Jordan v. Epps

Decision Date30 August 2010
Docket NumberCivil Action No. 1:05CV260KS
Citation740 F.Supp.2d 802
PartiesRichard JORDAN, Petitioner v. Christopher EPPS, Commissioner, Mississippi Department of Corrections and Jim Hood, Respondents.
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of Mississippi

David P. Voisin, David P. Voisin, Attorney, Jackson, MS, for Petitioner.

Marvin L. White, Jr., Office of the Attorney General, Jackson, MS, for Respondents.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

KEITH STARRETT, District Judge.

Introduction.

Richard Gerald Jordan was convicted of capital murder in the Circuit Court of Harrison County. He has had two trials on guilt and sentence—one in 1976 and one in 1977. He has had two additional sentencing trials—in 1983 and 1998. The 1998 sentence is currently before the court on a habeas petition.

Facts of the crime.

Jordan was charged with capital murder in the course of a kidnaping. In 1976, after he discovered that she was the wife of a commercial loan officer at Gulf National Bank, he kidnapped Edwina Marter from her home. Jordan gained entry to the home by pretending to be a utility worker and then, at gunpoint, forced Marter to leave her sleeping three-year-old child. He had Marter drive to a secluded area in the woods north of Gulfport, where Jordan shot Marter in the back of the head with a single bullet, killing her. He then threw the gun into the Big Biloxi River.

After killing Edwina Marter, Jordan called her husband, Charles Marter, demanding a ransom. After two aborted attempts to deliver the money, Marter ultimately dropped it off on the side of Interstate 10 the next day after his wife was kidnapped. Officials had been alerted to the situation, and two officers saw Jordan take the money. They chased Jordan's vehicle until he ran them off the road, after which Jordan abandoned his vehicle, bought new clothes, and attempted to flee the area. He was discovered in a cab at a road block and arrested.

Jordan confessed to the kidnaping shortly after his arrest, and he told officers where they could find Mrs. Marter. It was not until they found Mrs. Marter's body that law enforcement realized she had been killed. She was found face-down on a slight slope in the woods. David Melton, an investigator with the Harrison County Sheriff's Department, was at the scene when the body was found, and he was asked to lead the investigation. Another investigator from the Sheriff's Department, Bob Allbritton, was with Melton at the scene. Jordan also showed officers where they could find the murder weapon, and he led them to his discarded shirt and pants. Finally, Jordan took the officers to the place where he had hidden the ransom money.

Later that afternoon, Jordan was taken before a county judge for an initial appearance,where he asked to be represented by counsel during future proceedings. The FBI declined to prosecute the case, turning it over to state authorities. After Jordan was returned to his cell, Allbritton learned that his office would be taking the lead in the case, so he went to the jail to take Jordan's photograph and fingerprints. Unaware of the earlier proceedings before the county judge, Allbritton asked Jordan if he would talk to him about the crime. After being advised of his rights (apparently for the fifth time that day), Jordan gave a statement, which was later repeated on tape. The taped statement was subsequently transcribed, but Jordan refused to sign it. Jordan was ultimately tried and found guilty of capital murder in the course of a kidnaping and was sentenced to death.

Procedural history of Jordan's cases.

Jordan has been tried four times, and the details of those trials are more fully set out below.

The 1976 trial.

At his first trial, Jordan was represented by Earl Denham and Rhett Russell, and Albert Necaise and Joe Sam Owen were the prosecutors. The case had been moved from Harrison County to Jackson County, and Judge Darwin Maples presided. Prior to the trial, defense counsel moved for a psychiatric examination, and Jordan was examined by personnel from the Gulf Coast Mental Health Center, including Dr. Clifton B. Davis. On March 3, 1976, Dr. Davis's office mailed his report, as well as the intake report conducted at the facility, to Rhett Russell. The intake report contains the following information that was reported by Jordan:

Upon graduation from high school in August, 1964, Mr. Jordan enlisted in the U.S. Army. He was charged with check forgery in 1964 and was told that these charges would be dropped if he consented to join the Army, which he did. He was court-martialed in 1970 for falsification of official documents and was sentenced to 9 months in Leavenworth. He received a dishonorable discharge from the Army in August 1971.

Dr. Davis's report also contains other information that Jordan related to him, including Jordan's version of the kidnap and murder, which he reported included an accomplice, who was the man who actually shot Marter. According to Dr. Davis, "He then explained that the FBI was more or less responsible for the woman's death since they blundered the job in following instructions. He comments that he is sorry that she was killed but then shrugged this off by saying "better luck next time." Dr. Davis concluded that Jordan had an antisocial personality, but that he was competent to stand trial.

