions to find the child and gave a statement confessing to the child abuse and killing of Ms. Decator.

On April 29, 1997, Mr. Jackson was charged with first degree murder, first degree arson, and injury to a minor child. A jury found Mr. Jackson guilty of all three crimes and recommended the death penalty for his murder conviction. On appeal, the OCCA found that Mr. Jackson's trial attorneys were constitutionally ineffective because they conceded Mr. Jackson's guilt without consulting with him or obtaining his consent or acquiescence. Jackson v. State, 2001 OK CR 37, 41 P.3d 395, 400-01 (Okla.Crim. App. 2001). The OCCA reversed and remanded Mr. Jackson's murder conviction and death sentence for a new trial, and affirmed his convictions for arson and injury to a child. Id. at 401.

Mr. Jackson's retrial was held in March 2003. At the guilt stage of Mr. Jackson's second trial, the salient question for the jury was whether Mr. Jackson acted with deliberate intent to kill Ms. Decator, or whether instead he acted in self-defense or in the heat of passion. The jury found that Mr. Jackson intended to kill Ms. Decator, and he was again convicted of first degree murder. Okla. Stat. Ann. tit. 21, § 701.7(A) (Supp. 1996).

At the penalty phase of the second trial, the prosecution sought to prove four aggravating circumstances, each listed in Oklahoma's death penalty statute:

(1) Ms. Decator's murder was especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel (" heinous crime aggravator" );

(2) Mr. Jackson killed Ms. Decator for the purpose of avoiding or preventing a lawful arrest or prosecution for a previous crime--the abuse of her child (" avoid arrest aggravator" ); (3) Mr. Jackson posed a continuing threat to society because he would probably commit violent acts in the future (" continuing threat aggravator" ); and (4) During the commission of the murder of Ms. Decator, Mr. Jackson knowingly created a great risk of death to more than one person--the injured child (" great risk of death aggravator" ).

Id. § 701.12; 16 R. 23 (2003 Trial Tr.).1

At trial, the state rested upon the evidence presented during the guilt phase of the trial to prove the first three aggravators. The state offered testimony from

Page 944

the doctor who treated the child at the hospital to prove the final aggravator--that Mr. Jackson knowingly created a great risk of death to the child when he murdered Ms. Decator. After the trial judge dismissed the continuing threat aggravator, the jury found the remaining three aggravators applied.

Before the jury's deliberations, Mr. Jackson's defense counsel presented mitigating evidence, much of it focused on Mr. Jackson's life history. Mr. Jackson's mother drank heavily throughout her pregnancy, and a neurologist testified that Mr. Jackson suffered from fetal-alcohol syndrome, causing an array of cognitive and functional disabilities. Mr. Jackson's stepfather abused him severely. His classmates teased him for poor hygiene and a speech impediment, and he was committed to the Louisiana Department of Corrections when he was twelve years old. He spent three difficult years in a correctional facility that the Department of Justice later accused of failing to protect children from abuse.

Mr. Jackson's defense counsel also presented as mitigating evidence the character witness testimony of Arthur Farahkhan. Mr. Farahkhan worked with Mr. Jackson developing a program to assist disadvantaged youth. He testified about Mr. Jackson's leadership qualities and his genuine desire to improve life in his neighborhood. He stated that Mr. Jackson's life would have value in prison.

Mr. Farahkhan had provided similar testimony in Mr. Jackson's first trial. There he stated that he " believ[ed] in the death penalty." 11 R. 2189 (1998 Trial Tr.). He reconciled his general belief in the death penalty with his support for Mr. Jackson because he did not think Mr. Jackson's murder of Ms. Decator was premeditated. Id. The first trial judge sustained an objection by the prosecution and admonished the jurors to disregard Mr. Farahkhan's comment regarding premeditation.

Prior to testifying at the second trial, Mr. Farahkhan " made it crystal clear" to Mr. Jackson's counsel that, consistent with his previous testimony, he believed Mr. Jackson would deserve the death penalty if the murder of Ms. Decator was premeditated. 1 R. 219 (Post-Conviction). Despite this warning, Mr. Jackson's counsel called Mr. Farahkhan to testify. When, on cross-examination, Mr. Farahkhan agreed with the prosecution that " the death penalty would be appropriate" if Mr. Jackson " intentionally" killed Ms. Decator, Mr. Jackson's counsel did not object or ask Mr. Farahkhan any further questions. 17 R. 129-30 (2003 Trial Tr.).

Mr. Jackson filed a direct appeal from the conviction and death sentence resulting from his second trial. He raised ten propositions of error, including that there was insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the great risk of death aggravator. The OCCA affirmed the murder...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP