- Convicted rapist
Number of victims: 3
Date of murders: 1980
Date of birth:
Victim profile: Gertie Mae Perkins, 64
Paula Nelson, 21 /
Jenny Morman, 43 /
Terry Thomas /
Hattie Wilson, 79 /
Shirley Douglas, 44
Method of murder: Strangulation
Location: Ohio/Texas, USA
by lethal injection in Texas on January 22,
The United States Court
For the Fifth Circuit
Perkins stepmother Gertie went missing from her home on December
4, 2000. Police found a small bloodstain on the carpet of her home
and observed the line cord from the bedroom telephone was missing.
On the day Gertie disappeared, her stepson used his drivers
license to sell her wedding ring at a pawn shop for $150. Two
checks from the family business were also cashed - one for $600
and one for $700.
Later that day, the police arrested Reginald.
Reginald called his father, who said, "I sure hope you've got good
news for me." Reginald answered, "I'm afraid not; she's dead."
Perkins then directed his father and police to a parking garage,
where they found Gertie's car parked. Her body was in the trunk.
She had bruises on her head and mouth and had also been strangled
with something thin and smooth.
In 1980 in Ohio, Perkins pled guilty to the
rape of a 12-year old girl, was sentenced to Life, but was paroled
in 1986. Through trial, Perkins continued to announce his
innocence of "ever hurting anybody."
Since his conviction and sentence of death for
the murder of Gertie Perkins, Perkins has been connected by DNA
evidence to at least two other murders, and is suspected in a
Gertie Mae Perkins, 64
Paula Nelson, 21
Jenny Morman, 43
Hattie Wilson, 79
Shirley Douglas, 44
Perkins v. State, Not Reported in S.W.3d, 2004 WL 3093239 (Tex.Crim.App.
2004) (Direct Appeal).
Perkins v. Quarterman, 254 Fed.Appx. 366 (5th Cir. 2007)
When the warden asked him if he wanted to make a statement,
Perkins replied: "I already made my statement. Appreciate it. Love
y'all. I can feel it going in." He then looked at Gertie's sister
and told her he loved her, then he lost consciousness.
Date of Birth
Date of Offense
driver, plumber, laborer
Department of Corrections on a life sentence for one count of
rape; released on parole in 1986; returned from parole in 1994,
released on parole on 02/08/2000.
12/04/2000 in Fort Worth, Perkins strangled his 64 year old
black female step-mother, resulting in her death.
Her body was
found in the trunk of her vehicle in a parking garage.
Race and Gender of
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Media Advisory: Reginald Perkins Scheduled For
AUSTIN – Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott
offers the following information about Reginald Perkins, who is
scheduled to be executed after 6 p.m. on Thursday, January 22,
2009. Perkins was sentenced to death for the December 2000 robbery
and murder of his stepmother in Fort Worth.
FACTS OF THE CRIME
The body of 64-year-old Gertie Perkins was
found in the trunk of a car in a parking garage.
An autopsy revealed that Gertie had bruises on
her head and mouth and that she had been strangled. The medical
examiner indicated that the woman was killed with a thin, fairly
smooth object like a phone cord. The police also discovered that
the phone cord from the telephone in the bedroom had been
Perkins’ father, Willie, learned that his wife
was missing sometime during the afternoon of December 4th. Willie
was contacted because Gertie had not picked up their grandson from
school. Willie called his children who attempted to find Gertie.
When they could not locate her, they called the police who found a
small blood stain on the edge of the carpet in the Perkins’ home.
On the same day, police arrested Reginald
Perkins. Perkins asked to speak with his father. Willie Perkins
told his son, “I sure hope you’ve got good news for me,” to which
Reginald Perkins replied, “I’m afraid not; she’s dead.” Perkins
directed his father and the police to a parking garage where they
found Gertie’s car parked. Willie Perkins asked the police if he
could get out of the car, but Reginald Perkins said, “Daddy, no,
don’t get out. Don’t go.” The police found Gertie’s body in the
trunk of the car.
On Friday, December 1, 2000, Reginald Perkins
told his stepbrother’s wife that he was having money problems,
that he needed $1,000.00 by Monday, and that he was planning to
rob a lady who worked in a store by herself in order to get the
money. On December 3, 2000, Perkins also told his sister that he
was having money problems.
On the day Gertie disappeared, Reginald Perkins
sold Gertie’s wedding ring at a pawn shop for $150.00. Then,
Perkins paid, a known crack user, $200.00 to cash two checks for
Perkins. The two checks were from the Perkins’ trucking business
account and were written for $600.00 and $700.00.
While in jail awaiting trial for the murder,
Perkins confessed to a fellow inmate “that they only had a body
and a phone cord and no witnesses and they couldn’t get
fingerprints off a phone cord. Perkins also told the inmate that
he had beaten the victim to death. He also told the prisoner
something about a phone cord; the prisoner could not remember if
Perkins said he strangled the victim with it or if he tied her up
with it. Perkins said his motive was robbery, and that he took
some money and checks, but that another man cashed the checks..
Perkins was convicted and sentenced to death in
March 2002. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed Perkins’
conviction on direct appeal on June 30, 2004. The U.S. Supreme
Court denied certiorari review of this decision on February 22,
Perkins’ state petition for writ of habeas
corpus was denied September 13, 2006, after the state court held
an evidentiary hearing.
The federal district court denied Perkins’
federal petition for writ of habeas corpus on March 1, 2007, and
denied his request for a certificate of appealability (COA) on
April 2, 2007. The Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also denied
Perkins’ request for COA on November 15, 2007. Finally, the
Supreme Court denied certiorari review of the Fifth Circuit
Court's decision on May 27, 2008.
PRIOR CRIMINAL HISTORY
In 1982, Perkins was convicted of, rape of a
minor, attempted rape of a minor, and gross sexual imposition. He
was sentenced to life in prison for the rape, to a term of four to
fifteen years for the attempted rape, and to a term of two to ten
years for the gross sexual imposition. The sentences were served
concurrently. Perkins was incarcerated in 1981, released on parole
in 1990, returned to prison in 1994, and paroled again in 2000. In
1999, an Ohio court found by clear and convincing evidence that
Perkins was a sexual predator.
The victims of these convictions were two
twelve-year-old girls. One victim testified at the punishment
phase of trial that Perkins raped her on December 19, 1980.
Perkins lived across the street from that girl. During the attack,
Perkins struck her and threatened to kill her if she told anyone.
The girl’s mother found out about the rape and bammed Perkins from
entering her apartment again, although she did not immediately
report the rape to the police.
On January 23, 1981, LaShelle found her
mother’s body sitting in a chair near the basement stairs at their
home. The woman had been strangled with a cord from a hair dryer.
Perkins had fresh scratches on his face after
the murder, but convinced several women to lie and say that they
had scratched him. Perkins was arrested as a suspect in Jeri’s
murder, but was never tried.
Perkins was also connected to another murder in
Ohio. Ramola Washington testified that Perkins killed her sister
Paula on October 23, 1980. Paula had been strangled with a soft-type
object, like a scarf. Perkins was never tried for Paula’s murder.
Since his conviction and sentence of death for
the murder of Gertie Perkins, Perkins has been connected by DNA
evidence to at least two other murders, and is suspected in a
Man convicted of strangling
By Michael Graczyk - The Houston Chronicle
Jan. 22, 2009
HUNTSVILLE — A convicted rapist and suspected serial killer was
executed Thursday evening for strangling and robbing his
stepmother in Fort Worth more than eight years ago.
Asked by the warden if he would like to make a statement, Reginald
Perkins responded, “I already made my statement. Appreciate it.
About an hour before he was executed, Perkins had summoned a
prison official to his cell and gave him a statement professing
“They didn’t link me to nothing. I did not kill my stepmom,” he
said. “I loved her. Texas is going to kill an innocent man.”
On the other deaths, Perkins said, “There’s other suspects they
questioned besides me. They let them go. I don’t know what they’re
talking about. I can’t tell you who killed them. I ain’t killed
nobody. I’ve never killed.”
As the drugs were being administered, he said, “I can feel it
going in.” Just before the drugs took effect, he looked at the
sister of his victim and told her he loved her.
He was pronounced dead at 6:24 p.m., eight minutes after the
lethal drugs began to flow.
“I think he waited a little bit too late to tell me that he loved
me,” Barbara Ward, the victim’s sister, said. She also said if
Perkins insisted he was innocent, “He should have told who did it.”
“All the evidence did lead to him,” Delores Hill, another sister,
In a prepared statement, the family said they were grateful for
“God will deal with him now,” they said. “What a great state to
live in to know justice was served.”
Perkins was the second convicted killer executed in as many days
and the third this year in the nation’s most active death penalty
state. Another three inmates are scheduled to die next week.
