Rape - Robbery
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder:
Date of birth:
Victim profile: Rena Ratcliff
Method of murder: Strangulation
Location: Kaufman County, Texas, USA
by lethal injection in Texas on September 17,
Less than four months after being released on "shock probation"
while serving a ten year sentence for burglary, Murray broke and
entered the home of 93 year old Rena Ratcliff in the evening.
While he was rummaging through the bedroom looking for things to
steal, Radcliff woke up. She struck Murray on the back of his
head with her cane or walker, and Murray responded by beating
her on her head. He also pulled her clothing down and raped her.
He also tied an Ace bandage around her neck and stuffed the ends
into her mouth.
He then stole some change from a jar - about $10
- and a small knife, and left. Murray was being questioned about
another burglary in the area when he told the officer that he
wanted to confess another crime. He then admitted to Ratcliff's
Murray v. Quarterman, S243 Fed.Appx. 51 (5th Cir. 2007)
Murray v. Quarterman, Slip Copy, 2006 WL 2691151 (N.D.Tex.
10 chili cheese enchiladas, a cheese pizza, one cheeseburger and
"I'm sorry for what I did," he told two nephews of his victim
who watched him through a window in the death chamber. "I hope
you can find it in your heart to forgive me. The Lord has
forgiven me." Murray then looked through an adjacent window
where his mother and two brothers were among the witnesses. "I'll
be there waiting for y'all, all right?" he told them. "God Bless."
Date of Birth
Murray, William A.
Date of Offense
Age (at the
TDCJ-ID #798525, ten-year sentence from Kaufman County for one
count of Burglary of a Habitation; 11/12/97 received Shock
On 02/10/98, in Kaufman, Texas, during the nighttime hours, the
subject beat, strangled and raped a 93-year old female.
Law enforcement officers responded to a call
concerning the victim at her residence. When the officers
arrived, they found the residence to be in disarray and appeared
to have been ransacked.
They found the victim in the bedroom, nude
from the waist down with wounds and bruising on and about her
head area. The victim also had an Ace bandage tied around her
neck and into her mouth, which was soaked with blood.
It was stated that the victim's death was
caused by strangulation and blunt force injuries.
The subject confessed to entering the
residence and ransacking it. The subject admitted that he
physically and sexually assaulted the victim, and wrapped an Ace
bandage around her face and mouth. The subject admitted he
removed some change from a jar and a small knife.
Race and Gender
William Alfred Murray
William Alfred Murray, 40, was executed by lethal
injection on 17 September 2008 in Huntsville, Texas for the rape and
murder of a woman while burglarizing her home.
On 10 February 1998, Murray, then 30, entered the
Kaufman home of Rena Ratcliff, 93. While he was rummaging through
Ratcliff's bedroom, looking for things to steal, she woke up. Ratcliff
snuck up behind Murray and hit him on the back of his head with her cane
or walker. Murray then began beating Ratcliff on her head. He also
pulled her clothing down and raped her. He also tied an Ace bandage
around her neck and stuffed the ends into her mouth. He then stole some
change from a jar - about $10 - and a small knife, and left.
Murray was being questioned about another burglary in
the area when he told the officer that he wanted to confess another
crime. He then admitted to Ratcliff's murder.
Evidence at Murray's trial showed he was responsible
for at least a dozen burglaries in Kaufman County. He had been convicted
for one of them and given a 10-year prison sentence, but he was released
only four months later on "shock probation" in November 1997. He also
had a 1992 conviction for marijuana possession. While in jail, awaiting
trial, he sexually assaulted two other inmates, and also escaped.
A jury convicted Murray of capital murder in June
1999 and sentenced him to death. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals
affirmed the conviction and sentence in January 2000. All of his
subsequent appeals in state and federal court were denied.
In an interview from death row a few days before his
execution, Murray - whose 5' 3" height earned him the nickname "Scooter"
- told a reporter he was high on PCP and crack cocaine and had drunk 18
beers when he broke into Ratcliff's house. He intended to steal a
television set, but it turned out to be too heavy to carry. He said he
did not know the victim was in the bedroom when he went in to look for
items to steal. "I messed up. Somebody hit me from behind, and I went
off ... the next thing, I did what I did. I tripped out. It was crazy."
