Getsy v. Mitchell

Decision Date25 July 2007
Docket NumberNo. 03-3200.,03-3200.
Citation495 F.3d 295
PartiesJason GETSY, Petitioner-Appellant, v. Betty MITCHELL, Warden, Respondent-Appellee.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Sixth Circuit

Michael J. Benza, Cleveland, Ohio, for Appellant. Daniel R. Ranke, Office of the Attorney General, Capital Crimes Section, Cleveland, Ohio, for Appellee.


Michael J. Benza, Cleveland, Ohio, David C. Stebbins, Columbus, Ohio, for Appellant. Daniel R. Ranke, Office of the Attorney General, Capital Crimes Section, Cleveland, Ohio, Elise W. Porter, Office of the Attorney General of Ohio, Columbus, Ohio, for Appellee.


GILMAN, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which BOGGS, C. J., BATCHELDER, GIBBONS, ROGERS, SUTTON, McKEAGUE, and GRIFFIN, JJ., joined. MERRITT, J. (pp. 318-25), delivered a separate dissenting opinion, in which MARTIN, DAUGHTREY, MOORE, COLE, and CLAY, JJ., joined. MARTIN, J. (pp. 325-27), joined by Judge MERRITT, and MOORE, J. (p. 327-28), joined by Judge MERRITT, also delivered separate dissenting opinions.



In September of 1996, an Ohio jury convicted Jason Getsy of murder-for-hire in connection with the killing of Ann Serafino and recommended that he be sentenced to death. The state trial court concurred, and Getsy received no relief either on direct appeal or in state postconviction proceedings. He thereafter filed a petition for federal habeas corpus relief. Getsy's petition was denied by the district court but a panel of this court reversed the district court's judgment with regard to his death sentence. The panel majority held that Getsy's death sentence was unconstitutionally disproportionate to the life sentence that the separately tried instigator of the plot received for procuring the murder. It also remanded the case for an evidentiary hearing regarding Getsy's claim of judicial bias against the state trial-court judge. Thereafter, this court granted the Warden's petition for en banc review and vacated the panel decision. For the reasons set forth below, we AFFIRM the district court's denial of Getsy's habeas corpus petition.

A. Factual background

The Ohio Supreme Court set forth the relevant facts as follows:

Charles ("Chuckie") Serafino lived with his mother, Ann Serafino. On the evening of July 6, 1995, Ann went to bed at approximately 11:00 p.m. Chuckie was on the love seat in the family room when, sometime after 1:00 a.m. on July 7, he heard a loud explosion. Shells from a shotgun blasted out the sliding glass door behind him and wounded him in the arm. As he ran for the bathroom to inspect his injuries, Ann came out of her bedroom. Chuckie remembered hearing his mother say to someone, "What are you doing here? Get out of here." He also remembered hearing someone say, "Shoot the bitch," or "Kill the bitch." Serafino next recalled seeing a gun in his face and being shot again. He fell to the bathroom floor and pretended to be dead. After the intruders left, he called 911.

Frederick Hanley, Jr., Chuckie's neighbor, jumped from his bed upon hearing gunshots. He looked at his digital alarm clock, which read 1:22 a.m. As he was going downstairs, he heard at least one additional gunshot. Once outside, he heard footsteps that appeared to be running away from the Serafino residence. He instructed his wife to call 911 and inform the police that shots were coming from the Serafino residence and that someone was running towards the city of Hubbard.

Officer Thomas Forgacs of the city of Hubbard Police Department was one of the first officers to respond to the call. The officers broke into the Serafino home and found Chuckie lying on the floor with blood all over him. Chuckie asked the officers to check his mother; she was dead.

Forgacs left the scene and began checking the Hubbard area for a white Crown Victoria owned by John Santine. Forgacs went to 24 1/2 South Main Street, where he had seen Santine's car parked on the evening of July 6. He found Santine's car parked in the driveway with another car pulled in behind it.

Earlier in the year, Santine had attempted to purchase a portion of Chuckie Serafino's lawn-care business and had deposited $2,500 in the business's account. Subsequently, Chuckie violated probation and was incarcerated in the Trumbull County Jail until July 6, 1995. While Chuckie was in jail, Santine attempted to take over Chuckie's business. Santine transferred Chuckie's building lease and equipment into his own name, which caused an altercation between Santine and Ann Serafino and Chuckie's sister. The Serafinos filed a civil action against Santine while Chuckie was still in jail.

Forgacs searched for Santine's car because of a conversation he had had on June 20, 1995 with Richard McNulty. McNulty, who lived at 24 1 /2 South Main and who is a co-defendant, had previously served as a police informant. On June 20, Forgacs asked McNulty, who worked for Santine, "What does Johnny have in store for Chuckie when he gets out of jail?" McNulty told Forgacs, "He's dead. He's bought and paid for." McNulty told Forgacs that Santine had lined up a hit man, Tony Antone, to kill Chuckie Serafino. Forgacs gave little credence to McNulty's statements, and didn't inform Chuckie or follow up on the information.

Forgacs returned to the murder scene and told the Hubbard Township Police what McNulty had told him a few weeks earlier. Later that morning, Detective Donald Michael Begeot of the Hubbard Township Police Department and Forgacs went to the McNulty apartment at 24 1/2 South Main to take McNulty in for questioning.

Initially, McNulty minimized his involvement and denied that he had told Forgacs about the contract on Chuckie. Based on other information obtained from McNulty, Begeot obtained an arrest warrant for Getsy. At approximately 10:00 p.m. on July 7, 1995, Getsy was arrested in the driveway of 24 1/2 South Main. He was given Miranda warnings at the scene and later at the Hubbard Township Police Department. At approximately 1:00 a.m., on July 8, 1995, Getsy gave a videotaped interview.