His appeals had been exhausted, said Perkins’ lawyer, William
Harris. The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles on Wednesday
unanimously rejected a clemency request that sought to have his
sentence commuted to life in prison.
Perkins was condemned for the 2000 slaying of 64-year-old Gertie
Perkins, whose body was found stuffed in the trunk of her Cadillac.
He led his father and police to his stepmother’s body. Like his
statement Thursday, he denied last week from death row any
involvement in her killing and five other murders authorities
believe he committed in Fort Worth and Cleveland, Ohio, during the
relatively brief times over a 20-year period when he wasn’t in
“He’s a consummate liar and a con artist,” Kevin Rousseau, the
Tarrant County district attorney, who prosecuted Perkins, said. “I
wouldn’t believe anything he said. He’s a serial killer. People
look for more complicated rationale. But the bottom line is, he’s
a killer. He goes through quite a bit of trouble to kill folks.”
Perkins pleaded guilty to the 1980 rape and attempted rape of two
12-year-old girls in Ohio and was sentenced to life in prison.
Authorities suspected but couldn’t get enough evidence to charge
him with the 1980 strangling of Paula Nelson at her Cleveland home.
Perkins was living with the victim’s twin sister and later married
her. He was suspected of the 1981 strangling of Jenny Morman, 43,
at her Cleveland apartment, and the strangling three weeks later
of Jerry Thomas, whose daughter he was convicted of trying to
In 1988, he was paroled and moved to Fort Worth. A DNA database
tied Perkins last year to the 1991 stranglings in Fort Worth of
Shirley Douglas, 44, and her aunt, Hattie Wilson, 79. Police said
Perkins had dated Wilson’s granddaughter.
A parole violation returned him to Ohio in 1993 and remained in
prison until 2000, when he was paroled again and returned again to
Fort Worth. His stepmother’s slaying occurred 10 months later.
Evidence at his trial showed Perkins pawned her wedding ring and
wrote fraudulent checks from the account of the family trucking
business in Fort Worth. He became a suspect after detectives
learned of his previous convictions in Ohio for rape and attempted
rape and that he had been a suspect in the Cleveland slayings. A
Tarrant County jury in 2002 deliberated 30 minutes before deciding
he should die.
From death row last week, he denied pawning his stepmother’s ring,
saying although his driver’s license was used to verify the
transaction, the license had been lost and he wasn’t the person
using it. He said he was framed, that the rape victims in the Ohio
cases lied and that he pleaded guilty to the rape charges because
of bad advice from a lawyer.
“Lies and false testimony,” he insisted. “I ain’t never hurt a
person in my life.”
Wednesday night, condemned inmate Frank Moore, 47, received lethal
injection for the fatal shootings of Samuel Boyd, 23, and Patrick
Clark, 15, outside a bar in San Antonio 15 years ago.
Next week, Larry Swearingen, 37, is set to die Tuesday — the first
of three executions on consecutive evenings in Huntsville — for
the 1998 abduction and slaying of Melissa Trotter, a 19-year-old
college student from Montgomery County near Houston.
Man executed for strangling stepmother
By Kristin Edwards - ItemOnline.com
January 22, 2009
A convicted rapist who was found guilty of
killing his stepmother by strangling her with a phone cord was
executed Thursday at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice
Walls Unit. Reginald Perkins, 53, was convicted and sentenced to
death in March 2002 for the December 2000 murder of 64-year-old
Gertie Perkins. His execution is the third to be carried out in
Texas since Jan. 14, and three more executions are scheduled
before the end of the month.
During his official last statement, Perkins
chose to speak briefly to the witnesses present on his behalf.
However, during the hour before his execution, Perkins made a
statement to Jason Clark, TDCJ public information officer. “I am
innocent and I did not do this,” Perkins said. “They didn’t link
me to nothing. I did not kill my stepmom. I loved her, and Texas
is going to kill an innocent man.”
Perkins was pronounced dead at 6:24 p.m.,
approximately eight minutes after he was administered a lethal
According to information released by the Texas
Attorney General’s office, Reginald Perkins has been connected by
DNA evidence to at least two other murders since his conviction
and sentence to death for the murder of Gertie Perkins, and he is
suspected in a third. On the subject of other murders he has been
connected to, Perkins insisted he was also innocent of those
crimes. “There’s other suspects they questioned besides me, and
they let them go,” he said. “I can’t tell you who killed them — I
ain’t killed nobody.”
According to information released by the Texas
Attorney General’s office, Perkins’ father, Willie Perkins,
learned his wife was missing when she failed to pick up their
grandson from school on Dec. 4, 2000. After failed attempts to
locate her, the police were notified when Willie Perkins found a
small blood stain on his carpet. On the same day, police arrested
Reginald Perkins after learning of his previous criminal record.
When he was arrested, Reginald Perkins asked to
speak with his father, who asked his son if he had any good news
concerning the location of Gertie Perkins. “I’m afraid not,”
Reginald Perkins told his father while in police custody. “She’s
dead.” Reginald Perkins directed his father and the police to a
parking garage where they found Gertie Perkins’ car parked. When
Willie Perkins asked if he could get out of the car, Reginald
Perkins told him not to go, after which the police found the
woman’s body in the trunk of the car.
An autopsy conducted on the body showed that
the woman had bruises on her head and mouth, and the medical
examiner indicated that she was strangled with a thin, smooth
object like a phone cord. During their initial investigations,
local police discovered that the woman’s bedroom telephone cord
had been disconnected.
On the day Gertie Perkins disappeared, Reginald
Perkins sold her wedding ring at a pawn shop for $150. He also
paid a known crack user $200 to cash two checks — valued at a
total of $1,300 — which had been written from the Perkins’
trucking business account.
While in jail awaiting his trial, Reginald
Perkins told a fellow inmate that “they only had a body and a
phone cord, [but] no witnesses.” Perkins also told the inmate that
he had beaten the victim to death and that his motive was robbery.
In 1982, Reginald Perkins was convicted of rape
of a minor, attempted rape and gross sexual imposition — the
victims of these convictions were two 12-year-old girls. In 1999,
an Ohio court found that Perkins was a sexual predator.
Fort Worth man who killed
stepmother in 2000 scheduled to die Thursday
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Reginald Perkins embarked on a
series of heinous crimes years before he brutally killed his
stepmother and robbed her of her wedding ring in 2000, the crime
for which he's sentenced to die today.
The 53-year-old Fort Worth man was in prison
for five years, sitting on Texas' death row, when science linked
him to the 1991 slayings of Hattie Wilson, 79, and her niece
Shirley Douglas, 44. The women were found strangled inside their
East Fort Worth apartment.
"He is very smart and very scary," said Fort
Worth police Detective Manny Reyes, who visited Perkins on death
row in October to obtain the DNA connecting the convicted murderer
to the deaths of Wilson and Douglas.
Gertie Perkins, 64, was also strangled.
Prosecutors say she was much more than a stepmother to the man
convicted in her murder.
"He called her Mom," said Kevin Rousseau, an
assistant district attorney in Tarrant County, who prosecuted
Perkins. "He was her stepson, but she raised him. He spent a good
part of his life growing up with her."
Perkins, who lived in Texas and Ohio, was a
convicted rapist on parole from Cleveland when he killed his
He moved to Fort Worth in February 2000 after
Ohio officials paroled him.
Gertie Perkins helped set up her stepson in the
family's trucking business.
"They provided him a dump truck," Rousseau said.
"They had done just about everything you can for your child."
In the winter of 2000, Reginald Perkins was
having financial problems. On Dec. 1, he cashed two checks from
the family's trucking business and pawned his stepmother's wedding
ring for $150.
Three days later, Gertie Perkins was reported
missing. Inside her southeast Fort Worth home, police found
bloodstains, carpet removed and a phone cord disconnected.
On Dec. 5, 2000, Perkins led officers to her
body in a hospital parking garage near downtown Fort Worth. She
had been strangled and placed in the trunk of her own car.
Perkins, police and prosecutors say, has a long
history of violence.
In November, he was linked to the 17-year-old
slayings of Wilson and Douglas, who was also raped in the attack
at their apartment in East Fort Worth. There were no signs that
someone had broken in. Perkins had dated a family member of one of
the women, police said.
Reyes, the Fort Worth detective, said that when
he visited death row in October, Perkins was convinced that "everybody
was out to get him."
"There was no remorse," said Reyes of the
department's cold-case division. "He accused us of planting the
Perkins' attorneys argued unsuccessfully that
he is mentally retarded and ineligible for a death sentence.
Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to
review Perkins' case, setting the stage for his execution.
Today, he is expected to become the second Fort
Worth man executed in Texas this year.
Last week, Curtis Moore, 40, was put to death
for brutally killing three people.
When Perkins was convicted in 2002, evidence
from two Ohio homicide cases was used in the sentencing phase of
"He's a serial killer," Rousseau said. "His
crimes are particularly heinous."