Murray said that he dropped out of school in the
ninth grade. "After that, it started going downhill," he said. "That was
the worst mistake I ever did." "Yes, I did do this," Murray said in the
interview. "I'm not trying to blame this on somebody else. I want people
to know I'm sorry for the crime. I pray to the Lord to forgive me and
I'm asking them to forgive me. That's all I can do."
Despite admitting his guilt, Murray hoped he could
avoid being executed. "I've been praying every day that the good Lord
will let me out," he said. "They don't have to worry about me messing up
any more." Murray's lawyer did not file any last-chance appeals on his
Four days before his execution, Hurricane Ike moved
through the Huntsville area. Despite widespread power outages, the Texas
Department of Criminal Justice's Huntsville Unit had normal electric
service. TDCJ officials said that even if power had been down, the
judge's execution warrant would have been carried out, because the
procedure does not require electricity.
Two of Ratcliff's nephews witnessed Murray's
execution from a viewing room adjoining the death chamber. "I'm sorry
for what I did," Murray told them. "I hope you can find it in your heart
to forgive me. The Lord has forgiven me." He then looked at his mother
and brother, who were watching from the other viewing room. "I'll be
there waiting for y'all, all right?" he said to them. "God bless." The
lethal injection was then started. He was pronounced dead at 6:20 p.m.
William Murray executed for 1998 killing of
Kauffman County woman
Dallas Morning News - DallasNews.com
September 17, 2008
HUNTSVILLE, Texas – Texas has executed condemned
killer William Murray for raping and strangling a 93-year-old woman
during a burglary of her Kaufman County home more than a decade ago.
William Murray Murray was executed Wednesday night. He was the ninth
Texas prisoner put to death this year. The total is the highest in the
Murray blamed drug problems for committing at least a
dozen burglaries, including the one in February 1998 where Rena Ratcliff
was awakened while he rummaged through her bedroom. The widow hit him
with her cane or walker, surprising him, and he said after that he "went
He took about $10 in change from a jar and a knife he
later traded for drugs.
Killer of woman in $10 burglary executed
By Michael Graczyk - Houston Chronicle
Associated Press - Sept. 18, 2008
HUNTSVILLE, Texas — Condemned killer William Murray
said he'd been looking for another chance to prove himself. "I've been
praying every day that the good Lord will let me out," he said recently
from death row. "They don't have to worry about me messing up any more."
Freed on probation after serving just three months of a 10-year term for
burglaries, he forfeited his chance, raping and strangling an elderly
woman nearly a decade ago while committing another burglary just three
months after he was released.
Wednesday evening, he was executed for the slaying of
93-year-old Rena Ratliff at her home in Kaufman County, just east of
Dallas. "I'm sorry for what I did," he told two nephews of his victim
who watched him through a window in the death chamber. "I hope you can
find it in your heart to forgive me. The Lord has forgiven me." Murray
then looked through an adjacent window where his mother and two brothers
were among the witnesses. "I'll be there waiting for y'all, all right?"
he told them. "God Bless." Eight minutes later he was pronounced dead.
Scattered power outages in the Huntsville area, the
result of last weekend's Hurricane Ike, had no effect on the execution.
Officials said the procedures were not dependent on electricity and the
Huntsville Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, where
executions are carried out, had normal electric service Wednesday.
Murray, 39, became the ninth prisoner executed this
year in the nation's busiest capital punishment state. Appeals were
exhausted and Murray's lawyer filed no last-ditch efforts in the courts
to try to stop the punishment. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to review
his case earlier this year and a clemency bid to the Texas Board of
Pardons and Paroles was turned down this week.
In a recent death row interview with The Associated
Press, Murray acknowledged the slaying, blaming it on a drug problem. "I'm
not trying to blame this on somebody else," he said. "I want people to
know I'm sorry for the crime. I pray to the Lord to forgive me and I'm
asking them to forgive me. That's all I can do."
