Williams v. Trammell

Citation782 F.3d 1184
Decision Date10 April 2015
Docket NumberNo. 12–5190.,12–5190.
PartiesJeremy Alan WILLIAMS, Petitioner–Appellant, v. Anita TRAMMELL, Warden, Oklahoma State Penitentiary, Respondent–Appellee.
CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)

782 F.3d 1184

Jeremy Alan WILLIAMS, Petitioner–Appellant
Anita TRAMMELL, Warden, Oklahoma State Penitentiary, Respondent–Appellee.

No. 12–5190.

United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit.

April 10, 2015.

782 F.3d 1188

Ryan A. Ray of Norman Wohlgemuth Chandler & Jeter, P.C., Tulsa, OK, (Randy A. Bauman of the Office of the Federal Public Defender, Oklahoma City, OK, with him on the briefs) for Petitioner–Appellant.

Jennifer J. Dickson of the Office of Attorney General, Oklahoma City, OK (E. Scott Pruitt, Attorney General of Oklahoma, with her on the brief) for Respondent–Appellee.

Before HARTZ, GORSUCH, and PHILLIPS, Circuit Judges.


PHILLIPS, Circuit Judge.

In this habeas case, Jeremy Alan Williams challenges his Oklahoma conviction for first-degree murder and his accompanying sentence of death. The district court denied relief but issued a certificate of appealability, giving Williams the ability to appeal his claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. In addition, this court also agreed to hear Williams's sufficiency-of-the-evidence and cumulative-prejudice claims. Exercising jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1291 and 2253(a), we agree with the district court and conclude that Williams is not entitled to relief.


The following facts come from the direct-appeal decision of the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals (OCCA) unless otherwise noted. See

782 F.3d 1189

Williams v. State, 188 P.3d 208, 214–218 (Okla.Crim.App.2008). We presume that the OCCA's factual findings are correct. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1).

On the morning of June 22, 2004, two gunmen (one wearing a black-hooded sweatshirt and the other wearing a white-hooded sweatshirt) robbed the First Fidelity Bank in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Williams, 188 P.3d at 214. Both men wore ski masks. Id. During the robbery, the gunmen shot three people—bank customer Howard Smith, bank president Mark Poole, and bank teller Amber Rogers. Id. When the gunmen entered the bank, the one wearing white ordered Poole to open the safe. He complied, but the safe would not open because it was on a fifteen-minute time delay. Id. Not long after, Smith entered the bank. He saw the gunman wearing white, but not the one wearing black. As Smith raised his arms, the gunman in black shot him twice from behind. Id.; (Trial. Tr. vol. III at 745–46.) That gunman then went behind the teller area, where the gunman wearing white was arguing with Poole. The gunman in black shot Poole in his side, with the bullet traveling through his right arm before entering his chest. (Trial Tr. vol. III at 666, 679–80). Then the one in white stood above Poole and also shot him, hitting Poole in the leg. Williams, 188 P.3d at 214 ; (Trial Tr. vol. III at 671). As the two gunmen left, the one wearing white turned around and fired a shot that killed Rogers as she lowered her head and crouched on the floor. Id.; (Trial. Tr. vol. III at 721–22). Smith and Poole survived their gunshot wounds.

A witness's description of the getaway car led police to Jeremy Williams and, soon after, to Alvin Jordan. The state charged both men with first-degree murder (under alternate theories of malice murder and felony murder), armed bank robbery, and shooting with intent to kill. Williams alone went to trial.

The evidence connecting Williams to the robbery was compelling. One of Jordan's girlfriends testified that, sometime before the June 22 bank robbery, she overheard Williams tell Jordan about having previously robbed a bank located on the second floor of a building. First Fidelity was on the second story of a multi-use office building. In fact, a single gunman had robbed that same bank on May 11. After arresting Williams for the second bank robbery, police matched his fingerprints to those lifted from the bank after this first robbery.

Before the June 22 bank robbery, the same girlfriend went to Williams's apartment with Jordan. While there, she saw a revolver resembling the one that the masked gunman dressed in black used on June 22. She also heard Williams tell Jordan that he would kill if he had to.

