Murderpedia

 

 

Juan Ignacio Blanco  

 

  MALE murderers

index by country

index by name   A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

  FEMALE murderers

index by country

index by name   A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

 

 

 
 

Richard Wade COOEY II

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Rape - Robbery
Number of victims: 2
Date of murder: September 1, 1986
Date of birth: June 9, 1967
Victims profile: Dawn McCreery, 20, and Wendy Offredo, 21 (University students)
Method of murder: Strangulation with shoelace
Location: Summit County, Ohio, USA
Status: Executed by lethal injection in Ohio on October 14, 2008
 
 
 
 
 
 

photo gallery

 
 
 
 
 
 
Opinion Pub Date Short Title/District
02a0130p.06 2002/04/16

 Cooey v. Coyle
 Northern District of Ohio at Akron

03a0267p.06 2003/07/31  Cooey v. Bradshaw
 Northern District of Ohio at Cleveland
07a0020p.06 2007/01/16  Cooey (Biros) v. Strickland
 Southern District of Ohio at Columbus
07a0085p.06 2007/03/02  Cooey v. Taft
 Southern District of Ohio at Columbus
07a0146p.06 2007/04/23  Cooey (Filiaggi) v. Strickland
 Southern District of Ohio at Columbus
07a0203p.06 2007/06/01  Cooey v. Strickland
 Southern District of Ohio at Columbus
08a0368p.06 2008/10/09  Richard Cooey, II v. Ted Strickland
 Southern District of Ohio at Columbus
 
 
 
 
 
 
clemency report
 
 
 
 
 
 

Summary:

Dawn McCreery, 20, and Wendy Offredo, 21, were University of Akron sorority sisters who were leaving their jobs as waitresses when 17-year-old Clint Dickens threw a chunk of concrete off an I-77 overpass, striking the windshield of the car that Ms. Offredo was driving.

Cooey, who was 19 and on leave from the U.S. Army, was hanging out with a longtime friend, Kenny Horonetz, and Dickens. The three got into a car and offered the two women help. The five drove to a shopping mall and Ms. Offredo used a pay phone to call her mother.

"I'm game if you're game," Cooey said as Dickens suggested they rob the two women. Cooey pulled a knife on the women when they realized they were not being driven back to their car. Horonetz demanded to be let out of the car after Cooey told him to tie Ms. McCreery's hands.

Driving to a wooded area in nearby Norton, Dickens and Cooey both raped the two girls. Dickens then suggested the women should be killed because they knew his name, records show. Dickens grabbed Ms. Offredo in a chokehold, and Cooey used a shoelace to strangle her as Dickens strangled Ms. McCreery with his other shoelace. Cooey beat both women with a club. Dickens was sentenced to life in prison for the crimes, in which both girls suffered through more than three hours of torture.

Citations:

Cooey v. Coyle, 289 F.3d 882 (6th Cir. 2002) (Habeas)
State v. Cooey, Not Reported in N.E.2d, 1987 WL 31921 (Ohio App. 1987). (Direct Appeal)

Final/Special Meal:

A T-bone steak with A1 sauce, french fries and onion rings, four eggs over easy, hash browns, buttered toast, bear claw pastries, a pint of Rocky Road ice cream and Mountain Dew.

Final Words:

''You [expletive] have not paid attention to anything I've had to say for the past 22 years. Why would you pay attention to anything I have to say now?''

ClarkProsecutor.org

 
 

Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction

Inmate#: OSP #A194-16
Inmate: Richard Wade Cooey II
DOB: 06/09/67
County of Conviction: Summit County
Date of Offense: September 1, 1986
Date of Admission: 12/10/86
Gender: Male
Race: White
Institution: Southern Ohio Correctional Facility
Convictions: AGG MURDER WITH SPECIFICATIONS (2 COUNTS), KIDNAPPING (2 COUNTS), RAPE (4 COUNTS), AGG ROBBERY (2 COUNTS), FELONIOUS ASSAULT

 
 

Cooey executed by lethal injection

By Phil Trexler - Akron Beacon Journal

Oct 14, 2008

Richard Wade Cooey was executed at 10:28 this morning for the murders of two University of Akron students 22 years ago.

His final statement was: ''You [expletive] have not paid attention to anything I've had to say for the past 22 years. Why would you pay attention to anything I have to say now?''

Cooey paced for much of the night, sleeping for less than 90 minutes and turning down breakfast as his execution drew near. Cooey's attorneys arrived at the prison this morning, but a spokeswoman for the Ohio Public Defender's Office last night said that he appeared out of appeal options.

Cooey, 41, formerly of Akron, was sentenced to die in 1986 for the murders of Wendy Offredo and Dawn McCreery, two UA juniors. He was within 12 hours of being executed in 2003 before a judge granted him a stay.

Prison spokeswoman Andrea Carson told reporters this morning that Cooey was quiet overnight inside the death house at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility near Lucasville.

He finished his last meal around midnight, appeared sleepless, and paced his cell. Around 4:06 a.m., he fell asleep only to awaken at 5:20 a.m. He showered and is visiting now with his attorneys.

About 9:50 a.m., Warden Phillip Kerns approached Cooey and read the state's death warrant. Cooey was then fitted with shunts in each arm that were used to transfer the lethal drugs into his system.

 
 

After long battle, killer executed

First lethal injection in 1 1/2 years seems to go smoothly

By Alan Johnson - Columbus Dispatch

October 15, 2008

LUCASVILLE, Ohio -- The anger and uncertainty were over for Richard Wade Cooey III at 10:28 a.m. yesterday as he lay motionless on the lethal-injection table at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility. Cooey's long fight to avoid execution for murdering Wendy Offredo, 21, and Dawn McCreery, 20, was punctuated by last words of defiance. But as he lay dying, the three execution drugs flowing into his veins, the 41-year-old Summit County man was calm and quiet, showing no outward signs of pain.

Cooey's death -- the first in Ohio in 18 months and the 27th since capital punishment resumed in 1999 -- will ease but not erase the pain for the families of Offredo and McCreery. Offredo's family chose not to attend the execution, but Mary Ann Hackenberg and Robert McCreery Sr., the victim's parents, were witnesses, along with her brother and three cousins.

Likewise, the execution did not banish the suffering of Katherine Miracle, Melissa Wilkinson and Tammy Brown, three of the victims' Alpha Delta Pi sorority sisters in the mid-1980s at the University of Akron. Miracle, Wilkinson and Brown pulled up their sport-utility vehicle to the Lucasville prison early yesterday, parking a few hundred yards from a circle of capital-punishment protesters. They opened the tailgate and set up an impromptu display that included a composite sorority photo with McCreery's picture; Offredo graduated the previous year. For Miracle, the past two decades have been scarred by thoughts of the abduction, rape and murder of her friends in a deserted area of Norton, in northeastern Ohio, on Sept. 1, 1986. Miracle was supposed to ride along with Offredo and McCreery to the Harbor Inn, an Akron-area bar. But Miracle and McCreery argued, and Miracle drove separately from her "little sister" in the sorority.

Offredo and McCreery never made it to the bar; Cooey and two accomplices dropped a 35-pound chunk of concrete onto their car from an I-77 overpass. "I was supposed to guide and protect her," Miracle said. "There were a lot of times over the years that I didn't feel I did that. I would wake up and think, 'Why am I here and she's not?' "

At the other end of the prison parking lot, Sister Alice Gerdeman, president of Ohioans to Stop Executions, prayed with about 30 people. "The crime that was committed was horrendous," she said in an interview. "I pray for the victims' families and for Richard Cooey and his family. "There is no happiness here, just deep, deep pain."

Inside the prison, Cooey was being prepped in his cell by medical technicians who inserted intravenous needles into both arms. In a flurry of lawsuits during the past few months, Cooey's attorneys alleged that finding a suitable vein could be a problem because of his obesity; he weighed 275 pounds and was 5 feet 7 inches tall. The prison technician, as observed by witnesses on a monitor, had trouble inserting the first needle, prompting Cooey to call out loudly, "I want to talk to Greg Meyers!" Meyers, one of Cooey's public defender attorneys, was a witness but was not allowed to respond to his client.

Meyers told The Dispatch later that Cooey cried out because the first needle missed the vein and had to be reinserted. "He was afraid he was going to have a botched execution like the others," Meyers said, referring to two problematic lethal injections in Ohio since 2006. However, IV lines in both arms eventually were established.

Cooey spat out his last words: "You (expletive) haven't paid any attention to anything I've said in the last 22 years, why would you pay any attention to anything I say now?"

On his last night, Cooey had a big meal: a T-bone steak with A1 sauce, french fries and onion rings, four eggs over easy, hash browns, buttered toast, bear claw pastries, a pint of Rocky Road ice cream and Mountain Dew. The prison waived its nonsmoking policy, allowing him to smoke in his Death House cell.

 
 

Richard Wade Cooey II executed for McCreery, Offredo murders

By Michal K. McIntyre - Cleveland Plain Dealer

October 15, 2008

Richard Wade Cooey II died peacefully Tuesday with a lethal combination of drugs administered through two needles inserted gently into veins in each arm. He was executed by the state of Ohio for the rape and murders - by bludgeoning and strangulation - of two college students who were not afforded such comfort in their deaths.

