924 P.2d 284 (Okla.Crim.App. 1996), PC-96-718, Hatch v. State

Docket Nº:PC-96-718.
Citation:924 P.2d 284
Party Name:Steven Keith HATCH, Petitioner, v. The STATE of Oklahoma, Respondent.
Case Date:August 06, 1996
Court:Court of Appeals of Oklahoma, Court of Criminal Appeals of Oklahoma

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924 P.2d 284 (Okla.Crim.App. 1996)

Steven Keith HATCH, Petitioner,


The STATE of Oklahoma, Respondent.

No. PC-96-718.

Court of Criminal Appeals of Oklahoma.

August 6, 1996.

As Corrected Nov. 26, 1996.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Randy A. Bauman, Deputy Division Chief, Capital Post-Conviction, Oklahoma Indigent Defense System, Norman, for petitioner.

W.A. Drew Edmondson, Attorney General of Oklahoma and Sandra D. Howard, Assistant Attorney General, Chief, Criminal Appeals, Oklahoma City, for respondent.




Petitioner has filed with this Court an Application for Post-Conviction Relief, Request for Stay of Execution, Request for Counsel, and Request for Discovery and Evidentiary Hearing. Having fully reviewed Petitioner's claims, we find Petitioner's request for counsel moot due to the appointment of the Oklahoma Indigent Defender by the District Court of Canadian County and the remaining issues are without merit.


Petitioner was convicted of two counts of First Degree Murder and two counts of Shooting with Intent to Kill in the District Court of Canadian County. Petitioner waived his right to a jury trial and the case was tried to the Honorable Floyd Martin, District Judge, in April, 1980. After hearing second stage evidence, the trial court found the existence of three aggravating circumstances: (1) that the murders were especially heinous, atrocious or cruel; (2) that the murders were committed to avoid lawful arrest or prosecution; and (3) that there existed a probability that the defendant would commit future acts of criminal violence as to constitute a continuing threat to society. Petitioner was sentenced to death.

On direct appeal of these convictions, this Court affirmed the convictions but remanded the death penalty sentences back to the District Court for findings in accordance with Enmund v. Florida, 458 U.S. 782, 102 S.Ct. 3368, 73 L.Ed.2d 1140 (1992). Hatch v. State, 662 P.2d 1377 (Okl.Cr.1983), cert. denied 474 U.S. 1073, 106 S.Ct. 834, 88 L.Ed.2d 805 (1986) (Hatch I ).

On remand to the District Court of Canadian County, proceedings were held before the Honorable Stan Chatman, due to the death of Judge Martin. Judge Chatman resentenced Petitioner to death. On appeal of that proceeding, the Court of Criminal Appeals upheld the death sentence. Hatch v. State, 701 P.2d 1039 (Okl.Cr.1985), cert. denied 474 U.S. 1073, 106 S.Ct. 834, 88 L.Ed.2d. 805 (1986) (Hatch II ).

Petitioner next filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus in the Western District of Oklahoma, which was denied on July 24, 1985. On appeal of that denial, the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit stayed the proceedings on April 22, 1986, pending resolution of certain claims in state court.

On January 26, 1987, Petitioner filed an Application for Post-Conviction Relief in the District Court of Canadian County, alleging among other things, that Judge Chatman should have recused from presiding over the Enmund hearing. The Application for Post-Conviction Relief was heard before the Honorable Joe Cannon, District Judge. Judge Cannon denied the Application in all respects except that he found that Judge Chatman should have recused and granted a new Enmund hearing.

In February 1987, Petitioner appealed to the Court of Criminal Appeals that portion of Judge Cannon's order which denied him post-conviction relief. On March 6, 1987, this

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Court affirmed the denial of post-conviction relief in an unpublished order.

On March 30, 1987, Judge Cannon held a new Enmund hearing. At the conclusion of that hearing, Judge Cannon again sentenced Petitioner to death. Petitioner appealed the death sentence to this Court. This Court affirmed the death sentence. Hatch v. State, 835 P.2d 880 (Okl.Cr.1992) (Hatch III ).

The matter was subsequently remanded back to the Western District for consideration. The Honorable Ralph Thompson, Chief Judge, denied the Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus on January 24, 1994.

Petitioner appealed that denial to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. The denial of habeas relief was affirmed. Hatch v. Oklahoma, 58 F.3d 1447 (10th Cir.1995). Petitioner's Petition for Rehearing and Suggestion for Rehearing En Banc was denied.

