EARL # 77
OFF DEATH ROW SINCE 11-07-02
DOC#: 932131 Black Male
Lake County Superior
Judge James E. Letsinger
John J. Burke
Daniel R. Schneider, Darnail Lyles
Date of Murder:
June 19, 1992
Robert Hollins B/M/26; Debra Rice B/F/42; Michael Richardson B/M/41
(No relationship to Williams)
Method of Murder:
shooting with handgun
Williams, Jemelle Joshua and three others went to the home of school
teacher Michael Richardson, intent on stealing the audio and video
equipment from his basement. Williams and Joshua were admitted to
the home and let the three accomplices in.
Williams held a handgun to
Richardson's head and Joshua held a shotgun on Richardson's sister,
Debra Rice, while the other three men went to the basement. Robert
Hollins, a guest in the home, struggled with one of the men and was
shot in the back by Williams. Debra Rice tried to escape and Joshua
shot her in the chest.
The equipment proved too
difficult to remove from the basement, and as the invaders were
leaving the home, Williams shot Richardson, Rice, and Hollins once
in the head. A few hours later, he would tell his sister that he did
so in order not to leave any witnesses.
Murder (3 counts), Felony-Murder (3 counts) (Hung Jury on Death
March 2, 1993 (Death Sentence)
Circumstances: b (1) Robbery (3 counts), 3 murders
Circumstances: low IQ, father convicted of abusing Williams
as a child
Edward Williams v. State, 669 N.E.2d 1372 (Ind. August 7,
Conviction Affirmed 5-0 DP Affirmed 5-0
Sullivan Opinion; Shepard, Debruler, Dickson, Selby concur.
Williams v. Indiana, 117 S.Ct. 1828 (1997) (Cert. denied)
PCR Petition filed 01-22-97. PCR denied 02-19-97 by Special Judge
Richard W. Maroc.
Edward Williams v. State, 724 N.E.2d 1070 (Ind. February 23,
(Appeal of PCR denial by Special Judge Richard W. Maroc)
(Affirmed 5-0; Shepard Opinion, Dickson, Sullivan, Boehm, Rucker
Williams v. Indiana, 121 S.Ct. 886 (2001) (Cert. denied)
Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus filed 12-14-00 in U.S. District
Court, Northern District of Indiana.
Writ granted 11-07-02 by U.S. District Court Judge Allen Sharp.
Aki-Khuam v. Davis, 203 F. Supp.2d 1001 (N.D.
Ind. March 25, 2002).
(Order of U.S. District Court Judge Allen Sharp, Northern District of
Indiana, granting Writ of Habeas Corpus as to conviction and sentence
on grounds that the trial judge improperly denied peremptory
challenges of white jurors by the defense.)
Aki-Khuam v. Davis, 328 F.3d 366 (7th Cir.
May 8, 2003).
(This opinion vacated and replaced by opinion dated August 5, 2003)
Aki-Khuam v. Davis, 339 F.3d 521 (7th Cir.
August 5, 2003) (Vacating Opinion dated May 8, 2003).
(Appeal of grant of Habeas Corpus by Judge Allen Sharp)
Affirmed 3-0, Conviction Reversed, DP Vacated.
Opinion by Circuit Judge William J. Bauer, Judge Ilana Diamond Rovner,
Judge Diane P. Wood.
(Trial court's modification of Batson procedure, by not requiring
initial challenge by prosecution and by rejecting race-neutral reasons
at step two of Batson analysis, was contrary to clearly established
NEW GUILT AND SENTENCING
TRIAL PENDING IN LAKE COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT.
339 F.3d 521
Akeem Aki-Khuam, f/k/a Edward Earl Williams,
Cecil Davis, Superintendent, Respondent-Appellant.
United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit.
ARGUED DECEMBER 17, 2002.
DECIDED AUGUST 5, 2003.
Petition for rehearing en banc is DENIED, July 28, 2003.
Before BAUER, ROVNER, and
DIANE P. WOOD, Circuit Judges.
BAUER, Circuit Judge.
