Henry v. Horn, 98-CV-2187.

Decision Date16 May 2002
Docket NumberNo. 98-CV-2187.,98-CV-2187.
Citation218 F.Supp.2d 671
PartiesJosoph HENRY, Petitioner, v. Martin HORN, Commissioner, Pennsylvania Department of Corrections; James S. Price, Superintendent of the State Correctional Institution at Green, and Joseph P. Mazurkiewicz, Superintendent of the State Correctional Institution at Rockview, Respondents.
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of Pennsylvania

Robert Brett Dunham, Yvonne Bradley, Billy H. Nolas, Matthew Lawry, Defender's Assoc., Philadelphia, PA, for plaintiff.

John M. Morganelli, Office of the DA for Northampton Co., Easton, PA, for defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

ANITA B. BRODY, District Judge.

Josoph Henry ("Henry" or "petitioner") brings this petition for writ of habeas corpus, challenging his conviction for first-degree murder and the sentence of death that was imposed. Henry asserts fourteen claims of constitutional error in the guilt and sentencing phases of his trial. I will deny the petition with regard to each claim challenging Henry's conviction of first-degree murder. I will, however, grant the writ of habeas corpus with regard to Claim I, alleging error in the death penalty phase of Henry's trial.

I recognize that certain provisions of the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA") greatly restricted the scope of federal habeas review of state criminal convictions. In this instance, however, the line of cases that includes the United States Supreme Court decisions in Mills v. Maryland, 486 U.S. 367, 108 S.Ct. 1860, 100 L.Ed.2d 384 (1988) and Boyde v. California, 494 U.S. 370, 110 S.Ct. 1190, 108 L.Ed.2d 316 (1990), and the recent decision of the Third Circuit in Banks v. Horn, 271 F.3d 527 (2001), compels the conclusion that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court unreasonably applied "clearly established Federal law" in upholding Henry's sentence of death. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1). Reviewing the jury instructions and verdict slip used in the penalty phase of Henry's trial, I conclude that they created a "reasonable likelihood that the jury has applied the challenged instructions in a way that prevents the consideration of constitutionally relevant evidence." Boyde, 494 U.S. at 380, 110 S.Ct. 1190. Therefore, the sentence of death must be vacated and the case remanded for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to sentence Henry to life imprisonment, or to conduct such further proceedings as may be appropriate under state law.

Background

In the early morning hours of April 5, 1986, Henry entered the dormitory room of a fellow Lehigh University student, Jeanne Ann Clery ("Clery"). While Henry was in the process of burglarizing the room, Clery woke up. In order to prevent Clery from identifying him, Henry attacked and eventually killed her. Clery sustained multiple cuts to her neck, bites on her face and breasts, and bruises over much of her body. Henry also raped and sodomized Clery before manually strangling her to death. Henry stole numerous items belonging to Clery and her roommate, which were found in Henry's room in the house where he lived. Henry admitted his role in Clery's death to several of his friends and roommates.

Henry raised several issues in pre-trial motions, including a challenge to the selection of a petit jury from Lancaster County due to the composition of the jury venire. On April 6, 1987, the trial judge issued an opinion, denying Henry's challenge to the selection of a petit jury drawn from Lancaster County.

At trial, Henry did not challenge the factual basis of the charges, instead attempting to defend himself by raising an insanity defense. However, following the testimony of several psychiatrists for both the prosecution and the defense, the trial judge granted the Commonwealth's demurrer and removed the issue of insanity from the jury. On April 25, 1987, the jury convicted Henry of first-degree murder, rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, indecent assault, burglary, theft, robbery and aggravated assault. Following a three-day penalty hearing, the jury sentenced Henry to death.