In 1982, Perkins was convicted in Ohio of
raping two 12-year-old girls, and he remains a suspect in the two
slayings there, officials said.
"He's killed women in Ohio and raped two 12-year-old
girls and came here and killed two more women and his stepmother,"
Rousseau said. "Those are the ones we know about."
Texas killer linked to Cleveland murders
By Mark Puente - The Plain Dealer
November 18, 2008
A man set for execution in January in Texas for
killing one woman very likely blazed a 28-year trail of murder
from Cleveland to Fort Worth, strangling at least six women,
detectives in the two states have concluded.
All of the victims have ties to death row
prisoner Reginald Perkins, who lived in Cleveland in 1980 when
three women were strangled three months apart, all in homes just a
half-mile west of Martin Luther King Boulevard.
Two other strangulations were in 1991 in Texas.
The last came 10 years later, also in Texas.
Detectives see no mystery in the long time
lapses between the sets of killings because they know exactly
where Perkins was during those times: prison.
Upon his release, strangulations soon followed
Kevin Rousseau is the chief prosecutor in
Tarrant County, Texas, and lead the prosecution in the case that
put Perkins on death row. He has no doubts about who killed all
"I think he is a serial killer," Rousseau said.
"He has been killing for more than 25 years."
The strangulations begin in Cleveland
Perkins was born in Arkansas and raised in
Texas. His mother moved to Cleveland, and in the late 1970s, he
moved here too. He made ends meet as a truck driver, plumber and
Ramola Nelson Washington met Perkins in 1979.
They dated for a year before she moved out of her sister's home to
live with Perkins.
Washington later told a Texas jury that in
October 1980, she asked Perkins to return a set of house keys to
her sister, Paulette Nelson. Five days later, Washington testified,
she overheard Perkins telling his brother that something happened
to her sister.
She walked with Perkins to Nelson's home on
Sowinski Avenue. They let themselves in and found Nelson, 21, dead
in her bed. Nelson's infant daughter lay in bed next to her,
Jennie Morman knew Perkins too. Her daughter
Thelma had a child with Perkins in 1980.
Morman, 43, had bad kidneys. She was the
matriarch of a large family, but her husband's job and children's
work and schooling made it difficult for provide her regular care.
She moved into an apartment on East 93rd Street
with her mother, who could provide Morman with around-the-clock
On a Sunday evening in January 1981, Morman's
family gathered to play cards. They tried calling Morman on the
telephone. She didn't answer. The family became worried and headed
to the apartment complex.
They found Morman dead in the bedroom with two
pillows over her face. She had been strangled with a scarf. Money
and prescription medication were missing.
Not far away, Perkins was living on East 79th
Street, a few doors down from Jerry Dean Thomas and her 12-year-old
Lashelle crossed paths with Perkins a two weeks
before Christmas, when he lured the girl into a vacant home. Once
inside, Perkins beat her and tried raping her.
The girl kicked, screamed and clawed to get
free. A friend heard the commotion and stopped the attack. But
Perkins left Lashelle with a warning: If she told anybody about
the attack, he would kill her and anybody she told.
The friend did tell Lashelle's mother, Jerry
Dean Thomas, about the attack. When Lashelle confirmed that
Perkins attacked her, Jerry Dean Thomas, 32, confronted Perkins.
A few days later, on a January afternoon in
1981, Lashelle and a girlfriend sprinted home from school to score
a cigarette before Lashelle's mother returned. The door to the
East 79th Street house was jammed. The girls crawled through a
basement window and went upstairs. Lamps were overturned. Tables
were flipped. A pair of scissors was stuck in the jammed door.
Lashelle ran upstairs, found her mom's black
purse inside a dresser drawer. Downstairs, a puppy, Queenie
blocked a door, whimpering. Lashelle's friend Karen tried scooting
the puppy with her foot. The dog wouldn't budge.
Karen looked behind the door and screamed.
Lashelle ran downstairs and hollered.
Lashelle's mother sat upright in a chair, mouth
agape, eyes open and unblinking. She had been strangled with the
cord from a hair dryer.
Detectives quickly see Perkins as
Cleveland police arrested Perkins and
questioned him about the killings. They also wanted to know about
a series of sexual assaults on children along St. Clair and
Detectives knew Perkins knew the three
strangled women, but beyond that they could not link him to the
crimes. They did, however, have enough evidence to put him away
for attacking Lashelle Thomas and for raping another 12-year-old
girl inside an abandoned house.
In November 1981, a judge sentenced Perkins to
life in prison for the assaults on the two 12-year-old girls. The
judge tacked on additional sentences of six to 25 years beyond his
Rousseau, the Texas prosecutor, believes local
prosecutors probably made the best deal they could with Perkins.
While they didn't charge him with the three
murders, much less get convictions, they probably were satisfied
knowing that he got a sentence that ensured he would never get out
of prison, Rousseau said.
"Sometimes prosecutors have to take the sure
thing," he said.
But for reasons that remain unclear, the sure
thing was elusive.
In 1987, six years after getting sentenced to
life in prison, a parole board released Perkins.
Perkins' parole record doesn't indicate why he
was released. The records are on microfilm. The comments are hand-written
and difficult to read.
In the 1980s, the Ohio Parole Board tended to
free people after serving the minimum sentence, said Cindy Mausser,
the board chairwoman, but that has since changed.
Prison officials had no other explanation of
why he was released.
Perkins returned to Texas to live with his
father and stepmother, prison records show. Once again, he found a
girlfriend. Once again, one of the relatives turned up strangled.
On May 6, 1991, Shirley Douglas, 44, and her
aunt Hatie Wilson, 79, were strangled inside their home. Perkins
had been dating Wilson's granddaughter.
It would take 17 years for police to pin those
killings on Perkins.
Two years after Douglas and Wilson were
strangled, Perkins did not show up for sex offender classes
required as part of his Ohio parole. Texas authorities arrested
him and shipped him back to Ohio.
Nine years later, the parole board once again
released Perkins, and once again, he returned to Texas. His
stepmother, Gertie Mae Perkins, hired him as a truck driver at the
family business and gave him a mobile home in Fort Worth.
His family had no clue that Perkins had been a
suspect in the three Cleveland killings, said Shirley Brooks, his
"If we would have known, my Mom would not have
stood for that," Brooks, 51, said in a telephone interview from
Texas. "We didn't have a clue."
Ten months after giving Perkins a job and a
home, Gertie Mae Perkins vanished.
The day she disappeared, Reginald Perkins
pawned her wedding ring. In her home, sheets were missing. The
phone was disconnected. Carpet had been removed from the floor.
Police questioned Perkins after learning of his
past in Ohio, and he led them and his father to the his
stepmother's body, which he had stashed in the trunk of a car.
Perkins was indicted and went to trial. A jury
convicted him of murder.
As part of his efforts to convince the jury
that Perkins should be executed rather sentenced to life in prison,
Rousseau asked Cleveland homicide detective Gary Garisek to
testify about the three unsolved cases in Cleveland.
Garisek is retired, but believes Perkins got
away with murder in Cleveland.
"He deserves to die," Garisek said. "He did it.
He is a monster."
Rousseau also brought in another witness from
Cleveland for Perkins' sentencing: Ramola Nelson Washington, the
sister of strangulation victim Paulette Nelson. Washington had
married Perkins before he went to prison for the sexual assaults
Washington told the Texas jurors that Perkins
called her from jail and admitted to killing her sister, according
to a story in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. He begged for
forgiveness, according to the story.
Washington could not be reached for this story.
Cuyahoga County prosecutors last week requested
DNA tests to see if any evidence could be linked to Perkins.
Rousseau, the Texas prosecutor, already had the tests done in 2001
and found nothing to implicate Perkins.
Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Rick Bell
is optimistic new technology will allow for a more detailed test.
Perkins, now 53, did not respond to a letter
from The Plain Dealer.
Earlier this year, he sent a letter to the Fort
Worth Star-Telegram, in which he denied killing his stepmother and
blamed his conviction on a jailhouse snitch. He complained Texas
prosecutors sought the death penalty based on the Cleveland cases,
for which he was never convicted, let alone charged.
"The State of Texas is about to put to death an
innocent man who did not do the crime," Perkins wrote. "I am a
totally innocent man and I don't deserve to die for something I
Relatives fear the truth will never be
For those left behind, the decades since their
loved ones were killed have been difficult. Perkins' looming
execution has stirred up old feelings.
They want to know once and for all if he killed
their loved ones and worry Perkins will take his secrets to the
James Morman had been married to Jennie for 25
years when she died. He would like to face Perkins before he is
"If he did do it, he needs to say so before he
dies," Morman said. "Why? We want to know. It's been a long time."