After the Supreme Court of
Indiana affirmed the murder conviction and death sentence of
Petitioner-Appellee, Akeem Aki-Khuam,
the United States District Court for the Northern District of
Indiana granted his petition for writ of habeas corpus, finding
that the state trial court violated his constitutional equal
protection and due process rights during jury selection. The
district court vacated Petitioner's conviction and sentence and
ordered him released unless retried. On behalf of Respondent-Appellant,
Superintendent Cecil Davis, the State of Indiana appeals the
district court's order granting habeas relief. For the reasons
set forth below, we affirm the decision of the district court.
We presume the facts
underlying Petitioner's conviction are stated correctly in the
record of the state court proceedings. The Indiana Supreme Court
recited those facts as follows:
In the early morning hours of
June 19, 1992, [Petitioner], armed with a handgun, Jemelle
Joshua, armed with a shotgun, and three others set out to steal
audio and video equipment from the basement of school teacher
Michael Richardson. [Petitioner] and Joshua were admitted to
Richardson's home and their three accomplices followed them in.
Besides Richardson, they
encountered a number of children and adults, including
Richardson's sister, Debra Rice, and Robert Hollins. While [Petitioner]
held his gun to Richardson's head and Joshua held Rice, their
accomplices headed for the basement. Hollins intercepted them
and began to wrestle with one of them in the kitchen. [Petitioner]
responded by shooting Hollins in the back.
The electronic equipment
proved too difficult to remove and [Petitioner] ordered the
occupants of the house to lie down. Rice attempted to escape and
Joshua shot her in the chest. As the invaders left the home, [Petitioner]
shot each of Hollins, Rice and Richardson once in the head
despite Richardson's plea, "Please don't kill me." A few hours
later, [Petitioner] would tell his sister that he shot the
victims so there wouldn't be any witnesses.
Williams v. State, 669
N.E.2d 1372, 1375-76 (Ind.1996).
Petitioner, who is African-American,
was charged with three counts of murder and felony murder in
Lake County, Indiana. IND. CODE §§ 35-42-1-1(1) & (2). The
prosecution further alleged two aggravating factors for which it
sought the death penalty: (i) intentional killing during the
course of a robbery, IND. CODE §§ 35-50-2-9 (b)(1)(F); and (ii)
commission of multiple murders, IND. CODE §§ 35-50-2-9(b)(8).
During a pretrial hearing on
January 12, 1993, Judge James Letsinger outlined procedures for
jury selection, including peremptory challenges, intended to
ensure compliance with the due process and equal protection
requirements of Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79, 106 S.Ct.
1712, 90 L.Ed.2d 69 (1986), and its progeny. The following
exchange took place between Judge Letsinger and trial counsel
Trial Court: From the first
peremptory strike, each side is going to have to have some
reason for striking that person. I mean there's almost no, no
person on a jury that isn't protected now. I mean they've
extended it to everything.
Defense Counsel: So what I'm
hearing from the court is the peremptory challenges have now all
been converted to challenges for cause?
Trial Court: Almost. Almost.
In the words of Splunge,
you've got to have some plausible reason supported by the
record, supported by the record, plausible reason that is
nonracial, non-gender, nonreligious, non-body language. They
won't even let — they won't even allow body language. Splunge
struck a black juror because she said — she didn't understand
the burden of proof in a criminal case, when actually her
answers were the same as everybody else's answers. It had to be
supported by the record.
During voir dire on January
25, 1993, the trial court sua sponte instructed counsel for each
party to present its peremptory challenges along with a "neutral
reason" for each. The trial court excused two individuals after
accepting the prosecution's stated reasons for challenging them,
and another two after accepting Petitioner's stated reasons for
However, the trial court
rejected Petitioner's stated reasons for five of his seven total
challenges, even though the prosecution raised no objection to
Petitioner's challenges. With respect to four of those five,
Petitioner argued on direct appeal to the Indiana Supreme Court
that the trial court improperly rejected his reasons for
peremptorily challenging them. In its opinion affirming
Petitioner's conviction and death sentence, Indiana Supreme
Court synopsized the trial court's rejection of those four
challenges as follows:
1. The defense indicated that
it sought to strike prospective juror Sosnawski, a white male,
because in defense counsel's "discussions with him, [defense
counsel] didn't get the impression that he really understood
what was going on." Finding "impressions" to be a "terrible"
reason and a "euphemism" (presumably for a racially motivated
strike), the trial court found the explanation "not race
neutral" and refused to excuse Sosnawski.
