United States v. Runyon, No. 17-5

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtNIEMEYER, Circuit Judge, with whom Chief Judge GREGORY joined except as to Parts II, IV, and V and Judge WILKINSON joined except as to Part III
Citation983 F.3d 716
Parties UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff - Appellee, v. David Anthony RUNYON, Defendant - Appellant.
Decision Date23 December 2020
Docket NumberNo. 17-5

983 F.3d 716

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff - Appellee,
v.
David Anthony RUNYON, Defendant - Appellant.

No. 17-5

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit.

Argued: September 10, 2020
Decided: December 23, 2020
Amended: February 12, 2021


ARGUED: Helen Susanne Bales, FEDERAL DEFENDER SERVICES OF EASTERN TENNESSEE, Knoxville, Tennessee, for Appellant. Brian James Samuels, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Newport News, Virginia, for Appellee. ON BRIEF: Michele J. Brace, VA CAPITAL REPRESENTATION RESOURCE CENTER, Charlottesville, Virginia; Dana C. Hanson Chavis, FEDERAL DEFENDER SERVICES OF EASTERN TENNESSEE, Knoxville, Tennessee, for Appellant. G. Zachary Terwilliger, United States Attorney, Alexandria, Virginia, Lisa R. McKeel, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Newport News, Virginia, for Appellee.

Before GREGORY, Chief Judge, and WILKINSON and NIEMEYER, Circuit Judges.

Affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded with instructions by published opinion. Judge Niemeyer wrote the opinion, in which Chief Judge Gregory joined except as to Parts II, IV, and V and Judge Wilkinson joined except as to Part III. Chief Judge Gregory wrote a separate opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part. Judge Wilkinson wrote a separate opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part.

NIEMEYER, Circuit Judge, with whom Chief Judge GREGORY joined except as to Parts II, IV, and V and Judge WILKINSON joined except as to Part III:

983 F.3d 721

David Runyon shot and killed Cory Allen Voss in late April 2007 in Newport News, Virginia, pursuant to a murder-for-hire conspiracy that he entered into with Voss's wife, Catherina Voss, and her paramour, Michael Draven. A jury convicted Runyon of conspiracy to commit murder for hire, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1958(a) ; carjacking resulting in death, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2119 ; and murder with the use of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1), (j)(1), and recommended that Runyon be sentenced to death. The district court accordingly entered judgment on December 4, 2009, sentencing Runyon to death. On appeal we affirmed. United States v. Runyon , 707 F.3d 475 (4th Cir. 2013), cert. denied , 574 U.S. 813, 135 S. Ct. 46, 190 L.Ed.2d 28 (2014).

Runyon has now filed this motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to vacate or correct his sentence, asserting 18 grounds for relief. The district court denied his motion by order dated January 19, 2017, and denied a certificate of appealability. By order dated August 14, 2019, we granted a certificate of appealability as to four issues: (1) whether Runyon's § 924 conviction is invalid because the offense was not committed during and in relation to a "crime of violence"; (2) whether trial counsel provided ineffective assistance by failing to investigate and present mitigating evidence of Runyon's brain injury and potential mental illness; (3) whether the government violated Brady v. Maryland , 373 U.S. 83, 83 S.Ct. 1194, 10 L.Ed.2d 215 (1963), in failing to disclose the codefendant's history of sexual assault or whether, in the alternative, trial counsel's failure to investigate that history and present it to the jury constituted ineffective assistance of counsel; and (4) whether the government exercised its peremptory jury strikes in a discriminatory manner, in violation of Batson v. Kentucky , 476 U.S. 79, 106 S.Ct. 1712, 90 L.Ed.2d 69 (1986), or whether counsel unreasonably failed to challenge the government's strikes at trial or on direct review.

For the reasons that follow, we vacate the district court's ruling dismissing Runyon's claim that his counsel was constitutionally ineffective in failing to investigate mitigating evidence of brain injury and potential mental illness and remand that claim for an evidentiary hearing. Otherwise, we affirm.