"It's done," said Mary Ann Hackenberg, mother of one of the victims, Dawn McCreery, who said she could sense her daughter's presence in the death chamber. "I know she was there," she said. "I felt her there."

Cooey was sentenced to death in 1986 for the rape and murder that year of the 20-year-old McCreery and her sorority sister, Wendy Offredo, 21. He was hours away from execution when he won a reprieve in 2003. Tuesday, his appeals ran out when the U.S. Supreme Court denied his last-ditch effort.

He remained defiant even in his final statement, uttering an obscenity when Warden Phillip Collins held a microphone above his lips, before a combination of three drugs flowed through the tubes over the course of nearly 10 minutes, ending his life. "You . . . haven't paid any attention to what I've had to say over the past 22½ years, why are you going to pay attention to what I have to say now?" he said, not looking at any of the six witnesses from the McCreery family or his three lawyers and a spiritual adviser, who were witnesses.

At 10:06 a.m., a monitor in the witness viewing room flickered to life, showing Cooey lying on a gurney in a prep room adjacent to the death chamber, his feet crossed. Technicians inserted ports into veins in each arm without difficulty, despite his legal claims that his veins would be too difficult to access partly because of his obesity.

Mary Ann Hackenberg of Rocky River, Dawn McCreery's mother and one of six witnesses from the McCreery family, said, "They got it," when the needle was inserted. Cooey shouted for his lawyer, Greg Meyers, twice. Meyers, who was in the witness room along with two other lawyers and Cooey's spiritual adviser, did not move.

At 10:15 a.m., with ports inserted and his arms strapped to boards, Cooey kicked his legs, got off the gurney, and walked to the death chamber, where he climbed onto another gurney. Six guards in white strapped him down with four black straps. Tubing, which extended from the wall in the adjacent room, was connected to the ports.

At 10:19, Cooey made his final statement and drummed his fingers -- pinky to index finger -- on the board supporting his left arm. At 10:21, he exhaled with a faint noise. Warden Phillip Kerns of the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility shook Cooey's shoulder. He did not respond. By 10:28, he was dead. Sodium pentothal induced deep sleep, pancuronium bromide stopped his breathing, and potassium chloride stopped his heart.

Hackenberg threw back her head and exhaled as a curtain was drawn across the viewing window. She hugged her son, Rob McCreery, and held the hand of her ex-husband, Robert McCreery Sr. A black hearse waited outside the death house to take Cooey's body.

Dana Cole, who identified himself as Cooey's lawyer and friend and to whom Cooey's cremated remains will be given, said Cooey was an immature 19-year-old influenced by drugs and alcohol when he committed his crime. "What we witness here today was a killing that was planned and funded for more than 22 years," he said. "The man killed was not the same man who committed the crimes."

Rob McCreery, Dawn's brother, said Cooey is exactly the same, proven by his final words. "Just being spiteful to the very end," said Rob McCreery. "It just shows how much this was warranted and justified."

After the execution, the family talked of their relief that Cooey had finally been brought to justice and the peacefulness of his passing despite his claims that lethal injection was "cruel and unusual." "The thing that's going to now give us the greatest comfort is knowing that he now has to be accountable to a power greater than himself and now he's got to reckon with that," said Dawn McCreery's cousin, Kathy Miska, one of the witnesses of the execution.

Hackenberg was at once relieved and still angry. "It was too easy. It's as much justice as we're going to get, as much closure as we'll get, but it was just too easy," she said. "He didn't get a free pass," said her husband, John Hackenberg. Rob McCreery said he had hoped for the execution for so long -- he was 17 when his big sister was killed -- that he's not sure where to turn his attention now. "But I can tell you it was a nicer day coming out of there than it was going in," he said.

Cooey is to first Ohio inmate to be executed since May 2007, the 27th since 1999.

Cooey was 19 and home on leave from the Army when, in 1986, the Akron native and an accomplice, 17-year-old Clint Dickens, raped and murdered Offredo and McCreery. Dickens threw a chunk of concrete from an overpass onto Offredo's car, disabling it. They then drove down to the highway and picked up the women, offering to get them help. Instead, they drove them to a secluded field in Norton where they raped them, beat them with a wooden club and strangled them with shoelaces.

Dickens was sentenced to life in prison for the crimes, in which both girls suffered through more than three hours of what Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh called "fear and torture and agony." Because he was a juvenile when he committed the crime, he wasn't eligible for the death penalty.

The night before his execution, as Cooey sat on his bed or paced and slept for slightly more than an hour, Dawn McCreery's family gathered in her brother Rob's hotel room, sharing stories, watching the Browns' unexpected victory and drinking cold beers. Summit County Prosecutor Sheri Bevan Walsh joined them.

Rob McCreery opened a gift bag from a former Alpha Delta Pi sorority sister of Dawn and Wendy. It was a shirt with the sorority's Greek lettering, one that Dawn had actually worn. The card said it was for Rob McCreery's 5-year-old daughter. The morning sky, still dark, was full of stars as a nearly full moon loomed over the hills of Lucasville. At breakfast in the Holiday Inn Express, someone noted that it was a harvest moon. Perfect for execution day. "You reap what you sow," said Nicole McCreery, Rob's wife.

 
 

Ohio executes man who argued he was too fat to die

By Matt Reed

Associated Press

LUCASVILLE, Ohio (AP) — Ohio executed a 5-foot-7, 267-pound double murderer Tuesday who argued his obesity made death by lethal injection inhumane. Richard Cooey, 41, had argued in numerous legal challenges that his weight problem would make it difficult for prison staff to find suitable veins to deliver the deadly chemicals, a problem that delayed previous executions in the state.

There were no such difficulties, said Larry Greene, a spokesman for the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility. During preparations, though, Cooey shouted for one of his attorneys as prison staff tried to insert a shunt in his left arm. He was worried the staff would botch the execution, said Greg Meyers, an attorney with the Ohio Public Defender's Office.

Cooey, who killed two University of Akron students in 1986, walked into the death chamber wearing gray pants and a black short-sleeve shirt and was strapped onto the gurney. "For what? You (expletive) haven't paid any attention to anything I've said in the last 22 1/2 years, why would anyone pay any attention to anything I've had to say now," Cooey said looking at the ceiling. He made no other comment.

Cooey tapped the fingers of his left hand several times before he died and his face took on a purple shade.

Six family members of one of his victims quietly watched the execution. Mary Ann Hackenberg, the mother of Dawn McCreery, who was 20 when she was killed, looked to the ceiling and let out a sigh when Cooey's death was announced at 10:28 a.m. Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh said the family was disappointed that Cooey was vulgar and hateful to the end. "He still would not apologize and still would not accept responsibility for what he did," she said.

Three of Cooey's lawyers served as his witnesses. "The government has no conscience, only policy. Today the policy was state-sanctioned murder of Richard Cooey," said one of the lawyers, Eric Allen.

Cooey was the first inmate executed in Ohio in more than a year, and the state's first since the end of the unofficial moratorium on executions that began last year while the U.S. Supreme Court reviewed Kentucky's lethal injection procedure.

Cooey lost a final appeal earlier Tuesday when the U.S. Supreme Court turned down without comment his complaint that the state's protocol for lethal injection could cause an agonizing and painful death. Cooey wanted the state to use a single drug rather than a three-drug combination, and asked for a stay of execution pending a hearing on that motion. The court on Monday denied a separate appeal based on Cooey's claim that his obesity was a bar to humane lethal injection.

Cooey was 75 pounds heavier than when he went to death row — the result of prison food and 23-hour-a-day confinement, his lawyers said.

The last Ohio inmate to be executed was Christopher Newton — who was similar in size to Cooey — in May 2007. The execution team had trouble putting IVs in his arm, delaying his execution nearly two hours. There were similar problems in the execution of another inmate in 2006.

Cooey made an earlier trip to the death house. But a U.S. District Court judge intervened hours before his scheduled execution in July 2003 when the Ohio Public Defender's office said it needed more time to assess the case after an appeals court dismissed his previous attorneys for inadequate representation.

Cooey and a co-defendant were convicted in the sexual assaults and slayings of McCreery and Wendy Offredo, 21, in September 1986. His co-defendant was 17 and was sentenced to life in prison because of his age.

The state has now executed 27 inmates since 1999, when Ohio renewed executions after more than three decades.

 
 

ProDeathPenalty.com

Condemned inmate Richard Cooey said he won't make a final statement if his execution moves forward as scheduled on Thursday. Cooey said he may write a statement that would be handed out after his death by injection at the maximum-security prison near Lucasville. "What could I possibly say?" Cooey said yesterday, in what may be his last interview from death row. "Other than what I have said with regards to just give me a shot in the courts, and I feel I have been wronged in the courts. "And with regards to the victims' families, I am truly sorry for what happened. But like I said, there are no words they could possibly accept, in my opinion, or even believe," he added.