2. The defense indicated that
it sought to strike prospective juror Wilson, a white male,
because defense counsel's "general impression" was, "number one,
that he was not being honest; two, that his responses ... left [defense
counsel] with the impression that this gentleman was maybe not
being entirely honest with" [the trial court]. Because counsel
was not "able to point to a question and answer in the record
that gives  a good reason for striking [Wilson] from the jury,"
the trial court refused to excuse Wilson.
3. The defense indicated that
it sought to strike prospective juror Bobalik, a white female,
because she failed to understand the presumption of innocence.
During voir dire, defense counsel had asked all the members of
the panel who believed that the defendant was not guilty at that
point to raise their hands. Bobalik was apparently the only
juror who did not raise his or her hand. The trial court
rejected this reason, commenting that counsel has asked "a trick
question," the kind "that gets students flunked out of law
school." Because counsel did "not have a record showing that
Bobalik [could] not give the defendant the presumption of
innocence," the trial court refused to excuse Bobalik.
4. The defense indicated that
it sought to strike prospective juror Brandys, a white female,
because she didn't "understand  that the defendant has the
absolute right not to testify" and that "[s]he clearly indicated
... in two points, one that she wanted the defendant to testify;
two, that she thinks defense attorneys are slicksters." The
state argued that Brandys did properly understand the
presumption of innocence. Concluding that most people want the
defendant to testify and don't understand that they have a
constitutional right not to unless it is explained to them and
that defense counsel had introduced the word "slickster," not
Brandys, the trial court refused to excuse Brandys.
Williams, 669 N.E.2d at
At the trial's conclusion, the
jury found Petitioner guilty on all counts; but, deadlocked as
to his punishment, it was unable to return a sentencing verdict.
Instead, the trial court sentenced Petitioner to death on March
2, 1993. On direct appeal of the conviction and sentence before
the Indiana Supreme Court, Petitioner challenged, inter alia,
the trial court's denial of his peremptory challenges. After the
Indiana Supreme Court affirmed his conviction and sentence,
Williams, 669 N.E.2d at 1372, it denied Petitioner's request
for rehearing, and the United States Supreme Court denied his
petition for writ of certiorari. Williams v. Indiana, 520
U.S. 1232, 117 S.Ct. 1828, 137 L.Ed.2d 1034 (1997).
Petitioner subsequently filed,
and the Lake County Superior Court denied, a petition for post-conviction
relief raising various issues not directly relevant to our
disposition of this matter. The Indiana Supreme Court affirmed
the denial of post-conviction relief in Williams v. State,
724 N.E.2d 1070 (Ind.2000), and declined to rehear the matter,
and once more the United States Supreme Court denied
Petitioner's petition for writ of certiorari in Williams v.
Indiana, 531 U.S. 1128, 121 S.Ct. 886, 148 L.Ed.2d 793
In December 2001, Petitioner
filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the United States
District Court for the Northern District of Indiana seeking
federal collateral review of his conviction and death sentence.
Petitioner claimed violations of his constitutional rights as a
result of (i) the trial court's denial of his peremptory
challenges and the Indiana Supreme Court's failure to apply
Purkett v. Elem, 514 U.S. 765, 115 S.Ct. 1769, 131 L.Ed.2d
834 (1995), in reviewing that denial; (ii) the ineffective
assistance of his trial counsel; (iii) prosecutorial misconduct
at trial; (iv) the trial court's use of a psychological
questionnaire at sentencing; and (v) the trial court's
limitation of funds available to Petitioner to develop
mitigation evidence. In a Memorandum and Order filed on March
25, 2002, the district court granted the petition for writ of
habeas corpus with respect to Petitioner's peremptory challenge
claim and denied relief with respect to all remaining claims.
