Ramey v. Davis

Decision Date09 July 2018
Docket NumberCIVIL ACTION NO. 6:13-CV-43
Citation314 F.Supp.3d 785
Parties Ker'sean Olajuwa RAMEY, Petitioner, v. Lorie DAVIS, Respondent.
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of Texas

Ronald A. McIntire, Perkins Coie LLP, Los Angeles, CA, David R. Dow, University of Houston, Houston, TX, for Petitioner.

Travis G. Bragg, Pro Hac Vice, Attorney General of Texas, Edward Larry Marshall, Office of the Attorney General, Austin, TX, for Respondent.


Kenneth M. Hoyt, United States District Judge

Ker'sean Olajuwa Ramey, a Texas inmate incarcerated under a capital conviction and death sentence, filed a federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus on November 13, 2013. (Dkt. No. 7). Ramey alleges that constitutional error infected his trial with unfairness. Having considered Ramey's claims, the state court record, the pleadings, the evidence, and the applicable law, the Court now finds that Ramey is not entitled to federal habeas relief for the reasons provided herein.


On December 17, 2005, the State of Texas indicted Ramey for the offense of capital murder in the 24th Judicial District Court of Jackson County Texas. The four-count indictment charged Ramey for his role in the murders of Sam Roberts, Tiffany Peacock, and Celso Lopez. After a change of venue, Ramey stood trial in Victoria County, Texas.

The State based its case against Ramey on testimony from those to whom he admitted involvement in the murders, as well as his co-defendant LeJames Norman's account of the crime. On direct appeal, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals summarized the trial testimony:

The bodies of Celso Lopez, Tiffany Peacock, and Sam Roberts were found in Roberts's residence by his parents on August 25, 2005. Lopez had been shot four times: once in the cheek and three times in the back of the head. Peacock was shot twice in the head. Roberts was shot five times: once in the chest, once in the neck, and three times in the back of the head. They had been killed on or about August 24.
Stacy Johnson, [Ramey's] former girlfriend, testified that he called her at 12:29 a.m. and 12:59 a.m. on August 25. He went to her house after their conversation, and slept there until shortly before 6 a.m. She said that he seemed "distant."
Two days later, Johnson accompanied [Ramey] to his house where he dug up "something" from his backyard. Johnson drove him to a dam. While Johnson was driving, [Ramey] called his former step-father, Lonny Lyte. (Both Johnson and Lyte testified about this conversation.) [Ramey] asked Lyte, "If you was to kill somebody, what would you do with the guns?" Lyte responded by saying that he would throw them in the river.
When they reached the dam, Johnson saw [Ramey] throw two pistols into the water. She later returned to the dam with the police and pointed out to the dive team the place where she remembered him throwing the pistols. They were found in the approximate location she indicated.
After he threw the pistols in the water, [Ramey] admitted to Johnson that he had committed a murder. He first said, "You know what this is about," to which she responded in the affirmative. When they returned to her house, he admitted to everything in detail, and he threatened to kill her if she told anyone.
A firearms examiner from the Department of Public Safety testified that markings on the bullets that were recovered from the victims' bodies were consistent with the bullets having been fired from the pistols that were recovered from the water at the dam.
The pistols had been stolen from [the Nairn family] residence on August 19, 2005. The owner of the pistols identified them, and one of the pistols was further identified by records of registration. Gerald Manzanalez and Christopher Times testified that, on August 19, they and [Ramey] had broken into a residence where they stole the pistols and some other firearms.
LeJames Norman testified that, on August 24, he and [Ramey] had gone to the scene of the murders, Sam Roberts's residence. Their objective was to steal 100 kilograms of cocaine they believed to be inside.
He said that he and [Ramey] prepared by stealing masks from a discount store. The jury saw the store's surveillance videotape which showed them stealing the masks at 9:22 p.m. on August 24.
Norman testified that they also prepared by wrapping tape around their shoes so as not to leave a trail. They donned their masks and cocked their guns before entering the house. They knocked on the door. Celso Lopez answered, and the two men forced their way inside. Norman held a gun on Lopez, while [Ramey] ran to the rear of the home, where he hoped to find the cocaine. As [Ramey] searched for the drugs, Norman accidentally shot Lopez in the cheek. [Ramey] quickly returned to the front room and forced Lopez, bleeding and begging for help, to move to a bedroom and lie on the floor.
At that point Roberts came home, accompanied by Peacock (his girlfriend). When she saw what was happening, Peacock panicked and tried to run away. Norman grabbed her and forced her to her knees inside the house, near the front door. As she was bending down, he shot her in the back of the head. Seeing his girlfriend fall limp to the floor, Roberts attacked Norman. The two men "tussled" in the kitchen until [Ramey] shot Roberts, freeing Norman who immediately shot Roberts several more times while he lay on the floor. [Ramey] then returned to the bedroom and shot Lopez in the back of the head as he lay on the floor.
[Ramey] and Norman left the house. As they walked away, Norman realized that he had left his police scanner inside the house. [Ramey] quickly returned to retrieve the scanner. While inside, he shot the victims several more times to ensure that they were dead.
[Ramey] and Norman did not find any cocaine.
Eight other witnesses testified that [Ramey] had admitted to them that he had participated in the murders.