Cooey, 36, is on death row at the maximum-security prison in Mansfield for kidnapping, raping, assaulting, and murdering 20-year-old Dawn McCreery and Wendy Offredo, 21, on Sept. 1, 1986. They were University of Akron sorority sisters who were leaving their jobs as waitresses when 17-year-old Clint Dickens threw a chunk of concrete off an I-77 overpass, striking the windshield of the car that Ms. Offredo was driving. Cooey, who was on leave from the Army, was hanging out with a longtime friend, Kenny Horonetz, and Dickens. The three got into the car Cooey had borrowed from his grandmother and offered the two women help.

The five drove to a shopping mall and Ms. Offredo used a pay phone to call her mother. "I'm game if you're game," Cooey said as Dickens suggested they rob the two women, according to court records. They had $37. Cooey pulled a knife on the women when they realized they were not being driven back to their car. Horonetz demanded to be let out of the car after Cooey told him to tie Ms. McCreery's hands. Driving to a wooded area in nearby Norton, Dickens raped Ms. Offredo. "Hey Clint, put on the Bad Company tape," Cooey said, court records say. That led Dickens to say the women should be killed because they knew his name, records show.

Dickens grabbed Ms. Offredo in a chokehold, and Cooey used a shoelace to strangle her as Dickens strangled Ms. McCreery with his other shoelace. Cooey beat both women with a club, court records say. A coroner's report said they died from the blows. In yesterday's interview, Cooey maintained that Dickens, who could not receive the death sentence because he was 17 at the time of the murders, killed the two women. Dickens is serving two life sentences at the Ross Correctional Institution.

Cooey claimed that his attorney let a plea agreement fall through in which he would have pleaded guilty to lesser charges. Cooey said he raped Ms. Offredo, but he said it was "rape under duress." "I was looking at it - you know when you're a kid and you're high and bombed - I was looking at it at the time as getting laid. In hindsight now, I've matured and I've got a clear head and I've seen that it wasn't," he said. Cooey said he had drunk a dozen beers, snorted cocaine, and smoked opium and marijuana that night.

Yesterday, he said Horonetz, who served eight months in prison on a felonious assault and obstructing justice conviction, probably could have prevented the killings if he had "talked some sense into me." Mark Gribben, a spokesman for the state attorney general's office, said there is no doubt about Cooey's involvement in the robbery, the assaults, the rapes, and the murders. "The judicial process in this matter has been exhausted and complete. His case has been considered by state and federal appellate courts, as well as the state parole board," Mr. Gribben said.

Cooey said he is spending most of his time in his death row cell, drafting appeals on an electric typewriter that his public defenders gave him. Asked if he has any hope he won't be executed on Thursday, Cooey replied: "Not much, but there's always hope," and then he laughed. He said he has not received many visits on death row over 16 years, with the exception of his father, Richard Cooey, Sr., and grandmother, Audrey. Cooey said he keeps to himself on death row and does not get in the "mix of the rat race." Asked to elaborate, he said: "To be point blank, messing with the homosexuals, gambling, and stuff like that. I don't partake in any of it. " Cooey said he won't need a sedative as the state prepares to execute him. "You've got to face it. It comes with being an adult. It comes with owning up to what society wants," he said.

UPDATE: A federal judge last night postponed the execution of Richard Cooey, a convicted murderer who was scheduled to be put to death this morning. Judge Dan Aaron Polster of U.S. District Court in Cleveland granted the request of Cooey's lawyer for more time to study the case. Polster appointed Gregory Meyers of the Ohio Public Defender's office to take over the case after an appeals court dismissed Cooey's previous attorneys. ''Ultimately, I have concluded that the integrity of the federal court would be impugned if the state of Ohio executes Richard Cooey tomorrow,'' Polster said. Cooey, 36, was scheduled to die by injection today at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville. He arrived from death row in Mansfield yesterday morning, said Andrea Dean, a prison system spokeswoman. Attorney General Jim Petro's office said it would appeal Polster's ruling. ''We respectfully disagree with the judge's ruling and we are currently working on an appeal with the 6th Circuit,'' Mark Gribben, a spokesman for Petro, said late yesterday. ''That appeal will be filed tonight. The judges will make their decision when they decide.''

Gov. Bob Taft on Tuesday denied Cooey's request for clemency. Cooey admits he kidnapped, robbed and raped University of Akron sorority sisters Wendy Offredo, 21, and Dawn McCreery, 20, of North Ridgeville, in September 1986. He denied he killed them, but says he's ''morally'' responsible for the murders. According to court documents, Cooey was on leave from the Army when he and a friend, Clint Dickens, attacked the women. Dickens was 17 then and could not be sentenced to death. He is serving a life sentence.

 
 

Richard Wade Cooey

June 13, 2005

Richard Wade Cooey sits on death row in Ohio on borrowed time, but he’s got plenty of it.

Two years ago next month, Cooey was 13 hours from a date with the executioner when his attorneys completed the legal equivalent of football’s “hail mary” play and bought the rapist-murderer something he denied his two young victims — more time to live.

Recently, Cooey marked the end of his 19th year on death row. He has spent almost as much time there as his victims, Dawn McCreedy and Wendy Offredo spent on earth.

In 1986, Cooey was home on leave from the U.S. Army. He spent the day of August 31 drinking with a pair of friends from high school, Clint Dickins and another man who was not charged in relation to the crimes that sent Cooey to death row. Late in the evening on the 31st Cooey and his brain-trust were amusing themselves by throwing pieces of concrete from an overpass at the cars on the highway below.

One of the concrete blocks — about the size of a basketball — struck the windshield of a car driven by college student Wendy Offredo, who along with her friend Dawn McCreedy, had just finished a shift at a local coffee shop, the Brown Derby.

The women were unhurt by the attack, but that was when their luck ran out.

Cooey, Dickins and the other man approached the women, who had pulled the undrivable car over to the side of the highway and offered to take them back to a nearby shopping center to call for assistance. The women accepted the ride.

While Wendy was talking to her mother, Dickens saw money in her purse. He suggested to Cooey and the other man that the three of them rob Wendy and Dawn. Cooey replied, “I’m game if you’re game.” This agreement came after Cooey himself spoke with Mrs. Offredo and promised her that nothing bad would happen to the girls. The group then left the deserted mall.

When they realized Cooey was not returning to the site of the “accident,” the women asked Cooey where he was going. He pulled out a knife and ordered them to “shut up.” He then gave the knife to Dickens, who opened it and held it on the women. Dawn gave up her purse, while she and Wendy asked their assailants not to hurt them. Cooey told one of his friends to tie Dawn’s hands, whereupon the man demanded to be let out of the car, and Cooey let him out. He did not call police to report the abduction, however.

Cooey drove the car to an isolated wooded area and the victims were forced to exit the car. Cooey raped McCreery while Dickens raped Offredo. Then, Cooey raped Offredo while Dickens raped McCreery. During this time, Cooey called out Dicken’s name (”hey Clint, put on the Bad Company tape,” he said.), which infuriated him. Dickens grabbed a billy club which had been placed on the hood of the car and began hitting a tree.

It was at that point that the men decided the girls had to die.

Cooey grabbed Offredo in a choke hold, strangling her until she was unconscious. Once she was on the ground he tied her feet together with a red bandana. Dickens clubbed McCreery with the billy club when she attempted to escape. She eventually slumped to the ground. Cooey tied a shoestring around Offredo’s neck and Dickens tied another around McCreery’s. During this episode, both victims were beaten in the head with the billy club and McCreery was stabbed in the neck.

A few days following the murders, an informant called Akron detectives telling the police that Cooey was trying to sell jewelry belonging to the victims. The informant named the street Cooey lived on.

The police immediately set up surveillance around Cooey’s house while two warrants were being obtained– one to search and one to arrest Cooey. Cooey attempted to leave the house and he was arrested. Items were removed from his person and from his grandmother’s automobile. Thereafter, the house was searched and various items were removed.

Dickens, the juvenile, was tried as an adult. He was found guilty, and sentenced to life imprisonment. Cooey waived his right to a trial by jury and a panel of judges was assigned to try him. Cooey was found guilty of two counts of aggravated murder, two counts of aggravated robbery, two counts of kidnaping, one count of felonious assault, and four counts of rape by the panel of judges, and sentenced to death.

The dance of the appellate lawyers began in 1987 and the convictions were upheld on direct and post-conviction appeals.

In 2000, a Sixth Circuit panel denied Cooey’s habeas corpus petition. After expressing its tentative conclusion that Cooey had failed to make a substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right, the judges directed him to show cause why it should not deny his application for permission to appeal that decision. Attached to the show cause order was an appendix summarizing the panel’s tentative findings with respect to each issue raised in the appeal. The appendix also detailed numerous instances of Cooey’s careless (or worse) brief writing. The appellate panel found that “some of Cooey’s claims were irrelevant, his case law inapposite, and his factual assertions erroneous,” a district court judge would write later.

In June 2003 after an execution date was set by the Ohio Supreme Court, the Ohio Parole Board conducted a clemency hearing and recommended Governor Bob Taft deny clemency, which he did.

