U.S. v. Hammer, 4:CR-96-239.

Citation25 F.Supp.2d 518
Decision Date09 October 1998
Docket NumberNo. 4:CR-96-239.,4:CR-96-239.
PartiesUNITED STATES of America v. David Paul HAMMER.
CourtUnited States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Pennsylvania

Ronald C. Travis, Rieders, Travis, Mussina, Humphrey and Harris, Williamsport, PA, Stephen Chadwick Smith, Lock Haven, PA, David A. Ruhnke, Ruhnke & Barrett, Montclaire, NJ, for David Paul Hammer.


MUIR, District Judge.

I. Introduction.

On September 18, 1996, a Grand Jury sitting in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, returned an indictment charging Defendant David Paul Hammer with first degree murder. On April 9, 1997, the government filed a notice of its intent to seek the death penalty in this case. Mr. Hammer was charged with killing his cellmate, Andrew Marti, while housed in Cell 103 of the Special Housing Unit at the Allenwood United States Penitentiary, White Deer, Pennsylvania. The cause of death was strangulation with a cord braided from a bedsheet.

This case was placed on the May, 1998, trial list. Jury selection commenced on May 5, 1998, with a pool of 250 potential jurors and lasted fourteen (14) days. During that period an additional 205 potential jurors were needed. A jury of 12 jurors and 6 alternates was impaneled on June 2, 1998, and on the next day the government commenced its case. On June 11, 1998, the government rested and the defense commenced its case. The defense presented an insanity defense. Robert M. Sadoff, M.D., the defense forensic psychiatrist testified that Mr. Hammer suffered from multiple personality disorder or as it is now designated dissociative identity disorder. Dr. Sadoff further testified that Mr. Hammer has four alter personalities: (1) Jocko, a violent personality, (2) Tammy, a female personality, (3) Wilbur, a child personality and (4) Jasper, a chimpanzee. In sum, Dr. Sadoff testified that Jocko committed the killing of Mr. Marti and that Mr. Hammer was not legally responsible for the killing. On June 17, 1998, the defense rested and the government commenced its rebuttal case by calling James K. Wolfson, M.D., a forensic psychiatrist employed at the Medical Center for Federal Prisoners, Springfield, Missouri. Dr. Wolfson's testimony was the opposite of Dr. Sadoff, i.e., Mr. Hammer did not suffer from dissociative identity disorder and that he was responsible for his actions.

On June 22, 1998, before the cross-examination of Dr. Wolfson was completed, the court was notified that Mr. Hammer desired to plead guilty. Before entering into a guilty plea colloquy with Mr. Hammer, the court required Mr. Hammer to be evaluated to determine whether he was competent to plead guilty. That evaluation was conducted by Dr. Wolfson and John R. Mitchell, Psy.D., a psychologist at the Allenwood United States Penitentiary, White Deer, Pennsylvania. The court than heard testimony from both Drs. Wolfson and Mitchell which established that Mr. Hammer was competent to enter a guilty plea.

On June 22, 1998, Mr. Hammer entered a plea of guilty to the intentional premeditated murder of Mr. Marti in violation of 18, United States Code, Section 1111. As a result of the guilty plea, the penalty phase of the trial commenced on June 30, 1998. On July 23, 1998, the jury retired to deliberate on its verdict and on the next day recommended that Mr. Hammer be sentenced to death.

The evidence presented during the trial viewed in a light most favorable to the government1 establishes that Mr. Hammer bound each limb of Mr. Marti by using the ruse that he would only slightly injure Mr. Marti and obtain a transfer for Mr. Marti to another prison. Mr. Hammer after rendering Mr. Marti helpless put Mr. Marti in a sleeper hold. Testimony from a pathologist established that Mr. Marti struggled in the restraints. Once Mr. Marti was rendered unconscious by the sleeper hold, Mr. Hammer strangled him with a homemade cord. In recommending a sentence of death the jury, as required by statute, found that the government established beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Hammer intentionally killed Mr. Marti.2 The jury also found beyond a reasonable doubt the following two statutory aggravating factors: (1) Mr. Hammer previously had been convicted of two or more State or Federal offenses punishable by a term of imprisonment for more than one year and (2) Mr. Hammer committed the murder of Mr. Marti after substantial planning and premeditation. These two statutory aggravating factors are supported by the record.3 Mr. Hammer was convicted in 1978 and 1984 in Oklahoma state court of felonies involving the use of weapons. The 1984 conviction involved a shooting with intent to kill. As for substantial planning and premeditation, the testimony of inmate witnesses as well as the evidence of the preparation of the homemade cord establish beyond a reasonable doubt that statutory aggravating factor. The jury also found the following two non-statutory aggravating factors: (1) Mr. Hammer represents a continuing danger to the lives and safety of others in the future because he is likely to commit criminal acts of violence, and (2) Mr. Hammer caused harm to the family of Mr. Marti as a result of the impact of the killing upon the family. These two non-statutory aggravating factors are supported by the record. Documents written by Mr. Hammer as well as his tape recorded statement to a news reporter establish beyond a reasonable doubt that he represents a continuing danger to the lives and safety of others in the future. Also, in one document Mr. Hammer stated that if given the chance he would kill again. As for the harm to the family of Mr. Marti, based on the testimony of family members there is no doubt that such harm was inflicted.

