Hooks v. Workman

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)
Citation689 F.3d 1148
Docket Number10–6076.,Nos. 03–6049,s. 03–6049
PartiesVictor Wayne HOOKS, Petitioner–Appellant, v. Randall G. WORKMAN, Warden, Oklahoma State Penitentiary, Respondent–Appellee.
Decision Date03 August 2012

689 F.3d 1148

Victor Wayne HOOKS, Petitioner–Appellant,
Randall G. WORKMAN, Warden, Oklahoma State Penitentiary, Respondent–Appellee.

Nos. 03–6049, 10–6076.

United States Court of Appeals,
Tenth Circuit.

Aug. 3, 2012.

[689 F.3d 1159]

Patti Palmer Ghezzi, Assistant Federal Public Defender (T. Kenneth Lee, Assistant Federal Public Defender, with her on the briefs), Oklahoma City, OK, for Petitioner–Appellant.

Jennifer Crabb, Assistant Attorney General (E. Scott Pruitt, Attorney General, with her on the brief), Oklahoma Office of the Attorney General, Oklahoma City, OK, for Respondent–Appellee.

Before MURPHY, GORSUCH, and HOLMES, Circuit Judges.

HOLMES, Circuit Judge.

In this consolidated appeal, Victor Wayne Hooks, an Oklahoma state prisoner facing the death penalty, appeals two orders of the district court denying him habeas relief. He seeks relief on three alternative grounds: (1) he is mentally retarded 1 and thus categorically ineligible for the death penalty; (2) aspects of his mental-retardation trial (“ Atkins trial”) denied him his Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights to due process and a fair trial; and (3) his counsel was ineffective during both the guilt and sentencing phases of his original trial. Grounds 1 and 2 arise in Appeal No. 10–6076; ground 3 arises in Appeal No. 03–6049. The district court granted certificates of appealability on all claims.

Our disposition, in brief, is as follows: (1) in No. 10–6076, we AFFIRM the judgment of the district court denying habeas relief on all claims arising out of Mr. Hooks's Atkins trial; and (2) in No. 03–6049, we (a) AFFIRM the judgment of the district court denying habeas relief as to Mr. Hooks's 1989 conviction, but (b) REVERSE the judgment of the district court and conditionally grant the writ of habeas corpus as to his sentence.

I. Factual and Procedural Background

At the time of her death, Shalimein Blaine was the common-law wife of Victor Hooks. The couple had lived together for four years. They were the parents of a one-year-old daughter, and Ms. Blaine was twenty-four-weeks pregnant with their second child.

On the evening of October 6, 1988, Mr. Hooks left his wife's apartment and went to the home of her mother, Virginia Plumley, less than a block away. He told Ms. Plumley that Ms. Blaine had been beaten and raped and needed to be taken to the hospital. He then left. Ms. Plumley and her daughter, Amanda, followed Mr. Hooks back to the apartment, and when they arrived, they watched him load an

[689 F.3d 1160]

unconscious Ms. Blaine into the car. She was unclothed and wrapped in nothing but a blanket. Ms. Plumley noticed that Ms. Blaine's arms and legs were covered in bruises, her face was swollen, and her head had been partially shaved.

As they drove to the hospital, Ms. Plumley asked Mr. Hooks what happened. He said Ms. Blaine had gone for a walk and returned two hours later, beaten and bloodied. When Ms. Plumley asked why he had shaved Ms. Blaine's head, Mr. Hooks responded that he had not done that and that it must have been done by the person who beat and raped her.

When Ms. Blaine arrived at St. Anthony Hospital in Oklahoma City, she was clinically dead. An ultrasound revealed that her unborn child was also dead, with a ruptured liver and bruising on its abdomen and head due to blunt-force trauma. Although doctors were initially able to reestablish Ms. Blaine's heartbeat and pulse, she was pronounced officially dead the following morning.

After preliminary questioning by Oklahoma City police officers, Mr. Hooks agreed to let the officers search Ms. Blaine's apartment. There, they discovered blood on the bed, on the carpet near the bed, and on several wash cloths and towels in a clothes hamper. They also found some hair in a trash can in the apartment. A search of a nearby dumpster revealed more bloody wash cloths, bloody clothing, and a large clump of hair.

Police brought Mr. Hooks to the Oklahoma City police station, where he was questioned by Detectives Eric Mullenix and Randy Scott. Mr. Hooks initially told detectives that Ms. Blaine had left the apartment for a walk, returned home, knocked on the door, and fell into his arms when he answered. He claimed she had been beaten and raped. According to Mr. Hooks, he then left the apartment to notify Ms. Plumley, and when he returned, Ms. Blaine was in the bathtub. He wrapped her in a blanket and took her to the hospital.