On June 10, 2003, a little over one month before Cooey’s execution date, the Chief Deputy Clerk of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals mailed letters to the two attorneys who had represented Cooey in his habeas appeal, advising them that the Court of Appeals had removed them as his appellate counsel.

“The court has authorized me to tell you that you will not receive any new appointments on appeal or extensions of appointments under the Criminal Justice Act in capital cases,” the letters read. “This reflects the court’s dissatisfaction with both the quality of the appellate briefs and the oral argument in Cooey v. Coyle and the amount of the attorney ’s fees which were paid to you and [co-counsel] for Mr. Cooey’s representation.”

The Clerk then asked the Ohio Public Defender to find counsel to represent Cooey in the event that he intended to initiate any further federal litigation.

The Public Defender worked diligently to find someone, but reported back to the court on July 12, 2003 — 12 days before Cooey’s scheduled execution — that no one would take the case.

On Wednesday, July 16, 2003, Cooey filed in district court a pro se “Motion to Appoint Counsel in this Death Penalty Case in Which Execution is Set for July 24, 2003.” The federal judge appointed the Ohio Public Defender’s office to represent Cooey.

On July 22, 2003, Cooey filed a Rule 60(b) motion and a motion for stay of execution. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b) provides a party with relief from judgment under certain circumstances: “On motion and upon such terms as are just, the court may relieve a party or a party’s legal representative from a final judgment, order, or proceeding for the following reasons: (1) mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect…or … any other reason justifying relief from the
operation of the judgment.”

On July 23, the families of Wendy Offredo and Dawn McCreery gathered in Lucasville, Ohio, site of the execution chamber where the next day, Richard Cooey would pay the ultimate price for his crimes.

Fate had another cruel twist in store for them.

The Rule 60(b) motion was made to Judge Dan Aaron Polster, who wrote just 13 hours before Cooey was to die, “The underlying premise of the stay of execution is that the Court of Appeals’ letters to Cooey’s prior appellate habeas counsel have cast a cloud over the integrity of the habeas process, and that it would be unseemly for Cooey to be executed while that cloud exists. Rule 60(b) relief is ‘reserved for those cases of injustices which, in certain instances, are deemed sufficiently gross’ and to prevent grave miscarriages of justice. The Court finds that the extraordinary circumstances in this case could warrant Rule 60(b) relief. It is for the Sixth Circuit to make the ultimate determination as to the meaning and import of its June 10, 2003 letters…I have had 48 hours to grapple with this unprecedented situation. Ultimately, I have concluded that the integrity of the federal courts would be impugned if the State of Ohio executes Richard Cooey tomorrow.”

Polster knew the character of the man he was sparing.

“Here, Richard Cooey brutally raped and murdered two women. He and his associates set up this heinous crime by standing on a bridge and dropping a concrete chunk through the windshield of a randomly selected car as it passed underneath,” he wrote. “Cooey and his associates then tortured and murdered the two victims under the guise of offering assistance. A state that elects to establish a system of capital punishment presumably has in mind such defendants.

“Reasoned and thoughtful people may debate the significance of the life of Richard Cooey. The function of federal habeas corpus, however, is to ensure the integrity of a state’s judicial process, particularly when that may culminate in a defendant’s execution. It is our responsibility as federal judges to ensure the integrity of our own process, and that is why I have stayed Cooey’s execution.”

Eventually, the Sixth Circuit ruled that Cooey deserved another chance to demonstrate that his appellate lawyers were ineffective. His second round of post-conviction appeals is working its way through the state system.

MarkGribben.com

 
 

State v. Cooey, Not Reported in N.E.2d, 1987 WL 31921 (Ohio App. 1987). (Direct Appeal)

1. HISTORY OF THE CASE

Richard Wade Cooey, II, defendant-appellant, was tried by a panel of judges and found guilty of two counts each of aggravated murder under R.C. 2903.01(A) and R.C. 2903.01(B), with three aggravating specifications to each count [R.C. 2929.04(A)(3), (5), and (7) ]. Cooey was also found guilty of two counts of kidnapping, two counts of rape, two counts of aggravated robbery and one count of felonious assault. The trial panel, after a penalty hearing, found that the aggravating circumstances for the aggravated murders outweighed the mitigating factors. The trial panel sentenced Cooey to death for the aggravated murders and to imprisonment for the other seven felonies.

Cooey appeals his conviction and death sentence assigning thirteen errors, with the seventh assignment of error having ten subparts.

2. STATEMENT OF THE FACTS

On August 31, 1986, Wendy Offredo and Dawn McCreery left their place of employment to go to a bar frequented by young adults. As they drove on the Akron expressway, they traveled under a bridge where Cooey, along with a juvenile co-defendant, Clint Dickens, and Kenny Horonetz stood. Clint Dickens hurled a piece of concrete off the bridge, hitting Offredo's car, smashing the windshield, damaging the side of the car and the door frame. Offredo was cut by the glass and immediately pulled to the side of the road.

Cooey and his companions approached the women and drove them to a pay phone where they could call the Akron police, as well as their parents. Offredo's mother said she would come to the car and Cooey gave the mother directions on the location of the disabled car. While the women made their phone calls, Clint Dickens saw money in Offredo's wallet and suggested to Cooey and Horonetz that they rob the women. Once everyone got back into Cooey's car, he drove for a distance and then stopped the car. Cooey pulled a knife on the women and ordered Horonetz to tie them up. Horonetz refused, got out of the car and left.

Cooey and Dickens took one of the victims' purses. Cooey drove the car to an isolated wooded area and the victims were forced to exit the car. Cooey raped McCreery while Dickens raped Offredo. Then, Cooey raped Offredo while Dickens raped McCreery. During this time, Cooey called out Dicken's name, which infuriated him. Dickens grabbed a billy club which had been placed on the hood of the car and began hitting a tree.

Cooey grabbed Offredo in a choke hold, strangling her until she was unconscious. Once she was on the ground he tied her feet together with a red bandana. Dickens clubbed McCreery with the billy club when she attempted to escape. She eventually slumped to the ground. Cooey tied a shoestring around Offredo's neck and Dickens tied another around McCreery's. During this episode, both victims were beaten in the head with the billy club and McCreery was stabbed in the neck.

The pair stripped the bodies of all jewelry and placed it in the purses. They then dragged the bodies off the road and into some weeds. Cooey and Dickens brushed the car tracks off the road with branches and left, driving to a nearby carwash to wash the blood off the car, their clothing and themselves. Thereafter, they discarded the purses. The next day, when Cooey learned that the police had discovered the bodies, he, Dickens, Horonetz and Terry Grant went back to where the purses had been thrown, recovered them, and took them to Cooey's home where they were burned.

A few days following the murders, an informant called the detective bureau telling the police that Cooey was trying to sell jewelry belonging to the victims. The informant named the street Cooey lived on. The police immediately set up surveillance around Cooey's house while two warrants were being obtained-one to search and one to arrest Cooey. Cooey attempted to leave the house and he was arrested. Items were removed from his person and from his grandmother's automobile. Thereafter, the house was searched and various items were removed. At the police station, Cooey gave several statements to the police. A motion to suppress these statements was made and denied.

Clint Dickens, the juvenile, was tried as an adult. He was found guilty, and sentenced to life imprisonment. Cooey waived his right to a trial by jury and a panel of judges was assigned to try him. Cooey was found guilty by the panel of judges, and sentenced to death.

* * *

4. APPELLATE REVIEW PROCEDURES

In order to determine whether Cooey's death sentence should be affirmed upon appeal, this court is required to do three things. First, it must answer the specific issues raised by Cooey regarding the proceedings below. Second, it must independently weigh the aggravating circumstances in this case against any factors which mitigate against imposition of the death penalty. Finally, it must independently consider whether Cooey's sentence is disproportionate to the death penalty imposed in similar cases. State v. Rogers (1985), 17 Ohio St.3d 174, 175.

5. PRE-TRIAL MOTIONS

ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR I

“That the trial court erred in failing to suppress statements obtained from appellant by the police for reason that said statements were obtained in violation of appellant's Fifth, Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution and Article I Section 10 of the Ohio Constitution.”

Cooey made two taped statements admitting his involvement in the aggravated assault, kidnapping, robbery, rape and murder of the victims. These taped confessions were made on September 1, 1986 and September 2, 1986, immediately following Cooey's arrest. The entire time period within which Cooey gave his statements covered about five and one quarter hours.

The first taped statement began on September 1, 1986 at 10:30 p.m. and ran to 10:47 p.m., when the statement was interrupted so that Cooey could show the police the location of the house where the co-defendant, Clint Dickens, resided. The first tape resumed at 11:59 p.m. and lasted until 12:35 a.m. on September 2, 1986. The second taped statement began at 1:55 a.m. on September 2, 1986 and continued until 2:14 a.m. when another break was taken. The second taped statement resumed at 2:45 a.m. and continued until 3:16 a.m. Cooey motioned the trial court for a suppression of both taped statements claiming that he did not understand the meaning of his rights.

