Miller v. Anderson

CourtUnited States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Indiana
Citation162 F.Supp.2d 1057
Docket NumberNo. 3:99 CV 258 AS.,3:99 CV 258 AS.
PartiesPerry Steven MILLER, Petitioner, v. Rondle ANDERSON, Superintendent Respondent.
Decision Date19 June 2000
162 F.Supp.2d 1057
Perry Steven MILLER, Petitioner,
Rondle ANDERSON, Superintendent Respondent.
No. 3:99 CV 258 AS.
United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division.
June 19, 2000.

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Brent Westerfield, Indianapolis, IN, Eric Koselke, Indianapolis, IN, for petitioner.

Michael A. Hurst, James B. Martin, Indianapolis, IN, for respondent.


ALLEN SHARP, District Judge.

Petitioner, Perry Steven Miller, was convicted of murder in a state court trial conducted in Valparaiso, Indiana, and was sentenced to death by the judge conducting that trial upon the recommendation of the jury that heard the case. The within petition was filed by counsel in this Court on August 17, 1999 and oral argument was heard in Lafayette, Indiana on March 16, 2000. This Court greatly appreciates the high degree of professional competence displayed by appointed counsel for this petitioner.

The extensive state record has been filed and examined by this Court under the mandates of Townsend v. Sain, 372 U.S. 293, 83 S.Ct. 745, 9 L.Ed.2d 770 (1963) and under the mandates of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) 28 U.S.C. § 2244(b). Immediate reference is made to the two decisions in this case by the Supreme Court of Indiana, namely Miller v. State, 623 N.E.2d 403 (Ind.1993), and Miller v. State, 702 N.E.2d 1053 (Ind. 1998), cert. denied, 528 U.S. 1083, 120 S.Ct. 806, 145 L.Ed.2d 679 (2000). This petitioner is now confined on death row at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City, Indiana in this district.

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I. Factual and Procedural Background

Nineteen year-old Christel Helmchen was working alone at the White Hen Pantry in Valparaiso, Indiana in the early morning hours of November 14, 1990 when she was abducted, raped, brutalized, and murdered.1 Her body was found later that day at a construction site near Highway 6 in Valparaiso. The autopsy showed the cause of death to be a shotgun wound to the head, and further revealed that Helmchen had been sexually assaulted, with severe injuries to her pubic area and anal canal.

On the afternoon of the 14th, Helmchen's checkbook was found in the driveway of 206 Holcomb, LaPorte, Indiana, the residence of Miller, his wife Betty, Betty's nineteen year-old son, William Harmon, and Harmon's sixteen year-old friend, Rodney Wood. The police questioned Miller as to the whereabouts of Harmon and Wood, and Miller informed the police that he had last seen Harmon and Wood at approximately midnight the previous evening when they left the residence. Miller consented to a search of his home, and two shotguns were found in the attic of a bedroom which Miller identified as Harmon and Wood's. Miller denied having seen the shotguns previously. Miller was not a suspect at this time.

On November 15, 1990, the Owensboro, Kentucky police notified authorities in Valparaiso that they had taken four individuals into custody, and that two of them resided at 206 Holcomb, namely Harmon and Wood. Officers from the Indiana State Police and the Porter County Sheriff's Department traveled to Owensboro, transported Harmon, Wood, and two fifteen year-old girls, Stephanie Bell and April Bowman, back to Valparaiso, and interrogated them. Additionally, the police brought back a vehicle stolen from LaPorte, Indiana, which the quartet had driven to Owensboro, and the contents of the vehicle, including a black leather coat belonging to Christel Helmchen and a blue spotted shirt missing one sleeve that had been used to gag Helmchen.

Once in custody, both Wood and Harmon made statements to the police. Harmon's statement2 was used to support the affidavit of probable cause made by Detective Ivan Blackman of the Valparaiso Police Department in seeking an arrest warrant for Perry Steven Miller, although Harmon did not testify at trial and his statement was not used further. Wood's statement3, which substantially tracks that of Harmon, was played for the jury as a prior consistent statement after Wood's testimony was challenged during Miller's trial. Both Wood and Harmon described the attack on Christel Helmchen as follows.