When detectives confronted Mr. Hooks with the bloody items and hair they had found, he began to cry and said he wanted to tell the truth. He told detectives that he and Ms. Blaine had been fighting: Ms. Blaine slapped him, and he then struck her, knocked her to the ground, and began kicking her in the stomach and face. He subsequently removed her clothing, placed her in the bathtub, and shaved a portion of her head. He did this, he claimed, because he was looking for head injuries. He then cleaned up the apartment. He also removed the blood from his one-year-old daughter, who had gotten it on her in the course of her mother's beating. He placed the bloody clothing and clump of hair in the nearby dumpster.


Mr. Hooks was charged by information in October 1988 with murder in the first degree of Shalimein Blaine and with manslaughter in the first degree for the death of the unborn quick child. At his trial in the District Court of Oklahoma County, Oklahoma, he was represented by Ronald Evans, a private attorney retained by Mr. Hooks's mother, Clara Hooks. Mr. Evans, after consulting with experts, decided not to pursue an insanity defense, believing there was an insufficient factual basis for it. Instead, and in light of Mr. Hooks's confession, he focused on obtaining a conviction for the lesser-included offense of second-degree murder or first-degree manslaughter with respect to Ms. Blaine. He sought to show that Mr. Hooks had acted in the heat of passion or with a depraved mind, not with malice aforethought.

The trial court, however, refused to instruct the jury on the lesser-included offenses.

[689 F.3d 1161]

On May 10, 1989, the jury found Mr. Hooks guilty of first-degree murder with respect to Ms. Blaine and first-degree manslaughter with respect to the unborn quick child. After a relatively brief sentencing phase, the jury sentenced Mr. Hooks to death for the crime of first-degree murder and to five hundred years' imprisonment for the crime of first-degree manslaughter. The court entered judgment and sentenced Mr. Hooks accordingly.

Post-trial proceedings followed a long and serpentine path through the state and federal judicial systems, which we briefly review below. To summarize, we have consolidated two separate appeals for our review. The first, No. 03–6049, concerns claims of ineffective assistance of trial counsel pertaining to both the guilt and sentencing phases of Mr. Hooks's original trial. The second, No. 10–6076, involves several claims arising out of a subsequent trial in Oklahoma district court on whether Mr. Hooks is mentally retarded.


Mr. Hooks's conviction and sentence were affirmed on direct appeal by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals (“OCCA”). See Hooks v. State, 862 P.2d 1273, 1284 (Okla.Crim.App.1993), cert. denied,511 U.S. 1100, 114 S.Ct. 1870, 128 L.Ed.2d 490 (1994). As relevant here, Mr. Hooks claimed on direct appeal that his trial counsel was ineffective for advising him not to testify at trial—a claim that the OCCA rejected on the merits. Id. at 1283. Mr. Hooks then sought postconviction relief, arguing that his trial counsel was ineffective for a host of other reasons. The OCCA found these claims procedurally barred because they were not raised on direct appeal, and it denied postconviction relief. See Hooks v. State, 902 P.2d 1120, 1122 n. 4 (Okla.Crim.App.1995), cert. denied,517 U.S. 1145, 116 S.Ct. 1440, 134 L.Ed.2d 561 (1996).

In December 1996, Mr. Hooks filed an application for writ of habeas corpus in the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, asserting numerous claims. His claims of ineffective assistance of trial counsel encompassed the claims he had raised before the OCCA on both direct appeal and postconviction review. The district court held an evidentiary hearing in April 1997. It subsequently denied habeas relief but granted a certificate of appealability (“COA”) on the ineffective-assistance claims. See Hooks v. Ward, No. CIV–96–732–M (W.D.Okla. Mar. 30, 1998) [hereinafter Hooks Habeas I ].2

On appeal to a panel of this court, the claims received bifurcated treatment. See Hooks v. Ward, 184 F.3d 1206, 1213–20 (10th Cir.1999). With respect to the claim that trial counsel was ineffective for advising Mr. Hooks not to testify, our review was constrained by the deferential standards of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (“AEDPA”). See28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). We held that the OCCA did not unreasonably apply Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed.2d 674 (1984), when it denied the claim on the merits. 184 F.3d at 1220. As for the other allegations of ineffective assistance, to which the OCCA applied a procedural bar on postconviction review, we remanded for a determination of whether the procedural bar was adequate to preclude federal habeas review of the merits. See id. at 1217–18. On remand, the district court held that the procedural bar was inadequate and reaffirmed its previous ruling denying habeas relief on the merits.

[689 F.3d 1162]

Hooks v. Ward, No. CIV–96–732–M (W.D.Okla. Jan. 27, 2003). Mr. Hooks filed a timely notice of appeal, and the district court granted a COA. The appeal was docketed at No. 03–6049.


In the meantime, the Supreme Court decided Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304, 321, 122 S.Ct. 2242, 153 L.Ed.2d 335 (2002), in which it held that the execution of a mentally retarded person is “cruel and unusual punishment [ ]” prohibited by the Eighth Amendment. In December 2002, Mr. Hooks filed a second application for postconviction relief with the...

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