Murray was linked to at least a dozen burglaries in
his home area of Kaufman County, just east of Dallas. In February 1998,
he awakened Ratcliff while he rummaged through her bedroom. The widow
hit him with her cane or walker, surprising him, and he said after that
he "went crazy." "I killed her," he said. "I feel bad." He took about
$10 worth of change from a jar and a knife. He swapped the knife for
The night of the killing, he said he drank 18 beers
and took some PCP and crack cocaine. He'd hoped to steal a television
but it was too heavy for the 5-foot-3 Murray, known on death row as
"Scooter." Besides the burglaries, his record showed he escaped from
jail while awaiting trial, sexually assaulted two other inmates while he
was locked up and also was seen smoking marijuana in jail. At one point,
he was employed as a city worker in Kaufman but got fired for marijuana
Another inmate, Joseph Ries, had been scheduled to
die on Thursday but the judge who set the execution date moved it a few
weeks ago to October. Ries is among four convicted killers set to die
next month and among at least 15 with execution dates into early next
year. Scheduled to die next is Kevin Watts, set for execution Oct. 16
for a triple slaying during the robbery of a San Antonio restaurant in
Less than four months after being released from
"shock probation" after serving only three months of a ten year sentence
for a count of burglary of a habitation, William A. Murray robbed, beat,
raped and murdered a 93-year-old woman. The convicted murderer's mother
had once cared for the elderly woman as a home nursing aide. After his
arrest, Murray told his mother he killed the woman in a drug frenzy
after breaking into her home. The widow hit him with her cane or walker,
surprising him, and he said after that he "went crazy."
Evidence showed Murray had two earlier marijuana
convictions. According to court documents, Murray attacked Rena after
she woke up while he was in her room looking for valuables and
confronted him. Police acting on a warrant that tied Murray to an
earlier burglary arrested him when they found evidence linking him to
The facts in evidence show that, on the night of
February 10, 1998, in Kaufman, Texas, Murray beat, strangled and raped
93-year-old female Rena Ratcliff. Law enforcement officers responded to
a call concerning the victim at her residence. When the officers arrived,
they found the residence to be in disarray and appeared to have been
ransacked. They found the victim in the bedroom, nude from the waist
down with wounds and bruising on and about her head area. The victim
also had an Ace bandage tied around her neck and into her mouth, which
was soaked with blood. It was stated that the victim's death was caused
by strangulation and blunt force injuries.
Murray confessed to entering
the residence and ransacking it. Murray admitted that he physically and
sexually assaulted the victim, and wrapped an Ace bandage around her
face and mouth. Murray admitted he removed about $10 worth of change
from a jar and a small knife which he later traded for drugs.
UPDATE: A man who raped and murdered a 93-year-old
woman in her Dallas-area home was executed Wednesday after he apologized
to his victim's relatives. "I'm sorry for what I did," William Murray
told two nephews of Rena Ratcliff who watched him through a window in
the death chamber. "I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me.
The Lord has forgiven me." In an recent interview with the Associated
Press, Murray said, "Yes, I did do this. I'm not trying to blame this on
somebody else. I want people to know I'm sorry for the crime. I pray to
the Lord to forgive me and I'm asking them to forgive me. That's all I
can do." Murray blamed drug problems for committing at least a dozen
burglaries, including the one in February 1998 where Ratcliff was
awakened while he rummaged through her bedroom. The widow hit him with
her cane or walker, surprising him, and he said after that he "went
crazy. I didn't know she was in there," he said. "I messed up. Somebody
hit me from behind and I went off. I did what I did."
Murray v. Quarterman, S243 Fed.Appx. 51
(5th Cir. 2007) (Habeas).
Background: Petitioner convicted in state court of
capital murder and sentenced to death filed petition for writ of habeas
corpus. The United States District Court for the Northern District of
Texas, 2006 WL 2691151, denied petition but granted certificate of
Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Jerry E. Smith,
Circuit Judge, held that:
(1) petitioner's depression and suicidal ideation was
insufficient to raise bona fide issue of petitioner's competence to
(2) state appellate court's use of postcard to inform petitioner of
denial of request for rehearing on waiver of right to appeal did not
violate due process;
(3) petitioner was not entitled to federal habeas review of claims of
ineffective assistance of counsel that were not exhausted in state court;
(4) petitioner did not have due process right to present parole
eligibility information to jury. Affirmed.
William Murray was convicted of capital murder and
sentenced to death. The district court denied habeas corpus relief but
granted a certificate of appealability. We affirm.
