Joseph v. Coyle, 060806 FED6, 05-3111

Docket Nº:05-3111, 05-3113
Party Name:Richard Joseph, Petitioner-Appellant/ Cross-Appellee, v. Ralph Coyle, Warden, Respondent-Appellee/ Cross-Appellant.
Case Date:June 08, 2006
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

Richard Joseph, Petitioner-Appellant/ Cross-Appellee,


Ralph Coyle, Warden, Respondent-Appellee/ Cross-Appellant.

No. 05-3111, 05-3113

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

June 8, 2006

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio at Cleveland. No. 98-00527—Lesley Wells, District Judge.

Before: MOORE, COLE, and CLAY, Circuit Judges.



Edmund W. Searby, SCOTT & SCOTT, Chagrin Falls, Ohio, for Appellant.

Charles L. Wille, ATTORNEY GENERAL'S OFFICE OF OHIO, Columbus, Ohio, for Appellee.


Edmund W. Searby, Jennifer I. Cupar, SCOTT & SCOTT, Chagrin Falls, Ohio, for Appellant.

Charles L. Wille, ATTORNEY GENERAL'S OFFICE OF OHIO, Columbus, Ohio, for Appellee.



An Ohio jury convicted Richard Joseph of aggravated murder. The jury also convicted Joseph of a single capital specification, which made him eligible for the death penalty, and, after a mitigation hearing, recommended a sentence of death. The trial court accepted this recommendation and imposed the death penalty, which was upheld on direct and state post-conviction review. Asserting twenty grounds for relief, Joseph petitioned the district court for a writ of habeas corpus. The district court granted the writ on four grounds relating to a fundamental error in the capital specification: although the specification required Joseph to be the principal offender in the commission of the aggravated murder, everyone at trial proceeded under the mistaken view that the specification required Joseph to be the principal offender in the commission of the kidnapping. The district court denied Joseph's remaining claims. Joseph appeals the denial of six of his sixteen unsuccessful claims, while the state cross-appeals the grant of the writ.

For the reasons discussed below, we AFFIRM the grant of a writ of habeas corpus.


A. Factual Background

Because this case turns not on factual disputes but on issues of law, we present the following account of the facts from the Ohio Supreme Court's decision:

During the fall of 1989, . . . Joseph, began dating Cara M. Wireman. They began to date steadily until sometime in February 1990. Cara decided to end the relationship because she did not like the way [Joseph] treated her and she attended her senior prom with someone else. In April, Cara started dating the victim, Ryan Young, a student at the same high school. Ryan and [Joseph] knew each other from playing together on the school football team.

Cara testified that [Joseph] was jealous of Ryan's relationship with her. [Joseph] wanted her to stop seeing Ryan so they could renew their relationship. This was evidenced by several letters [Joseph] wrote to Cara indicating his jealousy and desire to continue dating Cara. In one letter, he indicated he had been secretly watching Cara and Ryan together for three hours. Cara knew that martial arts played a big part in [Joseph's] life and she had previously seen him with guns and knives.

On Monday, June 25, 1990, the day prior to the kidnapping, Cara and Ryan observed [Joseph] driving around in the area where Cara and Ryan both lived. Cara indicated she did not normally see [Joseph] driving in this area.

On Tuesday, June 26, 1990, Ryan asked his mother if he could go to Cara's house, and he left around seven o'clock that evening driving his father's 1981 Oldsmobile. Ryan's mother received a telephone call from Ryan about 10:30 p.m. that evening and, during that conversation, she told him he could stay and finish watching the movie and then come straight home.

Cara's next-door neighbor, Rose Fetter, was outside walking her dog at about 11:15 p.m. that night, when she observed a clean white car driving slowly down Thayer Road. There were two occupants in the car. Fetter indicated she first saw the car being driven north up Thayer Road. About ten minutes later she observed the car heading south on Thayer Road. The car pulled into a dirt driveway leading to property owned by a local kennel club and parked for a few minutes. Just prior to Fetter's going into her home she observed the car back out of the driveway and head north for a second time. Fetter testified she and her husband took care of the property for the kennel club and that she mowed around the driveway earlier in the day and did not observe any tire tracks at that time. However, the next morning she noticed there were tire tracks in the driveway.

