Snow v. Baker, Case No. 2:03-cv-00292-MMD-CWH

CourtUnited States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. District of Nevada
PartiesJOHN OLIVER SNOW, Petitioner, v. RENEE BAKER, et al., Respondents.
Docket NumberCase No. 2:03-cv-00292-MMD-CWH
Decision Date25 September 2015

RENEE BAKER, et al., Respondents.

Case No. 2:03-cv-00292-MMD-CWH


September 25, 2015



John Oliver Snow, a Nevada prisoner sentenced to death, initiated this petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, by. The case is before the Court for resolution of the merits of the claims remaining in Snow's second amended petition for a writ of habeas corpus, and with respect to a motion for evidentiary hearing. The Court finds that an evidentiary hearing is not warranted, and denies Snow's motion for evidentiary hearing. The Court denies Snow's second amended habeas corpus petition. The Court grants Snow a certificate of appealability with respect to certain issues.


The following is the statement of facts and procedural history, as set forth by the Nevada Supreme Court in its 1985 opinion on Snow's direct appeal:

As the hired assassin in the conspiracy to kill Harry Wham, Snow was paid several thousand dollars by the principal members of the conspiracy: Peggy Wham, Harry's wife, and her lover, Joseph Douglas Parker (Doug Parker). Also involved were Kathy Faltinowski, Peggy's

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daughter and Harry's step daughter, and John David Parker (John Parker), Kathy's lover and the brother of Doug. [Footnote omitted.]

The conspiracy to kill Harry Wham began in the fall of 1982. Kathy Faltinowski testified that she overheard a conversation between Doug Parker and her mother in late November during which Peggy Wham said she wanted her husband killed. Sally Cook, Peggy's sister, testified that Doug Parker told her that he, John Parker and Peggy were going to have Harry Wham killed by hiring someone from back east. This conversation took place between Christmas and New Year's 1982. At that time, Snow shared an apartment at 801 Elizabeth, in Newark, New Jersey, with his common law wife, Ingrid Smith.

In early January 1983, Kathy Faltinowski drove with John and Doug Parker to Los Angeles and picked up John Biancone at the airport. Biancone also lived in New Jersey. Kathy overheard Doug ask Biancone to murder Harry Wham. Biancone agreed to commit the crime for $5,000 in advance and $5,000 after the murder was completed. Peggy Wham gave Kathy Faltinowski $5,000 to give to Doug. Peggy said she had stolen the money from the safe at the Keyboard Lounge which she owned with Harry Wham. Biancone then left Las Vegas. About one week before January 26, 1983, Kathy Faltinowski saw Biancone who is white, with Snow, who is black, in Las Vegas.

On January 26, 1983, Harry Wham was shot in what appeared to be a robbery. Harry told police that he parked his pick up on the street near his town house around 11:00 p.m. A black man got out of the passenger side of a nearby car and demanded that Harry get out of his truck, hand over his money, and turn around. Harry thought he saw a white male on the driver's side. The black man then shot Harry in the neck. Harry was injured but spent only twenty four hours in the hospital. Harry remarked at the time that he did not believe it was a genuine robbery. After the shooting, Doug Parker told Kathy Faltinowski and John Parker that Biancone drove the car the night of January 26 and that Snow shot Harry Wham in the back of the head.

Between January 26 and February 13, 1983, John Parker and Doug Parker told Kathy Faltinowski that Snow and Biancone [footnote omitted] were going to come back and finish the job. During this same period, Sally Cook heard John and Doug talking about how "the man" was impatient and wanted to finish the job. John then said he would call the man and took out a slip of paper that had the words "John Snow" and "New Jersey" written on it, as well as an address or a phone number.

A few days before February 13, 1983, Peggy Wham gave John Parker the key to the Wham garage. When Kathy Faltinowski was present, John and Peggy cleaned out the garage and arranged boxes at the side to form a hiding place. Arlen Edwards, Harry Wham's next door neighbor, testified about the existence of the hiding place immediately after Harry Wham was murdered in the garage.

At 1:30 p.m. on February 13, 1983, Kathy Faltinowski and John Parker drove to the Golden City Motel to pick up Snow. He came out of Room 106. Snow was wearing a dark pinstripe suit. He had a revolver with a silencer on it. The three drove to Peggy and Harry Wham's town house on Pecos Way in Las Vegas. John unlocked the Whams' garage door

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using the key given him by Peggy. Snow put on rubber gloves and hid behind the boxes. John and Kathy Faltinowski left the Whams around 2:00 p.m.