I

The murder in this case was highly planned. Briefly, the facts, which are set out in more detail in our earlier opinion, 707 F.3d at 484–86, show that Catherina Voss ("Catherina"), the wife of Cory Voss ("Voss"), a U.S. Navy officer, had been engaged in an extramarital affair with Michael Draven. Catherina and Draven decided to murder Voss in the hope of gaining Voss's Navy death benefits and life-insurance proceeds. To carry out the murder, Draven hired David Runyon, whom Draven had met as a co-participant in a drug-research study.

Shortly before the crime, Catherina opened an account at a branch of a local bank in Newport News with a five-dollar deposit. Thereafter, on the night of the murder, Catherina sent Voss to the bank's

983 F.3d 722

ATM to withdraw cash. Video surveillance of the scene showed that while Voss stood at the ATM, an unidentified man — later found to be Runyon — entered Voss's pickup truck. Voss then drove away from the ATM but returned a few minutes later and attempted another withdrawal, which was denied due to insufficient funds. The next morning, Voss was found dead in his truck in a parking lot near the bank, having been shot five times at close range. Compelling evidence connected the bullets used in the murder to Runyon.

Runyon, Catherina, and Draven were ultimately arrested and charged for the murder of Voss and related offenses. Catherina pleaded guilty to all counts and was sentenced to life imprisonment. Runyon and Draven proceeded to trial, with the government seeking the death penalty against Runyon. The jury returned a verdict, finding both Runyon and Draven guilty of conspiracy to commit murder for hire, carjacking, and murder with the use of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence. Draven was sentenced to life imprisonment, while the trial continued against Runyon pursuant to the Federal Death Penalty Act, 18 U.S.C. §§ 3591 – 98.

In proceedings under the Death Penalty Act, the jury next found Runyon eligible for the death penalty after finding that he intentionally killed Voss and finding two statutory aggravating factors — that Runyon had committed the crime for pecuniary gain and that he committed the crime after substantial planning.

Before the next phase of trial, in which the jury was required to select the penalty, the government gave notice of four non-statutory aggravating factors for the jury to consider — in addition to the statutory factors that the jury had already found. The non-statutory aggravating factors were a lack of remorse; injury and loss to Voss and his family and friends; a history of physical abuse toward women; and use of law enforcement and military training to perpetrate the murder. The military-training aggravator was based in part on Runyon's service as an officer in the Kansas National Guard and as an enlisted member of the United States Army. The jury unanimously found each of the government's proposed aggravating factors. It also unanimously found that Runyon had established 7 of his proposed 14 mitigators, including the mitigator that "[o]ther persons equally culpable in the crime will not be punished by death." In addition, the jury unanimously found two non-statutory mitigators that Runyon had not proposed — that Runyon experienced domestic violence as a child and that his brother would suffer emotional harm if Runyon were executed. Ten or eleven jurors found three additional proposed mitigators, and eleven jurors agreed that Runyon had established a mitigator that he had not proposed — that Runyon was given the impression that Voss was molesting his own daughter. After making its findings on the aggravating and mitigating factors, the jury unanimously recommended the death sentence on two counts — conspiracy to commit murder for hire and murder in connection with the use of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence — and it recommended life imprisonment on the carjacking count. The district court imposed the recommended sentences, entering judgment on December 4, 2009.

In his motion under § 2255 seeking collateral review, Runyon advanced 18 claims. He sought discovery for several of the claims, as well as an evidentiary hearing. In a thorough 246-page opinion and order, the district court denied Runyon's request for discovery and an evidentiary hearing and dismissed the § 2255 motion. It also denied a certificate of appealability.

983 F.3d 723

Runyon v. United States , 228 F. Supp. 3d 569 (E.D. Va. 2017).

By order dated August 14, 2019, we granted a certificate of appealability on the four issues now before us. See 28 U.S.C. § 2253.

