Thompson v. Bell, 00-5516.

Decision Date09 January 2003
Docket NumberNo. 00-5516.,00-5516.
Citation315 F.3d 566
PartiesGregory THOMPSON, Petitioner-Appellant, v. Ricky BELL, Warden, Respondent-Appellee.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Sixth Circuit




Stephen M. Kissinger, Dana C. Hansen (argued and briefed), Federal Defender Services, Knoxville, TN, for Petitioner-Appellant.

Glenn R. Pruden, Jennifer L. Smith (argued and briefed), Criminal Justice Division, Office of the Attorney General, Nashville, TN, for Respondent-Appellee.

Before: SUHRHEINRICH, MOORE, and CLAY, Circuit Judges.

SUHRHEINRICH, J., delivered the opinion of the court. MOORE, J. (p. 595-96), delivered a separate opinion concurring in the result. CLAY, J. (pp. 596-610), delivered a separate dissenting opinion.


SUHRHEINRICH, Circuit Judge.

I. Introduction

Petitioner-Appellant Gregory Thompson ("Thompson") was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to death in the Tennessee state courts. He appeals from the order of the district court denying his motion to alter or amend its grant of summary judgment to Respondent Warden Ricky Bell ("Bell") on Thompson's application for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. This Court granted a certificate of appealability as to all issues presented.

Petitioner's principal argument on appeal is that he was denied his Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel in both the guilt and penalty phases of his capital trial because his trial attorneys failed to investigate and present evidence regarding his mental illness and social history and failed to present evidence in support of a life sentence. Because we find that Thompson has presented no evidence that he was mentally ill at the time of the crime or at trial, we AFFIRM the judgment of the district court.

II. Background
A. Facts

The following facts involving the underlying crime are summarized by the Tennessee Supreme Court:

On December 29, 1984, Thompson and Joanne McNamara, a juvenile female, traveled by bus from Marietta, Georgia, to Shelbyville in Bedford County, Tennessee. They presented themselves as a married couple at the home of Willa Mae Odum, an acquaintance of McNamara's family who allowed them to stay. Ms Odum learned the two were not married and asked Thompson to leave, but he remained through the night of December 31, waiting for a relative to wire him funds for a bus ticket. The following morning, January 1, Ms. Odum again insisted that Thompson leave, and she called the authorities to report that Joanne was a runaway. This call apparently prompted their departure. The couple, having little money and no transportation, spent the afternoon at a nearby Wal-Mart store.

Late that same afternoon, January 1, 1985, Brenda Lane, a local resident, made several purchases at the Wal-Mart, and did not arrive home when expected. Shortly after midnight her yellow Chevrolet was reported on fire near an apartment building in Marietta, Georgia. Thompson and McNamara were arrested by Cobb County authorities in connection with this investigation on the night of January 2. A traffic ticket in Thompson's jacket showed he had been cited for speeding, while driving Mrs. Lane's vehicle, at 8:25 p.m., on Interstate 24 near the Jasper-South Pittsburgh exit, the last exit before the Georgia line. A Wal-Mart receipt and several items in the vehicle indicated a purchase at that store at 5:51 p.m. January 1. A button found in the car matched those on Thompson's clothing.

A few hours later, while in custody, Thompson gave a statement admitting that he had abducted a woman at knife-point from the Wal-Mart location in Shelbyville and had forced her to drive him and his companion, in her car, to a remote location outside Manchester, Tennessee. There he had stabbed her, driven the car over her body, and left her. He and McNamara had returned to Marietta and attempted to burn the vehicle. He also drew a map illustrating the route from the town to the site of the stabbing and describing several structures and other features along the way. He spoke on the phone with authorities in Manchester to clarify his directions.

In the early morning hours of January 3, a team of searchers following Thompson's directions found Brenda Lane at the place indicated in his statement. She was dead from multiple stab wounds to her back. Two of the four wounds had been fatal, penetrating her right lung and causing her to bleed to death. A forensic pathologist testified that she would not have died immediately, but would have remained conscious for five to ten minutes. At the scene she lay on her back, her body arched, her heels dug into the ground. One hand clutched several blades of grass, and the other held a tissue. There was no evidence that she had, in fact, been run over by a vehicle. There was no evidence of a struggle, and apart from the stab wounds Ms. Lane was not injured.