Petitioner sought review from the United States Supreme Court. On June 3, 1996, that court declined to hear the case. Hatch v. Oklahoma, --- U.S. ----, 116 S.Ct. 1881, 135 L.Ed.2d 176 (1996). Because all state and federal appeals have been exhausted, this Court set an execution date of August 9, 1996.


This Court's consideration of claims on post-conviction is strictly limited by the provisions of the Uniform Post-Conviction Procedure Act. 22 O.S.1991, § 1080 et seq. On November 1, 1995, the Oklahoma Legislature amended this provision. 22 O.S.Supp.1995, § 1089. The new provision provides for filing of an original application for post-conviction relief directly with this Court, instead of the District Court where the case was tried.

Under 22 O.S.Supp.1995, § 1089(C) the only issues that may be raised in an application for post-conviction relief are those that were not and could not have been raised in a direct appeal; and those that support a conclusion either that the outcome of the trial would have been different but for the errors or that the defendant is factually innocent. The failure of a defendant to meet either of these two requirements prevents this Court from considering the issue on post-conviction.

Additional requirements are placed on successive post-conviction applications. This Court may not consider the merits of or grant relief based on a subsequent application for post-conviction relief unless the application contains sufficient specific facts establishing that the current claims and issues have not been and could not have been presented in a previously considered application filed under this section, because the factual or legal basis for the claim was unavailable.

Section (D)(9) provides that a legal basis of a claim is unavailable if it was not recognized by or could not have been reasonably formulated from a final decision of the United States Supreme Court, a court of appeals of the United States, or a court of appellate jurisdiction; or is a new rule of constitutional law that was given retroactive effect by the United States Supreme Court or a court of appellate jurisdiction of this state and had not been announced on or before that date.

A factual basis of a claim is unavailable on or before a date described by this subsection if the factual basis was not ascertainable through the exercise of reasonable diligence on or before that date.

As Petitioner's application was filed after November 1, 1995, it will be reviewed under the new provisions.


In his Revised Application for Post-Conviction Relief filed July 19, 1996 1, Petitioner raises four grounds for relief: 1) that Petitioner was never determined competent to stand trial under constitutional standards; 2) that Petitioner was deprived of the right not to be tried, convicted and sentenced to death by a court that had no subject matter jurisdiction

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over him; 3) that Petitioner was deprived of effective assistance of counsel; and 4) that an evidentiary hearing is necessary to resolve the issues raised herein.

Petitioner has also presented a preliminary complaint, that the new capital post-conviction procedure, on its face and as applied, denies both adequate and equal access to the courts and deprives Petitioner of due process, all in violation of the Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, the Ex Post Facto Clause of that document, and similar provisions of the Oklahoma Constitution. As the constitutionality of the statute impacts on this Court's ability to address Petitioner's grounds for relief, we shall address that first.


We begin our analysis with the precept that state laws are generally entitled to a presumption of validity against attack under the equal protection clause. Tyler v. State, 777 P.2d 1352, 1354 (Okl.Cr.1989) (citing Parham v. Hughes, 441 U.S. 347, 351, 99 S.Ct. 1742, 1745, 60 L.Ed.2d 269 (1979)). See also State v. Ballard, 868 P.2d 738, 740 (Okl.Cr.1994); Callaway v. City of Edmond, 791 P.2d 104, 106 (Okl.Cr.1990); State v. Hunter, 787 P.2d 864, 865 (Okl.Cr.1990). Legislatures have a wide range of discretion when passing laws which have the effect of treating some differently from others. Tyler, 777 P.2d at 1354.

To show an equal protection violation Petitioner must show that 22 O.S.Supp.1995, § 1089 "impermissibly interferes with his exercise of a fundamental right or operates to the peculiar disadvantage of him as a member of a suspect class." Clayton v. State, 892 P.2d 646, 654 (Okl.Cr.1995). If a petitioner fails to make that showing (which requires application of the strict scrutiny standard, see Crawford v. State, 881 P.2d 88, 90 (Okl.Cr.1994)), he must prove that the statute is not rationally related to a legitimate state interest, also called the "rational relationship test." Id.

As we said in Clayton, "Petitioner fails to cite any authority, nor does our research disclose any, which holds capital post conviction petitioners constitute a suspect class." Id. at 654. We find the same rationale applies here.

We likewise held in Clayton while analyzing the previous version of Section 1089, that the section did not impermissibly interfere with a fundamental right. Id. This is true because a petitioner does not have a fundamental right to post-conviction review. Id. (citing Manous v. State, 797 P.2d 1005 (Okl.Cr.1990)). See also Murray v. Giarratano, 492 U.S. 1, 10, 109 S.Ct. 2765, 2770, 106 L.Ed.2d 1...

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