Arlen and Jody Edwards lived in the town house next door to the Whams. At 4:20 p.m. on February 13, 1983, Arlen and Jody walked out of their house and into their garage. They both heard "popping" noises and then saw a black man in a dark suit run from the Wham garage. Arlen saw only part of the man's face and could not identify Snow as that man. Arlen chased the man and lost sight of him as he ran across a desert area toward the Wagon Wheel Apartments on Pecos Road. Kathy Faltinowski lived in the Wagon Wheel Apartments about four blocks from the Wham town house.

At Snow's trial, Jody Edwards testified that she saw all of the black man's face as he paused just outside the Whams' garage. She identified Snow as that man in court. Jody admitted that she testified at the previous trial of Peggy Wham that she could not identify the man who ran from the garage. Jody testified that she had lied before because she had been threatened by Peggy and by Kathy Faltinowski.

Immediately after the shooting on February 13, 1983, Arlen Edwards found Harry Wham sitting in his car bleeding heavily. Harry died before the paramedics arrived. His death was due to multiple gunshot wounds in the face and head.

Around 4:30 p.m., on February 13, 1983, John Parker and Kathy Faltinowski were driving down Pecos Road. They saw Snow running towards Kathy's apartment. They returned to the apartment joining Sally Cook who was also there. Sally testified that a few minutes later a black man in a dark suit burst in demanding a ride. John asked Sally to give the black man, whom he called John Snow, a ride. Sally refused. Kathy Faltinowski drove Snow back to the Golden City Motel. During the drive, Snow told Kathy that he had just shot her stepfather.

On February 16, 1983, Sally Cook spoke with a friend about the Wham murder. The friend, Richard Hansen, advised her to go to the police but Sally would not. Hansen reported this to the police. Hansen agreed to wear a microphone and transmitting device when he next spoke with Sally. The police taped a subsequent conversation between him and Sally. As a result of this conversation, the police arrested Peggy Wham, Kathy Faltinowski, John and Doug Parker on the afternoon on February 17, 1983.

In the morning of February 17, 1983, Doug Parker told Sally Cook that he had just given the hit man $7,000 and that the hit man was on his way to San Francisco. Snow himself testified that he flew from Las Vegas to San Francisco on that date. From a pay phone at the San Francisco airport, a call was made just after twelve noon that day to the home of the parents of the Parker brothers. The call was charged to the telephone at 801 Elizabeth, Snow's apartment in Newark, New Jersey. The mother of Doug and John Parker testified that she answered the telephone in her home in the early afternoon of February 17, 1983. The caller left a message asking Doug to get in touch with Johnny. Another call shortly after the first was placed from the same pay phone at the San Francisco airport and was charged to the same number in New Jersey. This call was

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made to a friend of Snow's, Olivia Burnett, living in Fairfield, California. Burnett testified that Snow called her that day to come pick him up at the airport.

Police investigators obtained additional information from Sally Cook which led to Snow being indicted for Harry Wham's murder. A warrant for Snow's arrest was issued and programmed into the National Crime Information computer. On March 4, 1983, Snow was arraigned in Superior Court in New Jersey on unrelated charges. He was fingerprinted. Snow's fingerprints called up the Nevada arrest warrant from the computer. As a result, Snow was arrested and booked for the murder of Harry Wham.

Snow denied knowing either Doug or John Parker. In his wallet when Snow was arrested was a piece of paper with "Doug" on it and the telephone number of the home of the Parkers' parents. Snow also told police that the last time he had been in Las Vegas was in 1966 or 1967. At trial, evidence was introduced that Snow's fingerprint had been found in Room 106 at the Golden City Motel on February 17, 1983. Witnesses from the motel identified Snow as the man who stayed in Room 106 for several days in February 1983.

Snow was charged with conspiracy to commit murder, first degree murder with use of a deadly weapon and attempted murder. He was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder and first degree murder with use of a deadly weapon. At the penalty hearing on the first degree murder conviction, the State produced evidence that Snow pleaded guilty in 1962 to robbing three victims in separate incidents. Following the penalty hearing, the jury returned a verdict finding three aggravating circumstances: that the murder was committed by a person previously convicted of a crime involving the use or threat of violence; that the murder was committed during the commission or

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