A defendant's statements may only be admitted into evidence at a criminal trial if the statements were knowingly and voluntarily made. Mincey v. Arizona (1978), 437 U.S. 385. Whether the statements were knowingly and voluntarily made is to be determined from the totality of the circumstances. State v. Barker (1978), 53 Ohio St.2d 135. Initially, although not in itself enough to show voluntariness, Cooey repeatedly waived his Miranda rights throughout the interrogation. State v. Utsler (1970), 21 Ohio App.2d 167. Despite the length of the interrogation period, the questioning itself was intermittent and relatively short. The actual time of the two taped statements together was approximately one and a half hours.

There is no claim nor evidence of physical deprivation or mistreatment. There is also no evidence that there were any threats or inducements made to elicit the statements. In fact, it is apparent that Cooey's statements were a self-serving attempt to deflect the blame to the co-defendant, Clint Dickens, and to thus minimize his role in the crimes. Although Cooey had little or no prior criminal experience and was nineteen at the time he made the statements, he did possess an above-average intelligence. These facts combine to lead this court to conclude that the statements were knowingly and voluntarily given. The trial court properly denied Cooey's motion to suppress. Assignment of error one is overruled.

ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR II

“That the trial court erred in failing to suppress evidence seized as a result of search warrants issued in this case for reason that said evidence was seized in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights.”

After the discovery of the victims' bodies, the discovery of evidence from the murder scene, the police interview of a witness, David Jones, and the evidence provided by the victims' families, the police applied for a search warrant of Cooey's residence and automobile. The warrant was authorized by a judge of the municipal court. Upon execution of the warrant, the police seized a number of items from Cooey's home and automobile. Cooey argues that the trial court erred in failing to suppress this evidence.

Cooey initially contends that the affidavit submitted with the application for the warrant was insufficient to justify the issuance of the warrant. In reviewing the sufficiency of the affidavit, this court must ensure, through a conscientious review of the affidavit, that the issuing magistrate had a substantial basis for concluding that probable cause existed. State v. Bean (1983), 13 Ohio App.3d 69. The affidavit of Detective Hillegas, and the sworn testimony of Officer Wright and Detective Hillegas, given prior to the issuance of the warrant provided the municipal judge with sufficient information upon which to conclude that probable cause existed to issue the search warrant. Crim.R. 41(C).

Cooey also contends that the search made pursuant to the warrant became exploratory and exceeded the scope of the warrant. Cooey urges that the items seized were not specifically listed in the warrant. The warrant clearly described the residence and automobile to be searched. The warrant authorized the search and seizure of the following items.

1. One gold necklace, 16?-18? in length. 2. One gold necklace, 12? in length. 3. Four (4) wrist bracelets, gold in color. 4. Two (2) gold ladies rings. 5. Two (2) ladies rings with diamond setting. 6. One ladies ring with red stone setting. 7. One ladies watch, red stones around face of watch. 8. One ladies watch, with black plastic band. 9. One police type nightstick. 10. One checkbook from National City Bank (In the name of Wendy Offredo). 11. One credit card from Highbees (In the name of Wendy Offredo). 12. One credit card from O'Neils (In the name of Wendy Offredo).

Cooey complains that certain items seized do not fit under any of the enumerated items. This court disagrees. The description of the jewelry seized from Cooey's leather jacket sufficiently match the description provided in the warrant. The watch and knives taken from Cooey were taken incidental to a lawful arrest. The billy club found in Cooey's bedroom was specifically described in the warrant and found on his bed.

Although the search warrant did not specify the seizure of items containing trace evidence, the police seized clothing items found laying around Cooey's bedroom and in the basement, because they were believed to be recently worn by Cooey. The seizure of these items meet the plain view exception to the warrant requirement. Coolidge v. New Hampshire (1971), 403 U.S. 443. Accordingly, assignment of error two is overruled.

ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR XI

“The trial court erred in denying appellant's motion for change of venue.” In this assignment of error, Cooey contends that the extensive pre-trial publicity of this case required a change of venue. Cooey asserts that the fact-finder could not impartially consider the case because of the pre-trial publicity. This argument is not well taken.

A decision to change venue is within the trial court's discretion. State v. Johnson (1972), 31 Ohio St.2d 106, paragraph three of the syllabus. This court will not reverse such a decision absent a clear showing that the trial panel abused its discretion. Abuse of discretion connotes more than an error of law or judgment, it implies that the trial panel's attitude is unreasonable, arbitrary or unconscionable. No such abuse appears from the record here. See State v. Adams (1980), 62 Ohio St.2d 151, 157.

Prior to any jury voir dire, the defense moved for a change of venue. Cooey then decided to waive his right to a trial by jury while renewing his motion for a change of venue. The record here is insufficient to demonstrate that the pre-trial publicity was so pervasive and prejudicial as to warrant a finding that a fair trial was not probable in this jurisdiction. State v. Herring (1984), 21 Ohio App.3d 18. Accordingly, the trial panel did not err in denying the motion for a change of venue, and this assignment of error is overruled.

ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR III

“That the trial court erred in failing to require the state to elect whether to proceed upon a prosecution theory of prior calculation or design as felony murder.” (sic)

In this assignment of error, Cooey claims that the state was required to elect, prior to trial, whether to proceed on the count of felony murder or on the count of murder by prior calculation or design. Cooey asserts that Crim.R. 14 requires the court to order an election once there is a finding of prejudice by a joinder of the offenses. Cooey failed to show either prejudicial joinder or any other legal basis for requiring the state to elect between the two different theories of aggravated murder.

A defendant who asserts that a joinder is improper has the burden of making an affirmative showing that his rights are prejudiced. State v. Williams (1981), 1 Ohio App.3d 156, 159. Although Cooey asserts that he was prejudiced, he provides no support for his assertion. Upon review of the record, this court does not find that Cooey was prejudiced by the joinder of the aggravated murder counts.

R.C. 2941.25(A) provides: “Where the same conduct by defendant can be construed to constitute two or more allied offenses of similar import, the indictment or information may contain counts for all such offenses, but the defendant may be convicted on only one.”

The allied offense statute is only a sentencing statute which precludes, not an indictment or the finding of guilt of an allied offense of similar import, but rather a judgment of conviction on both offenses. State v. Kent (1980), 68 Ohio App.2d 151. A judgment of conviction is defined as a plea or verdict of guilty and the imposition of sentence. Crim.R. 32(B), State v. Henderson (1979), 58 Ohio St.2d 171. Cooey was sentenced on the felony murder counts and not on the murder by prior calculation or design counts. Accordingly, the allied offense statute was not violated here.

The state was not required to elect whether to proceed upon a prosecution theory of prior calculation or design or felony murder. Cooey's third assignment of error is overruled.

6. EVIDENTIARY RULINGS

ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR IV

“In a capital murder prosecution, evidence of a criminal defendant's diminished capacity is relevant and the introduction of such evidence should be permitted.”

Cooey contends that the proffered testimony of Dr. Siddall relative to diminished capacity should have been admitted at the guilt phase as relevant to the specific intent or purpose element contained in the first four counts of the indictment. Although this testimony was later admitted at the sentencing phase of the trial, Cooey argues that the denial of his opportunity to present such evidence at the guilt phase denies him the right to present evidence on his behalf. This contention is not well taken.

Under R.C. 2929.03(D)(1) and R.C. 2929.04(B)(3), the defendant's mental capacity is a formal mitigating factor in capital cases rather than a defense to be presented during the guilt phase. State v. Wilcox (1982), 70 Ohio St.2d 182. After giving a written plea of insanity and having an evaluation of his mental condition at the time of the crime, Cooey withdrew his not guilty by reason of insanity plea prior to trial. Expert psychiatric testimony, unrelated to the insanity defense, may not be offered to show that the defendant lacked the mental capacity to form the specific mental state required for a particular crime. Wilcox, supra, paragraph two of the syllabus. Accordingly, the trial panel properly refused the testimony of Dr. Siddall during the guilt phase. This assignment of error is overruled.

ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR VI

“It is error for a presiding judge in a capital murder case tried to a three judge panel, to disseminate Victim Impact Statements to the other judges, without showing them to defendant or defense counsel and consider the contents of the statement in the mitigation phase.”

Cooey contends that the trial panel erred by considering the victim impact statement in the mitigation phase of the trial. Cooey further contends error in the failure to provide a copy of the victim impact statement to the defense. These contentions are not well taken.

Cooey requested that the trial panel order a pre-sentence investigation and report. Here, the pre-sentence report was accompanied by the victim impact statements. A victim impact statement “does not relate to any of the statutory aggravating or mitigating factors which the [fact-finder] is required to weigh.” State v. Denson (Oct. 1, 1986), Hamilton App. No. C-850311, unreported, at 27. Consideration of a victim impact statement is proper only at the time of sentencing. Booth v. Maryland (1987), 482 U.S. 496, 96 L.Ed.2d 440. However, the trial panel clearly discovered its error in admitting the victim impact statements, and corrected the error.

The trial panel specifically stated in its separate opinion, required under R.C. 2929.03(F), that the victim impact statements were not given any consideration in the mitigation phase and had no bearing on the panel's decision to sentence Cooey to death. Thus, the error in the admission of the statements did not act to prejudice Cooey. Crim.R. 32.2(C)(1) provides that the report of the pre-sentence investigation is not to be confidential in aggravated murder cases. Here, the victim impact statements were not considered by the trial panel and the failure to provide a copy of these statements to the defense was not prejudicial. This assignment of error is overruled.

