Tryon v. State

Decision Date31 May 2018
Docket NumberCase Number: D-2015-331
Parties Isaiah Glenndell TRYON, Appellant v. STATE of Oklahoma, Appellee.
CourtUnited States State Court of Criminal Appeals of Oklahoma. Court of Criminal Appeals of Oklahoma
OPINION

HUDSON, JUDGE:

¶1 Appellant, Isaiah Glenndell Tryon, was tried by jury in the District Court of Oklahoma County, Case No. CF-2012-1692, and convicted of Murder in the First Degree in violation of 21 O.S.2011, § 701.7(A). In a separate capital sentencing phase, Appellant's jury found the existence of four statutory aggravating circumstances1 and sentenced Appellant to death. The Honorable Cindy H. Truong, District Judge, presided over the trial and pronounced judgment and sentence accordingly. Appellant now appeals his conviction and death sentence. We affirm.

BACKGROUND

¶2 On March 16, 2012, around 10:30 a.m., Appellant fatally stabbed Tia Bloomer inside the Metro Transit bus station in downtown Oklahoma City. Tia recently broke off her relationship with Appellant due in part to his inability to support their infant child. Appellant was terminally unemployed and drew as income a meager $628.00 a month in Social Security disability benefits. The couple too had a stormy relationship. The day before her death—March 15, 2012—Tia called Detective Jeffrey Padgett of the Oklahoma City Police Department (OCPD) Domestic Violence Unit to schedule a follow-up interview for an assault case in which she was the named victim. Tia previously denied to authorities that Appellant had assaulted her. Instead, she claimed another man had assaulted her.

¶3 During her phone conversation with Detective Padgett, Tia repeated this claim but agreed nonetheless to meet the next day. Later that night, Tia sent Appellant a text message stating the following:

It's okay bc im [sic] going to tell the truth tomorrow. I'm tired of holding lies for yhu [sic]. Isaiah Tryon is the guy who choked nd [sic] nearly killed me Saturday.

(State's Ex. 38).

¶4 The next day, Appellant accosted Tia inside the downtown bus station while she was talking on her cell phone. Surveillance video from inside the terminal showed Appellant speaking to Tia before stabbing her repeatedly with a knife. Immediately before this brutal attack, an eyewitness heard Tia yell for Appellant to leave her alone. Appellant then stabbed Tia in the neck with the knife, causing blood to gush out from her neck. The surveillance video shows Appellant grabbing the victim then stabbing her when she tried to leave the terminal building. Appellant stabbed the victim repeatedly after she fell to the floor. The victim said "help" as Appellant continued stabbing her repeatedly and blood gushed out of her wounds

. During the attack, several bystanders unsuccessfully attempted to pull Appellant off the victim. At one point, a bystander can be seen on the surveillance video dragging Appellant across the floor while Appellant held on to Tia and continued stabbing her.

¶5 Appellant released his grip on the victim only after Kenneth Burke, a security guard, sprayed him in the face with pepper spray. The security guard then forced Appellant to the ground, handcuffed him and ordered the frantic crowd to move away both from Appellant and the bloody scene surrounding the victim's body. A bloody serrated knife with a bent blade was found resting a short distance away on the floor.

¶6 While waiting for police to arrive, Burke checked on the victim but found no signs of life. Paramedics soon arrived and decided to transport the victim to the hospitalbecause they detected a faint pulse. Despite the efforts of emergency responders, Tia died from her injuries. The medical examiner autopsied the victim and found seven (7) stab wounds

to her head, neck, back, torso and right hand. Several superficial cuts were also observed on the victim's face and the back of her neck. The medical examiner testified these cuts were consistent with having been made by a serrated blade. The cause of death was multiple stab wounds. In addition to these injuries, the medical examiner observed redness and heavy congestion in the victim's eyes. The medical examiner did not associate this congestion with the victim's stab wounds but testified it is sometimes found in cases of strangulation.

¶7 OCPD Lieutenant Brian Bennett was one of the first officers on the scene. He removed Appellant from the ground and escorted him out of the bus station. Because Appellant had a great deal of blood on his hands and clothing, Lt. Bennett asked whether Appellant needed medical treatment. Appellant replied that he did not. Appellant said he was not injured and all of the blood on him "was hers." Appellant was nonetheless transported to nearby St. Anthony's Hospital where he was treated for cuts to his hand. When asked by a doctor about these injuries, Appellant calmly responded that he had stabbed his girlfriend.

