Fairchild v. State

Decision Date07 December 1999
Docket NumberNo. F-96-121.,F-96-121.
Citation998 P.2d 611,1999 OK CR 49
PartiesRichard Stephen FAIRCHILD, Appellant. v. STATE of Oklahoma, Appellee.
CourtUnited States State Court of Criminal Appeals of Oklahoma. Court of Criminal Appeals of Oklahoma

Sandra Stensaas, Pattye Wallace, Oklahoma County Assistant District Attorneys, Oklahoma City, for the State at Trial.

John Albert, Assistant Public Defender Office of Public Defenders, Oklahoma City, for Defendant at Trial.

Lee Ann Jones Peters, Appellate Defense Counsel, Capital Direct Appeals Division, Oklahoma Indigent Defense System, for Appellant on appeal.

W.A. Drew Edmondson, Attorney General of Oklahoma, Robert Whittaker, Assistant Attorney General, Oklahoma City, for Appellee on appeal.


LILE, Judge:

¶ 1 This Opinion is issued following this Court's order which granted Appellant's Petition for Rehearing and withdrew the original Opinion herein dated August 20, 1998.

¶ 2 Richard Stephen Fairchild was tried by jury and convicted of Murder in the First Degree, 21 O.S.1991, § 701.7(C), in Oklahoma County District Court Case No. CF-93-7103. The jury found one aggravating circumstance, that the murder was especially heinous, atrocious or cruel, and set punishment at death. The Honorable Major Wilson, District Judge, imposed the death sentence. The Appellant is before the Court on original appeal.

¶ 3 Three-year-old Adam Broomhall, who weighed 24 pounds, died as a result of brain damage caused when he was thrown against the vertical surface of the folded-down wing of a drop-leaf table by his mother's live-in boyfriend, Richard Stephen Fairchild. The injury occurred in the early morning hours of Sunday, November 14, 1993, while Adam's mother, Stacy Broomhall, was asleep in the bedroom. Adam never regained consciousness and he died later that morning. Fairchild had been living with Stacy and her three children in Midwest City.

¶ 4 The day before Adam was killed, Fairchild and Stacy drank beer most of the afternoon and evening. Fairchild told police he had started drinking beer about 2:00 p.m. and had consumed about twelve cans of beer by 9:00 p.m. That evening they visited Stacy's mother, Jena Fickland, who lived in north Oklahoma City. The children watched TV and ate snacks in one room while the adults watched TV and drank beer in another. When Fairchild and Stacy were ready to leave, Fickland insisted they were both too intoxicated to drive and arranged for her seventeen-year-old daughter, Charity Wade, to drive them home.

¶ 5 Originally Ms. Wade planned to stay overnight at Fairchild's and Stacy's residence. These plans changed when Fairchild made sexual advances toward her. She put the kids to bed and called a cab to take her home. Fairchild got angry and got out a baseball bat. He told Charity that if someone other than a cab driver came to pick her up, he was going to beat him to death. He tried to grab her arm and told her she wasn't leaving. She was finally able to leave in the cab sometime before 10:30 p.m. She had checked on Adam before she left, and he was sleeping in his bed.

¶ 6 Approximately three hours later, Adam woke up crying and got out of bed. Fairchild told Adam to "hush it up" and struck him in the mouth, rupturing the inside of his upper lip. Adam still did not stop crying. Fairchild then held Adam's chest and then his buttocks up against a hot wall heater. Adam suffered severe second-degree grid-patterned burns on his chest and bottom, and was now screaming.

¶ 7 Fairchild admitted to Detective Burton a couple of days later, "I think I pushed him up against the heater and held him up there," and, "The more he screamed, the more I just kept on hitting him." Another blow struck Adam's left ear and ruptured his eardrum. Finally, Fairchild threw Adam against the drop-leaf dining table, and when Adam hit the floor, he stopped screaming. He also stopped breathing.

¶ 8 Fairchild went in the bedroom, woke up Stacy Broomhall, and called 911. Paramedics arrived shortly and then the police. Fairchild claims he was intoxicated. However, he was not too drunk to write out a legible, detailed, coherent story in his own handwriting, claiming Adam was running in the house and "ran right into the table."

¶ 9 Adam was rushed to Children's Hospital in Oklahoma City where every effort to save his life failed, and he was pronounced dead later that morning. An autopsy established that injury to Adam's head had resulted in severe hemorrhaging and swelling in the right half of Adam's brain and had caused his death. Adam had sustained approximately twenty-six blows to his body including several to his head.