Murray entered the home of ninety-three-year-old Rena
Ratcliff and looked through her home and bedroom for valuables. Ratcliff
woke up while Murray was in her room and confronted him. Murray hit and
choked Ratcliff, eventually raping and killing her. He was convicted by
a jury and sentenced to death.
“Under [the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty
Act of 1996], a federal court may not issue a writ of habeas corpus for
a defendant convicted in state court unless the state court's
adjudication ‘(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 *53 States; or (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.’ ” Parr v. Quarterman, 472 F.3d 245, 252 (5th Cir.2006) (quoting
28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1)-(2)). “[W]e review the district court's findings
of facts for clear error and its conclusions of law de novo, applying
the same standards to the state court's decision as did the district
court.” Busby v. Dretke, 359 F.3d 708, 713 (5th Cir.2004) (citing
Martinez v. Johnson, 255 F.3d 229, 237 (5th Cir.2001)).
“A decision is contrary to clearly established
Federal law ‘if the state court arrives at a conclusion opposite to that
reached by [the Supreme Court] on a question of law or if the state
court decides a case differently than [the] Court has on a set of
materially indistinguishable facts.’ ” Hill v. Johnson, 210 F.3d 481,
485 (5th Cir.2000) (quoting Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 413, 120
S.Ct. 1495, 146 L.Ed.2d 389 (2000)). “Factual determinations by state
courts are presumed correct absent clear and convincing evidence to the
contrary.” Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 324, 123 S.Ct. 1029, 154
L.Ed.2d 931 (2003) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1)).
Murray first asserts that the state trial court's
decision not to require a psychological examination to determine whether
Murray was competent to waive his appeal was objectively unreasonable.
The trial court had a considerable amount of evidence
relating to Murray's competence. Murray's counsel stated Murray was
competent to waive his appeal; Murray testified at the waiver hearing
that he was competent to waive his appeal; one expert told the court
that, based on an informal evaluation, he had no reason to suspect
Murray was incompetent, though he was not sure, because he had not been
asked to do a formal evaluation; and one expert provided a pretrial
report stating Murray was competent to stand trial five months before
the waiver hearing.
Murray claims his own testimony should have alerted
the trial court to the need for an examination. In his testimony, he
claimed that his decision was based on emotion, not rational reasoning,
as shown by the fact he gave unfounded emotional reasons for his waiver:
He said he wanted to “get it over” for the victim's family's sake, even
though he knew it was a “mistake.” Moreover, he claims that his major
depression and suicidal ideation should have caused the court to order a
In Mata v. Johnson, 210 F.3d 324 (5th Cir.2000), we
analyzed when a federal district court must obtain a psychological
examination for a defendant waiving his right to continue habeas appeals.
In that case, the district court did not require an examination, and we
examined whether the evidence raised a bona fide issue of competence. Id.
The record contained evidence that raised a bona fide
question of competence, because there was evidence that the defendant
suffered from an organic brain disorder, had made numerous suicide
attempts, and had a delusional disorder. Id. at 332. The district court
erred by relying on an expert report that was twelve years old. Id. Also,
in that case the defendant did not appear before the court for the court
to observe his behavior personally. Id. at 333.
Having carefully reviewed Murray's brief and
supporting documents, we conclude that the state trial court did not
base its decision on an unreasonable determination of the facts in
failing to require a *54 psychological exam. The evidence in the record
did not raise a question of Murray's competence. His depression and
suicidal ideation are unlike the repeated suicide attempts and
documented delusional disorder in Mata. The five-month-old expert report
stating Murray was competent to stand trial is quite different from the
twelve-year-old report in Mata; nothing indicates the report in this
case was insufficiently current. Finally, the state court examined
Murray, personally observing his behavior, and concluded he was
competent. The federal district court did not err in finding that the
state court's failure to require a psychological exam was not
Murray urges that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals
(“TCCA”) denied him procedural due process because it used a postcard to
deny his motion for rehearing of its affirmance of his conviction. He
also asserts that he should have been able to withdraw his waiver of his
right to appeal because his motion for rehearing was made only a few
months after he had requested permission to waive his right to appeal.
