Holiday v. Stephens

Decision Date10 July 2013
Docket NumberCIVIL ACTION NO. H-11-1696
PartiesRAPHAEL DEON HOLIDAY, TDCJ-ID NO. 999419, Petitioner, v. WILLIAM STEPHENS, Director, Texas Department of Criminal Justice - Correctional Institutions Division, Respondent.
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of Texas

Raphael Deon Holiday, an inmate on Texas's death row, has filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. Respondent William Stephens has filed an answer arguing that procedural limitations and substantive federal law foreclose habeas relief. Holiday has filed a reply. After considering the record, the pleadings, and the applicable law, the court finds that Holiday is not entitled to habeas relief. Accordingly, the court will deny Holiday's petition. The court will not certify any issue for appellate review.

I. Background

In 2002 a Texas jury convicted Holiday for the capital murder of three children. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals summarized the trial evidence supporting his conviction as follows:

Tami Lynn Wilkerson and Holiday lived together in a log house that Wilkerson's stepfather had built in Madison County. The house was in a secluded, wooded area about ten miles off the main highway, but just a mile or two from the home of Wilkerson's mother, Beverly Mitchell. Wilkerson and Holiday lived with Wilkerson's two daughters, seven-year-old Tierra and five-year-old Jasmine, and with Wilkerson's and Holiday's baby, Justice. In March of 2000, Wilkerson learned that Holiday had sexually assaulted Tierra. Wilkerson filed charges against Holiday and obtained a protective order against him. Wilkerson continued to live in the house in Madison County and Holiday moved out. In the following months, Holiday repeatedly contacted Wilkerson by phone, stating that he wanted to reconcile and that he wanted to see Justice, and threatening to come to the house while the children were at home. Despite the protective order, Wilkerson met with Holiday numerous times between April and the end of August, in an effort to "handle" Holiday and deal with his threats, and to allow him to see Justice. In August, Holiday came to the restaurant where Wilkerson was working. Wilkerson locked herself in the office. When Holiday tried to pick the lock on the office door, Wilkerson called the police, who came and removed Holiday from the premises. About a week before the instant offenses, Holiday called Wilkerson and asked for her help in jumping his car. When Wilkerson arrived to assist him, Holiday took her keys, told her he had two guns, forced her to have sex with him, and then forced her into the car and threatened to crash the car and kill them both. Wilkerson finally convinced Holiday to let her go. After that incident, Wilkerson stopped taking Holiday's phone calls.
Around 11 p.m., on the evening of September 5, 2000, one of Wilkerson's daughters heard glass breaking outside. Wilkerson looked out of the window and saw a figure walking toward the house. She called her mother, Beverly Mitchell, and asked her to come over. Mitchell and Wilkerson's uncle, Terry Keller, soon arrived at Wilkerson's house. Keller had a shotgun and beganwalking around the house and yard. Mitchell took Tierra and Jasmine to her car. When she went back inside the house to get Justice, she picked up the telephone to dial 911. As she was holding the phone, Holiday walked in, grabbed the phone out of her hand, and threw it against the wall. When Wilkerson came into the room and saw Holiday, she ran out of the house to go for help. Holiday asked Mitchell how she had known to come to the house because Holiday said he had cut the phone line.
Holiday said he was going to make Wilkerson pay for what she had done by taking his baby away. When Keller came into the house, Holiday held Mitchell in a head-lock with a gun to her head until Keller put his gun down and Holiday retrieved it. Keller testified that Holiday began "ranting and raving" that he was not "going to take the rap" on the charges filed against him, that he was "going to take care of it," and that he was "going to burn the house down with everyone in it." Holiday then poured gasoline around and on the hood of the car where Tierra and Jasmine were. He again said Wilkerson was going to pay for what she had done. He tried to light the gasoline, but it would not ignite. Holiday forced everyone back into the house, shooting off the guns as they went. He ordered everyone to sit on the couch and told them to stay there. He told Keller that if he left, he would kill Mitchell. Holiday made repeated threats to kill everyone if the police came. He then ordered Mitchell to take him to her house to get some more gasoline. They retrieved two five gallon cans of gasoline and returned to Wilkerson's house. Keller was gone, but the girls were still on the couch. Holiday told Mitchell to "soak" the recliner and furniture with the gas. Mitchell poured gas on the recliner in the living room, poured it around the room, into the laundry room and around the washer and dryer, and into and around Wilkerson's bedroom. She did not pour any gasoline on or around the couch where the children were sitting. She saw Holiday bend down and then the fire started. The fire followed the path of the gasoline, and blocked Mitchell from going back into the living room for the children. Mitchell ran outside.
Holiday was standing outside watching the fire. He told Mitchell to get in the car, but she ran into the woods. Holiday left in Mitchell's car as police were arriving. He rammed a police car and drove off.
In the meantime, Wilkerson had run to the nearest neighbor's house for help. The neighbors called 911. AsWilkerson ran back down the road to her house, she saw Mitchell's car coming toward her. The car sped up and attempted to run her down but Wilkerson escaped into the woods. The car backed up and sped off as it was pursued by a police car. When Wilkerson arrived back at her house, it was engulfed in flames. Wilkerson's three children died in the fire.
Holiday was apprehended by police after a high-speed chase. Holiday had two cigarette lighters in his pocket when he was arrested. He was treated for burns on his arms, hands, and face. Holiday's pistol and Keller's shotgun were found later inside the house.