Thelma Morman has had no contact with Perkins
since he was jailed in 1981, a year after they had a child
together. She doesn't believe Perkins killed her mother or the
"Reginald wasn't that type of person to do that,"
Lashelle Thomas, now 39, recently sat in her
living room and recalled finding her mother in the chair. Her body
was still warm, and Thomas jumped on her lap, hoping to revive her.
"She was a beautiful lady," Lashelle Thomas
said, fighting back tears. "She didn't deserve to die. She was
Thomas said she and her three siblings were
robbed of doing the things that mothers and children do together.
She is looking forward to the day Perkins is executed.
"He won't be able to hurt anyone anymore,"
Thomas said. "He took somebody away that I was just beginning to
A trail of
April 1955: Reginald Perkins
was born in Arkansas; he grew up in Texas.
Late 1970s: Perkins moved to
Cleveland to be near his mother.
April 4, 1980: Perkins raped a
12-year-old friend of his younger sister in an abandoned house on
the East Side.
Oct. 23, 1980: Paulette
Nelson, 21, was found strangled in bed next to her infant son.
When Nelson was killed, Perkins was living with her twin sister,
Ramola Nelson Washington.
Dec. 13, 1980: Perkins tried
raping 12-year-old Lashelle Thomas but was stopped. Perkins warned
her that he would kill anyone she told about the assault.
Jan. 4, 1981: Jennie Morman
was found strangled in her apartment on East 93rd Street. Perkins
had been dating her daughter and they later had a child together.
Jan. 23, 1981: Jerry Dean
Thomas, the mother of Lashelle Thomas, was found strangled in a
chair in her basement. Perkins lived across the street. Jerry Dean
Thomas had learned about Perkins' attack on her daughter days
before her death.
Nov. 12, 1981: Perkins was
convicted for the attacks on both 12-year-old girls. He was
sentenced to life in prison.
Feb. 12, 1990: Perkins was
paroled from prison. State officials cannot explain why. He moved
May 6, 1991: Shirley Douglas,
44, and her aunt, Hatie Wilson, 79, were found strangled inside
their Texas home. Perkins had been dating Wilson's granddaughter.
Dec. 28, 1993: Perkins was
sent back to an Ohio prison for not attending sex-offender classes.
Feb. 21, 2000: Perkins was
paroled again and returned to Texas. He was hired as a truck
driver at his father and stepmother's company.
Dec. 4, 2000: Perkins'
stepmother, Gertie Mae Perkins, was reported missing after she
failed to pick up her grandson at school.
Dec. 5, 2000: Perkins was
arrested for not registering as a sex offender. After questioning,
Perkins led police to his stepmother's car, where the woman was
found stuffed in the trunk.
March 18, 2002: Perkins, after
being convicted for his stepmother's murder, was sentenced to
May 27, 2008: The U.S. Supreme
Court declined to review his appeal.
Oct. 31, 2008: Forth Worth,
Texas, police confirmed that DNA tests linked Perkins to the 1991
strangulations of Hatie Wilson and Shirley Douglas.
Jan. 22, 2009: Perkins'
SOURCES: Prison, coroner and
court records; Fort Worth Star-Telegram and Perkins' relatives.
Texas Execution Information Center by David
Reginald W. Perkins, 53, was executed by lethal
injection on 22 January 2009 in Huntsville, Texas for the robbery
and murder of his stepmother.
On Monday, 4 December 2000, Willie Perkins was
informed by phone that his wife, Gertie, had not picked up their
grandson from school. Willie called his children, who attempted to
find Gertie. When they were unable to locate her, they called the
police, who found a small bloodstain on the edge of the carpet in
the Perkins' home in Fort Worth. They also observed that the line
cord from the bedroom telephone was missing.
On the day Gertie disappeared, the couple's
son, Reginald, then 45, sold her wedding ring at a pawn shop for
$150. Two checks from the couple's family business were also
cashed - one for $600 and one for $700.
Later that day, the police arrested Reginald.
When Reginald called his father, Willie said, "I sure hope you've
got good news for me." Reginald answered, "I'm afraid not; she's
dead." Perkins then directed his father and police to a parking
garage, where they found Gertie's car parked. Her body was in the
trunk. She had bruises on her head and mouth and had also been
strangled with something thin and smooth.
Testimony at Perkins' trial showed that on 1
December, he told his stepbrother's wife that he needed $1000 by
Monday, and that he planned to rob a woman who worked in a store
by herself. Perkins' sister also testified that he told her on 3
December that he was having money problems.
An inmate at the Tarrant County Jail testified
that while Perkins was awaiting trial for murder, he confessed to
the murder. He stated that he had beaten the victim to death and
robbed her. The inmate remembered something about a telephone cord
but could not remember whether Perkins said he strangled her or
tied her up with it. Perkins told him that he paid another man
$200 to cash the checks.
In December 1980 in Ohio, Perkins raped a 12-year
old girl. She testified at the punishment hearing phase of his
capital murder trial. She said that during the attack, Perkins
struck her and threatened to kill her if she told anyone. The girl
did not report the rape to the police, but her mother found out
and banned Perkins from their apartment. About a month after the
rape, the girl found her mother, Jenny Morman, 43, strangled to
death with an electrical cord. Perkins pleaded guilty of raping
the girl and was sentenced to life in prison. He was arrested for
the mother's murder, but was never tried. Perkins was also
suspected, but not charged, in the strangling death of the girl's
father, Jerry Thomas, 3 weeks after Morman's killing.
Also at Perkins' punishment hearing, Ramola
Washington testified that he killed her sister, Paula Nelson, on
23 October 1980 by strangling her with a soft object, like a scarf.
Perkins was never tried for that murder.
In addition to the life sentence for rape of a
minor, Perkins also had convictions in Ohio for attempted rape of
a minor and gross sexual imposition. He served the sentences for
those convictions concurrently with the life sentence. In 1990,
however, he was released on parole. He was returned to prison on a
parole violation in 1994, then was paroled again in February 2000.
A jury convicted Perkins of capital murder in
March 2002 and sentenced him to death. After the verdict was
announced, Perkins's lawyer read a written statement composed by
Perkins, in which he expressed sympathy for his family's pain, but
also proclaimed his innocence. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals
affirmed the conviction and sentence in June 2004. All of his
subsequent appeals in state and federal court were denied.
According to the Texas Attorney General's
office, since he was sentenced to death for Gertie Perkins' murder,
Reginald Perkins was connected by DNA evidence to the 1991
stranglings of Shirley Douglas, 44, and her aunt, Hattie Wilson,
79, in Fort Worth. Police said Perkins had dated Wilson's
granddaughter. "I loved my stepmother," Perkins said in an
interview from death row a few days before his execution. "I
didn't have nothing to do with none of those killings. I have
never taken an individual's life. They're just trying to pin them
Perkins also denied pawning his stepmother's
ring. Even though his driver's license was used to verify the
transaction, Perkins said he had lost his license and someone else
used it. He said that the rape victims in the Ohio cases lied and
that he pleaded guilty because of bad advice from a lawyer. "Lies
and false testimony," he said of those cases. "I ain't never hurt
a person in my life." Perkins also denied that he ever confessed
to his stepmother's death while in jail.
Kevin Rousseau, a Tarrant County district
attorney who prosecuted Perkins, scoffed at his claims of
innocence. "He's a consummate liar and a con artist," Rousseau
said. "I wouldn't believe anything he said. He's a serial killer.
People look for more complicated rationale. But the bottom line is,
he's a killer. He goes through quite a bit of trouble to kill
About an hour before his execution, Perkins
summoned a prison official to his cell outside the death chamber
and gave him a statement professing his innocence. "They didn't
link me to nothing," Perkins said. "I did not kill my stepmom. I
loved her. Texas is going to kill an innocent man." Of the other
killings he was suspected of, Perkins said, "There's other
suspects they questioned besides me. They let them go. I don't
know what they're talking about. I can't tell you who killed them.
I ain't killed nobody. I've never killed."
When the hour came and Perkins was strapped to
the execution gurney, the warden asked him if he wanted to make a
statement. "I already made my statement," he replied. "Appreciate
it. Love y'all." The lethal injection was then started. "I can
feel it going in," he said. He looked at Gertie's sister and told
her he loved her, then he lost consciousness. He was pronounced
dead at 6:24 p.m.
Reginald Perkins was sent to death row for the
slaying of his stepmother, Gertie Mae Perkins in Fort Worth on
December 4, 2000. Gertie had been married to Perkins's father for
45 years. The 64-year-old woman's body was found in the trunk of
her car in a parking garage. A Tarrant County jury took just 30
minutes in 2002 to decide Reginald Perkins should be put to death.
Shortly after the jury's verdict was read in court, Perkins
proclaimed his innocence in a written letter read by his lawyer.
