United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER
A. White, United States District Judge.
matter is before the Court on Petitioner's petition for a
writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254.
Petitioner is a pro se prisoner currently incarcerated at
Davis Correctional Facility in Holdenville, Oklahoma. He is
challenging his conviction in Pushmataha County District
Court Case No. CF-2010-25 for First Degree Felony Murder
During the Commission of a Robbery with a Dangerous Weapon,
or in the alternative, First Degree Malice Aforethought
Murder. He sets forth the following grounds for relief:
I. The evidence was insufficient to convict Petitioner of
First Degree Murder beyond a reasonable doubt.
II. The prosecutor impermissibly used prior statements made
by State's witness Chris Dill as substantive evidence of
III. Petitioner was denied effective assistance of trial
IV. The accumulation of errors deprived Petitioner of a fair
concedes that Petitioner has exhausted his 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. Summary Opinion affirming Petitioner's Judgment and
E. State court record.
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).
between midnight and 6:00 a.m. on April 5, 2010, Petitioner
beat, shot, and killed Robert Edward Strickland and dumped
his body alongside a rural mountain road in Pushmataha
County. (Tr. II, 286, 289, 293-98; Tr. III, 503-505;
State's Exs. 54-62, 91, 97). After dumping Mr.
Strickland's body, Petitioner drove Mr. Strickland's
vehicle to another location and set it on fire. (Tr. II,
396-403; Tr. III, 526-29; State's Exs. 1-12, 97).
Mr. Strickland was killed, he was lured to a rural road where
he thought he was meeting Petitioner's friend, Karrie
McKeever. (Tr. II, 274-76; 382-83). Mr. Strickland and Ms.
McKeever were acquaintances, and Mr. Strickland had sold
drugs to Ms. McKeever on past occasions. (Tr. II, 278, 288,
318, 383). On that night, Ms. McKeever had sent several text
messages to Mr. Strickland, claiming she was stranded with a
friend and needed help repairing her vehicle. (Tr. II,
275-76, 379-83). In reality, Petitioner, Ms. McKeever,
Natasha Cathey, and Clifton Parish, who had been driving
around together that night in Petitioner's truck,
intended to rob Mr. Strickland of his drugs and money. (Tr.
II, 272-76, 279).
Mr. Strickland first arrived at the location referred to as
the Messer area clearing, he saw Ms. McKeever and Ms. Cathey
arrive in Petitioner's truck. (Tr. II, 276-78). Ms.
McKeever and Ms. Cathey had dropped off Petitioner and Mr.
Parrish several yards back, so they could hide in the woods
and not be seen by Mr. Strickland. (Tr. II, 276-77). Once at
the Messer area clearing, Ms. McKeever and Ms. Cathey got
into Mr. Strickland's SUV and smoked some methamphetamine
that Mr. Strickland had brought with him. (Tr. II, 277-79).
While smoking, Ms. Cathey observed Mr. Strickland's black
handgun in the passenger seat. (Tr. II, 279, 350, 384-85;
State's Ex. 69). Mr. Strickland never picked up the
weapon while they were in the vehicle. (Tr. II, 279). After
several minutes Ms. Cathey and Ms. McKeever exited Mr.
Strickland's vehicle and walked back to Petitioner's
truck. (Tr. II, 279-81).
Mr. Strickland drove off, Petitioner and Mr. Parish walked
out of the woods and back to the truck. (Tr. II, 280-82).
After some discussion between the four, Ms. McKeever called
Mr. Strickland on her cell phone and asked him to come back
to the clearing so they could look for Ms. Cathey's car
keys. (Tr. II, 282). This time, when Mr. Strickland came to
the clearing, Petitioner stood next to his truck, and Mr.
Parish hid in the woods. (Tr. II, 282-83). When Mr.
Strickland stopped his SUV, Ms. McKeever opened the passenger
door on the ruse of looking for Ms. Cathey's car keys.
(Tr. II, 283-84). Instead, she grabbed Mr. Strickland's
.22 caliber gun from the seat. (Tr. II, 284, 347-48, 350).
When Mr. Strickland asked what was going on and exited his
vehicle, Petitioner grabbed Mr. Strickland from behind and
wrapped his arms around his body. (Tr. II, 284-86, 288, 315).
Mr. Parish came out of the woods and proceeded to beat Mr.
Strickland on his face and head with his fists and the gun,
while Petitioner kept Mr. Strickland restrained. (Tr. II,
284-88, 350). After the two beat Mr. Strickland until he was
lying on the ground bleeding extensively from his head, Mr.
Parish dragged Mr. Strickland to a mud hold where he washed
the blood off Mr. Strickland's face and told him to stay
away from Ms. McKeever. (Tr. II, 286-88, 350). Petitioner and
Mr. Parish then loaded Mr. Strickland in the cargo area of
his SUV. (Tr. II, 289).
Cathey and Petitioner left the Messer area clearing in Mr.
Strickland's SUV, while Mr. Parish and Ms. McKeever left
the clearing in Petitioner's truck. (Tr. II, 289-90).