A. Filing of the Bill of Particulars after First Arraignment

¶ 10 Appellant argues in Proposition VIII that the Bill of Particulars should not have been allowed by the trial court because the State failed to file it prior to or at District Court arraignment as required by Hunter v. State, 1992 OK CR 19, ¶ 5, 829 P.2d 64, 65.

¶ 11 The State did not originally seek the death penalty in this case. The first District Court arraignment took place on the same day as, and immediately after, Appellant was bound over at preliminary hearing. Two weeks before trial the State filed a motion to remand for further preliminary hearing for the stated purpose of alleging prior convictions. The trial court granted the State's motion. Thereafter, the State did file a Page Two to the Information, alleging two prior convictions. This resulted in no delay of the trial and there was no violation of 22 O.S. 1991, § 304. However, the next day, before the second District Court arraignment and ten days before the scheduled jury trial, the State filed a Bill of Particulars seeking the death penalty. Defense counsel requested, and was granted, a continuance of the jury trial setting.

¶ 12 Appellant claims that the filing of Page Two was a sham as it would serve no purpose in a murder case where the minimum sentence is life. The cases cited by Appellant are no longer applicable as they were decided before our present bifurcated trial procedure existed. In Seibert v. State, 1969 OK CR 205, ¶ 17, 457 P.2d 790, 794, we said that even if a defendant is facing a charge with a minimum sentence of life imprisonment, if there is a possibility that the court will instruct the jury on lesser included offenses at trial, it is proper for the State to file a Page Two alleging any former felony convictions. The trial should be bifurcated, and the Page Two would only be read to the jury in the second stage, if pertinent. Id.

¶ 13 This Court does not condone the State's delay in filing the Bill of Particulars. The appropriate remedy here, however, is not the striking of the Bill of Particulars. The Hunter decision turned on the Court's concern that the defendant must have sufficient time to prepare for trial. The Bill of Particulars in Hunter was filed within seven days of trial. 1992 OK CR 19, ¶ 5, 829 P.2d at 65. By granting Fairchild an adequate continuance upon his request in this case, the trial court prevented any error.

¶ 14 In a sub-proposition which we failed to address in our original Opinion, Appellant claims he was denied a speedy trial by the late filing of the Bill of Particulars. He claims that this delayed the trial for a year and a half. We find, however, that much of the delay was not caused by the late filing. In considering his claim, we must consider the causes for the delay, the length of delay, whether the Appellant acquiesced in or contributed to the delay, and whether Appellant was prejudiced by the delay. Barker v. Wingo, 407 U.S. 514, 529-536, 92 S.Ct. 2182, 2191-95, 33 L.Ed.2d 101, 117-18 (1972); Rainey v. State, 1988 OK CR 65, ¶ 3, 755 P.2d 89, 90.

¶ 15 Appellant changed lawyers three times during that period, and each new lawyer needed adequate time to prepare for trial. Also, just days before the November 26, 1994, jury trial setting, Appellant's attorney filed an application to determine Appellant's competency. As a result, the case was continued. This resulted in several months delay, as the competency determination and post-examination competency hearing was not concluded until April 26, 1995.

¶ 16 Further, although Appellant claims he was "extremely prejudiced" by delay in the trial, he fails to demonstrate that prejudice. He claims he was not only "deprived of the counsel of his choosing, he was subjected to the death penalty and actually sentenced to die." He says nothing more about deprivation of counsel and therefore completely fails to explain or support that part of his assertion.

¶ 17 His claim that he was prejudiced because he was sentenced to death is wrong. To prevail with this argument he would have to show that improper delay caused the sentence. It did not. If he meant that the filing of the Bill of Particulars was a necessary, antecedent condition to his receiving the death penalty, he would be correct; but this would be true regardless of when it was filed. The delay did not cause the particular sentence imposed. The sentence of death resulted from the law, the facts, and the jury's decision in this case — not from a denial of speedy trial.

¶ 18 Considering that the length of time from the filing of charges to completion of trial was not inordinate, that Appellant contributed to the delay, and that he has shown no resulting prejudice from delay, we reject his proposition of error and find that he was not denied his constitutional right to a speedy trial. Simpson v. State, 1982 OK CR 35, ¶¶ 3-7, 642 P.2d 272, 274-75 (Simpson created further delay by filing his motion for psychiatric examination and commitment); Stohler v. State, 1988 OK CR 52, ¶¶ 4-5, 751 P.2d 1087, 1088-89 (Stohler was held in jail over three years before he was convicted).

B. Competency to Stand Trial

¶ 19 The trial court granted the defense request for a competency evaluation and held a post-examination competency hearing. 22 O.S.1991, § 1175.4. In Propo...

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