Aki-Khuam v. Davis, 203 F.Supp.2d 1001 (N.D.Ind.2002).
Specifically, the district
court "determined that the manner in which the state court trial
judge attempted to deal with the subject of peremptory
challenges is at odds with the constitutional teaching of
Batson and its progeny in the Supreme Court of the United
States." Id. at 1020.
This appeal ensued.
We review the district court's
legal determinations de novo and — because Petitioner filed his
habeas petition subsequent to the effective date of the
Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"),
codified at 28 U.S.C. § 2254 — in accordance with the provisions
of 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). See, e.g., Williams v. Davis, 301
F.3d 625, 631 (7th Cir.2002). That section provides, in relevant
part, as follows:
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 with respect to
any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in State court
proceedings unless the adjudication of the claim ... resulted in
a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable
application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined
by the Supreme Court of the United States.
Antiterrorism and Effective
Death Penalty Act of 1996, 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1) (2002).
Implicit in the district court's finding that the trial court's
jury selection process was "at odds" with federal law as
articulated in Batson and subsequent cases is that
Petitioner's resulting conviction was both contrary to and an
unreasonable application of that law.
In order to prevent the
violation of defendants' and jurors' equal protection rights
resulting from prosecutors' use of peremptory challenges to
strike jurors of the same race as a given defendant, the United
States Supreme Court formulated a prophylactic test to safeguard
criminal defendants against seemingly discriminatory peremptory
challenges. Batson, 476 U.S. at 86-87, 96-98, 106 S.Ct.
1712. To raise a successful objection to a prosecutor's racially
discriminatory peremptory challenge, a defendant must first make
a prima facie showing of racial discrimination demonstrating the
following: (i) the defendant is a member of a recognized
minority group, (ii) the prosecution has peremptorily challenged
a prospective juror belonging to the same minority group, and (iii)
any other facts supporting an inference that race is the sole
basis for that challenge. Id. at 96, 106 S.Ct. 1712.
Once this prima facie case is
made, the burden then shifts to the prosecution to articulate a
"clear and reasonably specific" explanation of its legitimate,
racially neutral reasons for exercising the challenge. Id. at
98, n. 20, 106 S.Ct. 1712 (citing Texas Dept. of Cmty.
Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 258, 101 S.Ct. 1089, 67
L.Ed.2d 207 (1981)). "The trial court will then have the duty to
determine if the defendant has established purposeful
discrimination." Id. at 98, 106 S.Ct. 1712. In subsequent
decisions, the Supreme Court extended application of the
Batson analysis to situations where (i) the prosecution
peremptorily challenges a minority venireman in the trial of a
white defendant, Powers v. Ohio, 499 U.S. 400, 111 S.Ct.
1364, 113 L.Ed.2d 411 (1991); (ii) any party to a civil action
challenges a potential juror based on his or her race,
Edmonson v. Leesville Concrete Co., 500 U.S. 614, 111 S.Ct.
2077, 114 L.Ed.2d 660 (1991); and (iii) a criminal defendant
challenges a potential juror on the basis of race, Georgia v.
McCollum, 505 U.S. 42, 112 S.Ct. 2348, 120 L.Ed.2d 33
These elaborations upon
Batson were founded, in part, upon the Court's recognition
of several principles: (i) jury selection implicates the equal
protection rights of jurors as well as defendants; (ii) in
making a peremptory challenge, a defendant assumes the role of
state actor for Equal Protection Clause purposes, insofar as
jury selection by its nature "fulfills a unique and
constitutionally compelled government function"; (iii) the state
has standing to enforce the equal protection rights of potential
jurors (enabling the prosecution to raise a Batson
objection to defendant's peremptory challenge); and (iv) a
criminal defendant's rights to effective assistance of counsel
and an impartial jury do not eliminate a would-be juror's right
to equal protection. See, e.g., McCollum, 505 U.S. at
48-49, 52, 56, 57-58, 112 S.Ct. 2348.