Another one of Jordan's girlfriends placed Williams, Jordan, and the alleged getaway driver together at 4:00 a.m. the morning of the crime. In addition, Jordan's aunt placed the three men together soon after the robbery and testified that Williams had boasted that he had shot some people and that he had divided the money with Jordan and the driver. According to her testimony, Williams said that he and Jordan each came away with $1100, leaving $700 for the driver. The bank reported just under $3000 stolen during the June 22 bank robbery.

Williams's girlfriend testified that he arrived at their apartment later that morning with the same wad of stolen cash. That evening, the girlfriend saw Williams retrieve a ski mask and guns from the yard of an abandoned house and wipe the guns clean. Williams owned those guns, and their caliber and appearance matched the firearms used in the robbery. Police later determined that Williams's DNA matched that found on the ski mask and

782 F.3d 1190

that a footprint left at the bank matched the shoes he was wearing when police arrested him.

On top of all this, Williams testified that he had robbed First Fidelity in May. He said he had jumped off the second-floor balcony when fleeing, just as one of the June 22 robbers had done. Nevertheless, Williams maintained that he did not rob First Fidelity on June 22.

Both gunmen shot people during the robbery—although it was not entirely clear who shot Amber Rogers. The state's theory was that Williams was the gunman in black and that Jordan was the gunman in white. Eyewitnesses said that the gunman in black shot Smith from behind while the gunman in white commanded Rogers to unload the till. The gunman in black then went behind the teller area, where he and the other gunman both shot Poole; the gunman in black first shot Poole because Poole could not immediately open the time-delayed safes. As the gunmen fled the bank, one turned around and delivered the fatal shot to Rogers as she crouched on the floor. A bank employee identified the gunman in white as the killer. Yet in the wall behind Rogers's teller station, investigators found a slug of the same caliber as the revolver used by the robber in black. Still images from the bank's security cameras showed both gunmen in various positions, but they did not clearly depict how and when Rogers had been shot.

The state argued that it did not matter whether Williams was the actual triggerman. The felony-murder charge certainly did not depend on it, and Williams could be guilty of malice-murder too, so long as he aided and abetted Jordan. The trial court instructed the jury to this end. Ultimately, using separate verdict forms, the jury found Williams guilty of both felony murder and malice murder.

At the penalty phase of trial, the state argued that Williams deserved the death penalty because of three aggravating circumstances: (1) the murder involved a great risk of death to more than one person; (2) the murder was committed to avoid arrest or prosecution; and (3) Williams posed a continuing threat to society. The state presented evidence of the life-threatening nature of Smith's and Poole's injuries and impact statements from Amber Rogers's family. Otherwise, the state relied on the evidence it presented at trial.

The defense conceded the presence of the first aggravating circumstance but argued the state had failed to prove the other two. The defense also presented evidence of several mitigating circumstances, arguing that Williams: (1) did not have a prior criminal record; (2) was likely to be rehabilitated; (3) was just 21 at the time of the murder; (4) was under the influence of an emotional disturbance or intoxicants or both; and (5) had a difficult upbringing and home life. Social historian, Dr. Wanda Draper, and Williams's mother recounted Williams's turbulent family history for the jury.

In the end, the jury found that the murder involved a great risk of death to more than one person and that Williams was a continuing threat to society. The jury further found that the mitigating factors did not outweigh the aggravating factors and voted to impose the death penalty.

The OCCA affirmed the convictions and sentence on direct appeal, see Williams, 188 P.3d 208, and later denied post-conviction relief, see Williams v. State (First Application for Post–Conviction Relief), No. PCD–2006–1012, slip op. (Okla.Crim.App. Jan. 13, 2009) (unpublished). In response to Williams's habeas petition, the federal district court denied his claims

782 F.3d 1191

without an evidentiary hearing. But the district court did issue a certificate of appealability for two claims: (1) ineffective assistance of counsel (mostly during the guilt phase of trial) and (2) ineffective assistance of counsel at sentencing. This court then expanded the certificate of appealability to include two more claims: (1) sufficiency of the evidence to support Williams's malice-murder conviction and (2) cumulative error. These four claims are now before us on appeal.


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