Holiday v. State, Nos. AP-74,446, AP-74,447, AP-74,448 at 2-5 (Tex. Crim. App. Feb. 8, 2006) (hereinafter "Opinion on Direct Appeal").

The State of Texas brought three charges of capital murder against Holiday in three separate indictments. One indictment charged Holiday with murdering more than one person during the same criminal transaction. The other two indictments charged him with murdering an individual under age six. Each indictment alleged that Holiday "intentionally or knowingly cause[d] the death of [the named victim] by burning said individual with fire."

Holiday's intent was a hotly disputed question at trial.2 The prosecution emphasized statements Holiday made foreshadowing the murder. The State highlighted Holiday's actions and statements during the crime that manifested a murderous intent. The prosecution presented scientific evidence excluding the possibility that an appliance had accidentally ignited the gasoline.Importantly, Ms. Mitchell testified that she saw Holiday "ben[d] down and the fire started." Tr. Vol. 33 at 98. She did not see a match or a lighter in his hand, but the fire started "immediately as he reached down." Tr. Vol. 33 at 98-99.3

The defense argued that reasonable doubt existed as to whether Holiday intended to ignite the gasoline and kill the children. The defense challenged Ms. Mitchell's recollection because she hadpreviously recounted the events of that evening without mentioning that Holiday bent down before the fire started. The defense presented testimony from a fire expert who opined that nearby appliances may have accidentally ignited the gasoline fumes. Tr. Vol. 39 at 96. The jury, nonetheless, found Holiday guilty on each count of capital murder.

Texas law requires the jury to determine a capital defendant's fate after the presentation of evidence in a separate penalty phase. The State adduced evidence that Holiday confessed to another inmate that he had actually sexually assaulted Tierra twice. In addition, Holiday had previously sexually assaulted his maternal aunt and a cousin. His criminal behavior toward family members also included a physical assault on his mother. A forensic psychiatrist testified that Holiday suffered from an antisocial personality disorder, rendering him likely to commit violent acts in the future.

The defense called several witnesses in an effort to mitigate against a death sentence. Friends and family members provided background information about Holiday's childhood, describing him as a respectful, church-going individual. The defense also secured the services of a psychiatrist who testified that Holiday suffered from depression and had poor internal mechanisms for coping with stress and frustration. The defense's closing argument urged the jury to give Holiday a life sentence.

The jury decided Holiday's sentence by answering two special-issue questions:


Is there a probability that the defendant, Raphael Deon Holiday, would commit criminal acts of violence that would constitute a continuing threat to society?


Taking into consideration all of the evidence, including the circumstances of the offense, the defendant's character and background, and the personal moral culpability of the defendant, do you find that there is a sufficient mitigating circumstance or circumstances to warrant that a sentence of life imprisonment without parole rather than a death sentence be imposed? You are instructed that the term "mitigating evidence" or "mitigating circumstances" means evidence that a juror might regard as reducing the defendant's moral blameworthiness.
The jury need not agree on what particular evidence support

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