Thus refined, the Batson
analysis entails the following three steps: (1) the party
opposing a peremptory challenge must make a prima facie showing
of racial discrimination; (2) the party exercising the
peremptory challenge must provide a race-neutral explanation
therefor; and (3) the trial court must determine whether the
parties have satisfied their respective burdens of proving or
rebutting purposeful racial discrimination. See, e.g.,
Hernandez v. New York, 500 U.S. 352, 358-59, 111 S.Ct. 1859,
114 L.Ed.2d 395 (1991).
More recently, the Supreme
Court commented that "[t]he second step of this process does not
demand an explanation that is persuasive, or even plausible. `Unless
a discriminatory intent is inherent in the prosecutor's
explanation, the reason offered will be deemed race neutral.'"
Purkett v. Elem, 514 U.S. 765, 767-68, 115 S.Ct. 1769,
131 L.Ed.2d 834 (1995) (per curiam) (quoting Hernandez,
500 U.S. at 360, 374, 111 S.Ct. 1859 (plurality opinion) (O'CONNOR,
J., concurring in judgment)).
As the Purkett Court further explained,
[i]t is not until the third
step that the persuasiveness of the justification becomes
relevant — the step in which the trial court determines whether
the opponent of the strike has carried his burden.... [T]o say
that a trial judge may choose to disbelieve a silly or
superstitious reason at step three is quite different from
saying that a trial judge must terminate the inquiry at step two
when the race-neutral reason is silly or superstitious. The
latter violates the principle that the ultimate burden of
persuasion regarding racial motivation rests with, and never
shifts from, the opponent of the strike.
Purkett, 514 U.S. at
768, 115 S.Ct. 1769 (emphasis in original).
Petitioner adduces various
errors in the trial court's administration of the Batson
test and the Indiana Supreme Court's direct review thereof, two
of which especially troubled the district court.
First, at no time did the
prosecution raise a Batson challenge to Petitioner's
peremptory strikes, much less establish a prima facie showing of
purposeful discrimination. Rather, the trial judge replaced the
first step of the Batson analysis with the court's
presumption of purposeful discrimination, thereby saddling
Petitioner with the burden of overcoming that presumption. As
the district court observed, the voir dire "process is still an
adversarial one and the case law, including Batson and
the cases that followed it, make it clear that Batson
issues must be raised. Batson is not self-executing."
Aki-Khuam, 203 F.Supp.2d at 1019.
The district court further
noted that "[n]one of the cases between Batson and
Purkett suggest[s] that the prima facie case was not
required, and Hernandez, which was relied upon by the
trial court and the Indiana Supreme Court, explicitly set out
the test, including the prima facie case requirement." Id.
at 1018. A presumption of discriminatory intent during voir dire
is thus contrary to federal law as established in Batson
and subsequent related cases.
Second, as recounted above in
the excerpted portion of the Indiana Supreme Court's opinion,
the trial court rejected Petitioner's race-neutral explanations
not because they demonstrated a discriminatory motive, but
rather because the trial court found the reasons, "terrible,"
unsupported in the record, based on a prospective juror's
response to a "trick question," or due to defense counsel's
introduction of the word "slickster." Insofar as the trial court
rejected Petitioner's reasons outright as unreasonable or
implausible (and not because they evinced some inherent
discriminatory intent) it applied precisely the standard that
Purkett rejects. 514 U.S. at 767-68, 115 S.Ct. 1769 ("The
second step... does not demand an explanation that is persuasive,
or even plausible. `Unless a discriminatory intent is inherent
in the prosecutor's explanation, the reason offered will be
deemed race neutral.'") (internal citations omitted). In the
words of the Purkett Court, the trial court below made
the mistake of collapsing "Batson's second and third
steps into one." Id. at 768, 115 S.Ct. 1769.
Moreover, though Purkett
was not decided until May 1995, more than two years after the
conclusion of Petitioner's trial, the Indiana Supreme Court, by
the time of its decision in August 1996, had not only ample
opportunity, but also a mandate from the United States Supreme
Court, to apply the law as articulated in Purkett in
deciding Petitioner's appeal. Griffith v. Kentucky, 479
U.S. 314, 322-23, 107 S.Ct. 708, 93 L.Ed.2d 649 (1987) (holding
that "failure to apply a newly declared constitutional rule to
criminal cases pending on direct review violates basic norms of
constitutional adjudication"). Instead, with one reproachful eye
fixed on the trial court's error (as evinced in its prospective
ban on the use of this procedure), it upheld Petitioner's
conviction and sentence with a wink of the other.
