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Kemp v. Kelley

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

May 16, 2019

Timothy Wayne Kemp Plaintiff - Appellant
v.
Wendy Kelley, Director, Arkansas Department of Correction Defendant-Appellee

          Submitted: September 20, 2017

          Appeal from United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas - Pine Bluff

          Before WOLLMAN, MELLOY, and GRUENDER, Circuit Judges.

          WOLLMAN, Circuit Judge.

         Timothy Wayne Kemp was convicted of four counts of capital murder and sentenced to death on each count. The Supreme Court of Arkansas affirmed the convictions and sentences on direct review and subsequently affirmed the denial of his motion for postconviction relief. Kemp petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus in federal district court under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. The district court[1] denied relief, but certified the following issue for appeal: whether trial counsel was constitutionally ineffective for failing to adequately investigate and present mitigating evidence related to Kemp's childhood abuse, fetal-alcohol exposure, and post-traumatic stress disorder. We affirm.

         I. Background

         On October 4, 1993, Kemp spent the day drinking beer with his girlfriend, Becky Mahoney (Becky). They stopped to visit David Wayne Helton (Wayne), Robert Phegley (Sonny), and Cheryl Phegley (Cheryl) at Wayne's trailer, where all of them drank more beer and danced as Sonny played the guitar. Also present was a man named Richard Falls (Bubba). As will be seen, Wayne, Sonny, Cheryl, and Bubba were soon to lie dead, victims of Kemp's anger-fueled fusillade.

         Kemp became angry with Becky, and she refused to leave the party with him. Cheryl intervened, asking Kemp to leave two or three times before he complied. Becky testified that as he left, Kemp threatened that she would be sorry for not leaving with him. "Becky became upset and planned to have Cheryl take her home because she was afraid [Kemp] would return, and she didn't want any trouble." Kemp v. State, 919 S.W.2d 943, 946 (Ark. 1996) (Kemp I).

         Kemp either drove around the neighborhood or back to his mother's house, where he and Becky lived. He returned to the trailer with his .22 caliber rifle and knocked on the door. When the door opened, Kemp shot Wayne and kept shooting. When Becky heard the shots being fired and saw two victims fall, she ran to the bedroom and hid in a closet. As Becky later testified, "The gun was going off. It just kept going off." Becky left the closet after the gunfire had ceased and found the victims' bodies on the floor of the living room. She dialed 911 and thereafter heard the distinctive sound of Kemp's truck starting up. Becky testified that although she and Kemp each had consumed approximately one case of beer that day, "she did not consider [Kemp] 'drunk,' as it was not unusual for him to drink a lot of beer in the course of a day." Id.

         Kemp drove to his friend Bill Stuckey's residence and confessed to killing Wayne, Sonny, Cheryl, and Bubba, whom he did not know. Kemp told Stuckey that after "they ran him off and kept Becky there," he went home, retrieved his rifle, and returned to the trailer. Kemp said that Wayne hit the ground "[l]ike a sack of taters" and that Bubba was "just in the wrong place at the wrong time." According to Kemp, Cheryl had "started all the argument," so when she crawled down the hallway trying to get away from Kemp and saying "that she was afraid she was going to die," Kemp "assured her that, yes, she was going to die" and then shot her. Stuckey recognized that Kemp had been drinking, but he had no trouble understanding Kemp and testified that Kemp was not "knee-wobbling" drunk.

         Upon arriving at the scene in response to Becky's 911 call, law enforcement officers found the bodies of the four victims and twelve spent .22 caliber shell casings. Officers soon located Kemp and arrested him without incident. After being advised of his Miranda rights, Kemp told an officer that "these people beat his ass and threatened him and he was just defending himself." Id. Officers found a .22 Ruger semi-automatic rifle during a search of Kemp's mother's home. A box of .22 Remington shells was found on the front seat of Kemp's truck.

         Kemp escaped from county jail shortly after his arrest. He was apprehended one month later in Texas. In February 1994, Kemp was charged with four counts of capital murder. Attorney Jeffrey Rosenzweig was appointed to represent him. The court granted Rosenzweig's motion for the appointment of Judy Rudd as co-counsel.

         Rosenzweig sought an evaluation of Kemp at the Arkansas state hospital in anticipation of a defense of not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect. The state forensic psychologist found that Kemp was competent to stand trial, was able to appreciate the criminality of his conduct, was able to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law, and was able to assist with the preparation of his defense. Kemp was diagnosed with alcohol abuse, alcohol dependence, cannabis abuse, and personality disorder, not otherwise specified, and was found to possess an IQ of 90. Rosenzweig thereafter renewed an earlier motion for the appointment of an independent mental health expert, which the court granted.

         Rosenzweig retained psychologist James Moneypenny, Ph.D., to evaluate Kemp. After interviewing Kemp and Kemp's mother and reviewing the state hospital file, the criminal history report, and Kemp's school records, Dr. Moneypenny diagnosed Kemp with alcohol abuse and personality disorder with prominent antisocial features.

         In late September 1994, the state disclosed that it would present evidence at the penalty phase of trial that Kemp previously had committed another violent felony. In response to Rosenzweig's motion, the court ordered the state to provide information about any such felonies. The state then disclosed the following incidents: in December 1986, Kemp struck Becky in the nose, causing it to break; in late 1986, Kemp struck Becky in the face, causing a cut near her eye that required five stitches; on an unspecified date, Kemp struck Becky in the face and broke her nose for a second time; weeks before the murders, Kemp pulled a gun on Becky and his mother, threatening to kill them; and two weeks before the murders, Kemp dragged a woman with his car. Rosenzweig moved for a continuance or, in the alternative, to exclude any evidence of prior violent felonies. During a pretrial hearing, the court decided to exclude the evidence because the state had not prosecuted Kemp for any of the offenses, rejecting the state's argument that the law did not require that Kemp be prosecuted or convicted for the evidence to be admissible.

         Trial began on November 28, 1994. Defense counsel pursued a theory of imperfect self-defense: that Kemp had overreacted to what he perceived to be a threat because he was intoxicated and suffered from alcoholism and a personality disorder, such that, in Rosenzweig's words, the murders were "a grossly aberrational event in Mr. Kemp's life fueled by alcohol."

         In his opening statement, Rosenzweig told the jury that the evidence would show that Kemp did not act with premeditation and deliberation, but rather that he mistakenly believed that he was acting in self-defense. The state called Becky Mahoney and Bill Stuckey to testify about what had occurred the night of the murders. On cross-examination, Becky testified that she and Kemp together had consumed approximately two cases of beer on the afternoon of October 4, 1993, and that they drank even more after arriving at Wayne's trailer. Stuckey testified on cross-examination that Kemp had been drinking heavily and that Kemp had said that he was threatened. The state presented evidence that the bullets from the bodies of three of the victims had been fired from the .22 Ruger semi-automatic rifle found in Kemp's residence and that the .22 caliber shell casings recovered from Helton's trailer were the same brand as the shells that were located in Kemp's truck. The state forensic pathologist who performed the autopsies testified that Wayne had been shot four times; Cheryl, five times; Sonny, twice; and Bubba, once. Rosenzweig did not call any witnesses.

         The jury returned guilty verdicts on each of the four counts of capital murder, and the case proceeded to sentencing. The state sought the death penalty on each count of conviction based on two aggravating circumstances: (1) that in the commission of capital murder, Kemp knowingly created a great risk of death to a person other than the victim, ...


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