Williams v. Bagley

Decision Date13 August 2004
Docket NumberNo. 02-3461.,02-3461.
Citation380 F.3d 932
PartiesWillie WILLIAMS, Jr., Petitioner-Appellant, v. Margaret BAGLEY, Warden, Respondent-Appellee.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Sixth Circuit

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, James Gwin, J.





John B. Gibbons (argued and briefed), Cleveland, OH, John F. McCaffrey (briefed), McLaughlin & McCaffrey, Cleveland, OH, for Appellant.

Carol Ann Ellensohn (argued and briefed), Michael L. Collyer (briefed), Attorney General's Office of Ohio, Cleveland, OH, for Appellee.

Before MERRITT, ROGERS, and SUTTON, Circuit Judges.

ROGERS, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which SUTTON, J., joined. MERRITT, J. (pp. 977-81), delivered a separate dissenting opinion.

ROGERS, Circuit Judge.

An Ohio jury convicted the petitioner, William J. Williams, Jr., of four counts of aggravated murder, and, on the jury's recommendation, the trial court sentenced Williams to death. After unsuccessfully challenging his convictions and sentence on direct appeal and in state post-conviction proceedings, Williams filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, which set forth twenty-four claims for relief, in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. The district court denied Williams's petition, finding that Williams had procedurally defaulted the majority of his claims and rejecting the balance of his claims on the merits. However, it issued Williams a certificate of appealability for all claims, and Williams's appeal is now before the court. For the following reasons, we affirm the judgment of the district court.


The Ohio Supreme Court made the following factual findings on direct review:

Williams controlled the drug trafficking at the Kimmelbrooks housing project in east Youngstown, Ohio. After an extended absence from the area, Williams returned to find that Alfonda R. Madison, Sr., William L. Dent, Eric Howard, and others had taken over the drug trade at the Kimmelbrooks project. Williams wanted to regain control of the drug business, so he decided to rob and kill Madison and others.

Williams had three juvenile accomplices: his sixteen-year-old girlfriend Jessica M. Cherry; her sixteen- or seventeen-year-old brother, Dominic M. Cherry; and Dominic Cherry's seventeen-year-old "cousin" (i.e., best friend), Broderick Boone. On August 27, 1991, Williams bought walkie-talkies at a Radio Shack store. The devices had a combined microphone-earphone earpiece that left the user's hands free. Williams also bought batteries and duct tape. Williams, Dominic, and Broderick later tested the walkie-talkies.

Before the murders, Williams outlined his plan to his three accomplices. During this meeting, Williams drew interior and exterior diagrams of Madison's house. Williams later ordered Dominic to burn these, but Dominic burned only one diagram. In addition, Williams supplied each accomplice with a gun. Williams purchased Jessica's gun from a neighbor.

On September 1, 1991, Jessica met with Madison and discussed a drug deal. Later that night, Williams and his three accomplices arrived at Madison's home by car. Williams armed the three juvenile accomplices with guns and a walkie-talkie and sent them inside, while he waited outside with a walkie-talkie. Once inside, the three accomplices drew their guns on Madison. Then, after receiving word via walkie-talkie that the situation was secure, Williams, armed with a semiautomatic, entered the house carrying a duffel bag containing handcuffs, duct tape, and gloves. Inside, Williams handcuffed and bound Madison and put tape over his mouth.

Thirty to forty-five minutes later, Theodore Wynn, Jr., a recently discharged Air Force sergeant, came to the door, looking for Madison and Howard, who were roommates. Jessica answered the door and told Wynn that Madison was not home and Howard was asleep. As Wynn walked back towards his car, Williams told Jessica to call Wynn back into the house because Wynn could identify them. Inside the house, Williams held Wynn at gunpoint and handcuffed him.

Upon William's orders, Jessica walked to a pay phone and called and asked for Dent for the purpose of luring him to the house. When Dent arrived with Howard, Williams and his accomplices ambushed them and forced them to lie down in the bathroom. Williams strangled Madison and Wynn, and then instructed Jessica to turn up the stereo. Going from room to room, Williams shot each of the four victims in the head with Madison's gun.

The group left Madison's house, but Williams, according to Jessica, went back in "to make sure they were all dead." Later, back at Williams's apartment, he embraced his juvenile accomplices and rewarded them with drugs. Williams warned them not to tell anyone what they had done or he would kill them.

