Rickman v. Dutton

Decision Date02 September 1994
Docket NumberNo. 3:85-0256.,3:85-0256.
Citation864 F. Supp. 686
PartiesRonald Eugene RICKMAN v. Michael DUTTON, Warden, Riverbend Maximum Security Institution.
CourtU.S. District Court — Middle District of Tennessee

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Henry A. Martin, William P. Redick, Paul R. Bottei, Nashville, TN, for petitioner.

Glenn R. Pruden, C. Mark Fowler, Nashville, TN, for respondent.

MEMORANDUM

JOHN T. NIXON, Chief Judge.

In this habeas corpus proceeding under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, Petitioner Ronald Eugene Rickman challenges the constitutionality of his 1978 conviction and death sentence imposed by the Criminal Court of Shelby County, Tennessee. Commencing May 3, 1994, the Court conducted a limited evidentiary hearing on Rickman's claims challenging only the constitutionality of his conviction for first-degree murder. Upon the evidence presented and argument of counsel, the Court makes the following Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law, in accordance with Fed. R.Civ.P. 52(a).

I. FINDINGS OF FACT
A. Procedural History

1. In June, 1977, William Edward Groseclose hired Petitioner Ronald Eugene Rickman and Phillip Michael Britt to murder his wife, Deborah Lee Groseclose. On July 4, 1977, Mrs. Groseclose was found murdered in the trunk of her automobile. After a trial in the Criminal Court of Shelby County, Tennessee, in February, 1978, Rickman was convicted of first-degree murder for his role in the death of Mrs. Groseclose.1 Rickman was sentenced to death at the conclusion of a sentencing hearing held between March 1 and March 3, 1978.

2. The Tennessee Supreme Court affirmed Rickman's conviction and sentence on February 17, 1981. State v. Groseclose & Rickman, 615 S.W.2d 142, 150 (Tenn.1981). The Tennessee Supreme Court affirmed Groseclose's conviction and sentence in the same proceeding. Id. On February 27, 1981, the Tennessee Supreme Court denied a petition for rehearing. Id. at 142. On October 5, 1981, the United States Supreme Court denied Rickman and Groseclose's respective petitions for a writ of certiorari. Groseclose v. Tennessee, 454 U.S. 882, 102 S.Ct. 366, 70 L.Ed.2d 193 (1981); Rickman v. Tennessee, 454 U.S. 882, 102 S.Ct. 367, 70 L.Ed.2d 193 (1981).

3. Rickman and Groseclose filed petitions for post-conviction relief in the Criminal Court of Shelby County, Tennessee. The trial court conducted an evidentiary hearing on March 25-26, 1982, and denied their petitions on December 5, 1982. On February 16, 1984, the Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the trial court's judgment. Rickman and Groseclose then each filed petitions for rehearing. The Court of Criminal Appeals denied Groseclose's petition on March 2, 1984, and denied Rickman's petition on March 12, 1984. On July 2, 1984, the Tennessee Supreme Court denied Rickman and Groseclose's applications for permission to appeal. On October 29, 1984, the United States Supreme Court denied Rickman's petition for a writ of certiorari. Rickman v. Tennessee, 469 U.S. 963, 105 S.Ct. 363, 83 L.Ed.2d 299 (1984). The United States Supreme Court denied Groseclose's petition for a writ of certiorari on November 26, 1984. Groseclose v. Tennessee, 469 U.S. 1066, 105 S.Ct. 549, 83 L.Ed.2d 436 (1984).

4. Rickman filed the instant petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 on March 5, 1985, challenging the legality of his confinement and death sentence. (Pet. Habeas Corpus, Doc. No. 5.) By Order entered on March 5, 1985, this Court granted a stay of execution of Rickman's death sentence. (Ord., Doc. No. 8.) The State filed its answer on September 27, 1985. (Answer, Doc. No. 31.) On May 25, 1989, the Court transferred this action to the Western District of Tennessee. (Ord., Doc. No. 48) After ordering the file returned by Order entered on November 21, 1989 (Doc. No. 56), the Court vacated its order to transfer this action.

5. On June 28, 1989, Rickman filed a second petition for post-conviction relief in the Criminal Court of Shelby County, Tennessee. The trial court dismissed Rickman's second petition for post-conviction relief on February 20, 1990. The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the trial court's decision on September 11, 1991. On October 4, 1991, the Court of Criminal Appeals denied Rickman's petition for rehearing, filed September 23, 1991. On February 24, 1992, the Tennessee Supreme Court denied Rickman's application for permission to appeal, filed October 30, 1991.