Murray filed a motion that stated that he had
informed his counsel that he wanted to waive his right to appeal. Three
months later, the TCCA affirmed his sentence, noting he had waived his
right to appeal. About two weeks later, Murray moved for rehearing,
stating he had changed his mind about waiving. The TCCA denied the
motion for rehearing with a postcard that noted that three of the nine
members of the court dissented from the denial.
Murray claims that the TCCA's use of a postcard to
deny his motion for rehearing was “the essence of arbitrary action” and
that the refusal to permit him to withdraw his waiver was an abuse of
discretion that affected “the fundamental fairness of the trial.” Yet,
Murray has not shown that the TCCA's procedure was contrary to any
clearly established federal law as determined by the Supreme Court. He
provides no law stating that defendants have a right to a rehearing or
that they have a right to have their rehearing denied with a written
opinion that is not on a postcard. The Supreme Court has “defined the
category of infractions that violate ‘fundamental fairness' very
narrowly,” Dowling v. United States, 493 U.S. 342, 352, 110 S.Ct. 668,
107 L.Ed.2d 708 (1990), and the procedure followed here does not fit
into that narrow category, because it does not violate “those
fundamental conceptions of justice which lie at the base of our civil
and political institutions, and which define the community's sense of
fair play and decency.” Id. at 353, 110 S.Ct. 668 (internal quotations
Murray contends that the federal district court erred
in denying his claim that he was denied effective assistance of counsel
at trial and on appeal. Murray admits that he did not exhaust his state
remedies, so he is not entitled to relief under § 2254(b)(1)(A). But, he
claims that his failure to exhaust his claims does not limit relief
available under § 2254(b)(1)(B). FN1
FN1. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1) states:An application for
a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the
judgment of a State court shall not be granted unless it appears that-(A)
the applicant has exhausted the remedies available in the courts of the
State; or(B)(i) there is an absence of available State corrective
process; or(ii) circumstances exist that render such process ineffective
to protect the rights of the applicant.
To qualify for an exception under § 2254(b)(1)(B), a
prisoners must “ ‘demonstrate cause for the default and actual prejudice
as a result of the alleged violation of federal law, or demonstrate that
failure to consider the claims will result in a fundamental miscarriage
of justice.’ ” FN2 “To prove ‘cause’ [Murray] must establish that some
‘external force’ impeded the defense's efforts to comply with the
procedural rule.” Id. at 756 (citing Coleman, 501 U.S. at 753, 111 S.Ct.
2546). “To meet the ‘miscarriage of justice’ test, [Murray] needed to
supplement his constitutional claim with a colorable showing of factual
innocence, i.e., ‘a fair probability that, in light of all the evidence,
including that ... evidence tenably claimed to have been wrongly
excluded or to have become available only after the trial, the trier of
the facts would have entertained a reasonable doubt of his guilt.’ ” Id.
(quoting Sawyer v. Whitley, 505 U.S. 333, 339 & n. 5, 112 S.Ct. 2514,
120 L.Ed.2d 269 (1992) (citations and quotations omitted)). Murray has
not met either of these requirements, and we cannot discern any argument
in his brief that appears designed to do so. Because he has not
established that he qualifies for an exception to the exhaustion
requirement, he is not entitled to relief on the basis of ineffective
FN2. Bagwell v. Dretke, 372 F.3d 748, 755 (5th
Cir.2004) (quoting Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 750, 111 S.Ct.
2546, 115 L.Ed.2d 640 (1991)). Murray argues that we should abandon this
requirement based on the statutory language and public policy reasons.
Because we are bound by our past decisions, such as Bagwell, we do not
abandon that requirement today.
Murray posits that Texas's method of selecting who is
prosecuted for the death penalty is objectively unreasonable under the
Fourteenth Amendment because it gives prosecutors excessive discretion
and permits similarly situated criminals to be treated differently. As
pointed out in the proceedings in the district court, however, the
Supreme Court has rejected the foundation for this claim. See Gregg v.
Georgia, 428 U.S. 153, 199, 96 S.Ct. 2909, 49 L.Ed.2d 859 (1976).