Upon orders from Petitioner, Ms. Cathey drove to an isolated
area known as Frazier Creek and stopped the SUV. (Tr. II,
289-94). When the vehicle stopped, Mr. Strickland, even in
his injured state, somehow was able to escape the cargo area
and attempt to run away. (Tr. II, 294). Petitioner jumped out
of the vehicle and chased after Mr. Strickland. (Tr. II,
293-94). Ms. Cathey, who had remained in the vehicle, heard
someone yell “no” and then heard a gunshot. (Tr.
II, 294-96). After the shot, Petitioner returned, uninjured,
to the vehicle and backed it up to where Mr. Strickland was
lying prone on the ground near the ditch. (Tr. II, 296-97).
Ms. Cathey watched as Petitioner got out, picked up a large
rock, and threw it down toward Mr. Strickland's head.
(Tr. II, 297-98, 332). Petitioner then loaded Mr. Strickland
back into the cargo area of the vehicle. (Tr. II, 298-99). At
that point Ms. Cathey did not know if Mr. Strickland was
still alive. (Tr. II, 301-02). She heard a “weird
noise” coming from Mr. Strickland that did not sound
like normal breathing, but rather like air coming from his
body. (Tr. II, 301-02).
leaving the scene, Petitioner drove the victim's SUV to
his parents' house with Ms. Cathey and the victim. (Tr.
II, 299-01, 339). He parked the SUV and ran inside the house
to change his bloody clothing. (Tr. II, 301-02). Petitioner
then told Ms. Cathey he was taking the victim to the hospital
and left Ms. Cathey with Mr. Parish and Ms. McKeever, who had
arrived at the house in Petitioner's truck. (Tr. II,
302-03, 334). Once Petitioner left, Ms. Cathey, Mr. Parish,
and Ms. McKeever took the money they had stolen from the
victim to buy gas and minutes for a cell phone, to gamble at
a casino, and to get a tattoo. (Tr. II, 303-08). Mr. Parish
also kept part of the victim's drugs for himself. (Tr. II
did not take the victim to the hospital. (Tr. IV, 670).
Instead, he drove down a two-lane dirt road to a pine
plantation and dumped the victim's body. (Tr. III,
538-45; Tr. IV, 643, 667-72; State's Exs. 54-62, 92-94).
He next drove approximately three miles to another dirt road
where he parked the vehicle and set it on fire. (Tr. III,
527-30; Tr. IV, 667-72; State's Exs. 1-12, 92-94). He
then went to a remote cabin a few miles away, where he
stopped for a period of time, signed the guest register, and
took the homeowner's shoes when he left. (Tr. III,
515-16, 519, 521, 523; State's Exs. 84-86, 92-94).
next arrived at the home of his friend John Wesley Taylor in
Rattan, Oklahoma. (Tr. IV 593-95). He woke up Mr. Taylor and
told him he had been hunting and needed to wash some blood
off his hands. (Tr. IV, 595-99). The next day Petitioner and
Ms. Cathey returned to Mr. Taylor's house to
“unload some junk” from the back of
Petitioner's truck. (Tr. IV, 599-600). After unloading
the items, the three stopped at a church where Petitioner and
Mr. Taylor smoked methamphetamine. (Tr. IV, 600-01).
Petitioner told Mr. Taylor he had obtained the
methamphetamine when he beat up “the dope man”
and took his drugs. (Tr. IV, 601-02). Petitioner had stolen
so much dope from “the dope man” that he gave
some to Mr. Taylor. (Tr. IV, 601-02).
victim's burned-out SUV was discovered and reported to
the police around 6:00 a.m. on April 5, 2010. (Tr. II,
396-98; 403; State's Exs. 1-12). The victim's
girlfriend reported him missing to police on April 6, 2010.
(Tr. II, 388; Tr. III, 432-33). After the missing
person's report and the burned-out vehicle were
connected, law enforcement officials discovered the Messer
area scene where the victim had been beaten. (Tr. II,
398-403; State's Ex. 95). Passers-by later discovered
blood, gun parts, and bullets at the Frazier Creek scene and
reported their findings to police. (Tr. III, 416-423).
April 8, 2010, Petitioner was taken into custody and
interviewed by agents with the Oklahoma State Bureau of
Investigation (“OSBI”). (Tr. IV, 676, 710-15;
State's Ex. 97). After numerous denials and stories about
what had happened to the victim, Petitioner admitted his
involvement. (Tr. IV, 686-87, 710-15; State's Ex. 97). He
claimed, however, that he and the victim got into a
“scuffle, ” and the victim shot himself when the
gun went off during the fight. (State's Ex. 97). He also
told the agents he was trying to take the victim to the
hospital when he realized the victim was dead. Id.
During the interview he refused to tell the agents what he
had done with the victim's body. Id.
victim's body was discovered by a search party in the
pine plantation on April 12, 2010. (Tr. III, 501-05, 510;
State's Exs. 89, 95). The body was in an advanced state