Archives for posts with tag: pants

This case relates back to NinjaLaw post “Dungeons and Dragons Ninja Assassin insanity defense” about co-perpetrator Mark Edward Thompson. Mr. Thompson was sentenced to multiple life sentences but Mr. Meyer has been sentenced to death.

JEFFREY KARL MEYER, Petitioner-Appellant,
v.
GERALD J. BRANKER, Warden, Central Prison, Raleigh, North Carolina, Respondent-Appellee.

UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT
No. 06-26; 506 F.3d 358
September 25, 2007, Argued
November 13, 2007, Decided

Before WILKINSON, NIEMEYER, and SHEDD, Circuit Judges.
Judge Wilkinson wrote the opinion, in which Judge Niemeyer and Judge Shedd joined:

Nearly twenty years ago, Jeffrey Karl Meyer pled guilty to two counts of first degree murder for fatally stabbing an elderly couple during the commission of a robbery. Since then, three separate capital juries have sentenced him to death, and the North Carolina Supreme Court has twice vacated his sentence on direct appeal due to irregularities in the sentencing proceedings. Throughout this time, Meyer’s guilt has never been in doubt, and he has never argued that he did not commit the crimes in question.

Meyer now challenges his third capital sentence, raising claims relating to the effectiveness of his counsel, his awareness of the consequences of his plea, and the sentencing court’s refusal to admit potentially mitigating evidence. These claims have been heard and rejected by the same state courts that twice vacated Meyer’s earlier death sentences. We have reviewed Meyer’s claims with care, and we affirm the district court’s dismissal of Meyer’s federal habeas petition.

Summarizing the evidence:

On December 1, 1986, Jeffrey Karl Meyer and Mark Thompson broke into a home owned by Paul and Janie Kutz. At the time, Meyer and Thompson were heavily armed and dressed in the clothing of “ninja” warriors: “oriental assassins from feudal times, highly trained in martial arts and stealth.” State v. Meyer, 330 N.C. 738, 741, 412 S.E.2d 339, 341 (1992). Meyer and Thompson, soldiers stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, had been planning to rob the elderly Kutzs for some time.

Upon entering the house, Meyer and Thompson encountered the sixty-eight year-old Mr. Kutz. Meyer initially shot Mr. Kutz with a blow gun, a martial arts weapon that launches sharp darts from a hollow tube. After Mr. Kutz continued to advance, Meyer stabbed him with a butterfly knife. Meyer and Thompson proceeded to stab Mr. Kutz above the left eye, above the right collar bone, across the neck, twice in the upper left chest, in the rib cage, above the left elbow, four times in the back of his chest, and to the left and right of his spine. In addition, defensive wounds were found on Mr. Kutz’s left hand, demonstrating an attempt to fend off an attacker. Testimony at trial indicates that Mr. Kutz may have remained alive and conscious for between thirty seconds and five minutes after the stab wounds were inflicted.

Meyer and Thompson then proceeded to stab and kill the sixty-two year-old Mrs. Kutz with butterfly knives. Mrs. Kutz, who was found in a bedroom down the hallway from Mr. Kutz, was stabbed approximately twenty-five times. She also displayed defensive wounds on her hands. Due to the fact the autopsy found Mrs. Kutz’s lungs markedly expanded with trapped air and blood, it is likely that Mrs. Kutz remained alive after receiving the stab wounds.

Overwhelming evidence linked Meyer and Thompson to the crimes. First, in the early morning hours after the killing, a military police officer, Robert Provalenko, intercepted Meyer and Thompson, dressed in “ninja” pants and boots, as they drove through a restricted area of Fort Bragg. In their car, Officer Provalenko found jewelry, a TV, and credit cards that were later found to be stolen from the Kutzs’ house, as well as a significant arsenal of weaponry, including butterfly knives, nunchucks, and a blowgun.

Second, forensic evidence placed Meyer and Thompson at the scene of the crime. A police investigation found footprints consistent with ninja boots in the dirt around the house, as well as on a dining room chair. Human blood consistent with the type of both victims was present on the butterfly knives recovered by Provalenko, and fibers found on one or both of the knives were consistent with the upholstery of the chair in which Mr. Kutz’s body was found, a blue blanket found with Mrs. Kutz’s body, and the pink nightgown worn by Mrs. Kutz at the time of her death. Fibers from the blanket and sheets in the Kutzs’ bedroom were also found on the “ninja” clothing worn by both Meyer and Thompson on the night of the murders.

Third, Dale Wayne Wyatt, a soldier stationed at Fort Bragg waiting to appear in court on a worthless-check charge, testified that he met Meyer on December 3, 1986 in a holding facility during his detention. According to Wyatt, Meyer confessed to shooting Mr. Kutz with a blowgun and then stabbing him. Meyer also told Wyatt that he had been dressed as a “ninja” at the time of the crime.

On February 2, 1987, Meyer was indicted on one count of burglary, two counts of armed robbery, and two counts of first degree murder. On May 12, 1988, Meyer pled guilty to the robbery and burglary charges. Four days later, Meyer pled guilty to two counts of first degree murder. The trial judge accepted the murder pleas and, in open court, confirmed that Meyer had discussed the charges with counsel, understood what they meant, and knew he would be sentenced to either life imprisonment or death on each count. The pleas were accepted and recorded the next day after the State’s presentation of their factual basis.