After the trial, Henry filed post-verdict motions for a new trial and in arrest of judgment, which the trial judge denied in an opinion filed on June 30, 1988. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court reviewed the first-degree murder conviction and death sentence on direct appeal, denying relief on all claims and finding that the death sentence was proportional. See Commonwealth v. Henry, 524 Pa. 135, 569 A.2d 929 (1990) (hereinafter "Henry I"). After the United States Supreme Court denied certiorari, Henry proceeded to file a petition for relief pursuant to the Post Conviction Relief Act, 42 Pa.C.S. § 9541 et seq. ("PCRA"). The Court of Common Pleas held a four-day evidentiary hearing in January 1996 and denied Henry's PCRA petition in an order issued on January 31, 1996. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed the denial of PCRA relief in an opinion issued on December 23, 1997. See Commonwealth v. Henry, 550 Pa. 346, 706 A.2d 313 (1997) (hereinafter "Henry II").

On April 24, 1998, Henry filed a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis and for appointment of counsel, which I granted on April 28, 1998. Henry filed his petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 on April 2, 1999. On July 12, 1999, Henry filed a consolidated memorandum of law in support of this petition. In these filings, Henry raises fourteen claims attacking the validity of his conviction and sentence of death:

1. Petitioner's death sentence was obtained in violation of the Sixth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments because the jury instructions and verdict slip may have led the jury to believe that it had to unanimously agree to the existence of mitigating circumstances in order to consider them in weighing the appropriate sentence for Henry, in violation of Mills v. Maryland, 486 U.S. 367, 108 S.Ct. 1860, 100 L.Ed.2d 384 (1988).

2. Petitioner's death sentence was obtained in violation of the Sixth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments because the trial court excluded relevant mitigating evidence from the penalty phase of petitioner's trial.

3. Petitioner's conviction and death sentence were obtained in violation of the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments because his petit jury was drawn from a venire that did not include a fair-cross-section of the community.

4. Petitioner's death sentence was obtained in violation of the Sixth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments because he received ineffective assistance of counsel at the penalty phase of his trial.

5. Petitioner's conviction and death sentence were obtained in violation of the Sixth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments because he failed to receive competent psychiatric assistance and his attorney was ineffective for failing to ensure that he received such assistance.

6. Petitioner's conviction and death sentence were obtained in violation of his constitutional rights because his attorney was ineffective for failing to ensure through voir dire questioning that he was tried by a fair and impartial jury.

7. Petitioner's conviction and death sentence were obtained in violation of his constitutional rights because the Commonwealth knowingly presented false testimony during the guilt and penalty phases of his trial.

8. Petitioner's conviction and death sentence were obtained in violation of his constitutional right because his trial attorney was ineffective for failing to protect petitioner from discovery violations by the Commonwealth and for failing to adequately cross-examine and rebut testimony by Commonwealth witnesses.

9. Petitioner's conviction and death sentence were obtained in violation of the Fifth, Sixth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments because the Commonwealth deliberately elicited incriminating statements from petitioner through an informant serving as a government agent.

10. Petitioner's conviction and death sentence were obtained in violation of his constitutional rights because of the prosecutor's improper remarks in his closing statements at both the guilt and penalty phases and due to the ineffective assistance of his trial attorney in failing to properly object to those remarks.

11. Petitioner's death sentence was obtained in violation of his constitutional rights because it was based upon an unconstitutional application of the (D)(5) "witness elimination" aggravating circumstance.

12. Petitioner's death sentence was obtained in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments because it was based upon an invalid finding of the (D)(8) "torture" aggravating circumstance.

13. Petitioner's conviction and death sentence were obtained in violation of his constitutional rights because he was denied meaningful appellate review of his conviction and sentence when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied his claim that gruesome and inflammatory photographs were improperly admitted at trial without examining the photographs, and also when it conducted an inadequate and unconstitutional proportionality review.

14. Petitioner's death sentence was obtained in violation of the Sixth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments because the trial court improperly failed to instruct the sentencing jury that, if petitioner was sentenced to life imprisonment, he would be ineligible for parole.

See Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus, at i-iv.

Application of AEDPA

On April 24, 1996, the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA") came into effect. AEDPA amended the federal habeas statutes, codifying limitations on the conditions under which the federal courts may grant either a writ of habeas corpus or an evidentiary hearing on a petition for such a writ. See Michael Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 420, 120 S.Ct. 1479, 146 L.Ed.2d 435 (2000) (hereinafter Michael Williams); Terry Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 120 S.Ct. 1495, 146...

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