Thus did the district court
properly determine that both the trial court conviction and
sentence, and the state supreme court affirmance, rest on law
that is inconsistent with (and therefore contrary to) federal
law as articulated in Batson and Purkett.
Respondent contends that the
trial court's jury selection procedure was constitutional under
the Batson line of cases, which, Respondent reasons,
collectively establish a minimum standard of
constitutional protection from peremptory challenges motivated
by racial discrimination.
Thus, argues Respondent, to
the extent that it deviated from the teachings of Batson,
the trial court afforded Petitioner and prospective jurors a
greater degree of constitutional protection than Batson
and subsequent relevant cases require. This argument implies
that Petitioner somehow benefitted from the trial court's
improvisation. We disagree, in part because we flatly reject the
notion that Batson and its progeny merely delineate a
constitutional baseline that a trial court might rightly surpass.
Respondent's position is
premised on the fiction that Batson claims supercede all
other constitutional concerns or, alternatively, that Batson's
teachings exist in a vacuum. Quite to the contrary, the right to
select or serve on a jury free from racial discrimination is
rooted in the same constitutional equal protection and due
process considerations as many other constitutional rights, each
of which coexists in delicate balance with the others. As we now
explain, the trial court's failed attempt to comport with
Batson impermissibly upset that balance.
Rather than furnish Petitioner
with superconstitutional protections, as Respondent would have
us believe, the trial court's misapplication of Batson
violated his Fourteenth Amendment due process and equal
protection rights. Indiana law permits a criminal defendant to
exercise twenty peremptory challenges in capital murder
prosecutions. IND. CODE §§ 35-37-1-3(a). Yet, as early as the
January 12, 1993, pretrial hearing, Petitioner's trial counsel
identified the fatal flaw in the trial court's approach to
peremptory challenges: "So what I'm hearing from the court is
the peremptory challenges have now all been converted to
challenges for cause?"
Although the trial judge
replied "Almost," during the pretrial hearing, the manner in
which he conducted voir dire two weeks later betrays a
resounding "Yes." Once the trial court imposed upon Petitioner
the burden of overcoming its sua sponte presumption of
purposeful discrimination, not only did it forego any cogent
Batson analysis, but it also deprived Petitioner of his
statutory right to exercise peremptory challenges. Batson,
however, only imposes limitations on the exercise of peremptory
challenges; it does not abolish them. Batson, 476 U.S. at
99 n. 22, 106 S.Ct. 433.
Petitioner had a substantial
and legitimate expectation that he would be tried by a jury
selected in accordance with Indiana state law and federal
constitutional law, including those provisions guaranteeing his
right to exercise peremptory challenges. Instead, Petitioner was
deprived of his liberty by a jury whose very creation involved a
denial of his statutory and constitutional rights.
Consequently, Petitioner was
denied due process and equal protection of the law in violation
of the Fourteenth Amendment. Cf. Hicks v. Oklahoma, 447
U.S. 343, 100 S.Ct. 2227, 65 L.Ed.2d 175 (1980) (holding that
denial of a criminal defendant's right to be sentenced by a jury
in accordance with state law effected an arbitrary deprivation
of his liberty without due process of law).
Owing to this violation of
Petitioner's constitutional rights, it is clear that the state
trial court proceedings, and the state supreme court review
thereof, resulted in a decision contrary to, and involving an
unreasonable application of, federal law as determined by the
United States Supreme Court in Batson and its progeny.
The district court therefore properly granted the petition for
writ of habeas corpus.
Because the trial court and
the Indiana Supreme Court deviated significantly from the
Batson line of cases with respect to selection of the jury
that convicted Petitioner, and such deviation violated
Petitioner's due process and equal protection rights under the
Fourteenth Amendment, the district court's decision granting
Petitioner habeas relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 is
Edward Earl Williams