Stemple v. State, No. F-98-201.

CourtUnited States State Court of Criminal Appeals of Oklahoma. Court of Criminal Appeals of Oklahoma
Writing for the CourtLILE.
Citation2000 OK CR 4,994 P.2d 61
PartiesTimothy Shaun STEMPLE, Appellant. v. STATE of Oklahoma, Appellee.
Decision Date20 January 2000
Docket NumberNo. F-98-201.

994 P.2d 61
2000 OK CR 4

Timothy Shaun STEMPLE, Appellant.
v.
STATE of Oklahoma, Appellee

No. F-98-201.

Court of Criminal Appeals of Oklahoma.

January 20, 2000.

Rehearing Denied March 2, 2000.


W. Creekmore Wallace, II, Sapula, Johnie O'Neal, Tulsa, for Defendant.

T. Brett Swab, Mark L. Collier, Assistant District Attorneys, Tulsa, for the State.

Gloyd L. McCoy, Coyle & McCoy, Oklahoma City, for Appellant.

W.A. Drew Edmondson, Attorney General of Oklahoma, William L. Humes, Assistant Attorney General, Oklahoma City, for Appellee.

994 P.2d 65
OPINION

LILE, Judge:

¶ 1 Timothy Shaun Stemple was convicted by jury of first degree malic murder, 21 O.S.1991, § 701.7 (count one), conspiracy to commit first degree murder, 21 O.S.1991, § 421 (count two), and attempted first degree murder,21 O.S.1991, § 42 (count three), in Tulsa County District Court, Case Number CF-96-5169, the Honorable B.R. Beasley, Associate District Judge, presiding. After the sentencing stage, the jury found the existence of two aggravating circumstances: "the person committed the murder for remuneration or the promise of remuneration, or the person employed another to commit the murder for remuneration or promise of remuneration;" and "the murder was especially heinous, atrocious or cruel." 21 O.S.1991, § 701.12(3) & (4). The jury set punishment at death on count one, ten years on count two and twenty-two years on count three.

FACTS

¶ 2 Stemple concocted a plan to terminate the life of his wife, Trisha Stemple, and to collect her life insurance proceeds. Stemple was having an extra-marital affair with Dani Wood. Dani Wood had a sixteen year old cousin, Terry Hunt. According to Hunt, Stemple offered him $25,000 to $50,000 to help kill Trisha (if they collected the insurance money).

¶ 3 Hunt recruited another person, Nathanial Helm to assist in the plan. Helm and Hunt went to Wal-Mart where they purchased a baseball bat and plastic wrap. The plastic wrap was wrapped around the bat to keep the bat from getting bloody.

¶ 4 On October 10, 1996, Hunt and Helm went to the designated location on highway 75 and waited for Stemple and his wife to arrive. A while later Stemple drove up and told Helm and Hunt that Trisha was ill and he could not get her to accompany him.

¶ 5 Two weeks later, Stemple arranged for Hunt to drive Stemple's pickup to a particular location on highway 75 and leave the hood up. Stemple and Trisha arrived in their black Nissan Maxima. Stemple began working on the truck and Trisha stood next to the truck. Hunt came up behind Trisha and hit her in the head with the bat. The blow did not render Trisha unconscious, so Stemple took the bat and hit her several more times.

¶ 6 Stemple and Hunt then placed Trisha's head in front of the front tire of the pickup and attempted to run over her head, however, the tire would not roll over Trisha's head so her head was pushed along the pavement. After this, Trisha tried to get up. Stemple grabbed the bat and hit her several more times. The pair then placed Trisha's body under the truck and drove over her chest. After this Trisha rose up on her elbows, so Stemple hit her again several times with the bat.

¶ 7 Stemple then went back to the black Nissan and drilled a hole in the front tire to make it look as if Trisha's car had a flat. One expert testified that the hole in the tire had spiral striations consistent with drilling. Stemple and Hunt left in the pickup, but decided to turn around to make sure Trisha was dead. When they got back to the spot where they left Trisha, they noticed that she had crawled into the grass beside the road. Stemple then sped up and ran over Trisha as she lay in the grass.

¶ 8 Trisha's body was found later that morning, after Stemple called reporting that she was missing. The autopsy evaluation revealed that Trisha had fractures to her

994 P.2d 66
arm, ribs, pelvis, vertebrae and skull. The medical examiner concluded that Trisha died from blunt force trauma to the head

¶ 9 While in the Tulsa County jail awaiting trial, Stemple made numerous notes including confessions, lists of witnesses, etc. Inmates testified that Stemple tried to get them to arrange the death of several witnesses. The inmates also testified that Stemple gave them a copy of his confession. Included in these writings were sample letters for witnesses Terry Hunt and Dani Wood, detailing their involvement and exculpating him from the crime. Hunt and Wood were to be coerced into rewriting and signing the letters by persons hired by the other inmates.