7. Verdict and Judgment

ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR XII

“The verdicts in this case were against the manifest weight of the evidence.”

Cooey asserts that the manifest weight of the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction on the murder with prior calculation or design counts. Cooey contends that the evidence shows that the decision to kill the victims was instantaneous rather than with thought and preparation. A reviewing court will not reverse a verdict where there is substantial evidence upon which the trier of fact could reasonably conclude that all of the elements of an offense have been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. State v. Eley (1978), 56 Ohio St.2d 169, syllabus. State v. Thomas (1982), 70 Ohio St.2d 79.

Here, there is substantial evidence that Cooey and the co-defendant, Clint Dickens, discussed and formulated a plan to kill the victims. Where evidence adduced at trial reveals the presence of sufficient time and opportunity for the planning of a murder to constitute prior calculation, and the circumstances surrounding the murder show a scheme designed to implement the calculated decision to kill, a finding of prior calculation and design is justified. State v. Robbins (1979), 58 Ohio St.2d 74.

The evidence demonstrates that during the rape, Cooey used Dickens' name. Dickens became angry because the victims had learned his name. After the rape, the victims got back in the car while Cooey and Dickens remained outside of the car and talked. Dickens stated that the victims would have to be killed because they knew his name. This evidence supports the finding that there was prior calculation.

The circumstances surrounding the murders also demonstrate a scheme designed to implement the calculated decision to kill. As the victims were getting out of the car, each of the defendants grabbed one of the victims and rendered them unconscious by strangulation or club beating resulting in death or near death. Once unconscious, the victims were beaten and choked to make sure that they were dead. Accordingly, there was substantial evidence upon which the trial panel could reasonably conclude that Cooey committed the murders with prior calculation and design.

A review of the record further demonstrates that there was substantial evidence to find that Cooey had committed each and every crime of which he was found guilty. This assignment of error is overruled.

ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR VIII

“The court committed error in sentencing the defendant to death in that the aggravating circumstances that the defendant was convicted of did not outweigh the mitigating factors by proof beyond a reasonable doubt as required by ORC 2929.03 and the United States Supreme Court.”

In this assignment of error, Cooey alleges that the aggravating circumstances do not outweigh the mitigating factors beyond a reasonable doubt, thus the trial panel's imposition of the death penalty was improper. This assignment of error is reviewed separately from our own mandated statutory independent review and weighing process as required under R.C. 2929.05(A).

Under R.C. 2929.04, in order for the trial panel to impose a death penalty, it must find that the aggravating circumstances enumerated under R.C. 2929.04(A) and proven beyond a reasonable doubt, outweigh the mitigating factors set forth under R.C. 2929.04(B), the existence of which must be established by a preponderance of the evidence. In essence, the aggravating circumstances proven beyond a reasonable doubt were, that the offense was committed for the purpose of escaping detection, apprehension, trial or punishment for another offense committed by the offender [R.C. 2929.04(A)(3) ]; that the offense was part of a course of conduct involving the purposeful killing of two or more persons by the offender [R.C. 2929.04(A)(5) ]; and that the offenses were committed while the offender was committing kidnapping, rape and aggravated robbery, and either the offender was the principal offender, or if not, committed the aggravated murder with prior calculation and design. [R.C. 2929.04(A)(7) ].

R.C. 2929.04(B) specifies that the court must consider the nature and circumstances of the crime; and the history, character and background of the offender as mitigating factors. The court must also consider any of the seven additional mitigating factors specified under R.C. 2929.04(B), which are established by a preponderance of the evidence.

Of these seven specified mitigating factors, Cooey presented evidence concerning only two of these factors. Cooey was clearly only nineteen at the time the crimes were committed, and Cooey did not have any significant criminal history. Cooey also asserted that he was innocent of aggravated murder, had a history of drug and alcohol abuse, and that his juvenile co-defendant could not be sentenced to death.

Although Cooey attempted to show that he had a diminished mental capacity, his own expert testimony demonstrated that Cooey did have the capacity to appreciate his criminality and could conform his conduct to the requirements of law. Cooey also attempted to show that he was not the principal offender and that his degree of participation in the offenses did not justify the imposition of the death penalty. However, Cooey was found to be the principal offender beyond a reasonable doubt at trial. Therefore, Cooey failed to meet his burden of demonstrating the existance of this mitigating factor.

Upon review of the aggravating circumstances proven beyond a reasonable doubt, and the mitigating factors shown by a preponderance of the evidence, the trial panel did not err in holding that the aggravating circumstances outweighed the mitigating factors. The mitigating effect of Cooey's youth and lack of criminal history, his abusive family history, his substance abuse, his claimed innocence, and the unequal punishment between Cooey and his co-defendant, does not outweigh the aggravating circumstances in this case.

Cooey intentionally and brutally kidnapped, raped and robbed the two victims over a period of three hours, then, Cooey killed the two victims by beating, choking and strangling them in order to escape detection. The trial panel properly found that these aggravating circumstances outweighed the mitigating factors in this case beyond a reasonable doubt. See State v. Byrd (1987), 32 Ohio St.3d 79; State v. Martin (1985), 19 Ohio St.3d 122. This assignment of error is overruled.

8. INDEPENDENT REVIEW

This court must also undertake the independent weighing process required by R.C. 2929.05(A) to determine whether the aggravating circumstances of which Cooey was found guilty outweigh the mitigating factors beyond a reasonable doubt. The aggravating circumstances of which Cooey was found guilty are as follows:

(1) That the Aggravated Murder of Wendy Offredo was part of a course of conduct involving the purposeful killing or attempt to kill two or more persons; [R.C. 2929.04(A)(5) ].

(2) That the Aggravated Murder of Wendy Offredo was committed while the Defendant committed the offense of Kidnapping, Robbery, and Rape and that he was the principal offender and the aggravated murder was committed with prior calculation and design; [R.C. 2929.04(A)(7) ].

(3) That the Aggravated Murder of Wendy Offredo was committed for the purpose of escaping detection, apprehension, trial or punishment for another crime or crimes, to wit: Rape, Kidnapping and Aggravated Robbery; [R.C. 2929.04(A)(3) ].

(4) That the Aggravated Murder with prior calculation and design of Dawn McCreery was part of a course of conduct involving the purposeful killing or attempt to kill two or more persons; [R.C. 2929.04(A)(5) ].

(5) That the Aggravated Murder of Dawn McCreery was committed while the Defendant committed the offenses of Rape, Kidnapping and Robbery and that he was the principal offender and the aggravated murder was committed with prior calculation and design; [R.C. 2929.04(A)(7) ].

(6) That the Aggravated Murder of Dawn McCreery was commited for the purpose of escaping detection, apprehension, trial or punishment for another crime or crimes, to-wit: Rape, Kidnapping and Aggravated Robbery; [R.C. 2929.04(A)(3) ].

Initially, it must be pointed out that the second and fifth aggravating circumstances are an incomplete statement of R.C. 2929.04(A)(7). R.C. 2929.04(A)(7), in whole part is as follows: “Imposition of the death penalty for aggravated murder is precluded, unless one or more of the following is specified in the indictment or count in the indictment pursuant to section 2941.14 of the Revised Code and proved beyond a reasonable doubt:

* * *

“(7) The offense was committed while the offender was committing, attempting to commit, or fleeing immediately after committing or attempting to commit kidnapping, rape, aggravated arson, aggravated robbery, or aggravated burglary, and either the offender was the principal offender in the commission of the aggravated murder or, if not the principal offender, committed the aggravated murder with prior calculation and design.”

The criteria set forth in R.C. 2929.04(A)(7) are constructed in the alternative. The death penalty may be imposed only where the aggravated murder was committed during the course of one of the enumerated felonies, and the defendant was the actual killer, or, where the defendant was not the actual killer, if he committed the murder with prior calculation and design. These alternatives are not to be charged and proven in the same cause. Penix, supra, at 371. Thus, since Cooey was found to be the principal offender, then the aggravating circumstance is shown, and the question of whether the offense was also committed with prior calculation and design need not be considered.

In addition, the trial panel should not have considered the two repeat murder aggravating circumstances separately since they arose from the same indivisible course of conduct, and thus were duplicative. See Jenkins, supra, paragraph five of the syllabus. Resentencing is not required in this case however, since this court finds that the remaining aggravating circumstances outweigh the mitigating factors beyond a reasonable doubt, and it is clear that the trial panel's consideration of the duplicative aggravating circumstance in the penalty phase did not affect the verdict. Jenkins, supra, paragraph five of the syllabus.

R.C. 2929.04(B) sets forth seven factors to be considered in mitigation of the death penalty: (1) Whether the victim of the offense induced or facilitated it; (2) Whether it is unlikely that the offense would have been committed, but for the fact that the offender was under duress, coercion, or strong provocation; (3) Whether, at the time of committing the offense, the offender, because of a mental disease or defect, lacked substantial capacity to appreciate the criminality of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law; (4) The youth of the offender; (5) The offender's lack of a significant history of prior criminal convictions and delinquency adjudications; (6) If the offender was a participant in the offense but not the principal offender, the degree of the offender's participation in the offense and the degree of the offender's participation in the acts that led to the death of the victim; (7) Any other factors that are relevant to the issue of whether the offender should be sentenced to death.