6. On July 23, 1990, Rickman filed a motion to amend his petition for writ of habeas corpus. (Mot. Am. Pet. Habeas Corpus, Doc. No. 66.) The Court granted the motion on September 14, 1992. (Am. Pet., Doc. No. 89A.) The State filed an answer to the amended petition on September 24, 1992. (Am. Answer, Doc. No. 90.) On November 5, 1992, this action was referred to the Magistrate Judge for case management.

7. Rickman filed a second motion to amend his petition for writ of habeas corpus on November 23, 1992. (Mot. Am. Pet. Habeas Corpus, Doc. No. 106.) On February 26, 1993, the State filed an answer to Rickman's second amended petition. (Second Am. Answer, Doc. No. 121.) The Court granted Rickman's second motion to amend petition on March 5, 1993. (Second Am. Pet., Doc. No. 128A.) On May 20, 1993, the State filed a motion for writ of mandamus in the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, which the Sixth Circuit granted on November 9, 1993.

8. Pursuant to a scheduling order entered on January 4, 1994 (Doc. No. 169), Rickman filed an amendment to his petition for writ of habeas corpus on January 20, 1994. (Third. Am. Pet., Doc. No. 174.) On January 31, 1994, the State filed an answer to Rickman's third amended petition for writ of habeas corpus. (Third Am. Answer, Doc. No. 185.)

9. On March 10, 1994, Rickman filed a motion for partial summary judgment. (Pet'r Mot. Partial Summ.J., Doc. No. 211.) The State filed a response to Rickman's motion for summary judgment and a cross-motion for partial summary judgment on March 23, 1994. (Resp't Resp. Mot. Partial Summ. J., Doc. No. 224.) On April 1, 1994, Rickman filed a reply to the State's response to Petitioner's motion for summary judgment (Doc. No. 236), and a motion to strike the State's cross-motion for summary judgment (Doc. No. 235).

10. On April 11, 1994, the Court heard oral argument from the parties on Rickman's motion for partial summary judgment. By Memorandum and Order entered on April 24, 1994 (Doc. Nos. 270, 271), the Court granted Rickman's motion for summary judgment on the claim that his death sentence was unconstitutional because the jury had considered and weighed a vague "heinousness" aggravating circumstance in rendering Rickman's sentence. By Order entered on April 25, 1994, the Court certified its April 24, 1994 decision as appealable under Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(b) and reserved its ruling with respect to all other sentencing issues. (Ord., Doc. No. 272.)

11. Rickman now challenges the constitutionality of his conviction for first-degree murder on the basis of the following claims:

(1) Rickman was denied the effective assistance of counsel at the guilt phase of trial because counsel presented no defense to the charges against Rickman, in violation of the Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments;
(2) Rickman was denied due process and a fair trial because: (a) the prosecution presented the false and misleading testimony of Barton Wayne Mount concerning the nature of Mount's relationship with the prosecution and his agreements and expectations concerning favorable treatment; and (b) the prosecution withheld material evidence concerning the false and misleading nature of Mount's testimony, in violation of the Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments;
(3) The jury rendered an unconstitutional verdict because the jury was provided with a constitutionally infirm instruction on "reasonable doubt" in violation of the Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments;
(4) Rickman's confession was extracted in violation of Miranda and his Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights to counsel and right to remain silent;
(5) The prosecution improperly introduced a grenade detonator at trial which was unduly inflammatory, which was not properly admitted into evidence, and which permitted the jury to base a determination of guilt upon extraneous evidence for which Rickman was not on trial, in violation of the Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments;
(6) Rickman was unconstitutionally administered medication which affected his demeanor and ability to assist with his defense, in violation of the Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments;
(7) Rickman was denied his right to a fair jury trial and due process because the jury viewed him in handcuffs and shackles, in violation of the Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments;
(8) Rickman was denied his rights to confrontation, cross examination, and assistance of counsel because, during the jury selection process, the jury was contaminated by the outside influence of statements and comments by prospective jurors who had already been questioned and dismissed from service, in violation of the Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments; (9) Rickman was denied the effective assistance of counsel for any alleged failure to properly raise any of the issues alleged in his habeas corpus petition at an earlier point in the proceedings, in violation of the Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments;
(10) Rickman was denied due process at the guilt phase of his trial due to the cumulative effect of the errors alleged, in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments.

(Second Am. Pet., Doc. No. 128A, at 14-32, 35-37, 44-45, 50-54, 58-60, 66-67; Third Am. Pet., Doc. No. 174, at 1-2; Pretrial Ord., at 3-6.)

12. On May 3, 5, and 10, 1994, the Court conducted a limited evidentiary hearing on Rickman's claims challenging the constitutionality of his conviction for first-degree murder.

B. Facts Relevant To Claims2

(1)

1....

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