¶ 10 Stemple claimed that he was at home when Trisha left during the middle of the night. Stemple testified that he believed that Wood was responsible for the murder of Trisha.

JURY SELECTION ISSUES

¶ 11 Stemple complains, in proposition four, that he was deprived of his right to be present at every critical stage of the proceeding by being absent from an in camera hearing regarding comments made by a spectator to venire member Heffernan. Heffernan indicated, during voir dire, that a spectator had stated an opinion about the case to him. Heffernan indicated that the statement did not taint him in any way. Heffernan was not removed by either side, nor by the court.

¶ 12 The next day an in camera hearing was held. The spectator, Marita Ries said that she was sitting next to Heffernan and possibly said that "this is a terrible case." Ries was admonished to keep her opinions to herself. Stemple was not present at this hearing and his attorney advised the trial court that he waived his client's right to be present.

¶ 13 First, we note that this in camera hearing was not part of the voir dire and Ries was not a part of the jury pool. Therefore, cases which discuss the absence of a defendant from voir dire are distinguishable. See Darks v. State, 1998 OK CR 15, ¶ 35, 954 P.2d 152, 162 ("There is no way to assess the extent of prejudice, if any, a defendant might suffer by not being able to advise his attorney during jury selection.")

¶ 14 Stemple was present during the voir dire of Heffernan and he was aware that a spectator had stated an opinion to Heffernan. Ries' admission during the in camera hearing did not add anything to the voir dire. In actuality, her statement did not indicate any bias whatsoever. Regardless, of the guilt or innocence of Stemple, all present could agree that this was a terrible case.

¶ 15 We find that the absence of Stemple during this in camera hearing was not prejudicial to his case. It certainly was not an instance where a fair and just trial was thwarted by his absence. Kentucky v. Stincer, 482 U.S. 730, 745, 107 S.Ct. 2658, 2667, 96 L.Ed.2d 631 (1987); Gregg v. State, 1992 OK CR 82, ¶ 23, 844 P.2d 867, 876. Therefore, there was no error here.

FIRST STAGE ISSUES

¶ 16 Stemple argues in proposition two that the State failed to comply with basic rules of discovery when prosecutors failed to inform him that Terry Hunt had changed his story. The Oklahoma Discovery Code requires that the State disclose, upon request of the defense, "the names . . . of witnesses which the state intends to call at trial, together with their relevant, written or recorded statement, if any, or if none, significant summaries of any oral statement. . .;" 22 O.S.Supp.1998, § 2002(A)(1)(a), and "any written or recorded statements and the substance of any oral statements made by. . . a codefendant." 22 O.S.Supp.1998, § 2002(A)(1)(c). The Discovery Code also requires that the State provide exculpatory evidence, regardless of a request by the defense. 22 O.S.Supp.1998, § 2002(A)(2). The State is under a continuing duty to disclose discoverable material. 22 O.S.Supp.1998, § 2002(C). Stemple filed a motion for discovery; therefore, he triggered the requirements of Sections 2002(A) and 2002(C).

¶ 17 The State disclosed recorded statements made by Hunt, and Hunt testified at preliminary hearing. Hunt's preliminary

994 P.2d 67
hearing testimony was not interrupted or cut short by the magistrate. In fact, trial counsel admitted that he thoroughly cross-examined Hunt at preliminary hearing. Stemple argues that Hunt materially changed his testimony at trial, and because of the change, the State had a duty to inform him about changes of which the State had knowledge prior to trial

¶ 18 At trial, Hunt testified that Stemple's first plan involved a kill switch on the Nissan Maxima. Stemple and his wife would drive to a location where Stemple would kill the car. Stemple and his wife would get out and Hunt would come out of hiding and hit Trisha with the baseball bat. Stemple objected to this testimony, stating that this is the first time he had heard these details. The prosecutor admitted that, before testifying, Hunt indicated that this conversation had taken place. The trial court sustained Stemple's objection and the jury was admonished to disregard the testimony. Regarding this testimony, we find that any perceived error was cured by the admonishment to the jury. Patton v. State, 1998 OK CR 66, ¶ 68, 973 P.2d 270, 292-93, cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, 120 S.Ct. 347, 145 L.Ed.2d 271 (a trial court's admonishment usually cures any error).

¶ 19 Later, Hunt testified that he drove by Nathaniel Helm's residence before driving out to the location of the murder. Again, Stemple objected stating that this was the first time he had heard this story. Obviously, the State knew about this information because they talked about it in opening statement. The State argued that this testimony was a minor deviation from the discovery materials and preliminary hearing testimony. Stemple also objected to Hunt's testimony wherein he said that he acted like the assault was a "car jacking" and told them to "get down." The trial court overruled the objections.

