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Burney v. Aldridge
United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
September 19, 2017
PATRICIA BURNEY, Petitioner,
DEBBIE ALDRIDGE, Warden, Respondent.
OPINION AND ORDER
A. White, United States District Judge.
matter is before the Court on Petitioner's petition for a
writ of habeas corpus filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
2254. Petitioner is a pro se prisoner in the custody of the
Oklahoma Department of Corrections who currently is
incarcerated at Mabel Bassett Correctional Center in McLoud,
Oklahoma. She is attacking her conviction in Wagoner County
District Court Case No. CF-2011-88B for First Degree Murder.
She sets forth the following grounds for relief:
I. The uncorroborated testimony of accomplices Michelle
Burney and Michael Richardson was insufficient to convict
Petitioner of First Degree Malice Aforethought Murder.
II. The State failed to disclose exculpatory impeachment
evidence for the State's key witness and failed to
correct the witness's false testimony.
III. Petitioner's rights to due process and a fair trial
were violated by the admission of improper character
IV. The admission of gruesome photographs deprived Petitioner
of her right to a fair trial and due process of law.
V. The trial court abused its discretion by failing to issue
defense counsel's proposed instruction on witness
VI. The accumulation of errors deprived Petitioner of a fair
respondent concedes that Petitioner has exhausted her state
court remedies for the purpose of federal habeas corpus
review. The following records have been submitted to the
Court for consideration in this matter:
A. Petitioner's direct appeal brief.
B. The State's brief in Petitioner's direct appeal.
C. Opinion affirming Petitioner's judgment and sentence.
Burney v. State, No. F-2012-409 (Okla. Crim. App.
Mar. 31, 2014).
D. Findings of Wagoner County District Court in response to
questions from the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals.
E. State court record.
addition, Petitioner filed a reply to the Respondent's
response to the petition.
the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, federal
habeas corpus relief is proper only when the state court
adjudication of a claim:
(1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved
an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal
law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States;
(2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable
determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented
in the State court proceeding.
28 U.S.C. § 2254(d).
Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals (“OCCA”) set
forth the facts of this case in Petitioner's direct
Burney was married to Arthur Burney, and lived in a rural
area near Coweta, Oklahoma, in a triple-wide manufactured
home. Their daughter, Michelle, was fourteen years old at the
time of the crime. Burney began an affair with Jeff Wilke in
2010. Although Arthur was alive, Burney told Wilke that
Arthur had died earlier that year. After Arthur took a bad
fall in September 2010 Burney and Michelle began to say they
wished Arthur was dead. Over the next few months, they
attempted unsuccessfully to poison Arthur and began offering
to pay if someone would kill him. Through a website, Michelle
met seventeen-year-old Michael Richardson, who lived in
Oklahoma City. On February 15, 2011, Burney and Michelle met
Richardson near his Oklahoma City school. Richardson gave
Michelle three morphine pills, to be used to murder Arthur.
The women returned to Coweta. Although Arthur took the pills,
the murder attempt was unsuccessful. On February 17, 2011,
Michelle called Richardson and offered him $6, 000, plus
marijuana and sexual intercourse with her, if he and two
friends, Zach Hardin and Wesley Slemp, would kill Arthur.
Burney drove to Oklahoma City on February 18, 2011, with
Michelle in a black rented Chevy Aveo. They picked Richardson
up, and got more pills from Slemp and Hardin. The Burneys and
Richardson returned to the Burneys' trailer house near
Coweta that afternoon. Burney gave Richardson a .22 rifle,
and he and Michelle went out on the property to practice
shooting. Shortly before 5:00 p.m. Burney texted Michelle
“Hes here” [sic]. Michelle locked Richardson in
the barn tack room to wait for Arthur. She returned briefly
with Richardson's cell phone, telling Richardson that if
he did not kill Arthur, Arthur would kill him, and Michelle
would kill Arthur; she locked him in the tack room and left.
When Arthur entered the barn, unlocked the tack room, and
opened the door, Richardson shot him in the face. Arthur fell
down and died on the tack room floor. The cause of death was
a small caliber gunshot wound to the head.
Richardson communicated with Michelle by phone. He returned
to the locked and deserted house, slid the rifle under the
trailer skirting, and met the Burneys at the end of the
driveway. He told them Arthur was dead. Burney drove the
teenagers to a mall and had dinner with Wilke; at about 7:30
p.m. Burney and the teenagers returned to her house. Burney
went to the barn, found Arthur, and called 911 shortly after
8:00 p.m. Horton, a Wagoner County Sheriff's Deputy,
responded. Burney had moved Arthur's body, at the
direction of the 911 operator, when she attempted to revive
him. There was a great deal of blood on and near Arthur, but
no injury was immediately apparent. The gunshot wound to
Arthur's head was discovered during the autopsy. At 9:00
p.m. on February 18, while emergency responders were still
with Arthur, Burney texted Wilke, “I love you.”
She also called him about 1:00 a.m. on February 19th.
Burney was told on February 19 that Arthur's death was a
homicide. In a voluntary interview with police, she said she
told Arthur the morning of the 18th that she and Michelle
were picking up Richardson in Oklahoma City and she would
take the kids to the mall in Tulsa. Burney said that she and
the teenagers returned to the house at about 5:00 p.m. She
said Richardson stayed in the car while she talked to Arthur,
saying they would be home at 8:00 p.m. Arthur planned to meet
a friend, Alvin Leonard. Burney said she took the teenagers
to the mall, met Wilke for dinner, picked up the kids, and
got home shortly before 8:00 p.m. After Burney called Leonard
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