Jasper v. Thaler, CIVIL NO. SA-08-CA-735-FB

CourtUnited States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Western District of Texas
PartiesRAY JASPER, III, TDCJ No. 999341, Petitioner, v. RICK THALER, Director, Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Correctional Institutions Division, Respondent.
Decision Date19 January 2011
Docket NumberCIVIL NO. SA-08-CA-735-FB

RAY JASPER, III, TDCJ No. 999341, Petitioner,
RICK THALER, Director, Texas Department of Criminal Justice,
Correctional Institutions Division, Respondent.



Filed: January 19, 2011


Petitioner Ray Jasper, III, filed this federal habeas corpus action pursuant to Title 28 U.S.C. Section 2254 collaterally-attacking his January, 2000, Bexar County conviction for capital murder and sentence of death. For the reasons set forth below, petitioner is not entitled to federal habeas corpus relief from this Court but is entitled to a Certificate of Appealability on his Batson claim herein.

I. Statement of the Case

A. The Offense

There is no genuine dispute as to the operative facts of petitioner's offense. Petitioner signed a detailed written statement confessing his role in the robbery and murder of music producer David Alejandro on the night of November 29, 1998.1

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Petitioner corroborated the inculpatory aspects of his written statement in testimony he gave during both the punishment phase of his capital murder trial and the evidentiary hearing held in petitioner's state habeas corpus proceeding.2

The undisputed facts are: (1) petitioner informed his girlfriend Christina Breton that he and some friends planned to rob

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David Alejandro, 3 (2) when Ms. Breton pointed out David Alejandro knew and would be able to identify petitioner, the petitioner responded "That's why we're going to have to kill him, "4 (3) petitioner solicited the assistance of two friends, i.e., petitioner's musical collaborator Doug Williams and another friend named Steven Russell, to rob David Alejandro of electronic equipment located at David Alejandro's recording studio, 5 (4) on the evening in question, petitioner, Doug Williams, and Steven Russell drove multiple vehicles to David Alejandro's recording studio and spent some time doing recording work with David

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Alejandro for petitioner's and Doug Williams' rap group "TRUE PLAYERS LIVIN SICK, "6 (5) petitioner approached David Alejandro from behind, grabbed David Alejandro's hair and sliced across the front of David Alejandro's neck from ear to ear with a knife petitioner had brought with him, 7 (6) Steven Russell then stabbed David Alejandro many times with both a knife Steven Russell had brought with him, as well as petitioner's knife, 8 (7) petitioner covered David Alejandro's body with a bed sheet petitioner had brought from his home, 9 (8) petitioner then washed the blood off his hands and assisted Steven Russell in placing many items of David Alejandro's property into a pair of black bags petitioner had purchased for this purpose and loaded the bags and many other items of electronic equipment from David Alejandro's studio into the vehicles they had driven to the scene that evening, 10 (11) petitioner and Steven Russell made so much noise moving David Alejandro's equipment to their vans parked outside the recording

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studio they-drew the attention of several residents of a nearby apartment complex, who telephoned the police, 11 and (12) when police arrived at the scene, petitioner and his two accomplices all successfully fled the scene on foot, leaving behind their vehicles loaded with David Alejandro's equipment.12

B. Indictment

On June 1, 1999, a Bexar County grand jury indicted petitioner in cause-no. 1999-CR-2645-A on a charge of capital murder: intentionally causing the death of David Alejandro by stabbing him with a deadly weapon, i.e., a knife, while in the course of committing and attempting to commit the offense of robbing David Alejandro.13

C. Guilt-Innocence Phase of Trial

The guilt innocence phase of petitioner's capital murder trial began on January 11, 2 000.