Murray's assertion is meritless.FN3
FN3. In Gregg, the Court characterized the type of
argument Murray asserts here:The petitioner's argument is nothing more
than a veiled contention that Furman indirectly outlawed capital
punishment by placing totally unrealistic conditions on its use. In
order to repair the alleged defects pointed to by the petitioner, it
would be necessary to require that prosecuting authorities charge a
capital offense whenever arguably there had been a capital murder and
that they refuse to plea bargain with the defendant. If a jury refused
to convict even though the evidence supported the charge, its verdict
would have to be reversed and a verdict of guilty entered or a new trial
ordered, since the discretionary act of jury nullification would not be
permitted. Finally, acts of executive clemency would have to be
prohibited. Such a system, of course, would be totally alien to our
notions of criminal justice. Gregg, 428 U.S. at 199 n. 50, 96 S.Ct.
Murray avers that the state court's failure to inform
jurors on the effect of the parole law violated equal protection and due
process. Our precedent, however, precludes his argument, because we have
consistently held that a defendant does not have a due process right to
present parole eligibility information to the jury. Thacker v. Dretke,
396 F.3d 607, 617 (5th Cir.2005).FN4 Regarding his equal protection
argument, Murray presents no reason that the state court's “adjudication
resulted in a decision that was contrary to ... clearly established
Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court,” so he cannot prevail
on this claim.
FN4. Simmons v. South Carolina is inapplicable. “
Simmons requires that a jury be informed about a defendant's parole
ineligibility only when (1) the state argues that a defendant represents
a future danger to society, and (2) the defendant is legally ineligible
for parole.” Miller v. Johnson, 200 F.3d 274, 290 (5th Cir.2000).
Because Murray could be paroled after forty years, he is not legally
ineligible for parole. AFFIRMED.
Murray v. Quarterman, Slip Copy, 2006 WL
2691151 (N.D.Tex. 2006) (Habeas).
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
JORGE A. SOLIS, District Judge.
Now before the Court is Petitioner's Second Amended
Petition for Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. United States
Magistrate Judge William F. Sanderson, Jr., issued his Findings,
Conclusions, and Recommendation on January 30, 2003. Petitioner objected
on February 10, 2003. In regards to the first, second, fourth, fifth,
and sixth grounds for relief, the Court is of the opinion that the
Findings, Conclusions, and Recommendation are correct and hereby accepts
them as the findings and conclusions of the Court. In regards to ground
three, the Court states below its reasons for denying Petitioner's
request for relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Because Petitioner has failed
to assert valid grounds for relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, the Court
hereby DENIES the Petitioner's Second Amended Petition for Habeas
Corpus. A Certificate of Appealability is GRANTED.
I. Background and Procedural History
This is a suit for habeas corpus relief, pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 2254, filed by William A. Murray, who has received a death
sentence for capital murder from the State of Texas. Murray was
convicted and sentenced to death in June 1999 for murdering Rena A.
Ratcliff in the course of committing or attempting to commit aggravated
Having received the death sentence, Murray's
conviction was automatically appealed to the Texas Court of Criminal
Appeals. However, before briefs were submitted, Murray's appellate
counsel filed a motion seeking to abate the appeal and extend the time
for briefing as a result of Murray's expressed desire to waive his right
to appeal. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted this motion and
remanded the case to the state district court for “a hearing on
appellant's professed ‘desire to waive my right to appeal.’ “ William A.
Murray v. Texas, No. 73,454, slip. op. at 2 (Tex.Crim.App. Nov. 1,
The state district court held this hearing on
November 18, 1999. Petitioner was the only witness who testified at the
hearing, but his counsel did also state some opinions regarding his
decision-making and ability to understand the proceedings. No
psychiatric or psychological testimony was taken, although the trial
judge did refer to the testimony of two psychiatrists at trial.
Following this hearing, the state district court
issued the following findings:
After reviewing the evidence before the Court and the
pertinent law, the Court finds that William A. Murray, has been fully
admonished of his right to appeal. The Court further finds that William
A. Murray has voluntarily, knowingly and intelligently given up his
right to appeal. Texas v. Murray, No. 19071 (86th Dist. Ct., Kaufman
County, Tex. Dec. 6, 1999). The Court of Criminal Appeals subsequently
accepted the waiver, reviewed the conviction and sentence for
fundamental error, and affirmed the conviction and death sentence in an
unpublished opinion delivered on January 20, 2000. Murray subsequently
filed a motion for rehearing to reinstate his appeal on February 7,
2000, and this motion was denied on March 29, 2000. A petition for writ
of certiorari was filed with the Supreme Court of the United States on
June 30, 2000, and denied on October 16, 2000.