On Monday, November 12, 1990, Miller started a conversation with Wood and Harmon, suggesting that he knew a place the pair could rob. TR 2053-54. Wood and Harmon had previously stolen several cars and had committed robbery and were

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looking for money to fund a planned trip to Kentucky. Miller described the White Hen Pantry in Valparaiso as a good place to rob. The following evening, Tuesday, November 13, 1990, Wood and Harmon had several discussions with Miller regarding the White Hen Pantry, and also regarding Christel Helmchen, the clerk at the White Hen Pantry. TR 30, 2062. Both Wood and Harmon stated that Miller suggested they should kidnap, rape, and kill Helmchen as a part of the robbery. Id. The trio left the home at 206 Holcomb at approximately midnight on November 13, 1990 in Miller's vehicle, with Miller driving. Miller first drove to a construction site near Valparaiso to show the other two where he wanted them to bring Helmchen. TR 30, 2068-70. Miller then drove to the White Hen Pantry where he dropped off Harmon and Wood, having advised them to purchase two cans of pop, then to pull a weapon on Helmchen when she opened the cash register drawer. TR 31, 2075. Harmon and Wood did as advised, forced Helmchen to give them her keys, and took Helmchen in her car to the construction site. TR 31, 2077.

Harmon and Wood brought Helmchen into the home being constructed, and Harmon gagged her. TR 32, 2081. Miller had followed Harmon and Wood to the site in his car, and upon entering the home, began to fondle Helmchen. TR 32, 2082. As she attempted to move away from him, Miller threw her to the floor and continued to fondle her, tearing her blouse and removing her pants and underpants. Id. Miller then directed Wood to engage in sexual intercourse with Helmchen, which he did. Id. Although Wood did not ejaculate inside Helmchen, he finished in some manner and got off, at which point Miller directed Harmon to engage in sexual intercourse with Helmchen, and Harmon did ejaculate inside Helmchen. Id. When Harmon was finished, Miller directed Harmon and Wood to tie Helmchen to a wall4 which they did. Miller then began to hit Helmchen, first with his fists, then with a 2' by 4' piece of wood. TR 32, 2086. Harmon asked Miller for permission to hit Helmchen with his .12 gauge shotgun, and when granted permission, did strike Helmchen with the shotgun. Id. Miller also stuck Helmchen with an icepick or buck knife in her right breast and thigh. TR 32, 2088. All three men exited the home briefly to count the money from the robbery of the White Hen Pantry, then Miller told Harmon and Wood to find something with which to rectally assault Helmchen. TR 32, 2092. Harmon took the tire iron from Helmchen's vehicle and proceeded to rectally assault Helmchen with the tire iron while Wood held Helmchen's leg.5 TR 33, 2093. Miller then told Harmon it was time to kill Helmchen. TR 33. Miller directed Wood to pull Helmchen's car around so that the lights would shine into the house. TR 2095. Harmon then escorted Helmchen, still bound and gagged, out of the home and down the hill to a point away from the home, where he shot her in the back of the head with his shotgun. TR 33, 2097.

Harmon then got into Helmchen's car with Wood, and they returned to the residence at 206 Holcomb, where Miller arrived a few minutes later. TR 2102. Wood and Harmon, along with two fifteen year-old girls, Stephanie Bell and April Bowman, then packed Helmchen's car and left for Kentucky at approximately 2:00

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a.m. on November 14, 1990. TR 2104. The quartet was arrested in Owensboro, Kentucky on the morning of November 15, 1990, while they camped a short distance from their vehicle. TR 2108. The following day, officers from the Porter County Sheriff's Department and Indiana State Police traveled to Owensboro to bring the four back to Valparaiso. TR 2109. Both Harmon and Wood gave statements to police at that time which implicated Miller in the murder. TR 33, 2110.

Miller was arrested by the Valparaiso Police Department in the early morning hours of November 17, 1990. TR 2858. He was found lying in a sandbox in his backyard covered with leaves, wearing a parka and several layers of clothing. TR 2858-59. An initial hearing was held on November 19, 1990, at which time Anthony Bertig appeared as private counsel on behalf of Miller. TR 9. On November 26, 1990, Bertig was granted leave to withdraw his appearance, and on December 11, 1990, Ronald Aungst appeared as public defender for Miller6. TR 9-10.

A week later, Aungst filed a motion to set bail, a motion for early trial, and a motion to change venue. TR 10. At a hearing on December 28, 1990, the court granted Aungst's motion for early trial and set the trial for February 26, 1991. TR 57. The court denied the motion for change of venue, but ordered that the jury be drawn from a county other than Porter County. Id. On January 11, 1991, the state moved to continue the trial date to allow for the testing of certain evidence by experts, and the court granted that motion on January 15, 1991, resetting the trial for April 2,

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1991. TR 74. Aungst filed a 46 page motion to dismiss the state's request for a death sentence on March 13, 1991, but that motion was denied by the court on March 25, 1991. TR 101-46, 163. On March 28, 1991, Aungst filed a motion to exclude evidence, arguing that because he had not yet received the expert reports on the physical evidence, the expert evidence should be excluded. TR 165-66. On April 6, 1991, after the jury had been selected, the court took up Aungst's motion. TR 1701. Aungst stated to the court that he had received the DNA report from the FBI the previous day, as well as the Indiana State Police forensic...

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