Lynch v. Sec'y, Dep't of Corr., CASE NO. 6:09-cv-715-Orl-36DAB

CourtUnited States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Florida
Writing for the CourtCharlene Edwards Honeywell
PartiesRICHARD E. LYNCH, Petitioner, v. SECRETARY, DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, et al., Respondents.
Decision Date25 September 2012
Docket NumberCASE NO. 6:09-cv-715-Orl-36DAB

RICHARD E. LYNCH, Petitioner,

CASE NO. 6:09-cv-715-Orl-36DAB


Dated: September 25, 2012


This case is before the Court on the Petition for Habeas Corpus Relief (Doc. No. 1) filed by Richard E. Lynch. Pursuant to the instructions of the Court, Respondents filed a Response to Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus (Doc. No. 18). Thereafter, Petitioner filed a Reply to the Response (Doc. No. 23). As discussed hereinafter, the habeas petition is denied in part and granted in part.


The factual and procedural history, as set forth by the Supreme Court of Florida, are as follows:

On March 23, 1999, a grand jury returned an indictment against appellant, Richard Lynch, for two counts of first-degree premeditated murder, one count of armed burglary of a dwelling, and one count of kidnapping. The indictment was the result of events that occurred on March 5, 1999, culminating in the deaths of Roseanna Morgan ("Morgan") and her thirteen-year-old daughter, Leah Caday ("Caday").

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On October 19, 2000, appellant pled guilty to all four counts of the indictment. Subsequently, the trial judge granted appellant's request to have the penalty phase conducted without a jury. During the penalty phase, the State produced a letter written by the appellant two days prior to the murders. In the letter, addressed to appellant's wife, Lynch admitted to having a "long affair" with Roseanna Morgan, which lasted from August 1998 until February 9, 1999. He detailed the affair and asked his wife to send copies of cards Morgan had written to Lynch and nude pictures Lynch had taken of Morgan to Morgan's family in Hawaii. Lynch wrote: "I want them to have a sense of why it happened, some decent closure, a reason and understanding. . . ."
The testimony elicited during the penalty phase regarding the events of March 5, 1999, included a tape of a telephone call that appellant made to the "911" emergency assistance service while still in the apartment where the murders occurred. On that tape, Lynch is heard admitting to the 911 operator that he shot two people at 534 Rosecliff Circle. He said he initially traveled to the apartment only to attempt to have Morgan pay a credit card debt, but resorted to shooting her in the leg and in the back of the head. He told the 911 operator that he had three handguns with him and that he shot Morgan in the back of the head to "put her out of her misery." Appellant also admitted to firing at the police when they first arrived on the scene.
As to Caday, appellant informed the 911 operator that he had held Caday at gunpoint while waiting for Morgan to return home. He related that she was terrified during the process prior to the shootings and asked him why he was doing this to her. Appellant admitted that he shot Caday, and said "the gun just went off into her back and she's slumped over. And she was still breathing for awhile and that's it." Appellant told the operator he planned to kill himself.
During the course of these events on March 5, 1999, appellant telephoned his wife three times from the apartment. His wife testified that during the first call she could hear a woman screaming in the background. Appellant's wife further testified that the screaming woman sounded "very, very upset." When Lynch called a second time, he admitted to having just shot someone.
Prior to being escorted from the apartment by police, Lynch also talked to a police negotiator. The negotiator testified that Lynch told her that during the thirty to forty minutes he held Caday hostage prior to the