The next day, September 2, 1991, Williams and Jessica were driving to pick up Williams's son in Youngstown when another car rammed theirs and the people in the other car shot at them. Jessica and Williams fled the scene. When Jessica and Williams returned to the vicinity of the accident, officers transported them to the Youngstown Police Department and later released them after questioning them about the traffic accident. Later that night, Williams, Jessica, Dominic, and Broderick fled to Pennsylvania. Williams and the three juveniles returned to the Youngstown area and parted company.

On September 24, 1991, Dominic turned himself in, and gave a statement about the murders. Later, officers arrested Jessica and Broderick, and the latter also gave statements. Following their arrests, Jessica, Dominic, and Broderick were held at the Mahoning County Juvenile Justice Center ("JJC").

Williams was arrested in connection with the murders. Shortly after being arrested, he escaped from jail on October 15, 1991. While Williams remained a fugitive from justice, a Mahoning County Grand Jury indicted him on four counts of aggravated murder, four counts of kidnapping, and one count of aggravated burglary.

On January 12, 1992, the armed Williams and two other accomplices, Paul R. Keiper, Jr., and a juvenile named Eric Fields, appeared at the JJC. The three deceived a receptionist and were permitted to enter. Once inside Williams held the receptionist and a deputy sheriff hostage, demanding to see Jessica, Dominic, and Broderick. After lengthy negotiations, Williams surrendered to authorities. At trial, Keiper testified that Williams planned to kill the three juveniles because he knew they had made statements to the police regarding the murders.

* * *

Jessica, Dominic, and Broderick all entered into plea agreements with the Mahoning County Prosecutor's Office. All three pled guilty to delinquency by reason of complicity to aggravated murder, complicity to aggravated burglary, and complicity to kidnapping. All three testified against Williams.

State v. Williams, 79 Ohio St.3d 1, 679 N.E.2d 646, 650-51 (1997).1


While Williams was a fugitive, a Mahoning County Grand Jury returned a nine count indictment against Williams. After his capture, a Mahoning County Grand Jury returned a superseding indictment charging Williams with twelve counts of aggravated murder, four counts of kidnapping, and one count of aggravated burglary. Each of the aggravated murder counts included a pair of felony-murder specifications and a multiple-murder specification, which rendered Williams eligible for the death penalty. See Ohio Rev.Code Ann. § 2929.04(A) (Anderson 2003).

Williams entered a plea of not guilty to all charges and specifications. On Williams's motion, the trial court transferred venue from Mahoning County to Summit County. At the guilt phase of his trial, the jury found Williams guilty of all charges and specifications. On Williams's motion, the trial court merged the twelve aggravated murder counts into four counts and the three specifications per count into a single multiple-murder specification per count. At the penalty phase of his trial, the jury recommended a sentence of death for each count of aggravated murder, and the trial court adopted this recommendation.2 Additionally, the trial court sentenced Williams for the kidnapping and aggravated burglary convictions.

Williams appealed, raising nine assignments of error.3 On November 1, 1995, the Ohio Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment and sentence of the trial court. In addition to overruling Williams's assignments of error, the court concluded that the aggravating circumstances outweighed the mitigating factors and that Williams's sentence was not disproportionate to the death sentences imposed in similar cases.4 On June 11, 1997, the Ohio Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Ohio Court of Appeals. In addition to rejecting Williams's propositions of law, the court concluded that the aggravating circumstances outweighed the mitigating factors and that Williams's sentence was neither excessive nor disproportionate when compared to the sentences imposed in similar cases. On January 12, 1998, the United States Supreme Court denied Williams's petition for writ of certiorari.

Williams fared no better in state post-conviction proceedings. On September 20, 1996, Williams filed his Petition to Vacate or Set Aside Sentence, which set forth a single cause of action challenging the constitutionality of Ohio's capital punishment scheme, in the Ohio Court of Common Pleas. The matter sat dormant until October 20, 1998, when the state filed a motion for leave to respond to Williams's petition. The court granted the motion, finding that the state had not received proper notice of the petition. On October 29, 1998, the state moved for summary judgment, arguing that Williams's sole claim was barred by the doctrine of res judicata. In his response, which...

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