In November 2007, a federal appeals court
rejected claims he was mentally retarded and ineligible for the
death penalty, that his legal help earlier had been ineffective,
that the Texas sentencing statute was unconstitutional and that he
was innocent of the murder. In May of 2008, the US Supreme Court
refused to review that appeal.
Evidence at his trial showed he pawned his
stepmother's wedding ring and wrote fraudulent checks from the
account of the family trucking business in Fort Worth. When Gertie
Perkins showed up missing, police summoned to her home found a
carpet removed, a phone cord disconnected and sheets missing from
a bed. He became a suspect after detectives learned of his
previous convictions in Ohio for rape and attempted rape and that
he had been a suspect in two killings in Cleveland in the 1980s.
When arrested, he directed his father and police to Gertie's body.
Perkins also acknowledged the slaying to a fellow inmate while
awaiting trial and said his motive was robbery.
At the punishment phase of his trial, jurors
heard testimony that he pleaded guilty in 1982 to the 1980 rape
and attempted rape of two 12-year-old girls and that he had been
implicated in the strangulation of three women. One of them, Terry
Thomas, was the mother of the girl he raped. She was strangled and
left for her daughter, the rape victim, to find. Perkins had
threatened to kill both of them if the girl talked about the
attack. Three weeks before Terry's murder, Jenny Morman, 43, was
strangled in her apartment, and Perkins is believed to have
committed that murder as well. The other was Paula Nelson, the
twin sister of a woman he was living with and later married. She
was strangled and left in bed with her small son. There was not
enough evidence to charge him in Paula's murder. In 1986, he had
been paroled from Ohio after receiving a life prison term for the
rape conviction. He was returned from parole eight years later but
released again in February 2000. His stepmother's murder occurred
10 months later.
Perkins had been on death row in Texas for five
years when DNA linked him to the 1991 slayings of Hattie Wilson,
79, and her niece Shirley Douglas, 44. Both women were found
strangled in their East Fort Worth apartment. Shirley had also
been raped in the attack. Perkins knew the women because he had
dated Hattie's granddaughter.
Perkins v. State, Not Reported in S.W.3d,
2004 WL 3093239 (Tex.Crim.App. 2004) (Direct Appeal).
Background: Defendant was convicted in the
trial court, Tarrant County, of capital murder and was sentenced
to death. Defendant appealed.
Holdings: The Court of Criminal Appeals,
Holcomb, J., held that: (1) death penalty scheme's failure to
place on state the burden of disproving the mitigation special
issue beyond a reasonable doubt did not violate due process; (2)
witness's improper statement that defendant had previously been to
prison did not warrant a mistrial; (3) defendant's challenge to
his statements to detective as the fruit of an illegal arrest did
not comport with his objections at trial and thus was not
preserved for appellate review; (4) defendant's statement to his
wife that he had killed her sister was inadmissible under the
marital communications privilege, but defendant forfeited any
claim to the privilege by failing to raise it at trial; (5)
defense counsel was not ineffective; and (6) state did not
impermissibly bind venireperson to specific facts by presenting
hypotheticals illustrating the range of facts that might give rise
to capital murder. Affirmed.
HOLCOMB, J., delivered the opinion for a
Appellant was convicted in March 2002 of
capital murder. Tex. Pen.Code § 19.03(a). Pursuant to the jury's
answers to the special issues set forth in Texas Code of Criminal
Procedure article 37.071, §§ 2(b) and 2(e), the trial judge
sentenced appellant to death. Art. 37.071 § 2(g). Direct appeal to
this Court is automatic. Art. 37.071 § 2(h). Appellant raises
eleven points of error. We affirm.
In points of error one, two, and three,
appellant claims the Texas death penalty scheme violates the Due
Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by failing to place on
the State the burden of disproving the mitigation special issue
beyond a reasonable doubt. Appellant relies on Apprendi v. New
Jersey, 530 U.S. 466, 120 S.Ct. 2348, 147 L.Ed.2d 435 (2000), and
Ring v. Arizona, 536 U.S. 584, 122 S.Ct. 2428, 153 L.Ed.2d 556
(2002). Appellant's motion to set aside his indictment and his
objections to the jury charge on these grounds were overruled.
In Resendiz v. State, 112 S.W.3d 541, 550 (Tex.Crim.App.2003),
we rejected the defendant's claim that Apprendi requires the State
to bear the burden of disproving beyond a reasonable doubt that
the mitigation issue should be answered in the negative. Ring does
not support appellant's argument, either. In Ring, the Supreme
Court applied Apprendi to require a jury finding beyond a
reasonable doubt on aggravating factors under the Arizona death
penalty statute. Ring is not at odds with the Texas death penalty
statute, which requires a jury finding on the applicable special
issues beyond a reasonable doubt. Ring does not compel imposition
of such a finding in the context of the mitigation special issue.
Both Apprendi and Ring are concerned with fact-findings that have
the result of increasing the penalty over the statutory maximum.
Under the Texas statute, the maximum penalty for a capital offense
is death. The mitigation issue does not increase the statutory
maximum. To the contrary, the mitigation issue is designed to
allow for the imposition of less than the statutory maximum, a
life sentence. The Texas death penalty scheme does not violate
Apprendi or Ring for its failure to place the burden on the State
to disprove the mitigation special issue. Points of error one, two,
and three are overruled.
In his fourth and fifth points of error,
appellant claims the trial court erred in instructing the jury on
the definition of “beyond a reasonable doubt” at guilt/innocence
and at punishment, in violation of Paulson v. State, 28 S.W.3d 570
(Tex.Crim.App.2000). Appellant's complaint is directed at
statements in the jury instructions that the State was not
required to prove guilt, the first special issue, or the
extraneous offenses “beyond all possible doubt,” but that the
State's proof on these matters must exclude “all reasonable doubt.”
Appellant objected to the charge on these grounds at trial.
In Geesa v. State, 820 S.W.2d 154 (Tex.Crim.App.1991),
we adopted an instruction on the meaning of “beyond a reasonable
doubt” that was thereafter required to be included in the jury
charge in all criminal cases. About ten years later, the Geesa
instruction was set aside in Paulson, 28 S.W.3d at 573, in which
we concluded that “the better practice is to give no definition of
reasonable doubt at all to the jury.” We found particularly
problematic three separate paragraphs of the instruction that
attempted to define reasonable doubt. Id. at 572.
The instruction appellant complains of is
virtually identical to one of the paragraphs of Geesa's six-paragraph
instruction, but it is not one of the three definitional
paragraphs specifically criticized in Paulson. While we continue
to adhere to our position that the better practice is to leave
wholly to the jury the task of assigning meaning to the phrase
“beyond a reasonable doubt,” the instruction given here does not
encroach upon that task .FN1 The trial court did not abuse its
discretion by including the statements in the jury charges. Points
of error four and five are overruled.
FN1. As the State points out, submission to the
jury of an instruction like that at issue in this case has been
dealt with by the various courts of appeals in other cases. Most
of the courts of appeals have viewed this instruction as not
definitional and thus not violating Paulson. Jackson v. State, 105
S.W.3d 321, 325-26 (Tex.App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 2003, no pet.);
Hanks v. State, 104 S.W.3d 695, 701-02 (Tex.App.-El Paso 2003, no
pet.); Fluellen v. State, 104 S.W.3d 152, 163-64 (Tex.App.-Texarkana
2003, no pet .); Minor v. State, 91 S.W.3d 824, 827-29 (Tex.App.-Fort
Worth 2002, pet. ref'd); Carriere v. State, 84 S.W.3d 753, 758-60
(Tex.App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 2002, pet. ref'd). Two of the courts
of appeals have held such an instruction to be erroneous in light
of Paulson, but harmless in view of the facts of the particular
case. Rodriguez v. State, 96 S.W.3d 398, 399-405 (Tex.App.-Austin
2002, pet. ref'd); Phillips v. State, 72 S.W.3d 719, 721 (Tex.App.-Waco
2002, no pet.).
In point of error six, appellant claims the
trial court abused its discretion in failing to grant a mistrial
when a State's witness stated during the guilt/innocence phase
that appellant had previously been to prison. The trial court
granted appellant's pretrial motion in limine prohibiting the
State from presenting any evidence of appellant's prior criminal
record without obtaining a ruling outside the presence of the jury.
At trial, during the direct examination of appellant's father, who
was also the victim's husband, the following exchange occurred: [Prosecutor].
Now, was there a time-did [appellant], though-eventually did he
come back to live with the family? [Witness]. Yes. He came back
like- Q. Just as best-just as best as you can. Sometime in the
last ten years? A. Yeah. I think he was in prison-Appellant
immediately objected that such a statement was in violation of the
previously granted motion in limine. The trial court sustained the
objection, overruled the motion for mistrial, and instructed the
jury to disregard the witness's statement:
Now, ladies and gentlemen, I want you to pay
real close attention. I'm going to read a statement to you. I'm
going to ask the jury to hold an answer to the question. Then I'm
going to go through each one of you individually and call your
name, okay, and ask you some questions.
