Jackson v. Workman

Decision Date26 August 2013
PartiesSHELTON JACKSON, Petitioner, v. RANDALL G. WORKMAN, Warden, Oklahoma State Penitentiary, Respondent.
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of Oklahoma

This is a 28 U.S.C. § 2254 habeas corpus action. Petitioner, Shelton Jackson, is an Oklahoma death row prisoner. Jackson appears through counsel, challenging his first degree murder conviction and death sentence in Tulsa County District Court Case No. CF-1997-1765 (Dkt. # 15). Respondent filed a response to the petition (Dkt. # 27), and Jackson filed a reply (Dkt. # 30). The state court record has been provided.1 For the reasons discussed below, the Court finds the petition for writ of habeas corpus shall be denied.

I. Factual background

In the early morning hours of April 8, 1997, the body of Jackson's girlfriend, Monica Decator, was found by firefighters responding to a fire at her home in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It was determined that Ms. Decator did not die as result of the fire, but from multiple stab wounds andblunt force trauma to her head. Her two and one-half year old son, O. D.,2 was discovered later that day underneath an abandoned house nearby. He was severely injured and near death. Jackson was apprehended in McAlester, Oklahoma, after police learned he was traveling by bus to Houston, Texas. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1), the historical facts as found by the state court are presumed correct. Following review of the record, trial transcripts, and the admitted exhibits, this Court finds that the factual summary by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals (OCCA) is adequate and accurate. The Court, therefore, adopts the following summary as its own.

Jackson had been living with his girlfriend Monica Decator and her two-an-a-half-year-old son, [O.D.], for several months before he killed her during the early morning hours of April 8, 1997. On April 7th, as was their practice, Jackson took care of Decator's son while she worked a twelve hour shift at a Tulsa hospital. According to Jackson, the child was fussy and crying uncontrollably that morning. Jackson said he lost his patience, picked the child up by the neck, and tossed him to the ground several times. Afterwards the child was quiet for some time. When the child began crying again that afternoon, Jackson pushed him down repeatedly. Following that episode, Jackson said the child could not walk, his eyes were "glazy," and he had so much difficulty breathing that Jackson used a screwdriver to pry the child's mouth open in an effort to help him breathe.
The timing and sequence of events that followed was disputed at trial. The State contended that Jackson put the critically injured child in the crawlspace of a nearby vacant house and covered him with a large piece of carpet so no one could find him. He then went to a nearby Texaco and used Decator's ATM card to empty her bank account. He bought a gallon of gasoline there. That evening he watched wrestling at his uncle's apartment as he regularly did. Afterwards, he returned home and killed Decator so she could not report him for injuring her son. Earlier in the day Jackson provided an explanation for the absence of Decator and her child to his mother. He told her over the telephone that he, Decator, and the boy were leaving town together. He told his uncle the next morning he was going to Louisiana. He actually left town at noon on April 8, 1997.
The account Jackson gave to the police differs from this sequence of events. He told police he did not put the child under the vacant house until after he fought with Decator. He said he had left the child at home in bed when he went to his uncle's house to watch wrestling, and that when Decator returned to the house that evening, she believed her son was with him. Jackson said that Decator discovered her son's injuries when she heard him crying and went to him. That discovery led to a fight that ended when Jackson hit Decator several times in the head with a brick knocking her unconscious. Jackson said it was then he carried the child to the crawlspace of the nearby house. When Jackson returned from that mission, Decator was conscious. She attacked him with a knife. In response, he hit her again with the brick, gained control of the knife and fatally stabbed her.
Decator's body was discovered around 8:30 a.m. on April 8, when firefighters responded to a fire at her home. Fire investigators noted that gasoline had been poured throughout the house and concluded that the fire had been set intentionally. Decator did not sustain any injuries from the fire or smoke; she died as a result of blood loss from various stab wounds and head injuries caused by blunt force trauma. Police found two bloody knives on the floor and a brick with Decator's hair and flesh on it in the backyard.
Police apprehended Jackson later that afternoon when his bus bound for Houston stopped in McAlester. He had no visible injuries. Two Tulsa police detectives went to McAlester and returned Jackson to Tulsa where he made his statement confessing to injuring the child and killing Decator. In McAlester, he gave the detectives the child's general location, but the police could not find him. Later, before making his statement in Tulsa, Jackson gave police specific directions to the location of the critically injured child.