Ryan, Cara, and Cara's friend, Michelle Rumer, were at the same time watching the movie at Cara's house. The movie ended at approximately 11:30 p.m., at which time Michelle left to go home. Ryan stayed about fifteen or twenty minutes after Michelle left. Ryan and Cara walked out of Cara's house and into the driveway. As Ryan got into the car, Cara heard Ryan remark, "That looks like the White Cutlass that [Joseph] drives." Cara responded, "I doubt that. He wouldn't be out here." Ryan said, "I'm pretty sure that was him."

Ryan was wearing a baseball hat turned backwards on his head that night. Cara saw Ryan back out onto Thayer Road into a position that would permit him to drive north on Thayer. Just as Ryan backed onto the roadway, she saw the dome light in his car illuminate and heard a voice when the dome light came on. Cara also saw Ryan's head turn toward the passenger side door.

Cara went back into the house and watched television for about fifteen minutes. She decided to go to bed, so she went to shut the front door and saw the tail end of a white car drive by slowly heading south on Thayer Road. She saw the tail lights on the car and heard the brakes squeak. The subject car repeatedly turned around after passing Cara's residence and passed in front of her house approximately ten to twelve times. Cara testified the car matched the description of the car belonging to Bill Forest, a friend of [Joseph]. Cara testified [Joseph] and Jose Bulerin, [Joseph's] friend and roommate, often borrowed Forest'scar. Cara became upset and called Michelle concerning the car that had passed in front of her house. At about 12:35 a.m., Cara called the residence shared by [Joseph] and Bulerin. She spoke with [Joseph's] cousin, April Joseph, who testified neither [Joseph] nor Bulerin was home to answer the call. Cara again called Michelle and talked for a while before calling [Joseph's] residence a second time at 1:00 a.m. [Joseph] and Bulerin still had not returned home.

Cara went to sleep and was awakened by a phone call from Ryan's mother, Sharon Young, at approximately 4:00 a.m. that morning. At about that time, Ryan's father, Rick Young, awoke and discovered that neither his son nor the car Ryan had been driving was home. The Youngs drove down Thayer Road toward Cara's house in search of their son. They found the 1981 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ryan had been driving abandoned just north of the bridge on Thayer Road. Rick entered the car and nothing apparently was out of place. The keys were still in the ignition and the car was still in gear. There were no indications of a robbery, as Ryan's wallet and money were, respectively, left on the seat and console tray of the car. A wet spot and char marks were found on the passenger seat of the car. The seat had not been wet or dirty the day before.

Inspector William Dailey took a material sample of a burnt log located across the road opposite from Cara's house on the morning of June 27, 1990. The inspector observed that the vegetation there was trampled down so that it led him to believe that someone may have been sitting in that area. The vegetation still had its color and the breaks in the leaves appeared to be fresh. He also took a sample of the blackened stain area on the front seat of Ryan's car for purposes of comparison with the burned log. Chemical analysis performed later revealed that the samples were consistent with one another.

The sheriff s department was notified and a search began. After talking with Cara, Deputy Gene King of the Allen County Sheriffs Office proceeded to [Joseph's] residence to question him concerning Ryan's disappearance. King arrived at [Joseph's] residence at approximately 5:10 a.m. on the morning Ryan was discovered missing and observed a white Cutlass in the driveway. King testified that the hood and radiator of the car were warm to the touch. There was also a dirty hand print on the trunk lid of the vehicle.

King spoke with [Joseph] and Bulerin. [Joseph] was hesitant to respond to questioning, as he persistently stared at the ground and his answers were invariably inaudible. The deputy testified that in spite of the early morning hour, [Joseph] did not appear to have been asleep. The deputy also noticed fresh blisters on [Joseph's] right hand.

[Joseph] was questioned both later that morning and about a week afterwards by law enforcement officers. [Joseph] disclaimed any knowledge of Ryan's disappearance. [Joseph] told the sheriffs detectives that on the day of the disappearance he reported to work at Frank's Car Wash. He then left with Forest to go to work at Indian Lake in Logan County. Forest testified that they had been building a deck in order to install a hot tub adjacent to a house. [Joseph], Bulerin, and Forest were using Visqueen to cover up the deck to protect against the rain.

[Joseph] told detectives that the trio worked until about 6:30 p.m. before starting back to Lima to attend karate class. According to Forest, the karate class was taught by Bulerin with [Joseph] helping out as a co-instructor. [Joseph] and Bulerin then left karate class in Forest's car, the white Cutlass. Forest testified he left class with his girlfriend and did not see either [Joseph] or Bulerin again that night. [Joseph] and Bulerin went home, got cleaned up, and then left to get something to eat...

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