¶8 After being released from the hospital, Appellant was transported to police headquarters. There, he was read the Miranda2 warning by OCPD Detective Robert Benavides and agreed to talk. During his interview, Appellant admitted stabbing Tia repeatedly while inside the bus terminal. Appellant said he stabbed the victim six times with a kitchen knife he brought from home. Appellant explained that he and Tia recently broke up and that they had been fighting over his support of their infant son. When Appellant saw Tia at the bus station, he walked up and tried to talk with her about their problems. Tia refused and told Appellant to get away from her. That is when Appellant said he pulled out his knife and began stabbing her.

¶9 Appellant claimed he did not know Tia would be at the bus station that morning or that he would even see her that day. Appellant did know, however, that Tia had some business to take care of that day. Appellant admitted bringing the knife with him because if he saw Tia, he planned to stab her. Appellant said Tia was facing him when he grabbed her and started stabbing her in the neck. Appellant described how he continued stabbing Tia after she fell to the ground and how he kept hold of her arm. Appellant said he was sad and depressed when he stabbed Tia because he didn't want to be without her. Nor did he want anyone else to be with her. Appellant did not believe he could find someone else to be with. Appellant admitted that what he did to Tia "wasn't right." At one point during the interview, Appellant demanded protective custody because "people ain't gonna like that type of shit" and would try to kill him in the county jail.

¶10 During the interview, Appellant asked whether Tia was okay. Detective Benavides promised to let him know about Tia's condition as soon as he found out. When informed by Detective Benavides at the end of the interview that Tia did not survive her injuries and was dead, Appellant showed no emotion to this news.

JURY SELECTION

¶11 In Proposition I, Appellant complains that the trial court violated due process by limiting the questions defense counsel was allowed to ask of the prospective jurors. Appellant says the trial court improperly restricted the questions he was allowed to ask the venire panel concerning their views on both the death penalty and mitigating evidence. This, Appellant says, limited his ability to ask questions which would provide the information needed to intelligently exercise his peremptory challenges.

¶12 The Supreme Court has recognized that a critical part of the constitutional right to an impartial jury is "an adequate voir dire to identify unqualified jurors." Morgan v. Illinois , 504 U.S. 719, 729, 112 S.Ct. 2222, 2230, 119 L.Ed.2d 492 (1992). "The purpose of voir dire examination is to discover whether there are grounds to challenge prospective jurors for cause and to permit the intelligent use of peremptory challenges." Harmon v. State , 2011 OK CR 6, ¶ 7, 248 P.3d 918, 927 (citation omitted). Rule 6 of the Rules of the District Courts, Title 12, O.S. 2011, Ch. 2, App., requires both the State and defense have a "reasonable opportunity to supplement" the trial court's examination of prospective jurors. Mayes v. State , 1994 OK CR 44, ¶ 15, 887 P.2d 1288, 1298.

¶13 Yet, this right is not unlimited. The manner and extent of examination of jurors is not "prescribed by any definite, unyielding rule, but instead rests in the sound discretion of the trial judge." Id. Towards that end, Rule 6 directs that "[c]ounsel shall scrupulously guard against injecting any argument in their voir dire examination and shall refrain from asking a juror how he would decide hypothetical questions involving law or facts." The trial court retains broad discretion in restricting questions "that are repetitive, irrelevant or regard legal issues upon which the trial court will instruct the jury." Harmon , 2011 OK CR 6, ¶ 7, 248 P.3d at 927. "There is no abuse of discretion as long as the voir dire examination affords the defendant a jury free of outside influence, bias or personal interest." Id. Where, as here, a defendant challenges the restrictions placed upon his voir dire examination, the question is whether the trial court's actions rendered his trial fundamentally unfair. Morgan , 504 U.S. at 730, 112 S.Ct. at 2230.3

¶14 Appellant challenges six separate instances in which the trial court restricted his examination of prospective jurors. In the first instance, defense counsel described for the prospective jurors a ...

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