Three persons presented mitigating evidence at the penalty phase of the trial: a clinical psychologist, Cooey's mother and Cooey himself. The psychologist spent approximately seven hours with Cooey. He testified that: 1) Cooey possessed an I.Q. in the high average range, 2) Cooey suffered physical abuse beginning at an early age, 3) Cooey had a severe personality disorder and exhibited early signs of an emotional disturbance, 4) Cooey had a chronic alcohol and drug dependency, and 5) Cooey suffered from a mental disorder that would likely affect his judgment and behavioral control. On cross-examination, the psychologist testified that Cooey's mental disorder did not prevent him from appreciating the criminality of his actions or from conforming his conduct to the requirements of law.

Cooey's mother testified that Cooey's father began to physically abuse Cooey at age three. After his parents divorced, Cooey divided his time, from age eleven to eighteen, living with his mother, his father, and his grandmother. Cooey's mother also testified that his father abused alcohol and drugs, and that his father introduced him to drugs when he was about fifteen years old.

Cooey was the last person to give evidence at the sentencing hearing. He made an unsworn oral statement which corroborated his mother's testimony concerning his childhood. Cooey stated that he increasingly used drugs from the sixth grade on. He further stated that at the time of the crime, he was home on a thirty-one day leave from the army, and spent two thousand dollars buying alcohol and drugs to have a good time during that period. Cooey claimed that after the crime he was in a daze and did not realize exactly what had happened. He further stated that he confessed to the police because he did not feel too good about committing the crimes. The state presented no witnesses in the mitigation hearing.

Applying this testimony, in addition to the evidence presented at trial, and the presentence report furnished at the request of Cooey, this court finds that factors (1), (2), (3) and (6) do not apply. With regard to factor (4), the youth of the offender, this court notes that Cooey was nineteen years old. His youth however, by itself, does not absolve Cooey of responsibility for his crimes. See Byrd, supra, at 93. This court grants this factor very little weight in the absence of any evidence to show why this factor should be given any greater weight. Factor (5), Cooey's lack of a significant history of prior criminal convictions and delinquency adjudications, has been noted and considered by this court.

Under the seventh factor, this court has considered (1) Cooey's difficult and violent childhood, (2) his chronic alcohol and drug dependency, (3) his claimed abuse of alcohol and drugs at the time of the crime together with the fact that there was no evidence to support this claim, and (4) the fact that Cooey's co-defendant is not subject to the same penalty because he was under eighteen at the time of the crime.

This court is also required to consider the nature and circumstances of the offenses. The coroner testified that one victim sustained multiple fractures of the skull from being clubbed in the head at least eleven times. This victim also sustained injuries to other parts of her body, was strangled with a shoelace, stabbed in the neck, and an “X” was carved on her chest. The other victim was clubbed at least three times in the head, sustained various injuries to other parts of her body, was strangled with a shoelace, and also had an “X” carved on her stomach. The evidence further indicates that the victims futilely attempted to fend off the blows with their arms, hands and legs and that their deaths were not instantaneous.

In sum, these aggravated murders were brutal and violent. The three mitigating factors presented and considered do not outweigh the aggravating circumstances. Based upon this mandatory statutory independent review, this court holds: (1) That the aggravating circumstances outweigh the mitigating factors beyond a reasonable doubt and (2) that the sentence of death is an appropriate penalty for Richard Wade Cooey, II.

9. PROPORTIONALITY OF DEATH SENTENCE

This court must also determine whether Cooey's death sentence is excessive or disproportionate to the penalty imposed in similar cases. This determination encompasses a review of only those cases which this court itself has decided. State v. Steffen (1987), 31 Ohio St.3d 111, 123-124.

This court has previously reviewed and affirmed three penalties of death. State v. Post (Jan. 15, 1986), Lorain App. No. 3868, unreported; Greer, supra; Benner, supra. The murders involved in Post and Greer were committed during the commission of a robbery. Each of these two cases involved a single aggravating circumstance of felony murder. R.C. 2929.04(A)(7). The multiple murders committed in Benner were committed after raping the victims. The murders in Benner involved the multiple murder specification. R.C. 2929.04(A)(5). In all three cases, the murders were committed in a brutal fashion. This court finds that the death penalty given Cooey is not excessive nor disproportionate as compared to these previous cases.

Accordingly, this court affirms the death penalty imposed on Cooey.

10. CONCLUSION

This court first finds that there is no merit to any of the specific issues raised by Cooey concerning the proceedings below. Second, this court has independently evaluated the aggravating circumstances, as modified, and finds that these aggravating circumstances outweigh any and all of the mitigating factors presented by Cooey beyond a reasonable doubt. Third, this court finds that the sentence of death is appropriate in this case, as it is neither excessive nor disproportionate to the penalty imposed in similar cases. Thus, in accordance with R.C. 2929.05(A), the conviction and sentence of death in this case is affirmed.

The Court finds that there were reasonable grounds for this appeal. We order that a special mandate issue out of this court, directing the County of Summit Common Pleas Court to carry this judgment into execution. A certified copy of this journal entry shall constitute the mandate, pursuant to App.R. 27. Immediately upon the filing hereof, this document shall constitute the journal entry of judgment, and it shall be file stamped by the Clerk of the Court of Appeals at which time the period for review shall begin to run. App.R. 22(E). Costs taxed to appellant. Exceptions.

QUILLIN, P.J., and MAHONEY, J., concur.

 
 

Cooey v. Coyle, 289 F.3d 882 (6th Cir. 2002) (Habeas)

After his murder convictions, and sentence of death, were affirmed on direct appeal, 46 Ohio St.3d 20, 544 N.E.2d 895, and his state postconviction petition was denied, petitioner sought federal habeas corpus relief. The United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Sam H. Bell, J., denied petition. Petitioner appealed. The Court of Appeals, Suhrheinrich, Circuit Judge, held that: (1) reweighing of aggravating circumstances and mitigating factors that was performed by Ohio Supreme Court on direct appeal in affirming death sentence did not involve a decision that was contrary to, or an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law, or an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented, and (2) petitioner was not entitled to relief based on ineffective assistance of counsel. So ordered.

SUHRHEINRICH, Circuit Judge.

This is an appeal from a judgment denying Petitioner Richard Cooey's petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. We determine that Cooey is entitled to a certificate of appealability on only two of his claims. We also decide on the merits that Cooey is not entitled to relief as to either issue.

I. Background

A. Facts

On the night of August 31, 1986, Appellant, Richard Wade Cooey II, on leave from the army, and two of his friends, Clint Dickens and Kenneth Horonetz, threw a large chunk of concrete over the side of a bridge just as Wendy Offredo and Dawn McCreery were passing below along Interstate 77 in Akron, Ohio. The concrete hit Wendy's car, forcing her to pull over. The men went down and offered a ride so the women could call for help. After driving them to a nearby mall to use a telephone, the men took the women to a field where they were raped, beaten, and murdered by Cooey and Dickens. The men also stole Wendy's jewelry.

The bodies were found on September 1. The Summit County Coroner concluded that Wendy and Dawn had died of multiple blows to the head-Wendy received at least three blows and Dawn at least eleven-with strangulation also contributing to Wendy's death. He also concluded that both women had oral and vaginal intercourse before death.

B. Procedural History

Cooey was indicted on September 8, 1986, with two counts of aggravated murder in violation of Ohio Rev.Code §§ 2903.01(A) and 2903.01(B), including three specifications of aggravating circumstances in violation of Ohio Rev.Code §§ 2929.04(A)(3), 2929.04(A)(5), and 2929.04(A)(7). Cooey was also charged with two counts of kidnapping with the purpose of engaging in nonconsensual sexual activity, in violation of Ohio Revised Code § 2907.02(A); and two counts of aggravated robbery, in violation of Ohio Rev.Code §§ 2911.01(A)(1) and 2911.01(A)(2). Lastly, he was charged with one count of felonious assault, in violation of Ohio Rev.Code § 2903.11(A)(2), for dropping the chunk of concrete on Wendy's car.

Cooey entered a not guilty plea. Cooey waived his right to trial by jury and was tried by a three-judge panel according to Ohio Rev.Code §§ 2945.05 and 2945.06. The panel found Cooey guilty of all counts and specifications.

On December 5, 1986, the panel conducted a mitigation hearing, pursuant to Ohio Rev.Code § 2929.03(C)(2)(b). The panel returned a unanimous verdict, finding beyond a reasonable doubt that the aggravating circumstances outweighed the mitigating factors, and recommended the death penalty. The two aggravated murders under*886 § 2903.01(A) were merged into the two convictions under Ohio Rev.Code § 2903.01(B). Cooey was sentenced to death for each murder and to imprisonment for the seven other felonies.