II

With respect to the first issue certified for appeal, Runyon contends that his conviction for violating 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1), (j)(1) is invalid because the predicate crimes relied on for conviction — conspiracy to commit murder for hire under § 1958(a) and carjacking under § 2119 — do not qualify as "crime[s] of violence," as defined by § 924(c)(3). The relevant portions of § 924 provide that "any person, who, during and in relation to any crime of violence " "causes the death of a person through the use of a firearm, shall — if the killing is a murder ... be punished by death or by imprisonment." 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1), (j)(1). And "crime of violence" is defined in § 924(c)(3) ’s "force clause"* as any felony that "has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person or property of another." Id . §...

To continue reading

Request your trial
15 practice notes
  • United States v. Milton, Case No. 5:95-CR-70074
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Western District of Virginia)
    • 20 Abril 2021
    ...committing." United States v. Al-Muwwakkil, 983 F.3d 748, 753 (4th Cir. 2020) (internal citations omitted). See United States v. Runyon, 983 F. 3d 716, 724 (4th Cir. 2020) ("Under this approach, the court may look to the terms of the relevant charging document, jury instructions, plea agree......
  • Starks v. United States, 3:20-cv-00311
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Tennessee
    • 2 Febrero 2021
    ...was convicted of." Mathis v. United States, ––– U.S. ––––, 136 S. Ct. 2243, 2249, 195 L.Ed.2d 604 (2016) ; see United States v. Runyon, 983 F.3d 716, 726 (4th Cir. 2020) ("[W]e review the indictment on which [defendant] was convicted and the jury instructions leading up to the conviction to......
  • Mahdi v. Stirling, 19-3
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • 20 Diciembre 2021
    ...into mitigating evidence should comprise efforts to discover all reasonably available mitigating evidence.’ " United States v. Runyon , 983 F.3d 716, 731 (4th Cir. 2020) (quoting Williams , 914 F.3d at 313 ).Capital defense counsel are therefore deficient when they "fail[ ] to investigate a......
  • United States v. McClaren, 17-30524
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • 9 Septiembre 2021
    ...of conviction from the general federal crime of kidnapping, is a different offense than generic kidnapping); United States v. Runyon , 983 F.3d 716, 725–26 (4th Cir. 2020) (also discussing a "death results" element). We therefore conclude that this case is virtually indistinguishable from J......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
15 cases
  • Starks v. United States, 3:20-cv-00311
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Tennessee
    • 2 Febrero 2021
    ...was convicted of." Mathis v. United States, ––– U.S. ––––, 136 S. Ct. 2243, 2249, 195 L.Ed.2d 604 (2016) ; see United States v. Runyon, 983 F.3d 716, 726 (4th Cir. 2020) ("[W]e review the indictment on which [defendant] was convicted and the jury instructions leading up to the conviction to......
  • United States v. Milton, Case No. 5:95-CR-70074
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Western District of Virginia)
    • 20 Abril 2021
    ...committing." United States v. Al-Muwwakkil, 983 F.3d 748, 753 (4th Cir. 2020) (internal citations omitted). See United States v. Runyon, 983 F. 3d 716, 724 (4th Cir. 2020) ("Under this approach, the court may look to the terms of the relevant charging document, jury instructions, plea agree......
  • Mahdi v. Stirling, 19-3
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • 20 Diciembre 2021
    ...into mitigating evidence should comprise efforts to discover all reasonably available mitigating evidence.’ " United States v. Runyon , 983 F.3d 716, 731 (4th Cir. 2020) (quoting Williams , 914 F.3d at 313 ).Capital defense counsel are therefore deficient when they "fail[ ] to investigate a......
  • United States v. McClaren, 17-30524
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • 9 Septiembre 2021
    ...of conviction from the general federal crime of kidnapping, is a different offense than generic kidnapping); United States v. Runyon , 983 F.3d 716, 725–26 (4th Cir. 2020) (also discussing a "death results" element). We therefore conclude that this case is virtually indistinguishable from J......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT