Williams v. Taylor, 99-1

Decision Date07 June 1999
Docket NumberNo. 99-1,CA-96-529-3,99-1
Citation189 F.3d 421
Parties(4th Cir. 1999) MICHAEL WAYNE WILLIAMS, Petitioner-Appellant, v. JOHN B. TAYLOR, Warden, Sussex I State Prison, Respondent-Appellee. () Argued:
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Fourth Circuit

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, at Richmond. James R. Spencer, District Judge; Robert R. Merhige, Jr., Senior District Judge. [Copyrighted Material Omitted] COUNSEL ARGUED: Barbara Lynn Hartung, Richmond, Virginia, for Appellant. Donald Richard Curry, Senior Assistant Attorney General, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL, Richmond, Virginia, for Appellee. ON BRIEF: James E. Moore, CHRISTIAN & BARTON, L.L.P., Richmond, Virginia, for Appellant. Mark L. Earley, Attorney General of Virginia, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL, Richmond, Virginia, for Appellee.

Before WILKINSON, Chief Judge, and HAMILTON and WILLIAMS, Circuit Judges.

Affirmed by published opinion. Chief Judge Wilkinson wrote the opinion, in which Judge Hamilton and Judge Williams joined.


WILKINSON, Chief Judge:

Michael Wayne Williams was sentenced to death for the murders of Morris Keller, Jr., and his wife, Mary Keller. At trial, Williams admitted to robbing the Kellers, being an accomplice to the rape of Mrs. Keller, and shooting Mr. Keller. He now appeals the district court's denial of his petition for a writ of habeas corpus. We affirm the judgment of the district court.


Between 9:30 and 10:30 on the night of Saturday, February 27, 1993, Williams and Jeffrey Alan Cruse caught a ride with Verena Lozano James to a rural area in Cumberland County. Williams and Cruse intended to rob the nearby Bear Creek Market with a .357 caliber Ruger Black Hawk revolver that Williams had given to Cruse. After finding the market closed, Williams informed Cruse that "he knew a house where we can go; they'd have a couple thousand dollars." The two men then proceeded to the home of Mr. and Mrs. Keller. Mr. Keller opened the door, Williams pointed the .357 at him, and both Williams and Cruse walked inside the house.

Williams and Cruse then escorted Mr. Keller to the Kellers' kitchen, where the three men encountered Mrs. Keller. Williams demanded that the Kellers remove their clothing. Cruse then began to search the house for money and other valuables while Williams remained with the Kellers. Cruse located a fully-loaded .38 caliber handgun during his search. When Cruse returned to the kitchen, Williams suggested they tie the Kellers up, and Cruse did so with some phone cord. Williams and Cruse then placed the Kellers in a living room closet and continued their search of the house.

Some time later Cruse moved Mrs. Keller, still naked, to another closet -this one in a back bedroom of the house. Both Williams and Cruse then raped Mrs. Keller. During the rape Mrs. Keller pleaded, "Just don't hurt us." After they had finished, Williams and Cruse retrieved Mr. Keller, and Williams instructed both Kellers to take showers and put on clean clothing. Williams then told the Kellers they were going to "take a walk." On the way out of the house Williams informed Mrs. Keller that he planned to burn the house. Upon Mrs. Keller's request, Williams accompanied her back inside to get the Kellers' marriage license.

With Williams carrying the .38 and Cruse the .357, the two men walked the Kellers down a dirt road and into a thicket. Williams then took up a position directly behind Mr. Keller and Cruse stood behind Mrs. Keller. Williams said, "We'll shoot at the count of three." At the count of three, Williams shot Mr. Keller, who fell to the ground. Cruse did not fire. Williams turned to Cruse and told him to shoot. After Cruse shot and Mrs. Keller fell, Mr. Keller stood up again. Williams then shot him a second time. As Cruse began to walk away, Williams said, "Wait . . . . What if they ain't dead?" Williams then approached the Kellers and shot each a few more times.

Williams and Cruse next returned to the house, where they loaded the Kellers' Jeep Cherokee with their television set, microwave oven, stereo and speakers, and shotgun. After loading the Cherokee, the two men set fire to the house.

The next day Williams and Cruse sold some of the property they had taken from the Kellers. They then threw the remaining property and the .357 into the Rappahannock River and set fire to the Cherokee.

When James heard about the fire at the Kellers' house, she contacted the police and informed them that she had deposited Williams and Cruse near the house on the night of the fire. The police interviewed Cruse, who was unresponsive until the police located the bodies of Mr. and Mrs. Keller.

After consulting counsel, Cruse agreed to a plea bargain pursuant to which he would disclose his knowledge of the crimes in exchange for a promise from the Commonwealth not to seek the death penalty. Cruse then gave a statement in which he explained the events of the fateful night in detail, with the exception of Cruse's own participation in the rape of Mrs. Keller. Upon learning of Cruse's falsehood, the Commonwealth revoked its plea agreement with Cruse and later indicted him for capital murder.

Williams was indicted for the capital murder, robbery, rape, and abduction of Mrs. Keller; for the capital murder, robbery, and abduction of Mr. Keller; for capital murder based on two related homicides; statutory burglary; and arson. At trial in January 1994, Williams took the stand in his own defense. He confirmed significant parts of the Commonwealth's case. In particular, he indicated that he was the one who suggested robbing the Bear Creek Market, that it was his suggestion to set fire to the Kellers' house, and that he shot Mr. Keller in the head. He contradicted portions of the evidence presented against him, most of which was in the form of testimony by Cruse. Specifically, he denied that he also raped Mrs. Keller, that he fired any shots other than the first one, and that he was the instigator at various other points during the commission of the crimes.

The jury convicted Williams of capital murder. It then recommended the death sentence on the basis of Williams' future dangerousness and the vileness of his crimes. The trial court agreed with the jury's recommendation and sentenced Williams to death. The Supreme Court of Virginia affirmed the conviction and sentence, Williams v. Commonwealth, 450 S.E.2d 365 (Va. 1994), and the United States Supreme Court denied certiorari, Williams v. Virginia, 515 U.S. 1161 (1995).

Williams then filed a petition for state habeas and moved for discovery, an evidentiary hearing, and expert assistance. The Supreme Court of Virginia denied these motions and the petition, stating without explanation that Williams' claims were meritless. The United States Supreme Court again denied certiorari. Williams v. Netherland, 519 U.S. 877 (1996).

Next, Williams filed a petition for habeas corpus in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. The district court granted Williams an evidentiary hearing on three of his claims and dismissed the rest. Because Williams filed his petition after the effective date of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), Pub. L. No. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214, this court entered a stay and instructed the district court to reconsider its grant of an evidentiary hearing in light of 28 U.S.C.§ 2254(e) as amended by that Act. After applying the AEDPA, the district court denied Williams' request for an evidentiary hearing and dismissed his petition in its entirety. Williams now appeals.


Williams maintains he was entitled to an evidentiary hearing in the district court to establish several claims. Two of those claims arise under the Sixth Amendment. First, Williams claims that one of the jurors failed to answer honestly questions put to her on voir dire. See United States v. Bynum, 634 F.2d 768 (4th Cir. 1980). Specifically, Williams contends that juror Bonnie Stinnett failed to disclose that she had once been married to Deputy Sheriff Claude Meinhard -who would testify for the Commonwealth -when Stinnett was asked whether she was related to any witness in the case. Williams also maintains that Stinnett withheld the fact that prosecutor Robert Woodson had represented her in her divorce proceedings. Second, Williams claims that the prosecutor improperly failed to correct the dishonest juror. Williams argues that Woodson failed to disclose both of these pieces of information and thereby violated his right to a fair trial. See United States v. Kojayan, 8 F.3d 1315 (9th Cir. 1993).

With respect to his other claim, Williams maintains that the Commonwealth failed to provide him with exculpatory evidence as required under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963). In particular, Williams claims that the Commonwealth failed to disclose a psychiatric evaluation that indicated Cruse had little specific recollection of the events surrounding the Keller murders.


The district court denied Williams an evidentiary hearing on these claims. Section 2254(e)(2) provides:

(2) If the applicant has failed to develop the factual basis of a claim in State court proceedings, the court shall not hold an evidentiary hearing on the claim unless the applicant shows that --

(A) the claim relies on -(i) a new rule of constitutional law, made retroactive to cases on collateral review by the Supreme Court, that was previously unavailable; or

(ii) a factual predicate that could not have been previously discovered through the exercise of due diligence; and

(B) the facts underlying the claim would be sufficient to establish by clear and convincing evidence that but for constitutional error, no reasonable

factfinder would have found the applicant guilty of the underlying offense.

28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(2). The district court held that whatever else Williams could show, he could not demonstrate...

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