You have heard testimony from [the witness]
that, open quotes, “Yeah, I think he was in prison,” close quotes.
The Court makes no comment as to the truthfulness of this
testimony. You are, however, ordered to disregard such testimony,
whether true or not, and strike it from your mind. You're ordered
not to consider this testimony for any purpose whatsoever during
your deliberations, as such would be a violation of this Court's
instructions as well as a violation of your oath to follow the law
as given to you by this Court.
When individually polled, each juror agreed
that he could obey the court's instruction to disregard. Appellant
claims the instruction could not remedy the harm arising from such
a prejudicial statement.
Ordinarily, a prompt instruction to disregard
cures any error associated with an improper question and answer.
Martinez v. State, 17 S.W.3d 677, 689 (Tex.Crim.App.2000). A
mistrial is required only when improper evidence is admitted which
was “clearly calculated to inflame the minds of the jury and is of
such a character as to suggest the impossibility of withdrawing
the impression produced on the minds of the jury.” Hinojosa v.
State, 4 S.W.3d 240, 253 (Tex.Crim.App.1999). Otherwise, the jury
is presumed to follow the trial court's instructions to disregard
the improperly admitted evidence. Id. Whether an erroneous
admission of evidence requires a mistrial is determined by looking
at the facts and circumstances of the particular case. Id.
Here, the erroneously admitted statement was
brief and isolated, was not mentioned again by the prosecutor, the
jurors were thoroughly instructed by the court, and every juror
indicated the ability to disregard the statement. The statement
was not of such a nature that it could not be put aside by the
jurors. The trial court did not abuse its discretion in overruling
appellant's motion for a mistrial. Id.; see also Kemp v. State,
846 S.W.2d 289, 308 (Tex.Crim.App.1992), cert. denied, 508 U.S.
918, 113 S.Ct. 2361, 124 L.Ed.2d 268 (1993). Point of error six is
In point of error seven, appellant claims the
trial court erred in admitting the testimony of Detective Scott
Campbell concerning oral statements made by appellant that he
alleges were the fruit of an illegal arrest. Appellant argues that
his arrest was made without probable cause and, therefore,
statements made to Campbell should have been suppressed.
Several months before trial, a suppression
hearing was held regarding the admission of appellant's various
oral statements and written statement. The statements made to Fort
Worth Detective Scott Campbell that are the subject of this point
of error were not addressed at that pretrial hearing. Appellant
objected during the pretrial hearing to the admission of his
written statement and certain oral statements on the grounds that
he had not been properly Mirandized,FN2 the oral statements did
not comply with the requirements of Article 38.22, and the
admission of the statements violated Texas Rule of Evidence 403.
At the end of the pretrial hearing, appellant presented the
argument that his detention and arrest were illegal. FN2. Miranda
v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966).
The admissibility of the statements made to
Campbell which are at issue in this point of error were addressed
in a hearing outside the presence of the jury. At that hearing,
Campbell testified that appellant was one of the offenders he was
charged with overseeing during his assignment to the sex-crimes
division. On the evening appellant was brought into the police
station for questioning in connection with the victim's
disappearance, Campbell was called back to work for the purpose of
determining whether there was probable cause for issuing a warrant
for appellant's arrest based on a failure to comply with the sex-offender
registration requirements. Campbell was at his desk typing the
warrant for appellant's arrest when he saw appellant being brought
into the station by three other officers. Campbell told the
officers to remove appellant's handcuffs, at which time appellant
said to Campbell, “Hey, Mr. Campbell, I'm not good for this,” and
“I was just up in your office today to see you.” Campbell told
appellant he could not talk with him at that point, but offered
him a cigarette and a drink, and asked him if he needed to use the
restroom. As appellant was escorted around the corner to an
interview room a few moments later, he said again to Campbell,
“Hey, I was here to see you just today. I even signed the logbook.”
FN3 Campbell then retrieved the logbook and located appellant's
name. The logbook revealed that appellant had in fact signed in
that day, but the indicated sign-in time of 9:00 a.m. was out of
sequence with the times indicated next to the names of persons who
signed in before appellant.FN4
FN3. Campbell testified that appellant was
referring to the sex-offender registration logbook. FN4.
Appellant's entry was preceded by entries reflecting sign-in times
of 12:45, 11:30, 10:55, 10:40, and so on, all sequentially, back
to 7:30 a.m.
Appellant ultimately decided not to object to
the first statement, “I'm not good for this.” His objections were
lodged only against the statements which led to the logbook.
Appellant objected to those statements as being in violation of
Article 38.22 and Rule of Evidence 403. After a recess but still
outside the presence of the jury, the following exchange occurred
between appellant and the court:
[Defense attorney]: In further support of our
request to exclude the oral statements that Detective Campbell is
going to testify to, we would offer the pretrial motions and
hearing, the testimony that was given regarding the Miranda issue.
All of that is in the record already, we would reoffer that
testimony in support of- THE COURT: Is there something there you
want to point out to me? [Defense attorney]: No, Judge. Just in an
abundance of caution. THE COURT: Okay. [Defense attorney]: Because
we've already plowed this ground once. We would offer that in
support of our motion. THE COURT: Okay. I'm just saying if there's
something to shed any light on my ruling-okay. You're just
covering yourself. [Defense attorney]: Yeah. We're just offering
that additional testimony.
Appellant now argues that the statements made
to Campbell should have been suppressed as the fruit of an illegal
arrest made without probable cause. However, no such objection was
made at trial in connection with Campbell's statements. Appellant
argued only that the statements to Campbell were inadmissible
under Article 38.22 and Rule 403. Although he also stated that in
support of his argument, he was offering “the pretrial motions and
hearing, the testimony that was given regarding the Miranda issue,”
this reference is not clear and specific enough to inform the
trial court that he intended to re-assert the theory of illegal
arrest based on probable cause, and there is no indication that
the trial court understood him to do so. Appellant's statement
might just as likely have been interpreted by the trial court as
only re-asserting the Miranda claim from the first hearing. Thus,
appellant's trial objection does not comport with his complaint on
appeal. Chambers v. State, 903 S.W.2d 21, 32 (Tex.Crim.App.1995);
Little v. State, 758 S.W.2d 551, 564-65 (Tex.Crim.App.), cert.
denied, 488 U.S. 934, 109 S.Ct. 328, 102 L.Ed.2d 346 (1988). Point
of error seven is overruled.
In his eighth point of error, appellant claims
the trial court erred in admitting into evidence certain
statements he made while in the State of Ohio on the ground that
the statements were inadmissible under Ohio law. At the punishment
phase of the trial, Ramola Washington testified that she and
appellant were involved romantically in 1980 and were living
together in Ohio. Washington had previously shared an apartment
with her sister Paula. She gave appellant the keys to Paula's
apartment, with instructions to return them to Paula. Five days
later, appellant told Washington that something had happened to
Paula. The two went to Paula's apartment, where Washington found
that Paula had been strangled to death. While appellant was in
jail sometime later in connection with other offenses, he and
Washington were married. During a telephone call from the jail
after their marriage, appellant told Washington that he had killed
When the State called Washington to the stand,
the trial court granted appellant's request for a hearing outside
the presence of the jury. The three issues at the hearing were
Washington's ability to identify appellant, the existence of a
spousal privilege, and the witness's competence to testify.
Regarding the spousal privilege issue, defense counsel initially
contended that there might be a privilege but further research was
required to be sure. The State responded that Washington's
testimony would be admissible under Texas Rule of Evidence 504
because the spousal privilege does not apply to acts that occurred
before the marriage. Appellant then suggested that a privilege
might exist under Ohio law. Relying upon a prior conflict of laws
case from this Court, the State replied that the evidence would be
admissible under the law of the forum, which was Texas.
The trial court turned to the factual question
of whether appellant and the witness were married when the
statement was made. Washington testified that appellant's
statement that he killed her sister was made after the marriage.
The State then said that appellant had the burden to prove the
marriage. The facts were clouded because, when the witness wanted
to marry another man years later, “legal aid” told her she was not
married to appellant. After addressing other issues, the judge
recessed the trial for the rest of the day to permit the lawyers
to research the law and facts on the issue of privilege.
The next morning, appellant offered documents,
which the State had provided, that included the Ohio court's grant
of permission for appellant to be married in jail, the application
for marriage license, and the marriage license. Relying upon
Gonzalez v. State, 45 S.W.3d 101 (Tex.Crim.App.2001), defense
counsel asserted that the application of a privilege is determined
by the law of the state with the most significant relationship to
the evidence in question. He discussed the facts in Gonzalez, in
which a confession to a priest in California was found to be
admissible because, although the confession to the priest would
have been privileged under Texas law, it was not privileged under
California law, and California was the state with the most
significant relationship to the confession. Defense counsel argued
that the same rule should be applied to hold inadmissible evidence
that was privileged under the law of Ohio, the state with the most
significant relationship to the communication in the present case.
