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Ladd v. Stephens

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

April 8, 2014

ROBERT CHARLES LADD, Petitioner-Appellant
v.
WILLIAM STEPHENS, Director, Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Correctional Institutions Division, Respondent-Appellee

Petition for certiorari filed at, 07/02/2014

Page 638

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.

For Robert Charles Ladd, Petitioner - Appellant: Franklyn Ray Mickelsen Jr., F. Clinton Broden, Broden & Mickelsen, Dallas, TX; Sydney Snelling Young, Paris, TX.

For William Stephens, Director, Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Correctional Institutions Division, Respondent - Appellee: Arthur Cleveland D'Andrea, Kelli Lynn Weaver, Office of the Attorney General, Austin, TX.

Before HIGGINBOTHAM, DAVIS, and HAYNES, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 639

HIGGINBOTHAM, Circuit Judge:

A Texas jury convicted Robert Ladd of capital murder and sentenced him to death for the rape and murder of Vicki Ann Garner. Ladd sought habeas relief in federal district court, claiming that he is mentally retarded[1] and therefore categorically ineligible for the death penalty under Atkins v. Virginia .[2] Following an evidentiary hearing, the district court denied habeas relief, but granted a Certificate of Appealability (" COA" ). We AFFIRM.

I

A

In 1978, Robert Ladd was convicted of murdering a woman and her two children, and then setting her house on fire. After serving 16 years of a 40 year prison sentence, Ladd was released from prison. On September 25, 1996, Vicki Ann Garner was found dead in her home. Garner had been raped and strangled to death. In addition, her home was robbed and then set on fire.

A police investigation quickly connected Ladd to Garner's murder.[3] Ladd's DNA was found on Garner, his hand print was found in Garner's kitchen, and Ladd had sold a TV set that had been taken from Garner's residence in exchange for crack cocaine.[4]

Page 640

Soon thereafter, Ladd was indicted for capital murder, as the murder occurred during the commission of burglary, robbery, sexual assault, and arson. On August 23, 1997, a Texas state jury convicted Ladd of capital murder, and, on August 27, 1997, the jury imposed the death penalty. A direct appeal then followed, which was denied on October 6, 1999.[5] Ladd's petition for a writ of certiorari was then denied on April 17, 2000.

Ladd filed his first state petition for habeas relief, asserting an ineffective assistance of counsel claim, alleging that Ladd's counsel was ineffective for failing to raise evidence of mental retardation during the punishment phase. The state district court held an evidentiary hearing, where Ladd presented testimony of his trial counsel, but did not present a psychiatric expert. The State presented its psychologist and psychiatrist who had both testified at trial that Ladd presented a future danger. These experts generally opined that they would discount Ladd's prior IQ score of 67, explaining that they did not know enough about the administration of the test and that such a result was inconsistent with his later academic achievement. But, neither expert had tested Ladd's IQ, nor otherwise examined him for mental retardation; indeed, their testimony centered on their conclusion that the additional information obtained about Ladd would not have changed their expert opinions regarding his future dangerousness. The state trial court then issued its findings of fact and conclusions of law, wherein it concluded:

The information that Applicant had scored 67 on an IQ test as a juvenile did not support an inference that Applicant was mentally retarded because of a higher IQ score, the completion of the GED program and completion of barber school as an adult. . . . The information that Applicant scored 67 on an IQ test was not mitigating because of the other information that Applicant was not mentally retarded.[6]

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (" CCA" ) then denied Ladd's petition for state habeas relief on ...


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