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shootings, Caday was terrified, he displayed the handgun to her, she was aware of the weapon, and appeared to be frightened. He confided in the negotiator that Caday had complied with his requests only out of fear. Finally, appellant described the events leading to Morgan's death by admitting that he had confronted her at the door to the apartment, shot her in the leg, pulled her into the apartment, and then shot her again in the back of the head.
Several of Morgan's neighbors in the apartment complex also testified as to the events of March 5, 1999. Morgan's neighbor across the hallFN2 testified that she looked out of the peephole in her door after hearing the initial shots and saw Lynch dragging Morgan by the hands into Morgan's apartment. She further testified that Lynch knocked on the door to Morgan's apartment and said, "Hurry up, open the door, your mom is hurt." The neighbor testified that Morgan was screaming and was bloody from her waist down. Morgan's neighbor further testified that the door was opened, then after entering with Morgan, Lynch closed the door and approximately five minutes later she heard the sound of three more gunshots. A second neighbor in the apartment complex also testified that approximately five to seven minutes after she heard the initial gunshots, she heard three more.
FN2. The neighbor lived in the apartment directly across the hall from Morgan's apartment in the same apartment building.
After his arrest, appellant participated in an interview with police in which he confessed to the murders. He again admitted the events of the day, telling police he showed Caday the gun and that she was very scared while they were waiting for Morgan to arrive home. He told the detective that Caday was afraid and that he was "technically" holding her hostage. He admitted to shooting Caday's mother, Morgan, four or five times in the presence of her daughter.
In his post-arrest interview, Lynch also admitted that he planned to show Morgan the guns he brought with him to let her know he possessed them, and to force her to sit down and be quiet. He told the detectives he did not know why he did not just leave the guns in his car.FN3 He admitted shooting Morgan four or five times, dragging her into the apartment, and then shooting her in the back of the head with a different firearm.
FN3. The detective conducting the interview with appellant testified that Lynch's car was parked down the street, around

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the corner, and away from Morgan's apartment. It could not be seen from the apartment.
The State's final witness was the medical examiner who testified that after receiving the gunshot wound, it probably would have taken "no more than several minutes" for Caday to die. On cross-examination, although he conceded that it was possible that Caday could have died in less than one minute from the wound, such was unlikely. Finally, he also testified that with the amount of blood loss suffered by Caday, she could have lost consciousness within ten to twenty seconds.
The defense presented only one witness, a mental health expert. She related that she had diagnosed Lynch with schizoaffective disorder, a condition which is a combination of schizophrenia and a mood disorder. Further, she testified that she did not believe the letter appellant wrote two days prior to the murders demonstrated an intent by Lynch to kill Morgan. She concluded that appellant was under the influence of an extreme mental and emotional disturbance on March 5, 1999, and that his psychotic process substantially impaired his capacity to conform his conduct with the requirements of the law.
The State attempted to rebut the defense mental health evidence through the testimony of another mental health expert. The State's expert opined that Lynch suffered from a depressive disorder. The State's expert admitted that it was his opinion that on the day of the incident, appellant was suffering emotional distress, but it was not extreme, and Lynch did not lack the ability to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law. Finally, the State's doctor opined that the letter appellant wrote prior to the murders evidenced a murder-suicide plot.
After accepting written closing arguments and sentencing recommendations and conducting a SpenceFN4 hearing, the judge sentenced appellant to death for the murders of Roseanna Morgan and Leah Caday. He found three aggravating factors as to the murder of Morgan: (1) the murder was cold, calculated, and premeditated ("CCP") (given "great weight"); (2) appellant had previously been convicted of a violent felony (given "moderate weight"); and (3) the murder was committed while appellant was engaged in committing one or more other felonies (given "little weight"). As to the murder of Caday, the judge found (1) that the murder was heinous, atrocious, or cruel ("HAC") (given "great weight"); (2) that appellant was

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previously convicted of a violent felony (given "great weight"); and (3) that the murder was committed while appellant was engaged in committing one or more other felonies (given "moderate weight"). He also found one statutory and eight nonstatutory mitigators as to each murder.FN5
FN4. Spencer v. State, 615 So. 2d 688 (Fla. 1993).
FN5. The statutory mitigating factor found was that Lynch had no significant history of prior criminal activity (moderate weight). The eight nonstatutory mitigators were: (1) the crime was committed while defendant was under the influence of a mental or emotional disturbance (moderate weight); (2) the defendant's capacity to conform his conduct to the requirements of law was impaired (moderate weight); (3) the defendant suffered from a mental illness at the time of the offense (little weight); (4) the defendant was emotionally and physically abused as a child (little

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