Defense counsel then asserted, with agreement
from the State, that appellant's statement to Washington would be
admissible under Texas law but inadmissible under Ohio law.
Although the prosecutor agreed that Texas law favored admission
while Ohio law did not, he differed with defense counsel's
interpretation of Gonzalez concerning the choice of law standard.
The prosecutor argued that the evidence was admissible if either
the state with the most significant relationship or the forum
state permitted its admission unless, in the latter case, there
was a special reason why the forum policy of admissibility should
not be given effect. Defense counsel then pointed out that the
rule favoring admissibility was not automatic but a strong
preference, and he argued that there was a special reason for not
giving effect to the forum policy of admissibility: doing so would
violate the legitimate expectations of the married couple,
especially since all relevant contacts were in Ohio (the
extraneous offense occurred there and appellant's statement was
made there) and had occurred twenty years in the past. According
to defense counsel, these expectations were especially salient in
the case at bar because appellant expressly relied upon the
spousal privilege in deciding to reveal to his wife his
participation in the Ohio murder. The trial court then asked how
the law would be affected if a defendant decided to marry someone
for the purpose of being able to talk about a previously committed
crime. The State opined that the communication would fall within
the crime-fraud exception to the Texas privilege. The defense
responded that the trial court's scenario would be relevant to
whether a privilege existed within a certain jurisdiction but
would not be relevant to a choice-of-law analysis. The prosecutor
countered that the fact scenario would be relevant to whether a
special reason existed to override forum law. Defense counsel then
argued that no evidence showed that appellant married the witness
solely for the purpose of informing her of the crime under the
cloak of privilege.
Other than their agreement that Ohio law would
bar the testimony and Texas law would permit it, neither party
laid out, discussed, or argued the underlying privilege law of the
respective forums, or indeed ever stated which privilege they were
discussing-testimonial or confidential communications. Ultimately,
both parties agreed at trial that the crux of the admissibility
question was whether there were good reasons for not giving effect
to Texas's policy favoring admissibility in the face of a
privilege recognized in Ohio.
The problem with this agreement is that it was
based on at least one false premise: that the testimony was
admissible under Texas law. It was not. Rule 504 shields from
disclosure confidential communications made during marriage, with
certain exceptions. See Tex.R. Evid. 504(a). Appellant's statement
to the witness was a confidential communication made during the
marriage and no exception is applicable.
However, to preserve error on appeal, a party
must, among other things, state the ground for objection “with
sufficient specificity to make the trial court aware of the
complaint, unless the specific grounds were apparent from the
context.” Tex.R.App. P. 33.1(a)(1)(A). Obviously, no Texas Rule
504 claim was articulated, or apparent from the context, because
appellant affirmatively represented that he had no basis to object
under Texas privilege rules. As a result, appellant forfeited any
claim based on the Texas marital communications privilege.
Analysis of appellant's claim of error under
Ohio law becomes problematic, due to appellant's presentation of
the issue at trial as a choice of law claim, in which the trial
judge must decide whether the interests underlying the Ohio
privilege are weighty enough to outweigh the interests underlying
a Texas rule favoring admission. The State had correctly framed
the choice of law rule in such a situation: if evidence is
privileged under the law of the state with the most significant
relationship to the communication, but is not privileged under the
law of the forum, it should be admitted “unless there is some
special reason why the forum policy favoring admission should not
be given effect.” Gonzalez, 45 S.W.2d at 103 (quoting Restatement
(Second) of Conflict of Laws § 139 (1971)). The reason for this
rule is that “the forum's interest in reaching correct results in
its domestic litigation strongly favors disclosure of all evidence
that is not privileged under its own laws.” Id. (quoting
Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws § 139 cmt. d (Supp.1988)).
It makes little sense, however, to determine whether there are
good reasons not to effectuate a forum policy of admissibility
when such a forum policy does not actually exist.FN5 But the
parties' erroneous representations placed the trial court in the
position of analyzing the issue as if Texas did have such a policy.
FN5. Whether the communication is in fact
privileged in Ohio is at least open to question, because Ohio's
marital communications privilege is narrower than its Texas
counterpart-containing a “coverture” requirement. See Ohio
Rev.Code § 2945.42. Given our disposition, we do not address
whether the statement in question was in fact privileged under
We have recently held that a party can forfeit
error by failing to correct a trial court's mistaken belief about
facts underlying his claim. Loredo v. State, 2004 Tex.Crim.App.
LEXIS 635 (April 7, 2004). In Loredo, the defendant failed to
correct the trial court's mistaken belief that a prospective juror
had been rehabilitated on whether she could consider probation. Id.
at *5. In failing to correct that mistaken belief, Loredo failed
to comply with Rule 33.1's requirement that the trial court be
informed of his complaint because he failed to show that his
challenge for cause should have been granted. Id. at *8-*9.
Similar considerations may be involved when a
party misinforms the trial court regarding a proposition of law.
It is true that the parties cannot by agreement bind the trial
court to an erroneous view of the law. See Ex parte Fierro, 79 S.W.3d
54, 56-57 (court's opinion), 57-58 (Holcomb J., dissenting)(Tex.Crim.App.2002)(parties
erroneous belief juror was disqualified did not create manifest
necessity for a mistrial). But where the party making the
complaint has the burden to preserve error, that party's
misrepresentation of the law is relevant to whether he has
sufficiently informed the trial court of his complaint.
That brings us to another problem with the
manner in which appellant presented his claim at trial: he failed
to inform the trial court regarding the exact nature of Ohio's
spousal privilege. In essence, appellant was seeking to have the
trial court take judicial notice of Ohio law. When a party asks
the trial court to take judicial notice of the law of another
state, the burden is on that party to supply sufficient
information to enable the trial court to comply with the request:
A court upon its own motion may, or upon the
motion of a party shall, take judicial notice of the constitutions,
public statutes, rules, regulations, ordinances, court decisions,
and common law of every other state, territory, or jurisdiction of
the United States. A party requesting judicial notice be taken of
such matter shall furnish the court sufficient information to
enable it to properly comply with the request.... Tex.R. Evid. 202
If admissibility of the evidence involving the
communication had turned solely upon the existence of a privilege
in the state with the most significant relationship to the
communication, then informing the trial court that the most-significant-relationship
state's privilege covered the communication would have been
sufficient. But, as discussed above, that was not the case. The
trial court was not asked to decide whether the evidence was
admissible under Ohio law; rather the trial court was asked to
decide whether Ohio's interests in protecting the privilege were
so weighty that they constituted a special reason for not giving
effect to a forum (Texas) policy of admission. But engaging in
such a balancing process is impossible without the text of the
Ohio privilege, or caselaw interpreting that privilege, to show
what kinds of interests actually underlie Ohio's spousal privilege
law. The bare fact of a spousal privilege of some sort is not by
itself sufficient information from which to conduct this type of
Appellant's complaint was not sufficiently
specific to make the trial court aware of his entitlement to
relief. Consequently, error was procedurally defaulted under Rule
33.1. Point of error eight is overruled.
In point of error nine, appellant claims the
trial court violated his right to effective assistance of counsel
by refusing his request to retroactively exercise peremptory
challenges against two jurors. Several weeks into voir dire, the
State informed appellant and the trial court about a newly
discovered witness to whom appellant had allegedly made
incriminating statements when they were cellmates. Appellant says
that the anticipated nature of the newly found witness' testimony
caused him to change his trial strategy, which in turn affected
his approach during voir dire. Appellant requested two additional
peremptory challenges for use on two previously accepted jurors,
Susan Margarette Duvall and Pamela Bauerle Page. This request was
denied. Appellant then attempted to use two of his remaining
peremptory challenges on Duvall and Page. He claimed these two
jurors had been “selected for their strength in circumstantial
evidence cases,” but the nature of the case had now changed in
light of the anticipated testimony. Appellant argues that due to
the trial court's ruling, his trial counsel was rendered
ineffective because he did not make an intelligent and informed
decision when he accepted Page and Duvall as jurors.
In order to prevail on a claim of ineffective
assistance of counsel, appellant must prove by a preponderance of
the evidence (1) that counsel's performance was deficient and (2)
that, but for counsel's deficient performance, the result of the
proceeding would have been different. Strickland v. Washington,
466 U.S. 668, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed.2d 674 (1984). We have
repeatedly stated that “[i]f counsel's reasons for his conduct do
not appear in the record and there is at least the possibility
that the conduct could have been legitimate trial strategy, we
will defer to counsel's decisions and deny relief on an
ineffective assistance claim on direct appeal.” Ortiz v. State, 93
S.W.3d 79, 88 (Tex.Crim.App.2002).
