Riley v. Taylor, No. 98-9009

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
Writing for the CourtSLOVITER; ALITO; BECKER; Sloviter; ALITO
Citation277 F.3d 261
Decision Date28 December 2001
Docket NumberNo. 98-9009
Parties(3rd Cir. 2001) JAMES WILLIAM RILEY, APPELLANT v. STANLEY W. TAYLOR; M. JANE BRADY <A HREF="#fr1-*" name="fn1-*">*

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277 F.3d 261 (3rd Cir. 2001)
JAMES WILLIAM RILEY, APPELLANT
v.
STANLEY W. TAYLOR; M. JANE BRADY *
No. 98-9009
UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT
Argued November 29, 1999
Argued En Banc May 23, 2001
December 28, 2001

On Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Delaware (D.C. No. 91-cv-00438) District Judge: Hon. Joseph J. Farnan, Jr.

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Thomas J. Allingham, II (Argued), Stephen D. Dargitz, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom Wilmington, DE 19899. Mary M. MaloneyHuss, Wolf, Block, Schorr & Solis-Cohen Wilmington, DE 19801. Lawrence J. Connell, Widener University School of Law Wilmington, DE 19803.

Loren C. Meyers (Argued), Chief of Appeals Division William E. Molchen, II, Deputy Attorney General Department of Justice Wilmington, DE 19801.

Before: Sloviter, Alito and Stapleton, Circuit Judges. Before: Becker, Chief Judge, Sloviter, Mansmann, Scirica, Nygaard, Alito, Roth, McKEE, Barry, Ambro, Fuentes, and Stapleton, Circuit Judges

OPINION OF THE COURT

SLOVITER, Circuit Judge, with whom Judges Mansmann, Nygaard, Roth, McKee and Ambro join, with whom Judges Scirica and Fuentes join as to Part II B, and with whom Chief Judge Becker joins in the judgment.

Appellant James W. Riley, a 22 year old black man, was sentenced to death on the vote of a Delaware state jury in December 1982. If the time intervening between that sentence and this court's en banc consideration of the matter has been lengthy, it is not because there has been undue delay at any stage but because the case raises legitimate questions that go to the constitutionality of the original trial and sentencing. It was necessary to complete a series of proceedings in both state and federal court, none of them duplicative, before the case reached this stage. After all, there can be no reconsideration after the execution of a death sentence.

I.

INTRODUCTION

According to testimony at the trial, Riley and Tyrone Baxter stopped in a liquor store in Dover, Delaware, on February 8, 1982, to get some beer and rob the store. Michael Williams waited in the car. Baxter testified that Riley, armed with a gun, placed a bottle of beer on the counter and announced the store was being robbed. When the store owner, James Feeley, a 59 year old white man, backed away from the cash register, Baxter grabbed the money

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out of the cash drawer. Riley tried to take Feeley's wallet, but Feeley resisted. At Baxter's urging, Riley shot Feeley in the leg. Feeley, who was then hopping up and down, apparently from the gunshot, said "[Y]ou f'ing niggers." App. at 327. As Riley and Baxter were proceeding to the door to leave, Feeley threw a wine bottle that struck Riley in the arm. Riley then shot Feeley in the chest, killing him.

In May 1982, Riley, Baxter, and Williams were indicted on charges of felony murder, intentional murder, first degree robbery, possession of a deadly weapon during a felony, and second degree conspiracy. Riley pled not guilty to all charges. Baxter pled guilty to first degree murder and was sentenced to life imprisonment in exchange for his testimony against Riley. The murder and weapon charges against Williams were also dropped in exchange for his testimony against Riley, and he was subsequently convicted of the robbery and conspiracy charges.

Riley was represented at trial by appointed counsel, a defense-side civil litigator who had never represented a criminal defendant in either a murder or a capital case. His pretrial motions for co-counsel and funds for a private investigator were denied. The prosecutors in Riley's case were James Liguori and Mark McNulty. Liguori, the lead prosecutor, was a friend and neighbor of Feeley's, and they belonged to the same church.