Jackson v. Oklahoma, 146 P.3d 1149, 1154-55 (Okla. Crim. App. 2006). Any additional facts3 necessary for a determination of Jackson's claims will be set forth in detail throughout this opinion.

II. Procedural history

Jackson was charged by Amended Information on April 29, 1997, with First Degree Murder (Count 1), First Degree Arson (Count 2), and Injury to a Minor Child (Count 3). O.R. Vol. I at 24. On June 30, 1997, the State filed a Bill of Particulars seeking the death penalty on the first degree murder charge, and alleging the following four aggravating circumstances: (1) the defendantknowingly created a great risk of death to more than one person; (2) the murder was especially heinous, atrocious, and cruel; (3) the murder was committed for the purpose of avoiding or preventing a lawful arrest or prosecution; and (4) the existence of a probability that the defendant would commit criminal acts of violence that would constitute a continuing threat to society. Id. at 48. Following a jury trial held November 9-19, 1998, Jackson was found guilty of all three crimes. O.R. Vol. III at 438-40. The jury further found the existence of the first three (3) aggravating circumstances, but did not find the existence of a probability that Jackson would be a continuing threat to society. Id. at 516. The jury recommended that Jackson receive a sentence of death for the first degree murder conviction, thirty-five (35) years imprisonment and a $25,000 fine for first degree arson, and life imprisonment and a $5,000 fine for injury to a minor child. O.R. Vol. III at 513-15. On appeal to the OCCA, Jackson's first degree murder conviction (Count 1) and death sentence were reversed and remanded for a new trial. Jackson v. State of Oklahoma, 41 P.3d 395, 401 (Okla. Crim. App. 2001). His convictions and sentences on Counts 2 and 3 were affirmed. Id.

Jackson's retrial was held March 10-27, 2003. He was represented at this trial by Oklahoma Indigent Defense system (OIDS) attorneys Craig Corgan, Mary Bruehl, Matthew Haire, and Emma Rolls. Once again, a jury convicted Jackson of first degree murder. Although the State sought the death penalty based on the same four aggravating circumstances, the trial judge dismissed the continuing threat aggravator. See Tr. Trans. Vol. 16 at 90. The jury in Jackson's second trial found the existence of the remaining three aggravating circumstances, and recommended a sentence of death. O.R. Vol. X at 1779-80. The trial judge, in accordance with the jury's recommendations,sentenced Jackson to death for the first degree murder conviction. See Sentencing Tr. Trans. dated May 2, 2003, at 4.

Represented by OIDS attorney Matthew Haire, Jackson filed a direct appeal of his conviction and sentence for Count 1 in OCCA Case No. D-2003-470. He raised the following ten (10) propositions of error:

Proposition I: Reversible error in jury selection occurred when the trial court refused to declare a mistrial upon proof of extraneous and prejudicial communication between potential jurors that unconstitutionally tainted the venire and denied Mr. Jackson's right to a fair and impartial jury.
Proposition II: The evidence was insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the "great risk of death" aggravating circumstance.
Proposition III: Errors in jury instructions deprived Appellant of a fair trial and reliable sentencing proceeding.
Proposition IV: Appellant's death sentence must be vacated because there was insufficient evidence to support the "murder to avoid arrest or prosecution" aggravating circumstance.
Proposition V: Mr. Jackson's Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, his right to due process under the Fourteenth Amendment and his corresponding rights under Article II, §§ 7 and 21 of the Oklahoma Constitution were violated by the admission of statements he made to law enforcement.
Proposition VI: Appellant was denied due process and a reliable sentencing proceeding by the admission of highly inflammatory, irrelevant, and prejudicial evidence.
Proposition VII: Mr. Jackson's death sentence violates the State and Federal Constitutions because mitigating factors outweighed evidence of aggravation introduced by the State.
Proposition VIII: Mr. Jackson's death sentence must be vacated because the use of victim impact evidence violated his rights under the Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and Article II, §§ 7, 9, and 19 of the Oklahoma Constitution.
Proposition IX: The aggravating circumstances found by the jury failed to perform the narrowing function required by the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United

To continue reading

Request your trial

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