AND

At his 1988 sentencing hearing, Meyer introduced testimonial evidence from two psychiatrists. First, Dr. Selwyn Rose testified that Meyer was obsessed with Dungeons and Dragons, a role-playing game set in medieval times, and that this obsession caused “defendant to retreat into a fantasy world of Ninja warriors.” Meyer, 412 S.E.2d at 342. Second, Dr. Thomas E. Radecki testified that Meyer “was so out of touch with reality . . . I don’t think that he really appreciated that he was really killing people. I think that he was living out a game, living out a fantasy . . . . I really don’t think he appreciated really seriously what he was doing. He’s a very sick man . . . .” Id.

This appeals court affirms the district court denial of habeas corpus peitition. Writ of certiorari was denied, and petition for rehearing also denied. Meyer awaits execution in a North Carolina federal prison.

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In 1992, a US Army court of Military Review decided an petition of appeal on the court martial of Specialist Ronald A. Gray, convicted of “attempted murder, premeditated murder (two specifications), rape (three specifications), larceny, robbery (two specifications), forcible sodomy (two specifications), and burglary” and was sentenced (at his 1991 trial) to death.

UNITED STATES, Appellee v. Specialist Four RONALD A. GRAY, 261-69-7258, United States Army, Appellant
ACMR 8800807
UNITED STATES ARMY COURT OF MILITARY REVIEW
37 M.J. 730

In the December 15, 1992, decision Judge Naughton wrote:

On 6 January, the authorities observed the appellant with a dark bundle underneath his arm. When the authorities apprehended the appellant, he no longer had the bundle; however, authorities found a pair of black karate or “ninja” pants close by in a garbage can. A portion of the cloth belt strap was missing from the pants. The appellant denied committing any offenses and invoked his right to counsel.

continuing:

A few hours later the authorities discovered Ms. R’s body in the woods not far from her taxi cab. The body was lying face down in a wooded area. The body was nude except for a pair of socks. Ms. R had been gagged with the black cloth belt strap from the appellant’s “ninja” pants, and her hands had been tied behind her back. She had received multiple stab wounds. She also suffered bruises on her eyebrow, bruises on her nose, and a laceration on her lip. Swabs taken from her vagina and anus revealed that she had been raped and sodomized. The appellant’s fingerprints were found on the interior door handle of Ms. R’s taxi, and money in his possession at the time of his arrest was found to have Ms. R’s fingerprints on it.

This Court went on to affirm the convictions and the sentence of death:

We conclude that the sentence is appropriate for the crimes of which the accused stands convicted.

But this was not the end (nor was it the beginning) for US v. Gray in the Federal Courts. In fact, Lexis Shepardizing lists this case with three prior history citations and 48(!) subsequent history citations – many many motions denied. In March 1995, the case was argued before the US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces and then reargued in December of 1996 and finally decided in May 1999. The Court again affirmed the criminal convictions and the order of death. This US v Gray case will appear again (when we get to #35) in our NinjaLaw review of all “ninja” opinions because the 1999 decision also mentions the “ninja pants” by including and appendix list of all of appellant’s claims of error, including:

18. The military judge improperly denied the defense motion to suppress the black “ninja” pants.

In 2001, the Supreme Court of the United States (Justices Rehnquist, Stevens, O’Connor, Scalia, Kennedy, Souter, Thomas, Ginsburg, and Breyer) denied the petition for writ of certiorari in March 2001 and then in May 2001 denied petition for rehearing.

But still that was not the end for Specialist Ronald Gray.

A 2008 court stayed the execution and just this past January 26, 2012, a US Army Court of Criminal Appeals decided yet another denial:

Private E1 RONALD GRAY United States Army, Petitioner v. Colonel ERIC BELCHER, Commandant, United States Disciplinary Barracks and THE UNITED STATES, Respondents
ARMY MISC 201100931
1 The docket number for petitioner’s direct appeal is ACMR 8800807.
UNITED STATES ARMY COURT OF CRIMINAL APPEALS
70 M.J. 646

Judge Johnson denied this most recent motion, a “Petition for Extraordinary Relief in the Nature of a Writ of Error Coram Nobis”, and explained some of the recent history:

On 28 July 2008, the President of the United States [George W. Bush] approved petitioner’s sentence to death and ordered it executed. The Secretary of the Army scheduled petitioner’s execution for 10 December 2008; however, before it could be carried out, the United States District Court for the District of Kansas granted a stay of execution in anticipation of petitioner filing a petition for extraordinary relief in the nature of a writ of habeas corpus. Thereafter, petitioner filed a writ of habeas corpus, which is still pending before that court.

On 11 February 2011, petitioner filed with this court the instant petition for extraordinary relief in the nature of a writ of coram nobis. We then ordered the government to show cause why the writ should not issue, and it filed an answer brief on 14 March 2011. Petitioner filed a reply brief on 13 June 2011. Petitioner is currently in confinement at the United States Disciplinary Barracks, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

Meanwhile, a 2008 opinion, US v. O’Neil, cited the 1992 Gray opinion for the principle: “photographs, although gruesome, are admissible”. By all accounts Gray was convicted of horrible acts of violence and nearly every Court since 1991 has ruled against him and yet still 20 years later his death sentence has not been imposed. This would be the first execution in the military since John A. Bennett in 1961.

But it still may be quite a long life left for Ronald Gray. Who knows how long these court proceedings could continue?