871 F.3d 390 (6th Cir. 2017), 14-3148, Hand v. Houk

Docket Nº:14-3148
Citation:871 F.3d 390
Opinion Judge:BOGGS, Circuit Judge.
Party Name:GERALD HAND, Petitioner-Appellant, v. MARC C. HOUK, Warden, Respondent-Appellee
Attorney:Jeanne M. Cors, TAFT, STETTINIUS & HOLLISTER, LLP, Cincinnati, Ohio, for Appellant. Charles L. Wille, OFFICE OF THE OHIO ATTORNEY GENERAL, Columbus, Ohio, for Appellee. Jeanne M. Cors, TAFT, STETTINIUS & HOLLISTER, LLP, Cincinnati, Ohio, Jennifer M. Kinsley, KINSLEY LAW OFFICE, Cincinnati, Ohio, ...
Judge Panel:Before: BOGGS, CLAY, and ROGERS, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:September 08, 2017
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
SUMMARY

Three of Hand’s four wives died, two as victims of violent, unsolved home invasions. The death of Hand’s fourth wife, Jill, occurred while he was at home. Hand confronted and shot the intruder, who turned out to be his friend and employee Welch. An investigation revealed a plot between the men to kill all three women in order to receive life insurance proceeds. Hand was convicted of the... (see full summary)

 
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871 F.3d 390 (6th Cir. 2017)

GERALD HAND, Petitioner-Appellant,

v.

MARC C. HOUK, Warden, Respondent-Appellee

No. 14-3148

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

September 8, 2017

Argued January 26, 2017.

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Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio at Columbus. No. 2:07-cv-00846--Sandra S. Beckwith, District Judge.

Hand v. Houk, (S.D. Ohio, Feb. 18, 2014)

ARGUED:

Jeanne M. Cors, TAFT, STETTINIUS & HOLLISTER, LLP, Cincinnati, Ohio, for Appellant.

Charles L. Wille, OFFICE OF THE OHIO ATTORNEY GENERAL, Columbus, Ohio, for Appellee.

ON BRIEF:

Jeanne M. Cors, TAFT, STETTINIUS & HOLLISTER, LLP, Cincinnati, Ohio, Jennifer M. Kinsley, KINSLEY LAW OFFICE, Cincinnati, Ohio, for Appellant.

Brenda S. Leikala, OFFICE OF THE OHIO ATTORNEY GENERAL, Columbus, Ohio, for Appellee.

Before: BOGGS, CLAY, and ROGERS, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

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BOGGS, Circuit Judge.

This case presents a habeas petitioner who has been convicted of two counts of aggravated murder and sentenced to death. Over the span of nearly thirty years, petitioner Gerald Hand married four women. Three of those women would die, two of them victims of violent, unsolved home invasions. The death of Hand's fourth and final wife, however, revealed a different story. At home at the time of her death, Hand allegedly confronted and shot the intruder, who turned out to be his friend and employee Lonnie Welch. Subsequent police investigation uncovered a decades-long plot conducted by Hand and Welch to murder Hand's wives in order to collect their lucrative insurance policies. Having been convicted in state court and having exhausted his state appeals, Hand now brings this habeas corpus petition. The district court denied the petition, and for the following reasons, we affirm.

I

A

In March 1976, Hand's first wife Donna was found strangled to death in the basement

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of their home. She had also been struck on the head. There were no signs of forced entry, but some items in the house had been disturbed. Hand filed for and received $67,386 in life insurance proceeds and $50,000 from the Ohio Court of Claims victims-compensation fund. Hand married his second wife, Lori, just over a year later in June 1977. They had one son together, Robert Jr. Like Donna, Lori was found strangled to death in the basement of their home. Lori had also been shot twice. Just as with Donna's murder, police found no signs of forced entry but some items in the house had been disturbed. Hand also filed for and received over $126,000 in life insurance proceeds. Although Hand was a suspect, neither Donna's nor Lori's murder was solved. Hand married a third time, but that marriage ended in divorce.

Hand married his fourth wife, Jill, in 1992. Hand moved into her house, and they remained married until her death on January 15, 2002. On the night of her death, Hand called police and reported that a home intruder had shot his wife and that he had shot the intruder in self-defense. The home intruder was later identified as Lonnie Welch.