The jury after finding two statutory and two non-statutory aggravating factors then considered whether any mitigating factors existed. One juror found that Mr. Hammer committed the offense under severe mental or emotional disturbance, suffers from cognitive deficits, is remorseful for having caused the death of Mr. Marti and has demonstrated acceptance of responsibility for his offense. Twelve jurors found that Mr. Hammer is the product of a violent, abusive and chaotic childhood, that as a young person he attempted to seek help for mental difficulties, that he will be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of release if a sentence of death is not imposed, and friends and family members of Mr. Hammer will be adversely affected if he is sentenced to death. Six jurors found that as a child Mr. Hammer was a victim of sexual abuse. Three jurors found that the United States Bureau of Prisons and the Oklahoma Department of Corrections are capable of fashioning conditions of confinement such that Mr. Hammer is unlikely to commit criminal acts of violence in the future. Finally, five jurors found that Mr. Hammer even though incarcerated for most of his life has managed to do some good things.

The jurors then balanced the aggravating factors against the mitigating factors and concluded that because the aggravating factors sufficiently outweighed the mitigating factors a sentence of death was justified.4 The recommendation of the jury is supported by the evidence presented during the trial.

On Friday, July 31, 1998, Mr. Hammer filed a document entitled "Defendant's Pro Se Motion for the Discharge of Court Appointed Counsel; and Request For Immediate Sentencing." In that document Mr. Hammer states that he "has no desire to file any post trial motions or to pursue any appeals of the jury's verdict or the sentence to be imposed." On August 3, 1998, a hearing was held on Mr. Hammer's motion at which time Mr. Hammer addressed this court and repeated his requests that counsel be discharged and sentence be imposed immediately. The government responded by requesting a competency examination. On August 4, 1998, an order was issued directing that Mr. Hammer undergo a competency evaluation at the Medical Center for Federal Prisoners, Springfield, Missouri.

On August 5, 1998, counsel for Mr. Hammer filed a motion to withdraw as counsel, or in the alternative for the appointment of additional counsel. By order of August 10, 1998, we denied the motion to withdraw but appointed Stephen C. Smith, Esquire, as additional counsel. By order of September 1, 1998, we continued the date for imposition of sentence originally set for September 17, 1998, until after the competency evaluation of Mr. Hammer was completed and a hearing had been held to determine Mr. Hammer's competency to discharge his counsel and waive his appeal rights.

Mr. Hammer's motion to discharge counsel and waive his appeal rights has been fully briefed and a hearing was held thereon on October 1, 1998. At that hearing James K. Wolfson, M.D., and John R. Mitchell, Psy.D., reappeared and testified regarding Mr. Hammer's mental state and competency to discharge counsel and waive his appeal rights. At the conclusion of the testimony of Drs. Mitchell and Wolfson, we entered into an extensive colloquy with Mr. Hammer. Therefore, the motion is ripe for decision. We will also address in this opinion our basis for denying certain penalty phase jury instructions proposed by Mr. Hammer and his motion for a mistrial which was requested after the court interrupted on two occasions the closing argument of defense attorney Ruhnke. The following are the court's findings of fact, discussion and conclusions of law relating to the hearing held on October 1, 1998.

II. Findings of Fact.

1. During his various appearances before this Court over the past two years, Mr. Hammer did not act in any fashion which suggested that he was incompetent.

2. None of the defense experts, including Drs. Sadoff and Gelbort who testified at trial, suggested that Mr. Hammer was incompetent at any time. (Undisputed, hereinafter "U")5

3. None of the three forensic evaluations conducted in Mr. Hammer's cases beginning in 1978 and...

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