On March 27, 2001, Petitioner filed an Application
for Writ of Habeas Corpus with the state trial court. The trial court
issued Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law recommending that relief
be denied on September 5, 2001, and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals
denied habeas relief on the basis of these findings and conclusions on
October 3, 2001.
Petitioner filed his original § 2254 petition on
April 24, 2002, and his first amended petition on September 13, 2002. On
January 30, 2003, United States Magistrate Judge William F. Sanderson,
Jr., recommended that the petition be denied. Petitioner filed
objections on February 10, 2003.
On January 30, 2004, the Court authorized Murray to
file his second amended petition to add a claim based on Atkins v.
Virginia, 536 U.S. 304, 122 S.Ct. 2242, 153 L.Ed.2d 335 (2002). Since
that time, Murray has abandoned his Atkins claim.
On October 18, 2004, Murray filed a Trial Brief in
support of his petition and objections to the Magistrate Judge's
Recommendation. Respondent filed an Advisory to the Court on November
30, 2004, asserting that the case was ripe for a decision.
* * *
D. The State Court's Factual Determination Regarding
Petitioner's Competence to Waive Further Appeals Was Not Objectively
As discussed above, Petitioner is precluded from
habeas relief unless he can show that the state court unreasonably
determined that Petitioner was competent to waive further appeals in
light of the record before it. While this is a close call, the Court
ultimately concludes that the state court's determination was not
In deciding whether an inmate is competent to waive
his appeal in a capital case, “[t]he extent and severity of the
petitioner's history of mental health problems which have been brought
to the court's attention influence the breadth and depth of the
competency inquiry required.” Mata v. Johnson, 210 F.3d 324, 330 (5th
Cir.2000). Under Rees, however, there is a “presumption that psychiatric
and other medical examinations will be included in the decision making
process.” Id. at 328.
Here, the state court relied upon expert testimony
that Petitioner was competent to stand trial given five months before
the waiver decision, but did not require additional psychiatric or
medical examinations to determine whether Petitioner was competent to
waive his appeal. On this particular record, the Court finds that the
absence of such evidence did not make the state court's fact-finding
process objectively unreasonable.
While it is true that the standard for determining
competency to stand trial differs from the standard for competency to
waive appeals in a capital case, there are substantial similarities
between the two. See id. at 329 n. 2. Both “inquire about the discrete
capacity to understand and make rational decisions concerning the
proceedings at issue, and the presence or absence of mental illness or
brain disorder is not dispositive.” Id. Indeed, some courts have found
no difference between them. See, e.g., United States v. Hogan, 986 F.2d
1364, 1371 (11th Cir.1993) (“There is no significant difference between
the relative fact-versus-law content of the standard for competency to
stand trial and that of the standard for competency to waive post-conviction
federal review.”); Giarratano v. Procunier, 891 F.2d 483, 487 (4th
Cir.1989) (“[T]here is no substantive difference between the two
standards” because “[b]oth seek to assure that one charged with crime
will not be tried or punished unless he has the mental capacity to
understand the situation that confronts him and the ability to consult
rationally with his counsel about his defense.”); see also Groseclose ex
rel. Harries v. Dutton, 594 F.Supp. 949, 957 (M.D.Tenn.1984) (stating
that the Dusky standard “is equivalent to the Rees competency test” and
that both “highlight[ ] the constitutional necessity that a criminal
defendant understand the proceedings and then be capable of aiding his
legal counsel in choosing among legal alternatives.”).FN8 The Supreme
Court, for its part, recently stated that “there is no indication in [
Rees ] that the phrase [‘rational choice’] means something different
from ‘rational understanding.’ “ Godinez v. Moran, 509 U.S. 389, 398 n.
9, 113 S.Ct. 2680, 125 L.Ed.2d 321 (1993).
