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Taylor v. Roper

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Western Division

September 12, 2014

LEON VINCENT TAYLOR, Petitioner,
v.
DONALD ROPER, Respondent.

ORDER

FERNANDO J. GAITAN, Jr., District Judge.

Pending before the Court is Petitioner's Supplemental Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus (Doc. No. 84).

Petitioner argues that on June 17, 2003, the Missouri Supreme Court issued a decision finding Ring v. Arizona , 536 U.S. 584, 609 (2002), to be retroactive to cases pending on collateral review where a judge made the factual determinations imposing a sentence of death. State v. Whitfield , 107 S.W.3d 253, 265-69 (Mo. banc 2003). Petitioner indicates that he filed a motion to recall the mandate in the Missouri Supreme Court raising a claim under Ring on September 7, 2010, after his federal habeas proceedings had concluded. See Doc. No. 84, Ex. 1. On May 27, 2014, the Missouri Supreme Court overruled the motion to recall the mandate. See Doc. No. 84, Ex. 2. Petitioner argues that with the Missouri Supreme Court's denial of the motion to recall the mandate, the question of whether petitioner's due process rights were violated when Missouri failed to retroactively apply Ring is now ripe for habeas review.

I. Background and Procedural History

The Missouri Supreme Court described the facts in Taylor's case as follows:

On April 14, 1994, Taylor, his half-brother Willie Owens, and his half-sister Tina Owens were driving in Tina's car, discussing various robbery possibilities. Taylor suggested a gas station in Independence where only one person would be working. The trio went to the station and purchased some gasoline. Taylor asked whether they were going to rob it. Tina Owens said no because a little girl was inside. Sarah Yates, an eight-year-old, was keeping company with Robert Newton, her step-father and the gas station manager.
The three left the station, only to return a few moments later after the oil light came on. Willie Owens went into the station and asked for some oil. Taylor next entered the store and stated they needed a different weight of oil. Taylor then drew a pistol and stated that he would shoot Newton unless he gave them money. Newton complied, handing Owens approximately $400 in a bank money bag. Owens took the money and returned to the car.
Taylor directed Newton and the child to the station's back room. Taylor shot Newton once in the head, killing him. Taylor then pointed the gun at the child. Taylor pulled the trigger, but the gun jammed and did not discharge. Frustrated, Taylor locked the child in the back room and returned to the car. Taylor told Willie and Tina Owens that he had shot the man and that he had to go back inside to get the little girl. However, because the Owenses wanted to leave, they then drove away.

State v. Taylor , 944 S.W.2d 925, 930 (Mo. banc 1997).

This Court previously summarized the procedural history of this case as follows:

Petitioner was convicted upon his plea of not guilty of first-degree murder, first degree robbery, first degree assault, and three counts of armed criminal action in Jackson County, Missouri, Case No. 94-1105. The jury in that trial deadlocked on the issue of punishment for the offense of first degree murder. The trial judge then set his punishment at death for first degree murder, finding three aggravating circumstances to be sustained beyond a reasonable doubt. As to the other offenses, the trial judge sentenced petitioner to life imprisonment for robbery, fifteen years for assault, and one hundred years for each count of armed criminal action, and ordered the sentences be served consecutively to each other and consecutively to the death sentence, for a total sentence of death plus life plus 315 years.
Petitioner appealed his convictions and sentences to the Missouri Supreme Court. Additionally, while the appeal was pending, petitioner filed a motion for post-conviction relief pursuant to Mo. Sup.Ct. R. 29.15. The trial court held an evidentiary hearing, and denied petitioner's 29.15 motion on March 18, 1996. Petitioner appealed the denial of relief, and the case was consolidated with the direct appeal of the conviction and sentence.
On April 29, 1997, the Missouri Supreme Court affirmed petitioner's convictions, all of his sentences except the death sentence, and the denial of postconviction relief. State v. Taylor , 944 S.W.2d 925 (Mo. 1997). The Missouri Supreme Court held, however, that improper final argument by the prosecutor required a new penalty phase. Id. at 938.
On remand, a new penalty phase was conducted. The second jury recommended a sentence of death, and the trial court sentenced Mr. Taylor to death on April 22, 1999. Mr. Taylor appealed from the sentence to the Missouri Supreme Court, which affirmed petitioner's death sentence on April 4, 2000. State v. Taylor , 18 S.W.3d 366 (Mo. 2000). Petitioner filed a petition for writ of certiorari to the ...

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