Ramey v. State , 2009 WL 335276, at *3-5 (Tex. Crim. App. 2009).

The defense rested without calling any guilt/innocence witnesses or presenting any evidence.1 The jury instructions authorized Ramey's conviction: (1) for "caus[ing] the death of Sam Roberts and/or Tiffan[y] Peacock and/or Celso Lopez by shooting them with a firearm" in the course of a robbery or burglary or (2) for assisting Norman in the murders under Texas' law of parties.2 Clerk's Record at 172-73. The jury found Ramey guilty of capital murder. The verdict form specified that the jury found Ramey guilty as the principal actor in the crime. Clerk's Record at 175.

A Texas jury decides a capital defendant's sentence by answering special-issue questions. In this case, the special issues asked: (1) will the defendant be a future danger to society; and (2) do sufficient circumstances mitigate against a death sentence? See TEX. CRIM. CODE art. 37.071 § 2(b); Clerk's Record at 193-94. The State based its punishment-phase case on Ramey's escalating violent actions. The State presented testimony and evidence that, when Ramey stood trial at age twenty-one, he had already amassed a significant criminal history. Ramey began acting out in school at a young age. His first interaction with the legal system occurred when at age sixteen he coerced a seven-year-old boy into performing oral sex on him. Originally charged with aggravated sexual assault, the charge was reduced to assault and the court sentenced him to juvenile probation for one year.

At age seventeen, Ramey pleaded guilty to criminal mischief for breaking into a vending machine at his high school. Less than six months later, Ramey and another friend, broke into his alternative learning school and ransacked the principal's office. His probation for the two offenses was eventually revoked for failing to pay fees, perform his community service hours, and report to his probation officer. Ramey's subsequent stay in the county jail did not squelch his lawlessness.

Jurors found out that Ramey had actually burglarized the Nairn residence three times. The State also presented evidence that, after burglarizing a different location, Ramey attempted to run over the homeowner with his car. Witnesses testified that Ramey had planned other burglaries. Additionally, Ramey told friends that he had carried out various crimes for which he was never charged. Importantly, Ramey bragged that he had committed other murders.

Ramey's behavior did not improve while incarcerated before trial. He armed himself with weapons, created disturbances, and threatened guards.

The State's final witness was Dr. Richard Coons, a psychologist. Dr. Coons did not examine Ramey, but his review of relevant records led him to opine that an offender like Ramey would "commit criminal acts of violence in the future which would constitute a continuing threat to society." Tr. Vol. 38 at 81.

The defense only called two witnesses in the penalty phase. Ramey's mother, Ms. Terral Stevens, provided an overview of Ramey's life. Ms. Stevens told jurors of Ramey's early emotional and mental problems, including a diagnosis of dyslexia

and ADHD at age four. Early evaluations revealed emotional disturbances and a lack of social skills. Ramey told evaluators that his step-father had abused him. Ramey's mother, however, failed to seek the necessary help for her son's problems.

Dr. Mark Kunick, a psychiatrist, based his testimony on an interview with Ramey and Ramey's mother, his review of records, and his understanding of the facts of the case. Dr. Kunick opined that Ramey's nonviolence since incarceration, his close-knit family, and his lack of mental illness would make it unlikely that Ramey would be a future danger.

The jury answered Texas' special issues in a manner requiring the imposition of a death sentence.

Trial counsel represented Ramey on direct appeal. On February 11, 2009, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed Ramey's conviction and sentence in an unpublished opinion. Ramey v. State ,...

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    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Fifth Circuit
    • November 1, 2019
    ...Mitigation Phase Claim.I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUNDThe facts of this case have been detailed elsewhere. Ramey v. Davis , 314 F. Supp. 3d 785 (S.D. Tex. 2018) ; Ramey v. State , No. AP-75, 2009 WL 335276 (Tex. Crim. App. Feb. 11, 2009). Therefore, we provide only a brief exposition h......
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