Walker v. Epps

CourtUnited States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Mississippi
PartiesALAN DALE WALKER PETITIONER v. CHRISTOPHER EPPS, Commissioner, Mississippi Department of Corrections and JIM HOOD, Attorney General of the State of Mississippi RESPONDENTS
Docket NumberCIVIL ACTION NO. 1:97CV29KS
Decision Date27 March 2012

ALAN DALE WALKER PETITIONER
v.
CHRISTOPHER EPPS, Commissioner, Mississippi Department of Corrections
and JIM HOOD, Attorney General of the State of Mississippi RESPONDENTS

CIVIL ACTION NO. 1:97CV29KS

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF MISSISSIPPI SOUTHERN DIVISION

Dated: March 27, 2012


MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Alan Dale Walker was convicted of rape, kidnaping, and capital murder with the underlying crime of sexual battery in the Circuit Court of Harrison County in August, 1991. He was sentenced to death on the capital murder charge, to thirty-five years on the rape charge, and to thirty years on the kidnaping charge, with the last two sentences to run consecutively. The Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed his conviction1 and denied post-conviction relief,2 and Walker filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus in this Court.

STATEMENT OF FACTS

On Saturday, September 8, 1990, nineteen-year-old Konya Edwards left the Long Beach duplex that she shared with her mother and her grandmother and went to the Fiesta Lounge in Biloxi with her aunt, Margaret Thomas, and her aunt's boyfriend, Andy Graham. At some point in the evening, Thomas and Graham left the lounge, but Konya stayed behind. She did not return home that night, nor did she call, as she customarily did, to let her mother or her grandmother know where she was. On Sunday afternoon, they called the police in Long Beach to report Konya missing.

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On Monday, September 10, a man out swimming in a pond just outside of Long Beach that local residents called Crystal Lake, or the Blue Hole, found Konya's wallet. Seeing that identification in the wallet had a Long Beach address, the man's brother, who worked at the docks with some Long Beach residents, took the wallet to work. A co-worker recognized Konya's name and took the wallet to her mother Monday afternoon. The family then notified Biloxi police that Konya was missing and that her wallet had been found.

It was not until Tuesday morning that the family determined where the wallet had been found and went to look for her in that area. At about 9:20 that morning, Konya's grandmother, Tillie Edwards, discovered her body. She was naked, and her body was burned almost beyond recognition; however, her grandmother identified her by a ring that she was wearing. The police were summoned, and the body was removed. An autopsy revealed that Konya had deep tissue damage indicative of blunt force injury, likely from a beating. Her lungs were full of fluid, and the condition of her inner organs, as well as hemorrhages in the vessels in the brain, suggested that Konya was unable to breath just before her death. The hyoid bone around her throat was fractured on one side, indicating that Konya was likely choked. A broken stick about four inches long protruded from her vagina, and the medical examiner believed the stick was inserted after death.

About a month before Konya's disappearance, another young woman's nude body had been found floating in the Wolf River near Gulfport. Konya Edwards's murder was the subject of extensive media coverage, both because of the details of the crime and the proximity in time and the similarities between her murder and the murder of the other woman, Sandra Pelley. On the day after Konya's body was found, the Sun Herald newspaper ran a story about the discovery of Konya's body, accompanied by a picture of her, taken while she was alive. Trina Perry, a young waitress

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who was also at the Fiesta Lounge on September 8, recognized Konya as the young woman who had left the club that night with Trina, her boyfriend Alan Dale Walker, and his friend, Jason Riser. Trina went to the Long Beach Police Department and told Officer Linda Atterbury that she believed that Walker and Riser were responsible for Konya's death. Carl Rhodes, an investigator with the Harrison County Sheriff's Department, came to Long Beach and took a statement from Trina. With some relatively minor exceptions, Trina testified to the same series of events at trial.