The State presented the testimony of Baxter, Williams, Baxter's mother (who testified that Riley spent the night before the robbery at her house), and a witness who reported that Riley's fingerprints were on a bottle of beer in the liquor store. In defense, Riley testified that he was in Philadelphia on the day of the murder celebrating his mother's birthday. However, Riley's mother did not testify in support of his alibi. The only witness Riley presented other than himself was an inmate at the prison in which Baxter was incarcerated, and he testified that Baxter had admitted to shooting Feeley.

Riley was tried before and convicted on all counts by an all white jury in Kent County Superior Court (the Delaware trial court) in December 1982. Four days after the verdict, the jury proceeded to consider the penalty. The State sought the death penalty, relying only on Riley's felony murder conviction and using the underlying robbery as the lone aggravating circumstance. Following a two-hour penalty hearing, the jury unanimously recommended a sentence of death which the court accepted. Riley was also sentenced to life imprisonment without parole for intentional murder, 20 years imprisonment for robbery, 5 years imprisonment for possession of a deadly weapon, and 3 years imprisonment for conspiracy. Riley's attorney explained to the trial court that he spent only 14 hours preparing for the penalty phase because he had been too busy "with the defense and the merits" to spend more time building a case in mitigation. App. at 443-444.

Riley appealed his conviction and sentence on numerous grounds. In July 1985, the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed, see Riley v. State, 496 A.2d 997 (Del. 1985) (hereafter "Riley I"), and the Supreme Court of the United States denied certiorari, see Riley v. Delaware , 478 U.S. 1022 (1986).

Represented by new counsel, Riley filed a motion for post-conviction relief in Kent County Superior Court in March 1987 before Judge Bush, the judge who had presided at the trial (the "trial judge"), alleging, inter alia, that his trial counsel had provided ineffective assistance of counsel and that the prosecution had exercised its peremptory challenges in a racially discriminatory

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manner in violation of Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986). After three days of evidentiary hearings limited to the ineffective assistance of counsel claim, the trial judge denied Riley's motion. See State v. Riley, 1988 WL 47076 (Del. Super. 1988) (hereafter "Riley II"). Riley then requested the Superior Court consider reargument on his Batson claim. The trial judge had passed away and Judge Steele of the Superior Court ("the hearing judge") granted Riley's request for reargument, finding that Riley had established a prima facie case of discrimination under Batson . See State v. Riley, 1988 WL 130430, at *3 (Del. Super. 1988) (hereafter "Riley III"). After holding an evidentiary hearing, the hearing judge rejected Riley's Batson claim and all his other claims as well. See Riley v. State, No. 200, 1988 (Del. Super. Ct. April 21, 1989), App. at 886 (hereafter "Riley IV"). On appeal, the Delaware Supreme Court again affirmed, see Riley v. State, 585 A.2d 719 (Del. 1990) (hereafter "Riley V"), and the Supreme Court of the United States again denied certiorari, see Riley v. Delaware, 501 U.S. 1223 (1991).

On August 12, 1991, Riley filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the United States District Court for the District of Delaware pursuant to 28 U.S.C. S 2254. Again Riley obtained new lead counsel, although his post-conviction counsel remained as co-counsel. The District Court denied Riley's request to amend his petition to add two additional claims and then denied his petition without an evidentiary hearing. See Riley v. Snyder, 840 F. Supp. 1012 (D. Del. 1993) (hereafter "Riley VI"). Riley appealed, and this court held that the denial of his motion to amend was an abuse of discretion and remanded the case so that Riley could raise all the issues he sought to raise in an amended petition. See Riley v. Taylor, 62 F.3d 86 (3d Cir. 1995) (hereafter "Riley VII").

Riley filed his amended habeas petition on August 28, 1995, alleging 12 grounds for relief. The District Court denied Riley's petition without holding an evidentiary hearing. See Riley v. Taylor, 1998 WL 172856 (D. Del. Jan. 16, 1998) (hereafter "Riley VIII"). We then issued a certificate of probable cause and Riley appealed, raising 12 claims. He asserted that:

1. The State's exercise of peremptory challenges to strike all prospective black jurors violated the Equal Protection Clause under Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986).

2. The State's continuing conduct in withholding wiretap tapes of a key witness from Riley violated Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963).

3. Riley received ineffective assistance of counsel because he was prejudiced by trial counsel's deficient performance at the penalty hearing.