Appellant claims his counsel's performance was
deficient because he was uninformed and the fact that he was
uninformed should have been corrected by the trial court. But, at
the time counsel accepted Duvall and Page, he was adequately
informed, and appellant does not allege that his decision to
accept the venirepersons at that point was not based on reasonable
trial strategy. The fact that counsel later received information
that allegedly would have changed his decision about the
prospective jurors did not render counsel ineffective. To the
contrary, counsel attempted to utilize peremptory strikes against
them upon receiving the information. Appellant does not show at
what point counsel's performance was or became ineffective. The
fact that the trial court did not allow counsel to use a
retroactive peremptory strike did not render counsel's performance
ineffective. Point of error nine is overruled.
In point of error ten, appellant claims the
trial court erred by relying on venireperson Marion King Lewis'
race as the reason for overruling his challenge for cause against
Lewis. Appellant challenged Lewis for cause on the grounds that
she could not follow the law regarding the burden of proof on the
first special issue. In overruling appellant's challenge, the
trial court stated:
The Court does think she vacillated back and
forth, but I do think she was having a hard time understanding it,
as many jurors do. But she brought up on her own, without
prompting, early on in the voir dire process, that her personal
feelings would not get in the way of what the law was and I came
back and asked her about that later. I do not-and I think she is-I've
got to get a feel for the whole juror and I don't think we've had
anybody that we've had up here yet that would try to be fairer on
a case than this lady. She hasn't got any axe to grind. I think
she will answer these questions. Sure, they're tough, but they're
tough-most attorneys have a hard time with this.
And I also want the record to reflect that
she's African-American. And having looked ahead at those left, the
composition of the jury, I think she'd make a good juror. The
objection is overruled.
Based upon the emphasized comments, appellant
now claims the trial court's ruling was racially motivated.
Appellant did not object at trial to the court's comments or
otherwise claim the court's ruling was racially motivated. By
failing to object and assert his claim at trial, appellant has
failed to preserve error for review on appeal. Tex.R.App. P. 33.1.
Point of error ten is overruled.
In point of error eleven, appellant claims the
trial court erred by allowing the State to bind a venireperson to
specific facts while trying to rehabilitate her on issues for
which she was challengeable for cause. After appellant's voir dire
questioning of venireperson Linda Croft Warren, appellant
challenged her for cause in part on the ground that she would
answer the first special issue “yes” once she found a defendant
guilty of intentional murder. Warren's statements to this effect
were contrary to the position she had expressed when questioned
initially by the State.
[Prosecutor]: Okay, Ms. Warren. First off, I want to talk to you
about Special Issue Number One and I think the defense had asked
you a question if you had found someone guilty of the offense of
capital murder without legal justification or excuse, would you
answer this Special Issue Number One yes. And I think you said yes
and I also remember you making some comments that you would want
to look at the things I put up earlier that you couldn't remember.
[Warren]: Right. Q. Now, do you understand that in answering this
special issue, you could be faced with many, many different fact
situations with a capital murder. It could be as-it could be as
heinous as a career criminal who goes into a store- [appellant's
objection overruled] Q. I mean, you could be dealing with facts of
a career criminal who walks into a convenience store with the
intent to kill the clerk. He kills the clerk. Makes a statement,
if I get a chance, I'm going to rob another convenience store and
kill the clerk. Or it could be a fact situation where you've got a
17-year-old kid who- [appellant's objection overruled and granted
running objection] Q. Or it could be a 17-year-old kid who walks
in to rob a convenience store, panics in the middle, closes his
eyes, points that gun and shoots with the intent to kill the clerk,
and that person is remorseful for their actions. So there are a
lot of situations-and I'm not trying to bind you, but I remember
when I asked you this question when I had you on voir dire. I
asked you would you let the evidence guide you in answering this
question. And would you do that? A. Yes, sir.
Appellant argues that the State bound Warren to
the notion that she could fairly answer the future dangerousness
issue “no” under a particular set of facts. At a minimum,
appellant maintains, the questions set “hypothetical parameters”
that Warren would apply in making her decision under the special
Standefer articulated a two-part test for
determining whether a voir dire question seeks an improper
commitment: (1) Is the question a commitment question; and (2)
Does the question include only those facts that would lead to a
challenge for cause? 59 S.W.3d at 182. A commitment question
“commit[s] a prospective juror to resolve, or to refrain from
resolving, an issue a certain way after learning a particular fact.”
Id. at 179.
By describing various hypotheticals, the State
was simply illustrating the range of facts that might give rise to
a capital murder. No questions were asked of Warren in light of
these examples. She was not asked whether she would resolve or
refrain from resolving the future dangerousness issue after being
informed of a particular set of facts. Rather, she was informed
that there were many fact scenarios that might give rise to a
capital murder conviction and was given two examples of the range
of such facts. The examples were given by way of explaining the
law and the only question asked was whether she would be guided by
the evidence in answering the special issue. Because Warren was
not asked to commit to any particular set of facts, the State's
question was not an improper attempt to bind her under Standefer.
Point of error eleven is overruled.
The judgment of the trial court is affirmed.
Perkins v. Quarterman, 254 Fed.Appx.
366 (5th Cir. 2007) (Habeas).
Background: Following affirmance on direct
appeal of petitioner's state court conviction for capital murder
and his death sentence, 2004 WL 3093239, he filed petition for
writ of habeas corpus. The United States District Court for the
Northern District of Texas, McBryde, J., 2007 WL 631294, denied
petition. Petitioner sought certificate of appealability (COA).
Holdings: The Court of Appeals held that: (1)
petitioner was not mentally retarded; (2) petitioner was not
deprived of effective assistance of counsel; and (3) actual
innocence was not independently cognizable in habeas petition. COA
Reginald Perkins was convicted of capital
murder and sentenced to death for the December 4, 2000,
strangulation death of his stepmother, Gertie Perkins. A full
account of the underlying facts can be found in the district
court's opinion, Perkins v. Quarterman, No. 4:06-CV-687-A, 2007 WL
631294 (N.D.Tex. Mar. 1, 2007). We have included the facts
relevant to each of Perkins's claims on appeal in our discussion
below. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed Perkins's
conviction and sentence on direct appeal, Perkins v. State, No.
74,318, 2004 WL 3093239 (Tex.Crim.App. June 30, 2004) (unpublished),
and the Supreme Court denied certiorari, Perkins v. Texas, 543
U.S. 1164, 125 S.Ct. 1330, 161 L.Ed.2d 136 (2005). Perkins also
filed a state petition for habeas corpus. The state trial court
held lengthy evidentiary hearings (generating six volumes of
transcript and one volume of exhibits), adopted findings of fact
and conclusions of law, and recommended that the petition be
denied. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals adopted the trial
court's findings and denied relief. Ex parte Perkins, No. WR-64,354-01,
2006 WL 2615535 (Tex.Crim.App. Sept. 13, 2006). Perkins next filed
a federal habeas petition in the Northern District of Texas,
alleging seven grounds for relief. The district court denied all
relief, and denied a certificate of appealability (COA) on all
claims. Perkins now requests a COA for an Atkins claim, two
ineffective assistance of counsel claims, a constitutional
challenge to the Texas sentencing statute, and an actual innocence
E. Actual Innocence
Finally, Perkins argues that he is actually
innocent of the capital murder for which he was convicted, and
offers his own affidavit in support. He also speculates that a
jailhouse snitch who testified against him might have had his
charges reduced in exchange for testimony. The district court
denied relief on this claim.
Since Perkins has not asserted actual innocence
as a “gateway” to obtain review of an otherwise barred claim, see
Dowthitt v. Johnson, 230 F.3d 733, 741 (5th Cir.2000), the only
question is whether a stand-alone claim of actual innocence is
cognizable in a federal habeas petition. In Herrera v. Collins,
the Supreme Court assumed, for the sake of argument, that “in a
capital case a truly persuasive demonstration of ‘actual innocence’
made after trial would render the execution of a defendant
unconstitutional, and warrant federal habeas relief if there were
no state avenue open to process such a claim.” 506 U.S. 390, 417,
113 S.Ct. 853, 122 L.Ed.2d 203 (1993). Whether such stand-alone
claims of actual innocence claims are in fact possible is a
question the Supreme Court has “decline[d] to resolve,” House v.
Bell, 547 U.S. 518, 126 S.Ct. 2064, 2087, 165 L.Ed.2d 1 (2006),
but this circuit has not read Herrera as allowing such claims. See
Foster v. Quarterman, 466 F.3d 359, 367-68 (5th Cir.2006);
Dowthitt, 230 F.3d at 741-42. The district court's denial of this
claim is therefore not debatable, and we deny a COA on this issue.
Perkins's request for a COA is DENIED.