According to Trina, in September, 1990, she lived with her parents on Longridge Road, just north of the city limits of Long Beach. Walker lived with his mother on Turner Road, which was the next street to the west. At the time of Tonya's murder, Trina and Walker had been dating for about a month. September 8 was a Saturday, and they had decided to meet later in the evening. Trina got off work around 10:30 p.m. A location had not been established, so, after she went home and changed clothes, Trina drove down Highway 90 looking for either Walker's or Riser's vehicle. She spotted Riser's truck at the Fiesta and met them there at about 11:00 - 11:15. Trina also met Konya Edwards at the Fiesta, and, at about 12:00 - 12:30 a.m., Trina and Walker left the Fiesta in Trina's car, while Riser and Konya left in Riser's truck.

Although Trina understood that they were taking Konya home, they drove instead to the area where Trina and Walker lived. At Walker's direction, Trina stopped in front of the house of another friend, Dwayne Maloney, on Bosarge Road, which is one block east of where Trina lived. Walker told Trina that he was going to ride with Riser and Konya, so that he could show Riser "a hut that his brother had built for them to be together, Konya and Jason." Before he left, Walker took off his shirt and left it in Trina's car. Trina had to take her car home; however, she and Walker agreed that she would leave her house on foot and meet him in a nearby field on Turner Road. Trina said that

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she waited a long while, perhaps as long as an hour, when she accepted a ride from another man. Trina and this man, whom she did not know, went to a bar and to his parents' house, and then he took her to Walker's home around 2:00 - 2:30 a.m. Walker and Riser arrived immediately thereafter, saying they had dropped Konya off at Klondyke Road and 28th Street after she began kicking. Walker and Riser began drinking beer, and they and Trina posed for Polaroid pictures taken by Walker's mother.

After a few minutes, Walker asked Trina whether she wanted to go see a fire at Crystal Lake. She, Walker and Riser drove back to that area, but Riser persuaded them that they might be thought responsible for the fire if they got too close. They rode around for a while longer and came upon a coon hunter who asked them for a ride back to his car. In the process of taking the hunter back, the group was stopped by a Harrison County Deputy, who gave Riser a warning and let him go. The three then returned to Walker's mother's house to spend the night.

After hearing this statement, Investigator Rhodes obtained an arrest warrant for Walker and a search warrant for his mother's home. Officers went to the home, but Walker was not there at the time. Rhodes found him at another location, and both he and Riser were arrested without incident. A search of Walker's mother's trailer and its surroundings turned up a black dress that was identified as the one Tonya was wearing on the night she was killed.

After they were arrested, both Walker and Riser gave statements admitting their participation in Konya's death. Walker apparently incriminated himself in the Pelley murder, as well. His statement was suppressed by the trial court, on grounds that he was intoxicated at the time that he gave it. Additionally, the trial judge, throughout the proceedings, sustained any objection to evidence that would implicate Walker in Pelley's murder. According to Trina Perry, Walker

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admitted to her, both on a visit to the jail and by telephone, that he killed Konya . He also wrote letters to her. After an extensive proffer of this testimony and vigorous argument from defense counsel as to its admissibility, the prosecution announced that it would not offer that evidence to the jury.

Riser later pleaded guilty to capital murder and accepted a life sentence in return for his testimony at trial. His testimony can be summarized as follows: At the time of Konya's murder, Riser lived with a friend on Bell Circle, in the same general area as Walker and Trina Perry. Riser was nineteen years old and a junior at Long Beach High School, and he had known Walker for several months. According to Riser, he and Walker spent most of Saturday, September 8 together. They met at Walker's mother's house that morning and spent most of the day working on Walker's car. At around 7:30 or 8:00 that evening, they changed clothes - Riser borrowed a shirt from Walker - and left for the Fiesta Club in Riser's truck.

Riser met Konya for the first time at the Fiesta Club. Later that evening, he agreed to give her a ride home. Walker and Trina left at the same time in her car, with Riser and Konya following in his truck. Konya told Riser that she lived "near the new Delchamps" in Long Beach. According to Konya's grandmother's testimony, they lived much further south than Walker, Riser, or Trina -almost on the beach in Long Beach. Riser did not take Konya, who had passed out in his truck, home, or, apparently, anywhere near it. Instead, he followed Trina and Walker to their neighborhood. According to his testimony, he thought that they were going to Walker's house when they stopped a few blocks from it. Walker took his shirt off and put it in Trina's car, then got in Riser's truck with him and Konya and suggested that they go "to the lake."

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