¶ 20 Hunt's own desire or need to make it sound like he was a "car jacker" did nothing to change the substance of his testimony against Stemple. There is no evidence that the State knew that Hunt was going...

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26 practice notes
  • Pena v. State, No. 03-13.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • October 6, 2004
    ...right to remain silent where defendant repeatedly said, "No more!" to questions being put to him); Stemple v. State, 2000 OK CR 4 ¶¶ 9-10, 994 P.2d 61, ¶¶ 9-10 (Okla.[Crim.App.]2000) ("I feel as though I should have an attorney," was equivocal response); State v. Kiriluk, 1999 UT App 30 ¶¶ ......
  • Knapper v. State, Case No. F-2017-223
    • United States
    • United States State Court of Criminal Appeals of Oklahoma. Court of Criminal Appeals of Oklahoma
    • August 20, 2020
    ...any violation of Appellant's Fifth Amendment rights was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. See Stemple v. State , 2000 OK CR 4, ¶¶ 38-41, 994 P.2d 61, 70. The challenged portion came at the end of a short interview during which Appellant was generally nonresponsive to the questioning, obst......
  • Warner v. State, No. D-2003-829.
    • United States
    • United States State Court of Criminal Appeals of Oklahoma. Court of Criminal Appeals of Oklahoma
    • September 26, 2006
    ...950, 125 S.Ct. 1699, 161 L.Ed.2d 528 (2005); Abshier, 2001 OK CR 13, ¶¶ 156-157, 28 P.3d at 610; Stemple v. State, 2000 OK CR 4, ¶ 64, 994 P.2d 61, 73, cert. denied, 531 U.S. 905, 121 S.Ct. 247, 148 L.Ed.2d 178 (2000); Pennington v. State, 1995 OK CR 79, ¶ 63, 913 P.2d 1356, 1370; Perry v. ......
  • Grant v. State, No. D 2000-653.
    • United States
    • United States State Court of Criminal Appeals of Oklahoma. Court of Criminal Appeals of Oklahoma
    • November 18, 2002
    ...deprives a defendant of a constitutional or statutory right, and goes to the foundation of the case. Stemple v. State, 2000 OK CR 4, ¶ 37, 994 P.2d 61, 69, cert. denied, 531 U.S. 905, 121 S.Ct. 247, 148 L.Ed.2d 178 ¶ 57 The contents of the statements are not at issue here, except for a port......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
26 cases
  • Pena v. State, No. 03-13.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • October 6, 2004
    ...right to remain silent where defendant repeatedly said, "No more!" to questions being put to him); Stemple v. State, 2000 OK CR 4 ¶¶ 9-10, 994 P.2d 61, ¶¶ 9-10 (Okla.[Crim.App.]2000) ("I feel as though I should have an attorney," was equivocal response); State v. Kiriluk, 1999 UT App 30 ¶¶ ......
  • Knapper v. State, Case No. F-2017-223
    • United States
    • United States State Court of Criminal Appeals of Oklahoma. Court of Criminal Appeals of Oklahoma
    • August 20, 2020
    ...any violation of Appellant's Fifth Amendment rights was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. See Stemple v. State , 2000 OK CR 4, ¶¶ 38-41, 994 P.2d 61, 70. The challenged portion came at the end of a short interview during which Appellant was generally nonresponsive to the questioning, obst......
  • Warner v. State, No. D-2003-829.
    • United States
    • United States State Court of Criminal Appeals of Oklahoma. Court of Criminal Appeals of Oklahoma
    • September 26, 2006
    ...950, 125 S.Ct. 1699, 161 L.Ed.2d 528 (2005); Abshier, 2001 OK CR 13, ¶¶ 156-157, 28 P.3d at 610; Stemple v. State, 2000 OK CR 4, ¶ 64, 994 P.2d 61, 73, cert. denied, 531 U.S. 905, 121 S.Ct. 247, 148 L.Ed.2d 178 (2000); Pennington v. State, 1995 OK CR 79, ¶ 63, 913 P.2d 1356, 1370; Perry v. ......
  • Grant v. State, No. D 2000-653.
    • United States
    • United States State Court of Criminal Appeals of Oklahoma. Court of Criminal Appeals of Oklahoma
    • November 18, 2002
    ...deprives a defendant of a constitutional or statutory right, and goes to the foundation of the case. Stemple v. State, 2000 OK CR 4, ¶ 37, 994 P.2d 61, 69, cert. denied, 531 U.S. 905, 121 S.Ct. 247, 148 L.Ed.2d 178 ¶ 57 The contents of the statements are not at issue here, except for a port......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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