State v. Thompson, 768 S.W.2d 239, 243 (Tenn.1989).

B. Pretrial Preparation

On January 29, 1985, the trial court appointed H. Thomas Parsons and John W. Rollins to represent Thompson. On February 26, 1995, Parsons filed a notice of insanity defense and also requested a mental or psychological evaluation of Thompson to determine whether he was competent to stand trial, and to further determine his mental capacity at the time of the crime.1 On March 25, 1985, trial counsel filed a supplementary motion for a psychiatric examination and a neurological examination to determine whether Thompson was competent to stand trial and assist counsel with his defense, whether Thompson was suffering from a mental illness on the date of the offense, and whether he was in need of hospitalization for further psychiatric treatment and evaluation. In support, Parsons attached an affidavit stating that Thompson had previously suffered two concussions, one when he was sixteen years old from a car accident, and the second while in the Navy, when he was beaten in the head with a hammer by three fellow servicemen.

On March 28, 1985, the trial court ordered that Thompson be referred to the Multi-County Mental Health Center for a forensic evaluation to determine his competency to stand trial and to assist in his own defense, and his mental capacity at the time of the crime.2 On April 4, 1985, the trial court entered another order directing Thompson to undergo a forensic evaluation at a state facility, Middle Tennessee Mental Health Institute ("MTMHI"), for a maximum of thirty days. A team of forensic psychiatrists and psychologists at MTMHI evaluated Thompson. They found Thompson to be competent.

Trial counsel questioned the impartiality of the state psychiatrists and psychologists and requested funds to secure further psychiatric evaluations.3 On July 29, 1985, the state trial court granted the request. The order provides in relevant part:

This cause came to be heard on the 10th day of July, 1985 ... upon the request of defendant's attorneys for the Court to approve the expenses for a private evaluation of the defendant by a private psychiatrist and for the purpose of affording counsel the benefit of private expert psychiatric consultation in regards to the defendant....

The Court is of the opinion that the Motion for resources is well taken ... and that expert consultation is necessary to ensure that the constitutional rights of the defendant are properly protected.

Accordingly it is hereby ORDERED that the charges of said psychiatrist ... shall be paid by the executive secretary of the Supreme Court of the State of Tennessee for services performed by them on behalf of the defendant.

In spite of the court order approving a psychiatrist to examine Thompson, counsel used the court-ordered mental health funds to hire Dr. Copple, a clinical psychologist.4 Doyle Richardson, one of Thompson's trial counsel, stated subsequently that the effort to hire a psychiatrist simply "was not successful."

As part of their pretrial preparation, counsel also traveled to Thompson's home town, Molena, Georgia. There, they interviewed police officers, Thompson's teachers, his grandmother, his step grandfather, sister, brother, cousin, and several neighbors.

C. Trial Proceedings

Thompson presented no proof during the guilt phase of the trial, and the jury convicted him of first degree murder of Brenda Lane. Thompson, 768 S.W.2d at 244. Trial counsel testified at the post-conviction hearing that they felt the guilt phase case could not be defended.

During the sentencing phase, Thompson called a number of witnesses, including former high school teachers, acquaintances, his grandparents, two siblings, and a cousin. All described Thompson as non-violent, cooperative, and responsible. Id. Witnesses described in detail his childhood and family circumstances in Georgia until he left in 1979 to join the Navy. The Tennessee Supreme Court noted in its opinion that, "while [Thompson's] family was poor, it was also good and loving." Id.

Arlene Cajulao, Thompson's girlfriend while he was stationed with the Navy in Hawaii, testified that she knew Thompson from December 1980 until June 1984. She described their relationship as good, one that she was "very proud to have experienced," and stated that Thompson was caring and sensitive. She testified that Thompson suffered a head injury when three of his fellow service members attacked him with a crow bar and that he became paranoid and unreasonably concerned about his and her personal safety thereafter. Id. On cross-examination, Cajulao testified to incidents concerning Thompson's violent behavior in the Navy. She stated that Thompson was discharged from the Navy after being court-martialed for shoving a petty officer and either dislocating the officer's shoulder or breaking his collar-bone. Cajulao acknowledged that Thompson had other violent episodes in the Navy. Id.

Thompson's sister, Nora Jean Walton, and his brother...

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