97 F.3d 329 (9th Cir. 1996), 94-99009, Woratzeck v. Stewart

Docket Nº:94-99009.
Citation:97 F.3d 329
Party Name:D.A.R. 11,677 William Lyle WORATZECK, Petitioner-Appellant, v. Terry STEWART, Director, Department of Corrections, Respondent-Appellee.
Case Date:September 24, 1996
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

Page 329

97 F.3d 329 (9th Cir. 1996)

D.A.R. 11,677

William Lyle WORATZECK, Petitioner-Appellant,


Terry STEWART, Director, Department of Corrections,


No. 94-99009.

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

September 24, 1996

Argued and Submitted June 14, 1995.

and Aug. 18, 1995. Submission Deferred June 21, 1995

and Aug. 18, 1995.

Submitted Sept. 17, 1996.

Page 330

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 331

David J. Burman, Perkins Coie, Seattle, WA, for petitioner-appellant.

Crane McClennen, Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Appeals Section, Phoenix, AZ, for respondent-appellee.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Arizona, C.A. Muecke, District Judge, Presiding. D.C. No. CV-84-01783-CAM.

Before WALLACE, FARRIS, and BOOCHEVER, Circuit Judges.


WALLACE, Circuit Judge:

Woratzeck, an Arizona state prisoner sentenced to death, appeals from the district court's denial of his petition for writ of habeas corpus. The district court had jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1291 and 2253, and we affirm.


Linda Louise Leslie was a 36-year-old woman who was physically and mentally disabled due to Huntington's disease. She lived in Casa Grande, Arizona, in a trailer located in a small trailer park being purchased by Woratzeck from Leslie's aunt, Medina, and Medina's brother. Although Leslie received day-to-day assistance from several friends, Medina made the monthly rental payments to Woratzeck for Leslie's trailer. In February 1980, Woratzeck fell over $2,000 behind in his payments to the Medinas for the trailer park property, and Medina therefore withheld payment of the February rent on Leslie's trailer.

On March 6, 1980, Leslie was killed inside her trailer and approximately $107 was taken from her. The medical examiner testified that the assailant stabbed Leslie three times in the chest and abdomen, strangled her, and delivered two devastating blows to her head. Her trailer was then lit on fire.

Woratzeck was indicted by the Pinal County Grand Jury for armed robbery, burglary, arson, and first-degree felony-murder. He was convicted by a jury of first-degree felony-murder, armed robbery, and burglary, but was acquitted on the arson count. The sentencing judge found two aggravating circumstances and no mitigating ones and sentenced Woratzeck to death. The Arizona Supreme Court affirmed the conviction and sentence of death. State v. Woratzeck, 134 Ariz. 452, 657 P.2d 865 (1982) (Woratzeck I ). The Arizona trial court denied Woratzeck's motion for post-conviction relief, and the Arizona Supreme Court denied review.

Thereafter, Woratzeck's petition in federal district court for a writ of habeas corpus was denied, and we affirmed. Woratzeck v. Ricketts, 820 F.2d 1450 (9th Cir.1987) (Woratzeck II ). The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari, vacated our judgment, and remanded for further consideration in light of Maynard v. Cartwright, 486 U.S. 356, 108 S.Ct. 1853, 100 L.Ed.2d 372 (1988). Woratzeck v. Ricketts, 486 U.S. 1051, 108

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S.Ct. 2815, 100 L.Ed.2d 916 (1988). We, in turn, vacated the district court's judgment and remanded the case to the district court with instructions to consider Maynard and Adamson v. Ricketts, 865 F.2d 1011 (9th Cir.1988) (en banc), cert. denied, 497 U.S. 1031, 110 S.Ct. 3287, 111 L.Ed.2d 795 (1990). Woratzeck v. Ricketts, 859 F.2d 1559 (9th Cir.1988). The district court ordered additional briefing, including a discussion on the ramifications of two intervening Supreme Court decisions, Walton v. Arizona, 497 U.S. 639, 110 S.Ct. 3047, 111 L.Ed.2d 511 (1990) (Walton ), and Lewis v. Jeffers, 497 U.S. 764, 110 S.Ct. 3092, 111 L.Ed.2d 606 (1990) (Jeffers ). Woratzeck v. Lewis, 863 F.Supp. 1079, 1083 (D.Ariz.1994) (Woratzeck III ). After considering this additional authority, the district court again denied Woratzeck relief on all of his pending habeas claims. Id. at 1098.

While Woratzeck's appeal from the district court's judgment was pending, the Arizona Supreme Court issued a stay of execution in State v. Mata, No. CR-77-4104-AP/PC (Ariz. July 6, 1995), to determine whether "defendants ... who were sentenced to death prior to" State v. Gretzler, 135 Ariz. 42, 659 P.2d 1 (Gretzler), cert. denied, 461 U.S. 971, 103 S.Ct. 2444, 77 L.Ed.2d 1327 (1983), "must or should be resentenced when the statutory aggravating circumstance of especially cruel, heinous, or depraved ... was used, in whole or part, to death-qualify the defendant." Because Woratzeck and Mata were similarly situated, we deferred submission "[t]o ensure that Woratzeck receive[d] the same treatment as Mata." The Arizona Supreme Court recently lifted its temporary stay of execution, State v. Mata, 185 Ariz. 319, 916 P.2d 1035 (1996) (en banc) (Mata), and Mata was executed on August 22, 1996.

Also during the pendency of Woratzeck's appeal, Congress enacted the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (Act), 142 Cong. Rec. H3305-01 (1996) (to be codified at 28 U.S.C. § 2261). We do not decide whether the Act retroactively applies to Woratzeck's appeal. Even if it does, it would not enhance his ability to obtain federal habeas corpus relief. See Williams v. Calderon, 83 F.3d 281, 284 (9th Cir.1996).

The district court's issuance or denial of habeas corpus relief is reviewed de novo. Sanders v. Ratelle, 21 F.3d 1446, 1451 (9th Cir.1994). State court findings of fact are entitled to deference, and the district court's findings of fact are reviewed for clear error. Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 698, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 2070, 80 L.Ed.2d 674 (1984) (Strickland ).

Woratzeck raises six principal issues on appeal: (1) whether the aggravating factor of "especially cruel, heinous, or depraved," which the Arizona courts relied on when sentencing him to death, was unconstitutionally vague at the time he was sentenced; (2) whether the sentencing court failed to consider mitigating evidence in the record; (3) whether a second aggravating factor found in his sentencing proceeding failed to channel the discretion of the sentencer when applied to felony-murder convictions such as Woratzeck's; (4) whether both aggravating factors found at sentencing were...

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