The Supreme Court of Ohio best describes the police investigation that followed: Police found Welch's body lying face down on Hand's neighbor's driveway. Inside Hand's house, Jill's body was found lying between the living room and the kitchen. Hand told police that he had shot the intruder but did not know his identity. He also gave police two .38-caliber revolvers that he used to shoot him. On the way to the hospital, Hand saw the intruder's vehicle and told Mark Schlauder, a paramedic, that " it could have belonged to somebody that worked for" Hand.

Around 8:00 p.m. on January 15, Detective Dan Otto of the Delaware County Sheriff's Office interviewed Hand at the hospital. Hand said that after arriving home, he had dinner with Jill and then went to the bathroom. Upon exiting, Hand heard Jill scream, " Gerald," heard two gunshots, and saw a man in a red and black flannel shirt at the end of the hallway. Hand then retrieved two .38 caliber revolvers from the master bedroom. Hand started down the hallway firing both guns at the intruder, but had trouble shooting because the guns were " misfiring" and " missing every other round." Hand followed the intruder out the front door and continued firing at him as he ran toward his car, and then the intruder fell on the neighbor's driveway.

During the interview, Hand repeated that he did not recognize the gunman, but recognized Welch's car in the driveway. Hand said he " didn't know [Welch] that well; that he did odd jobs around the shop; that he was a thief; that he was a cocaine addict; that he * * * [came] in to the shop area from time to time." Hand also said that it had been a year since he had had any contact with Welch, and Welch had no reason to be at his home that night.

Investigators found no sign of forced entry at Hand's residence. Blood spatters were found inside the front door and on the front-door stoop. The top of the storm door was shattered, and particles of glass extended 13 feet into the front yard. All the glass fragments were found on top of the blood spatters. Police also found a black jacket on the front stoop, a spent bullet and glass fragments on top of the jacket, and a tooth outside the front door.

According to Agent Gary Wilgus, a crime-scene investigator, the blood spatters indicated that the victim was bleeding

Page 398 and " blood was dropping from his body" as he was moving away from the house. A bloody trail led onto the sidewalk and through the front yard and ended where Welch was lying in the driveway. Welch was wearing cloth gloves, and a knit hat with two eyeholes and a mouth hole was next to his head. Police also found a .32-caliber revolver on the front lawn.

Inside the house, police found glass fragments and bloodstains extending two to three feet from the front door and another tooth just inside the front door. Jill's body was 12 feet from the front door, her legs pointed towards the front door, and she was wearing a nightgown. Jill had been shot in the middle of her forehead. A second bullet deflected off the floor and was found on the carpet next to Jill's head.

Investigators found a bullet in the living room ceiling, and a second bullet was found in the living room window frame. While investigators could not determine the exact trajectory of the two bullets, they determined that they most likely originated from gunshots in the hallway area. No evidence of gunplay was found elsewhere in the house.

On January 17, 2002, Detective Otto reinterviewed Hand, and Hand provided a different version of events. Hand stated that after his wife was shot, he retrieved two guns from the master bedroom, went into the hallway, and saw Welch " coming down the hallway towards the master bedroom at him." Hand and Welch then began firing at each other in the hallway and were within four feet of each other during the gun battle. Hand repeated that he chased Welch outside the house but " couldn't get his guns to fire; that he was missing every other round and * * * they weren't firing." When asked about the .32-caliber revolver in the front yard, Hand stated that he did not know who owned it.

During the second interview, Hand said, " I was misquoted on the first interview at the hospital" about not knowing Welch. Hand said that he had known Welch, a former employee, for over 20 years. However, Hand continued to give the impression that they were not close. When asked about a wedding photo showing Welch as his best man, Hand said he " couldn't find anybody else to stand in as [his] best man." Hand repeated that " the only thing he saw" on the night of the murder was an unknown person in " red and black flannel," and he had " no clue who this unknown person was." Hand also said that " Jill had never met Lonnie; Lonnie's never been to Walnut Avenue; he had no idea why he was there."

In discussing his financial situation, Hand said he sold his radiator shop in October 2000 and received $300,000, and later received $33,000 from the sale of his share of the business and its inventory, and $140,000 from somewhere else. Hand said he " always needed money, but if he needed money, he could get some; that he had money." Hand also told police that he was " hiding the money and that he was considering filing bankruptcy; that that was against Jill's wishes." Later, Hand said that he " wasn't going to file for the bankruptcy * * * and they were going to work it out." When asked if he had any offices, Hand said that his office was in a bedroom in the house. However, Hand failed to disclose that he kept...

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