Thursday, July 21, 2011

Texas executes man who committed a 9/11 revenge killing

HUNTSVILLE, Texas -- A Texas inmate was executed Wednesday for killing a Dallas-area convenience store clerk during a shooting spree that he said was in retaliation for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Execution came after Justice Scalia of the US SUpreme COurt denied his petition for a stay of execution yesterday:

Supreme Court of the United States

No. 10-9873 (11A74)
Jul. 20, 2011.

*1 The application for stay of execution of sentence of death presented to Justice SCALIA and by him referred to the Court is denied. The petition for rehearing is denied.

--- S.Ct. ----, 2011 WL 2870713 (U.S.)

Briefs and Other Related Documents (Back to top)

• 10-9873 (Docket) (Apr. 5, 2011)

Back in December the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit denied him relief:

United States Court of Appeals,
Fifth Circuit.
Mark Anthony STROMAN, Petitioner–Appellant
Rick THALER, Director, Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Correctional Institutions Division, Respondent–Appellee.

No. 09–70034.
Dec. 27, 2010.

Lydia M. Brandt, Esq., Brandt Law Firm, P.C., Richardson, TX, for Petitioner–Appellant.

Woodson Erich Dryden, Assistant Attorney General, Office of the Attorney General, Postconviction Litigation Division, Austin, TX, for Respondent–Appellee.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas, USDC No. 3:05–CV–1616.
Before JONES, Chief Judge, and HIGGINBOTHAM and DAVIS, Circuit Judges.


FN* Pursuant to 5th Cir. R. 47.5, the court has determined that this opinion should not be published and is not precedent except under the limited circumstances set forth in 5th Cir. R. 47.5.4.

**1 In the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Mark Anthony Stroman, a member of the Aryan Brotherhood, murdered two individuals he believed to be of Middle Eastern descent. He was convicted and sentenced to death. He sought federal habeas relief; the district court denied his petition and refused to grant a certificate of appealability (COA). Stroman now seeks a COA from this Court pursuant to *934 28 U.S.C. § 2253. Because reasonable jurists would not find it debatable that the district court's rejection of the underlying habeas petition was correct, Stroman's application for a COA is DENIED.

Stroman murdered a gas station attendant, Vasudev Patel, in the course of an attempted robbery. Patel's murder was the last in a series of shootings—resulting in two individuals killed and one severely disfigured—that Stroman committed post–9/11 against those whom he believed to be of Middle Eastern descent. Stroman testified at trial that the United States government “hadn't done their job so he was going to do it for them.” Patel's murder, planned in advance, was captured in graphic detail by the gas station's surveillance camera. Stroman was convicted and sentenced to death. He has never shown remorse for the murders, and he even composed poetry in prison expressing his pride in his crimes.

The district court denied Stroman's habeas petition, concluding, among other things, that all but three of Stroman's claims were unexhausted and therefore procedurally barred, and the claims that were not procedurally barred warranted no habeas relief. Stroman now moves for a COA.

Under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (“AEDPA”), 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2), a petitioner seeking a COA must demonstrate “a substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right.” In Miller–El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 123 S.Ct. 1029, 154 L.Ed.2d 931 (2003), the U.S. Supreme Court clarified: “A petitioner satisfies this standard by demonstrating that jurists of reason could disagree with the district court's resolution of his constitutional claims or that jurists could conclude the issues presented are adequate to deserve encouragement to proceed further.” 537 U.S. at 327, 123 S.Ct. 1029 (citing Slack v. McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473, 484, 120 S.Ct. 1595, 146 L.Ed.2d 542 (2000)). The district court's review of the conviction was, like ours, guided by the deferential standards of AEDPA.

A. Stroman's Unexhausted and Procedurally Barred Claims
Stroman's habeas petition presented several unexhausted claims, including: actual innocence; lack of a presumption of innocence; lack of a fair defense; and ineffective assistance of counsel claims for failure to investigate and failure to introduce favorable evidence. Stroman does not contend that the claims are exhausted. He instead argues that: (1) he is excused from exhaustion because he is actually innocent; (2) the state corrective procedure was ineffective to protect his rights as per 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1)(B)(ii); and (3) his failure to exhaust is excused in light of Ruiz v. Quarterman, 504 F.3d 523 (5th Cir.2007).

**2 We have reviewed the record, and we conclude that the district court's treatment of the actual innocence claim is not debatable among jurists of reason. To receive a hearing on the merits on a successive habeas claim, a petitioner “ ‘must show that it is more likely than not that no reasonable juror would have convicted him’ in light of newly discovered evidence.” Schlup v. Delo, 513 U.S. 298, 332–33, 115 S.Ct. 851, 130 L.Ed.2d 808 (1995) (O'Connor, J., concurring). Moreover, the “new reliable evidence” ought to consist of “exculpatory scientific evidence, trustworthy eyewitness accounts, or critical physical evidence.” *935 House v. Bell, 547 U.S. 518, 537, 126 S.Ct. 2064, 165 L.Ed.2d 1 (2006) (quoting Schlup, 513 U.S. at 324, 115 S.Ct. 851). Stroman's proffered evidence of mental problems falls far short of this demanding standard. The district court correctly applied this standard.

As to his claim of ineffective process, Stroman points to a “systemic failure of the [Texas] habeas system to provide competent counsel to investigate and present habeas claims to the Texas courts.” There is no constitutional right to counsel in post-conviction proceedings. Thus, the district court correctly noted that numerous Fifth Circuit decisions reject this premise as a ground for habeas relief. See, e.g., Ruiz v. Quarterman, 460 F.3d 638, 644 (5th Cir.2006) (“Yet the law of this Court is clear: ineffective state habeas counsel does not excuse failure to raise claims in state habeas proceedings.”).

Stroman also mistakenly claims that a different Ruiz decision— Ruiz v. Quarterman, 504 F.3d 523 (5th Cir.2007)—excuses his failure to exhaust his claims. Ruiz held that Tex.Code Crim. Proc., art. 11.071, § 5(a)(1), did not serve, under unusual circumstances, as an independent and adequate state bar when the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals failed to state the basis for its rejection of a successive petition. Here, Stroman never filed a successive state petition, and thus, there never was a § 5(a) ruling. The Fifth Circuit has held post- Ruiz that § 5(a) remains an independent and adequate state ground for the purpose of imposing a procedural bar. See Hughes v. Quarterman, 530 F.3d 336, 342 (5th Cir.2008); see also Rocha v. Thaler, 619 F.3d 387 (5th Cir.2010) (denying an application for a COA as an abuse of the writ under § 5), clarified and panel rehearing denied, 626 F.3d 815 (5th Cir.2010). Ruiz does not excuse Stroman's failure to exhaust.

B. Stroman's Ineffective Assistance of Counsel Claims
Stroman has properly exhausted two ineffective assistance of counsel claims: one for his counsel's failure to challenge a juror, and another for his counsel's failure to object to purported hearsay. The record demonstrates, however, that the district court carefully and correctly analyzed both prongs of Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed.2d 674 (1984). Stroman cannot demonstrate an arguable infringement of his right to effective assistance of counsel. Reasonable jurists could not debate that the state court's denial of relief must be sustained under AEDPA.

**3 Because the district court's conclusions are not debatable by jurists of reason, we DENY Stroman's motion for a COA.

C.A.5 (Tex.),2010.
Stroman v. Thaler
405 Fed.Appx. 933, 2010 WL 5298831 (C.A.5 (Tex.))

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