United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
SHIRLEY PADMORE MENSAH UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
matter is before the undersigned on the petition of Missouri
state prisoner Ronald David Wright (“Petitioner”
or “Wright”) for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (Doc. 1). The parties have
consented to the jurisdiction of the undersigned United
States Magistrate Judge pursuant to U.S. § 636(c)(1).
(Doc. 8). For the following reasons, the petition is denied.
Missouri Court of Appeals summarized the facts as follows:
On October 16, 2008, at approximately 1:00 p.m., a witness
observed Wright sitting in his truck while parked across the
street from John and Jean Shaw's (“the
Shaws”) house. The witness watched Wright drive around
the subdivision, stopping outside various houses and at a
construction site. Eventually, Wright drove through a field
and backed his truck into the Shaws' driveway.
The Shaws, a couple in their seventies, were at home watching
television when Wright knocked on their door. Mr. Shaw, who
was in frail health and walked with a cane, answered the
door. Wright told Mr. Shaw that he was looking for someone
else and returned to his truck but did not leave the
Shaws' driveway. Feeling increasingly nervous about
Wright's continued presence, Mrs. Shaw gathered some
tools, including a short-handled sledgehammer, and placed
them on a stool by the front door.
Wright suddenly broke into the Shaws' home, threw Mr.
Shaw to the floor, and began punching him. Mrs. Shaw threw an
ashtray at Wright, hitting him in the arm. When Wright
started moving toward Mrs. Shaw, she ran out the back door
with a cordless phone, called the police, and hid in some
When the police arrived, they found Mr. Shaw's body in
the living room. His head appeared to be “smashed
in” and there was blood on the floor and ceiling. Mr.
Shaw's autopsy revealed that the cause of death was blunt
trauma from an instrument to the head. The pathologist
counted at least eight blows to Mr. Shaw's head, which
were consistent with a sledgehammer as the cause of the blunt
Later that day at about 3:00 p.m., Jerald Wells
(“Wells”) was at his home when he heard his
garage door close. Wells entered the garage and found Wright
standing beside Wright's truck, which he had parked in
Wells's garage. After Wells ordered Wright to leave,
Wright returned to his truck and backed it out of the garage,
but the truck stalled in the driveway. Wells watched Wright
walk down the street, steal a truck belonging to Wells's
neighbor, and drive the truck down a deadend street. Wells
drove his own truck after Wright and blocked Wright until the
police arrived and arrested Wright.
The State of Missouri (“State”) charged Wright
with first-degree murder, armed criminal action, and
first-degree burglary. The jury found Wright guilty of all
counts. The trial court then sentenced Wright as a prior and
persistent offender to consecutive sentences of life
imprisonment without probation or parole for first-degree
murder, 200 years' imprisonment for armed criminal
action, and life imprisonment for first-degree burglary.
Resp't Ex. Q, at 4-6.
trial, Petitioner testified that on the day of the crimes at
issue, he was hearing voices that drew him to the Shaws'
subdivision, and that while he was there, he was guided to go
to different places by seeing flags and hearing voices.
Resp't Ex. E, at 440-449. He ultimately went to the
Shaws' residence because he thought a flag was pointing
in that direction. Id. at 449-50. He testified that
he did not remember why he attacked Mr. Shaw but that he did
remember how he attacked him. Id. at 452-53.
Petitioner testified that he attacked Mr. Shaw first with a
hammer from his tool belt, and then with a sledgehammer.
Id. at 453-56. He testified that when he saw the
sledgehammer, he thought it was a “killing kit”
and that they were “bad people, ” because
“there was a license plate there, said,
‘Alabam.'” Id. at 455. Petitioner
testified that he heard an unfamiliar voice say, “God
has delivered him into our hands.” Id. at 456.
Petitioner testified that after he realized what he was
doing, he stopped. Id.
was also presented at trial regarding Plaintiff's actions
before the murder. The day before the murder, while
Petitioner was working at a construction site with his
foreman, Michael Miller, he pushed Miller off the ladder,
then started swearing and swinging at Miller until another
worker stopped him. Resp't Ex. C, at 157-58,
160. Miller fired Petitioner and then called the police.
Id. at 158. At the time of these events, Petitioner
was on probation and parole. Id. at 164. At about
11:10 a.m. on the day of the murder, Petitioner's
probation and parole officer called Petitioner and asked
Petitioner to report to his office at 1:00 p.m. concerning
alleged violations of his probation and parole conditions,
including violation of laws. Id. at 164-66.
Petitioner was concerned that he would be arrested, but the
officer told him there had not been a warrant issued.