Getsy told Begeot that Ben Hudach called him on the evening of July 6, 1995, and told him to come to 24 1/2 South Main Street. When Getsy got there, Hudach, a co-defendant, told Getsy that they (Getsy, Hudach, and McNulty) had to "take out some guy." Santine was not present, but Hudach related what Santine had told him earlier. Money had been discussed, but Hudach was not sure of the amount. Getsy later indicated that he participated in the shootings because he was scared of Santine, but did not do it for the money.

Sometime on July 6, 1995, Getsy, Hudach, and McNulty drove to the Serafino residence. They could not find a place to park so they returned to 24 1/2 South Main Street. When they returned, Santine was at the apartment and drove them back to the Serafino house. Getsy described the guns that they took with them, which included a shotgun, a SKS rifle, and a .357 magnum handgun.

Getsy explained that after Santine dropped them off, Hudach sprained his ankle and went back to where they were supposed to be picked up. Getsy stated, "[T]hat left me and Rick to get it done." He admitted that what they were supposed to do was kill Chuckie Serafino.

Getsy explained that he and McNulty fired simultaneously through the sliding glass door on the back of the Serafino house. They entered the house through the shattered door and shot at Chuckie as he was running down the hall. When they saw Ann Serafino, Getsy stated, they "just kept shooting."

During the interview with Begeot, Getsy was reluctant to mention Santine's name. He told Begeot that the same thing that happened last night could happen to him. He asked whether Santine would ever see the interview tape. Begeot assured Getsy that Santine would not be able to get to him. Getsy also asked Begeot if he was going to die, and Begeot told him, "No."

Getsy admitted that he had the SKS rifle and the handgun during the shootings. He explained that when he was shooting the SKS, the clip fell out so he had to pull out the handgun.

Getsy's description of the weapons he and McNulty used was verified by physical evidence recovered at the scene. Michael Roberts, a forensic scientist identified the projectiles recovered from the murder scene. None of the projectiles found outside the family room area, where the sliding glass door was blown out, was discharged by the shotgun which, according to Getsy, McNulty carried and fired. The projectiles linked to the shotgun were recovered in the family room.

Getsy admitted that they had been instructed to kill any witnesses. When Begeot asked him what they were told about witnesses in the house, Getsy replied, "[I]f we were seen, to do them, too."

After the shootings, Hudach called Santine to tell him it was finished and to pick them up. Santine told Hudach that there were cops everywhere and that they should run through the woods to get back to the apartment. Santine also told Hudach to ditch the guns in the woods.

Getsy, McNulty, and Hudach arrived back at 24 1/2 South Main, where Josh Koch and Santine were waiting for them. Santine ordered them to take off their clothes and take a bath. Getsy was the last to bathe. When he came out of the bathroom, his clothes and boots were gone. He did not know what happened to them.

Koch testified that he was at 24 1/2 South Main Street on July 6 and 7, 1995. He knew that Getsy, McNulty, and Hudach were going out to do something for Santine, but they declined to give him any details. He was to watch TV and write down the shows that were on so the other three could memorize the list for an alibi.

After Getsy, McNulty, and Hudach left, Koch waited in the apartment. Santine came to the apartment and, sometime...

To continue reading

Request your trial
169 cases
  • Leonard v. Warden
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of Ohio
    • May 14, 2015
    ...held that the Constitution does not require the type of proportionality review advocated for by Leonard. See e.g., Getsy v. Mitchell, 495 F.3d 295, 306-07 (6th Cir. 2007) (stating that a defendant "simply had no constitutional guarantee that his jury would reach the same results as prior or......
  • Moore v. Mitchell
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of Ohio
    • January 18, 2008
    ...104 S.Ct. 453, 78 L.Ed.2d 267 (1983). Additionally, "ex parte contact does not, in itself, evidence any kind of bias." Getsy v. Mitchell, 495 F.3d 295, 311 (6th Cir.2007) (quoting Alley v. Bell, 307 F.3d 380, 388 (6th Nonetheless, the Sixth Circuit "has not concealed its strong disapproval"......
  • Priest v. Hudson
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Northern District of Ohio
    • September 15, 2009 Ground Two (i.e., that Petitioner failed to fairly present his constitutional claims to the state courts). See Getsy v. Mitchell, 495 F.3d 295, 317 (6th Cir.2007) ("Getsy failed to raise this claim before the state court, but the Warden has not raised the issue of procedural default and ......
  • State v. Addison
    • United States
    • New Hampshire Supreme Court
    • October 6, 2010
    ...matter left to individual states. See McCleskey v. Kemp, 481 U.S. 279, 306–07, 107 S.Ct. 1756, 95 L.Ed.2d 262 (1987) ; Getsy v. Mitchell, 495 F.3d 295, 306 (6th Cir.2007), cert. denied, 552 U.S. 1244, 128 S.Ct. 1475, 170 L.Ed.2d 299 (2008) ; Moore v. Balkcom, 716 F.2d 1511, 1517–19, 1518 n.......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • Strategery's refuge.
    • United States
    • Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology Vol. 99 No. 4, September 2009
    • September 22, 2009
    ...513 F.3d 618 (6th Cir. 2008) 11. Morales v. Mitchell, [check] [check] 507 F.3d 916 (6th Cir. 2007) 12. Getsy v. Mitchell, En Banc [check] 495 F.3d 295 (6th Cir. 2007) 13. Haliym v. Mitchell, [check] [check] 492 F.3d 680 (6th Cir. 2007) 14. Hartman v. Bagley, [check] [check] 492 F.3d 347 (6t......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT