The 2006 opinion affirmed a grant of habeas corpus to a convicted murderer. Richard Joseph was convicted of the 1990 murder of 16-year-old son, Ryan Young. The case involved a “black ninja mask”, evidence found with the dead body and linked to the defendant.


RICHARD JOSEPH, Petitioner-Appellant/Cross-Appellee,
v.
RALPH COYLE, Warden, Respondent-Appellee/Cross-Appellant.

Nos. 05-3111 / 05-3113
UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT
469 F.3d 441

Decided November 9, 2006, before Circuit Judges Moore, Cole and Clay. The opinion by Judge Karen Moore begins:

An Ohio jury convicted Richard Joseph of aggravated murder. The jury also convicted Joseph of a single capital specification, which made him eligible for the death penalty, and, after a mitigation hearing, recommended a sentence of death. The trial court accepted this recommendation and imposed the death penalty, which was upheld on direct and state post-conviction review. Asserting twenty grounds for relief, Joseph petitioned the district court for a writ of habeas corpus. The district court granted the writ on four grounds relating to a fundamental error in the capital specification: although the specification required Joseph to be the principal offender in the commission of the aggravated murder, everyone at trial proceeded under the mistaken view that the specification required Joseph to be the principal offender in the commission of the kidnapping. The district court denied Joseph’s remaining claims. Joseph appeals the denial of six of his sixteen unsuccessful claims, while the state cross-appeals the grant of the writ.

For the reasons discussed below, we AFFIRM the grant of a writ of habeas corpus.

Then quoting facts from from the Ohio Supreme Court’s decision:

Ryan’s body was discovered in a shallow grave. The body was wrapped in Visqueen, the jagged edge of which was matched positively with Visqueen recovered from the job site at Indian Lake where [Joseph] had been working. Under the body, a black ninja mask was recovered. An autopsy revealed that Ryan had superficial lacerations in the area of the throat. Further, Ryan had been stabbed two times in the back – one to the right flank and one at the base of the skull.

And about the materiality and prejudice of suppressed evidence:

All five items of suppressed evidence that were favorable to Joseph were favorable in the sense that they would have impeached Forest. And viewed collectively, these items would have strongly impeached Forest, who was clearly a crucial trial witness for the prosecution. FN22

–FOOTNOTE—
FN22 Forest testified that Joseph and Bulerin had access to Visqueen (the material in which Young’s body was found) at the sand and gravel lot, that Joseph’s and Bulerin’s demeanors were unusual the morning after the kidnapping, that Bulerin changed the tires on Forest’s car the morning after the murder, that a knife was kept in Forest’s car and was in the car on the day of the murder, that Joseph and Bulerin kept a shovel in Forest’s car, and that Joseph owned a black ninja mask like the one discovered near Young’s body

By affirming the grant of habeas petition, the defendant’s death sentence was set aside. Subsequently, writ of certiorari was denied (549 U.S. 1280), and on subsequent state court appeals the remaining life sentence (parole after 20) was affirmed (2008 Ohio 1138), but later remanded in 2010 only for the limited purposes of allowing motion to waive some court costs (125 Ohio St. 3d 76).

Two articles in the Lima Press are noteworthy – the parents of the victim and friends filled the courtroom and the parent were outraged at what they thought was an injustice to not execute their son’s killer:

“You were indicted, convicted by a jury of your peers and sent to death row where you should have died many years ago,” Sharon Young said Wednesday during the resentencing of Richard Joseph for the 1990 murder of their 16-year-old son, Ryan Young. She then criticized the law and justice system for his second chance. “The justice system has failed us and given you, a convicted murderer, another chance in life. Where does the system give Ryan another chance? You did not and neither did the justice system,” she said as she held her husband’s arm while both of them choked back tears. Joseph stared downward at the table in front of him …

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