Thursday, December 18, 2014

Jones v. Trammell

Jones v. Trammell, 2014 WL 6844824 (12/5/14) (Okl.) (Published) - The 10th affirms an Oklahoma state death sentence. The 10th chooses to consider an issue it thinks Mr. Jones may have waived by not raising it below, saying the waiver rule is not inflexible and the 10th has discretion to forgive waiver. The 10th interprets the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals' ("OCCA") ruling to be based on the prejudice, not the performance, prong of Strickland. The 10th relies on the court's focus on the likely effect of the testimony at trial of the witness counsel didn't find and call. The 10th's conclusion dooms Mr. Jones who didn't even argue the prejudice decision satisfied AEDPA's standard. The 10th finds reasonable the OCCA's determination that the inmate witness's credibility would be questionable given that he was a convicted child abuse murderer and had little to lose by perjuring himself with claims that were impossible to corroborate. Plus, the witness's version of what the state's key witness told him contradicted the version of another inmate witness. So the witness would only have established that the only eyewitness who placed Mr. Jones at the scene of the carjacking "changed his story to suit his own needs." This was not valuable to Mr. Jones, the 10th reasons, because the OCCA found this was "already clear to the jury" based on counsel's cross-examination. In any event, the 10th thought other evidence, besides the key witness's, was 'quite strong."