Prior to the change of venue, Judge Floyd Logan held a competency hearing, in which Dr. Davis testified for the defense. The question of whether Jordan's discharge was honorable or dishonorable was the subject of much debate in the fourth trial, but it was not discussed at this hearing. The basis of the questioning was his diagnosis of antisocial personality and whether that condition would prevent Jordan from fully understanding the gravity of the charges against him. The underlying information given to Davis was not examined. Rhett Russell, one of Jordan's attorneys, also testified that Jordan seemed unusually detached and unaware of the seriousness of his situation. However, he presented no evidence indicating that the information reported by Davis was inaccurate. The trial court ruled that Jordan was competent to stand trial. Dr. Davis did not testify at the 1976 trial, or any trial thereafter. However, these reports are relevant to this habeas petition because they were relied on by the psychiatricexpert who examined Jordan prior to the 1998 trial.

David Melton, who investigated the crime scene where Mrs. Marter's body was found, testified briefly at the first trial. He was not questioned at all about his investigation of the crime scene, but was called solely to establish the chain of custody for evidence that had been taken to the FBI's crime lab in Washington, D.C. The actual photographs of Marter's body as it was found at the crime scene were introduced through Agent Watts of the FBI.

Both Jordan's initial statement to Agent Watts and his later statement to Deputy Allbritton were admitted into evidence. In both statements, Jordan stated that he shot Mrs. Marter accidentally while she was attempting to escape from him. That was the theory of the murder that was recounted in the closing arguments of both sides.

Jordan was tried under then-existing law, where, after he was found guilty of capital murder, he was automatically sentenced to death. He moved for a new trial. During the time that the motion was pending, the Mississippi Supreme Court issued its opinion in Jackson v. State, 337 So.2d 1242 (Miss.1976), in which it mandated a bifurcated proceeding in capital murder cases. Based on that decision, Judge Maples granted the motion for a new trial.

The 1977 trial.

The 1977 trial occurred after the law changed to require the jury to analyze both aggravating and mitigating circumstances before imposing a sentence. Jordan was again represented by Denham and Russell, and Necaise and Owen prosecuted the case. The case was heard before Judge Maples, who adopted the pretrial rulings from the first trial, both those made by Judge Logan and by himself.

Jordan was convicted of capital murder on, essentially, the same evidence as before. During the sentencing phase, the State offered new evidence as to the manner of Marter's killing in order to show that she was shot execution-style, which was used as an aggravating circumstance. Dave Melton did not testify at all during the guilt phase; however, during the sentencing phase of the trial, the state attempted to introduce testimony from Melton regarding blood spatters that he had observed at the murder scene.

Melton wrote a twenty-page investigative report, which was not introduced at any trial, but was given to defense counsel during discovery. With regard to the appearance of the body when it was found, Melton's report relates:

The body was observed as follows: (by investigators MELTON and ALLBRITTON)

White-female
Brown, frosted hair
Sandal-type shoes
Greenish-yellow, reptile skin-type coat
Faded jeans
Rings (jewelry) on some fingers
Appeared to have a bullet wound to the back of the head

The body was positioned as follows:

Face straight down
All limbs completely extended
Ankles crossed
Palms up
Lying in a north-to-south direction with top of head pointed approximately south
There was a great deal of blood drainage from the head down a very slight incline on the ground (away from the head (southerly)). By the left shoulder there appeared to be keys on a ring lying on the ground. Also on the ground nearby were two "inside" gumwrappers and a green Kleenex-type tissue.

Additionally, after the coroner arrived and turned Marter's body over, Melton made the following notes:

The body was found to have a large wound to the center of the forehead that appeared to be a gunshot exit wound. The face was covered with blood and the face appeared "distorted" from having been against the ground for a number of hours. Lividity was present. In addition to the clothing previously described, it was now possible to see a white blouse.

Although Melton's report described in detail the...

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4 cases
  • Jordan v. Epps
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Fifth Circuit
    • June 25, 2014
    ...sought federal habeas relief. On August 30, 2010, the district court denied relief on all of Jordan's claims. See Jordan v. Epps, 740 F.Supp.2d 802 (S.D.Miss.2010). The district court also denied Jordan's request for a COA, required for his appeal to this court. See28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(1)(A)......
  • Robinson v. Vannoy
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Western District of Louisiana
    • December 9, 2019
    ...the decision must be contrary to or an unreasonable application of federal law to warrant federal habeas relief. See Jordan v. Epps, 740 F.Supp.2d 802 (S.D. Miss. 2010). Robinson appears to argue that it was unfair for the prosecution to show Ellis a photographic lineup, implying it induced......
  • Jordan v. Fisher
    • United States
    • U.S. Supreme Court
    • June 29, 2015
    ...The District Court denied relief on each of the claims in Jordan's petition, including his vindictiveness claim. Jordan v. Epps, 740 F.Supp.2d 802, 819 (2010). With respect to that claim, the District Court opined that Owen could not have been vindictive because he "did not substitute a dif......
  • Jordan v. State
    • United States
    • Mississippi Supreme Court
    • December 6, 2018
    ...In 2010, the district court denied habeas relief and Jordan's request for a certificate of appealability (COA). Jordan v. Epps , 740 F.Supp.2d 802 (S.D. Miss. 2010). Jordan then asked the Fifth Circuit to grant a COA; in 2014, the Fifth Circuit denied relief.1 Jordan v. Epps , 756 F.3d 395 ......

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