Id. at 168-71, 176. Petitioner agreed to come in,
but never showed up. Id. at 167.
to trial, there was a dispute over whether Petitioner could
offer evidence that he was incapable of the deliberation
required for first-degree murder because he was suffering
from drug-induced psychosis at the time of the crimes. The
Missouri Court of Appeals stated:
Prior to trial, the State filed a motion to preclude
testimony regarding whether Wright suffered from a mental
disease or defect or diminished capacity. The motion noted
that Wright had obtained a forensic evaluation from Dr.
Scott, who offered the opinion that Wright suffered from an
“amphetamine-induced psychotic disorder” that
made him incapable of premeditation at the time of John
Shaw's murder. The motion argued that
“amphetamine-induced psychotic disorder” is not a
mental disease or defect under controlling law but rather is
intoxication or a drugged condition resulting from the
voluntary ingestion of methamphetamine. Therefore, Dr.
Scott's testimony is inadmissible. After hearing
arguments, the trial court granted the State's motion
during a pre-trial conference.
In order to preserve for appellate review the issue of
whether methamphetamine-induced psychosis is a mental disease
or defect, trial counsel made an offer of proof with Dr.
Scott during trial. Dr. Scott testified that he evaluated
Wright to determine his mental state at the time of the
attack on Mr. Shaw. Dr. Scott concluded that during the
attack, Wright was suffering from a methamphetamine-induced
psychosis and as a result, he was not capable of cooly
reflecting or premeditating upon his actions.
Resp't Ex. Q, at 8.
addition to making an offer of proof with regard to Dr.
Scott's evidence, Petitioner's trial counsel called
Petitioner to the stand to make an offer of proof outside the
presence of the jury. Resp't Ex. E, at 499. Petitioner
stated that that he had used methamphetamine off and on since
1999 and was a chronic and heavy user. Resp't Ex. E, at
499-501, 504-05. He testified that he had voluntarily used
methamphetamine the day before the murder, but not on the day
of the murder. Id. at 499-500, 507, 511. He stated
that prior to the date of the murder, he had experienced
auditory hallucinations (hearing voices in his head) based on
his methamphetamine use on five or six occasions.
Id. at 501. He also stated that when he had those
auditory hallucinations, it was customary for him to attach
significance to signs, such as the flag he mentioned in his
testimony. Id. at 501-02. Petitioner testified that
incidents of hearing voices had occurred more in the past few
years. Id. at 507. Petitioner also testified that he
had been committed to the state hospital four times.
Id. at 502.
trial counsel also made an offer of proof at the bench in
which he stated that he anticipated that Petitioner's
mother would testify that two days before the murder,
Petitioner's mother saw him and saw that he was extremely
depressed, that he was very distressed, that he had problems
with anxiety, that he had shaved his head, and that she was
extremely worried about his mental health. Id. at
497-98. The trial court ruled the testimony inadmissible.
Id. at 498.
direct appeal, Petitioner argued that the trial court
violated his right to due process and his right to a fair
trial by excluding several pieces of evidence: (1) the
testimony of psychiatrist Dr. Richard Scott (for the purpose
of showing that Petitioner was suffering from a drug-induced
psychosis and was unable to form the intent required for
first-degree murder); (2) his own testimony about his prior
mental health history, which would have supported
Petitioner's defense that he did not deliberate before
killing the victim because he was suffering from a psychosis;
and (3) Petitioner's mother's testimony about
Petitioner's strange behavior two days prior to the
charged crimes. Resp't Ex. K. The Missouri Court of
Appeals affirmed the conviction, finding that under Section
562.076.3, Mo. Rev. Stat., as interpreted by Missouri courts,
evidence of drug-induced psychosis is not admissible to show
the absence of a mental state that is an element of the
offense. Resp't Ex. M, at 8-14. The Missouri Court of
Appeals also specifically rejected Petitioner's
contention that the statute was unconstitutional.
Id. at 13-14.
Petitioner's amended motion for post-conviction relief,
filed through counsel, Petitioner asserted three claims: (1)
that his trial counsel was ineffective because he failed to
assure that his expert, Dr. Richard Scott, understood that
under Missouri law, methamphetamine-induced psychosis is not
a basis for challenging the mental state of murder in the
first degree, leaving Petitioner without any reasonable trial
strategy when Dr. Scott's opinions were excluded; (2)
that his trial counsel was ineffective based on his failure
to present testimony about Petitioner's drug-induced
psychosis (from witnesses William Wright, Dale Wright, Carole
Jenson, Joan Bohn, Linda Capone, Dr. Rick Scott, and Doug
Thurston) as an explanation for Petitioner's actions
before and after the crimes; and (3) that his trial counsel
was ineffective based on his failure to object to the
state's improper closing argument. Resp't Ex. N, at
23-26. The motion court rejected each claim on its merits.