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1. The Prosecution's Case

In addition to the facts summarized above, the jury heard evidence from the prosecution which established: (1) the many items of electronic equipment and other property found by police inside the vehicles driven to the crime scene by petitioner and his accomplices belonged to David Alejandro, 14 (2) the two minivans police found parked outside David Alejandro's recording studio loaded with David Alejandro's equipment were registered to petitioner's parents and Steven Russell's parents, 15 (3) a few days before the murder, petitioner purchased the pair of large duffel

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bags police found filled with David Alejandro's property inside the minivans, 16 (4) the steering columns of the two minivans were in tact and there was no sign either vehicle had been stolen, 17 (5) petitioner's fingerprints were found on items of electronic equipment found inside the minivans, on the exterior of one of the minivans, and on a soft drink can found near David Alejandro's body, 18 (6) petitioner could not be excluded as a possible source of the DNA found in a sample of saliva found on the parking lot adjacent to one of the minivans and on blood stains found on various items found in the minivans and inside David Alejandro's studio, 19 and (7) David Alejandro died from exsanguination, i.e., bleeding to death, as a result of having suffered multiple stab

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wounds (totaling twenty-five in number), several of which could have proven fatal independently of the others.20

2. The Defense's Case

After the prosecution rested, the defense called one witness, a San Antonio Police officer who had previously mentioned in his trial testimony that he had sketched the exterior crime scene, i.e., the parking lot outside David Alejandro's studio, who now testified he could no longer locate his sketch of the exterior of the crime scene.21 The defense then rested and both sides closed.

3. The Verdict

On January 18, 2000, after deliberating less than ninety minutes, the jury returned its verdict, finding petitioner guilty of capital murder beyond a reasonable doubt.22

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D. Punishment Phase of Trial

The punishment phase of petitioner's capital murder trial began on the same day the jury returned its verdict at the guilt-innocence phase of trial.

1. The Prosecution's Case

The prosecution presented witnesses who testified: (1) petitioner had been found in possession of marijuana while on school property, 23 (2) petitioner was sent to an alternative campus and later expelled, 24 (3) on March 20, 1997, petitioner was observed driving 62 mph in a 45 mph zone and, when a police officer attempted to pull over the vehicle petitioner was driving without a driver's license, petitioner led the officer on a high speed chase which reached speeds exceeding ninety miles per hour and which did not end until petitioner crashed his vehicle on a set of railroad tracks, 25 (4) on November 23, 1998, just days before David Alejandro's murder, an off-duty San Antonio Police robbery detective spotted petitioner, who appeared to be serving as a lookout for a burglary, and when the officer approached and identified himself as a law enforcement officer, the petitioner

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charged, repeatedly struck and assaulted the officer with sufficient ferocity the officer felt compelled to throw his handgun away until he could establish control over petitioner, 26 (5) petitioner's fingerprint was found on the exterior of a rear window, inside the backyard, of the residence where petitioner had been spotted by the officer petitioner assaulted, 27 and (6) David Alejandro was a music composer and singer who gave many other artists a chance when they were just beginning their careers.28

2. The Defense's Case

Petitioner's trial counsel called several character witnesses, including petitioner's parents and pastor and a Bexar County Adult Detention Center classification officer who testified: (1) petitioner was a very smart young man, a natural leader, who since his arrest had begun to listen to spiritual things, to align himself with Christ and make frequent contact with his family's congregation, 29 (2) petitioner's family had moved frequently during

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petitioner's childhood and petitioner's father, a recently retired member of the United States Air Force, had been away from the family during petitioner's formative years, 30 (3) an exceptionally talented student in California, upon moving to San Antonio in 1993, petitioner became depressed when he was placed in remedial classes, 31 (4) upon his arrival in San Antonio, petitioner was harassed at school for his style of clothing, 32 (5) petitioner was a caring person who had simply fallen in with the wrong group of individuals who led petitioner astray, 33 (6) since his arrest, petitioner had undergone a transformation, matured a lot, and gotten God into his heart, 34 (7) petitioner was the "baby" of his family, who loved him very much, (8) petitioner had not caused any problems at the BCADC, was always very respectful and soft-spoken, and could handle life in the general jail population, 35 (9) as a child, petitioner had been an exceptionally talented student who participated in football and basketball, 36 (10) petitioner's

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problems began when the family moved to San Antonio and petitioner was no longer challenged by his school work, ...

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