FN8. But see Rumbaugh, 753 F.2d at 412 (Goldberg,
dissenting) (“The measure of an individual's competency under Rees to
waive federal habeas review in a death case is informed by
considerations very different from those underlying the standard for
competency to stand trial. Focusing not merely on the minimal cognitive
and communicative capabilities necessary to stand trial, Rees requires a
finding of incompetency if there is a possibility that a mental disease
or defect substantially impairs the individual's rationality.... Unlike
the question of capacity to participate meaningfully at trial, the
question of capacity for rational choice requires a more probing
inquiry, where the observer's interpretation is of much greater
consequence than his perception.”).
Additionally, there was no evidence before the state
court that Petitioner's condition had changed between the time Dr.
Grigson gave his testimony and the waiver decision. See Mata, 210 F.3d
at 332. Certainly, a significant intervening event had occurred in that
Petitioner had been sentenced to death. Nevertheless, nothing in the
record before the state court suggested that this event had triggered a
significant change in Petitioner's mental condition.
In light of the substantial similarity between the
standard for competency to stand trial and the standard for competency
to waive appeals in a capital case, the short duration of time between
the expert testimony on competency to stand trial and the waiver
decision, and the absence of evidence suggesting a change in
Petitioner's mental condition between these events, the Court finds that
it was reasonable for the state court to rely upon expert testimony
regarding Petitioner's competence to stand trial in determining
competency to waive further appeals. See id. at 333 (stating that a
district court deciding whether to allow a capital petitioner to waive
further collateral review would be “justified in presuming that a
petitioner continues to be competent” following “a reliable,
constitutionally adequate competency determination”). FN9
FN9. The Fifth Circuit panel did also note, however,
that “such a presumption cannot survive a twelve year gap, coupled with
... extensive evidence of incompetency....” Mata, 210 F.3d at 333.
The Court also notes that the state court gave
Petitioner an opportunity to present evidence regarding his competence,
engaged in face-to-face dialogue with him, and observed his testimony at
the waiver hearing. Id. Moreover, no one at the time of the waiver
hearing, not even Petitioner's attorney, argued that Petitioner was
Based on this record, the Court concludes that the
state court's factual determination regarding Petitioner's competency to
waive further appeals was not objectively unreasonable. While the better
practice may have been for the state trial court to have ordered
additional psychiatric and medical examinations before finding
Petitioner competent to waive his appeal, that is not the applicable
test under § 2254(d)(2). Under the habeas statute, the state court
adjudication must have resulted in a decision that was based on an
unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence
presented in the state court proceedings. Based on this record, the
Court cannot say that this is true here. As such, Petitioner is not
entitled to habeas relief under § 2254(d)(2).
IV. Certificate of Appealability
Under AEDPA, Petitioner must obtain a Certificate of
Appealability (hereinafter “COA”) before he can appeal this Court's
denial of habeas relief. See Coleman v. Quarterman, No. 05-70005, 2006
U.S.App. LEXIS 18056, at *3-4 (5th Cir. July 18, 2006). In order to be
entitled to a COA, Petitioner “must make ‘a substantial showing of the
denial of a constitutional right,’ 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2), such ‘that
reasonable jurists would find the district court's assessment of the
constitutional claims debatable or wrong,’ Slack v. McDaniel, 529 U.S.
473, 484, 120 S.Ct. 1595, 146 L.Ed.2d 542 (2000).” Id. at *4. “Because
the present case involves the death penalty, any doubts as to whether a
COA should issue must be resolved in [Petitioner's] favor.” Hernandez v.
Johnson, 213 F.3d 243, 248 (5th Cir.2000). In this case, reasonable
jurists would debate whether the Court was correct in finding that the
habeas corpus petition is barred by § 2254(d)(2). As such, the Court
hereby GRANTS a Certificate of Appealability sua sponte.
Given the finality of capital punishment as well as
society's interest in reliability in capital proceedings, the Court is
troubled by (1) appellate counsel's decision not to obtain psychiatric
and other medical examinations regarding Petitioner's competence to
waive his direct appeal, (2) the state trial court's failure to require
such evidence, and (3) the state appellate court's decision to deny a
motion for rehearing just months after the waiver decision where this
was the only waiver/revocation and there was no indication or finding
that Petitioner intended to manipulate the appellate process.
Nevertheless, for the reasons stated above, the Court concludes that
Petitioner is not entitled to relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. As such,
the Court hereby DENIES Petitioner's Second Amended Petition for Habeas
Corpus and GRANTS a Certificate of Appealability.