4. The trial court violated Riley's Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment rights by denying his motions to appoint co-counsel and a private investigator.

5. The prosecution and the trial court made improper remarks at the penalty hearing violating the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments under Caldwell v. Mississippi, 472 U.S. 320 (1985).

6. The trial court failed to probe equivocal responses during the death penalty voir dire in violation of Witherspoon v. Illinois, 391 U.S. 510 (1968).

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7. Riley's jury was unconstitutionally biased in favor of returning the death penalty because the trial judge's voir dire failed to identify all prospective jurors who automatically would impose the death penalty.

8. Riley was deprived of his constitutional right to a fair and impartial jury because of pretrial publicity.

9. The Delaware Supreme Court's proportionality review violated Riley's Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

10. The trial court's...

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128 practice notes
  • Kindler v. Horn, No. CIV.A.99-CV-0161.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Pennsylvania)
    • September 24, 2003
    ...review statute creates any cognizable liberty interest for due process purposes under Third Circuit law. See, Riley v. Taylor, 277 F.3d 261, 311 (3d Cir.2001); Foster v. Delo, 39 F.3d 873, 882 (8th Cir.1994); Sullivan v. Delaware, Civ. A. No. 96-281-SLR, 1998 WL 231264, Page 352 U.S. Dist. ......
  • Commonwealth v. Baumhammers, J-16-2013
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • May 27, 2014
    ...Caldwell, Jasper, and the other decisions referenced by Appellant, see Brief for Appellant at 57 (citing, inter alia, Riley v. Taylor, 277 F.3d 261 (3d Cir. 2001) (en banc)), all of which dealt with the possibility that the jury might return a death verdict upon believing that a separate le......
  • Allen v. Lee, No. 02-5.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • February 5, 2003
    ...a case in which, unlike the case at hand, no adequate contemporaneous objection preserved the Batson challenge. See Riley v. Taylor, 277 F.3d 261, 274 (3rd Cir.2001) (en banc). However, the court reasoned that since "the last state court to be presented with a particular federal claim reach......
  • Copenhefer v. Horn, Nos. 03–9000
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • September 27, 2012
    ...871, 79 L.Ed.2d 29 (1984), and Copenhefer has not shown that the state court did not undertake its review in good faith. Riley v. Taylor, 277 F.3d 261, 311–12 (3d Cir.2001) ( citing Walton v. Arizona, 497 U.S. 639, 656, 110 S.Ct. 3047, 111 L.Ed.2d 511 (1990)). (XI) A disagreement between ex......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
128 cases
  • Kindler v. Horn, No. CIV.A.99-CV-0161.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Pennsylvania)
    • September 24, 2003
    ...review statute creates any cognizable liberty interest for due process purposes under Third Circuit law. See, Riley v. Taylor, 277 F.3d 261, 311 (3d Cir.2001); Foster v. Delo, 39 F.3d 873, 882 (8th Cir.1994); Sullivan v. Delaware, Civ. A. No. 96-281-SLR, 1998 WL 231264, Page 352 U.S. Dist. ......
  • Commonwealth v. Baumhammers, J-16-2013
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • May 27, 2014
    ...Caldwell, Jasper, and the other decisions referenced by Appellant, see Brief for Appellant at 57 (citing, inter alia, Riley v. Taylor, 277 F.3d 261 (3d Cir. 2001) (en banc)), all of which dealt with the possibility that the jury might return a death verdict upon believing that a separate le......
  • Allen v. Lee, No. 02-5.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • February 5, 2003
    ...a case in which, unlike the case at hand, no adequate contemporaneous objection preserved the Batson challenge. See Riley v. Taylor, 277 F.3d 261, 274 (3rd Cir.2001) (en banc). However, the court reasoned that since "the last state court to be presented with a particular federal claim reach......
  • Copenhefer v. Horn, Nos. 03–9000
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • September 27, 2012
    ...871, 79 L.Ed.2d 29 (1984), and Copenhefer has not shown that the state court did not undertake its review in good faith. Riley v. Taylor, 277 F.3d 261, 311–12 (3d Cir.2001) ( citing Walton v. Arizona, 497 U.S. 639, 656, 110 S.Ct. 3047, 111 L.Ed.2d 511 (1990)). (XI) A disagreement between ex......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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