Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Barton v. Warden, Southern Ohio Correctional Facility

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

May 15, 2015

THOMAS BARTON, Petitioner-Appellant,
v.
WARDEN, SOUTHERN OHIO CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, Respondent-Appellee

Argued March 12, 2014.

Page 451

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 452

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 453

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio at Cincinnati. No. 1:09-cv-00353--S. Arthur Spiegel, District Judge.

ARGUED:

Christopher J. Pagan, REPPER, PAGAN, COOK, Middletown, Ohio, for Appellant.

M. Scott Criss, OFFICE OF THE OHIO ATTORNEY GENERAL, Columbus, Ohio, for Appellee.

ON BRIEF:

Christopher J. Pagan, REPPER, PAGAN, COOK, Middletown, Ohio, for Appellant.

M. Scott Criss, OFFICE OF THE OHIO ATTORNEY GENERAL, Columbus, Ohio, for Appellee.

Before: MOORE, WHITE, and DONALD, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 454

PER CURIAM.

Thomas Barton appeals the denial of his petition for a writ of habeas corpus by the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio. He contends that the State's withholding of evidence that would have impeached the sole witness against him entitles him to relief under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 83 S.Ct. 1194, 10

Page 455

L.Ed.2d 215 (1963), and he asserts that the district court erroneously accorded deference under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (" AEDPA" ), Pub. L. No. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214, to the state trial court's decision to the contrary. We agree. For the reasons set forth below, we REVERSE the judgment of the district court and CONDITIONALLY GRANT Barton's federal habeas petition, unless the State retries Barton within six months.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Factual and Procedural History

This case comes to us following a lengthy procedural history, recounted in detail in the report and recommendation of the federal magistrate judge to whom Barton's petition was initially referred. R. 44 (Magistrate Judge's Report and Rec. at 1-46) (Page ID #2395-2440). The district court affirmed and adopted this report and recommendation, along with the recommendations in a supplemental report issued by the magistrate judge in response to Barton's objections. See R. 49 (Magistrate Judge's Supplemental Report and Rec. at 1-12) (Page ID #2488-99); R. 52 (Dist. Ct. Op. and Order at 1) (Page ID #2518).

Only one of the claims that Barton raised before the district court, and in the state courts before that, is at issue on appeal. See id. at 9-10 (Page ID #2526-27); Pet'r Br. at 1, 10. Accordingly, we reproduce here the district court's brief summary of the prior state-court proceedings, and elucidate additional facts where necessary:

This case . . . all began in 1995 with the killing of Petitioner's wife, Vickie [sic] Barton (" Vicki" ) during a burglary at her home. . . . Essentially the case of Vickie's [sic] murder went cold as detectives cleared Petitioner as a suspect after it was learned that he was at another location at the time of her death. In 1998, however, a career criminal named Gary Henson was arrested in an unrelated burglary, and Henson told the detective that his half-brother William Phelps had been involved romantically with Vickie [sic] Barton, and went to her house the day she was killed to steal things from her residence. According to Detective Hensley, who interviewed Henson, Henson said Phelps panicked when he found Vickie [sic] was at the house, and he shot her. Henson further stated he believed that Phelps' subsequent suicide, four months after the incident, was the result of his having killed Vickie. [sic]
Armed with such information, the Warren County Sheriff's Office exhumed Phelps' body to compare his DNA with DNA found at the crime scene. There was no match and the crime remained unsolved.
In April 2003, a " cold case squad" re-examined the case and discovered that in Petitioner's 911 call the day of the killing, he referenced needing to call " Phelp man." [1] As such, the detectives

Page 456

linked Petitioner to Gary Henson, whose name was in Phelps' file.
Detectives interviewed Henson again in August 2003, at which time he provided information implicating Petitioner in his wife's killing. Henson later testified at Petitioner's trial, stating Petitioner paid Phelps $3,000 to go to his and his wife's residence to scare her.[2] Henson said that initially Petitioner had sought Henson's help with such endeavor, but that as Henson was in jail at the time, he could not help stage the burglary.
Henson further testified that when Phelps and an unidentified accomplice went to the house to scare Vicki, she surprised them, his accomplice " panicked," and then shot and killed her. Phelps also told Henson that the accomplice sexually assaulted Vicki.
Under cross examination, Henson denied originally telling detectives that Phelps had shot and killed Vicki, and testified that the " he" to whom he was referring who shot Vicki was rather the unidentified accomplice. The defense called Detective Hensley, who had interviewed Henson in 1998, who testified that in Hensen's [sic] interview at such time, Henson referred to Phelps as the shooter instead of the accomplice.
The jury found Petitioner guilty as charged after trial in February 2005. The trial court ultimately merged Counts II and III of the Indictment and sentenced Petitioner to not less than five nor more than twenty-five years on Count I of the Indictment (for involuntary manslaughter), and to not less than ten nor more than twenty-five years on Count II of the Indictment (aggravated burglary), both sentences to be served concurrently.[3]
Petitioner subsequently appealed his sentence, which was denied on the appellate level, and which the Ohio Supreme Court dismissed as not involving any substantial question. Petitioner also filed a petition for post-conviction relief pursuant to O.R.C. § 2953.21, which was denied on the trial court level. The appellate court affirmed the denial, and the Ohio Supreme Court ultimately

Page 457

dismissed the appeal as again, not involving any substantial question.

R. 52 (Dist. Ct. Op. and Order at 1-3) (Page ID #2518-21).

Relying on 28 U.S.C. § 2254, Barton then filed a habeas petition in federal court, raising four grounds for relief. R.1 (Habeas Petition at 2-3) (Page ID #2-3). Barton later withdrew one ground, see R. 19 (Mem. in Opp'n to the State's Mot. to Dismiss and Barton's Cross-Mot. for Summ. J. at 1 n.1), and the magistrate judge rejected the remaining three, finding them to be procedurally defaulted, without merit, or both. R. 44 (Magistrate Judge's Report and Rec. at 25, 32, 45) (Page ID #2419, 2426, 2439). In his initial report, the magistrate judge also concluded that a certificate of appealability (" COA" ) was unwarranted. Id. at 46 (Page ID #2440).

Upon reviewing Barton's objections to his report and recommendation, however, the magistrate judge issued a supplemental report in which he recommended granting a COA as to Barton's Brady claim.[4] R. 49 (Magistrate Judge's Supplemental Report and Rec. at 10) (Page ID #2497). The ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.