Cooey timely appealed, setting forth thirteen assignments of error. The Ohio Court of Appeals upheld Cooey's conviction and sentence on December 23, 1987. See State v. Cooey, 1987 WL 31921 (Dec. 23, 1987). Cooey appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court, raising thirty-three issues. On October 11, 1989, the Ohio Supreme Court affirmed Cooey's conviction and death sentence. See State v. Cooey, 46 Ohio St.3d 20, 544 N.E.2d 895 (1989). The United States Supreme Court denied certiorari on April 1, 1991.

Cooey then sought state post-conviction relief. He filed a petition to vacate or set aside his sentence pursuant to Ohio Rev.Code § 2953.21, in the Court of Common Pleas of Summit County, Ohio, raising sixty-five claims for relief. On July 31, 1992, the Summit County Common Pleas Court denied Cooey's petition. See State v. Cooey, No. 86-09-1109A (Com. Pl. Summit Cty. July 21, 1992). Cooey appealed, raising eight assignments of error. State v. Cooey, 1994 WL 201009 (Ohio Ct.App. May 25, 1994). The Ohio Court of Appeals found that most of Cooey's claims were barred by res judicata. Id. It did, however, address Cooey's claims of ineffective assistance of counsel on the merits. Cooey appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court, but that court declined to take jurisdiction of Cooey's post-conviction appeal.

On November 3, 1994, Cooey filed an application to reopen his direct appeal. Cooey claimed that his appellate counsel was ineffective and asserted fifty-eight claims that appellate counsel failed to raise. On January 16, 1995, the Ohio Court of Appeals denied his request to reopen his direct appeal, finding that Cooey had procedurally defaulted these claims because he had failed to establish good cause for not filing the application to reopen within ninety days from the effective date of Ohio App. R. 26(B), July 1, 1993. The Ohio Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Ohio Court of Appeals. See State v. Cooey, 73 Ohio St.3d 411, 653 N.E.2d 252 (1995). Cooey's motion for reconsideration was also denied.

Cooey filed this petition for writ of habeas corpus in October 1996. Among other grounds for relief, Cooey claimed that he was denied the effective assistance of both trial and appellate counsel, and that he was denied a meaningful opportunity to litigate his federal claims in the state courts. On September 4, 1997, the district court denied the writ. See Cooey v. Anderson, 988 F.Supp. 1066 (N.D.Ohio 1997). Under the procedure that pre-dated the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), the district court then issued a certificate of probable cause for appeal. Petitioner then filed a notice of appeal.

On October 12, 2000, this Court entered an order ruling that the AEDPA applies to this case, and that the district court's issuance of a certificate of probable cause under the pre-AEDPA version of 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c) was ineffective. We elected to treat Cooey's brief as an application for a certificate of appealability. After expressing our tentative view that Cooey had not made a “substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right” as required by 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2) & (3) with respect to any of the issues raised, we directed Cooey to show cause why we should not deny the application for a certificate. Attached to our order was an appendix summarizing our tentative view as to each issue. The parties filed their respective briefs responding to the show cause order, and *887 the matter was argued on January 30, 2002.

* * *

A. Reweighing

Cooey argues that the Ohio Supreme Court's reweighing of the aggravating circumstances and mitigating factors leading to his death sentence was erroneous.FN1

FN1. Under Ohio Rev.Code § 2929.05(A), the Ohio appellate courts are required to “independently weigh” the aggravating circumstances against the mitigating factors:The court of appeals and the supreme court shall review the judgment in the case and the sentence of death imposed by the court or panel of three judges in the same manner that they review other criminal cases, except that they shall review and independently weigh all of the facts and other evidence disclosed in the record in the case and consider the offense and the offender to determine whether the aggravating circumstances the offender was found guilty of committing outweigh the mitigating factors in the case, and whether the sentence of death is appropriate. Ohio Rev.Code § 2929.05(A) (emphasis added).

In Clemons v. Mississippi, 494 U.S. 738, 110 S.Ct. 1441, 108 L.Ed.2d 725 (1990), the Supreme Court confirmed that the federal Constitution does not prohibit reweighing or harmless analysis as a cure for weighing errors. Although not required to do so, once it elects to reweigh, the state appellate court must “give each defendant an individualized and reliable sentencing determination based on the defendant's circumstances, his background and crime.” Id. at 749, 110 S.Ct. 1441.

The three-judge panel convicted Cooey of four aggravated murder counts, two counts relating to victim Wendy Offredo, and two relating to victim Dawn McCreery. Each contained three capital specifications. For each victim, Cooey was charged with purposely killing her with prior calculation and design (Ohio Rev.Code § 2903.01(A)), and with purposely killing her in the course of an enumerated felony, being kidnapping, rape, and aggravated robbery (Ohio Rev.Code § 2903.01(B)). The same three capital specifications were attached to each count: (1) the murder was committed to escape detection for other crimes (Ohio Rev.Code § 2929.04(A)(3)); (2) the murder was part of a course of conduct that involved the purposeful killing of two or more persons (Ohio Rev.Code § 2929.04(A)(5)); and (3) the murder was committed while committing or attempting to commit or fleeing immediately after committing or attempting to commit rape and/or kidnapping and/or aggravated robbery and Cooey was a principal offender in the commission of the aggravated murder and/or the aggravated murder was committed with prior calculation and design. (Ohio Rev.Code § 2929.04(A)(7)).

The three-judge panel found Cooey guilty of all counts and all specifications. However, before sentencing, the court made the State elect which count for each victim the court would sentence upon. The State elected the felony murder count for each victim. The three-judge panel also found that the “course of conduct” specification for each count was duplicative, so it considered only one such specification.

In its review, the Ohio Supreme Court initially determined that the trial court had erred in several respects in its weighing. First, the Ohio Supreme Court concluded that the trial court erred in combining and collectively considering the aggravating circumstances of both murders:

Cooey argues that the trial court erred in combining the aggravating circumstances related to both murders, and weighing all of them collectively against the mitigating factors. We agree. As Cooey states, each murder was a separate offense subject to a separate penalty. By adding together the aggravating circumstances of both murders in the penalty phase, the trial court denied Cooey that “consideration of ... the circumstances of the particular offense ...” that is “a constitutionally indispensable part of the process of inflicting the penalty of death.” (Emphasis added.) Woodson v. North Carolina (1976), 428 U.S. 280, 96 S.Ct. 2978, 2991, 49 L.Ed.2d 944 (plurality opinion).

Therefore, when a capital defendant is convicted of more than one count of aggravated murder, the penalty for each individual count must be assessed separately. Only the aggravating circumstances related to a given count may be considered in assessing the penalty for that count.

We do not think it is clear that the trial court's error determined the result. Indeed, we conclude that the aggravating circumstances of each murder, weighed separately, outweigh the mitigating factors. Thus, although the trial court erred, its error was not plain error, and therefore not reversible error in light of Cooey's failure to raise it in the court of appeals. State v. Cooey, 544 N.E.2d at 916-17.

The Ohio Supreme Court also determined that certain specifications should have been merged: [Cooey] also argues that, under the facts in this case, the specifications should *890 have been merged because they arose from the same acts and were committed with the same animus. See Jenkins, supra, ... syllabus. We agree. The specifications for which Cooey was trying to escape accountability when he killed Wendy and Dawn (R.C. 2929.04[A][3] ) are the same as those that support his convictions of the felony murder specifications. (R.C. 2929.04[A][7] ). Thus, the “escaping accountability” specifications lack “a significance independent of the other” specifications. Logan, supra, .... Cooey did not raise this error in the court of appeals, and we find it far from clear that it affected the panel's verdict. We therefore cannot hold it plain error. State v. Cooey, 544 N.E.2d at 917.

The Ohio Supreme Court also found that the panel should not have considered mitigating factors not raised by Cooey:

Cooey correctly asserts that the trial court erred by considering all of the mitigating factors set forth in R.C. 2929.04(B) even though Cooey did not raise some of them. See State v. DePew, .... However, the sentencing opinion lists what the court understood to be the aggravating circumstances, and the absence of mitigating factors is not among them. Cf. State v. Broom, supra. ... We conclude that the absence of mitigating factors was not impermissibly transformed into an aggravating circumstance. Id. The Ohio Supreme Court further held that the trial court had misconstrued the standard for legal insanity under Ohio Rev.Code § 2929.04(B):

Cooey argues that the trial court and the court of appeals misapplied the standard for legal insanity to the mitigating factor created by R.C. 2929.04(B)(3). We agree. The mitigating factor existed if Cooey “... lacked substantial capacity to appreciate the criminality of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law....” The question was not, as the trial court thought, whether Cooey completely lacked capacity to do so. Cf. Lawrence, supra....

... Of course, under either standard, it must be demonstrated that such lack of capacity resulted from a mental disease or defect.... Since the trial court found that Cooey did not have a mental disease or defect, this mitigating factor would not have applied even under the correct standard. Id. at 918.

The Ohio Supreme Court then turned to the question of whether the aggravating circumstances outweighed the mitigating factors, “as part of our statutorily mandated review.” Specifically, the Ohio Supreme Court considered evidence relating to Cooey's physical and mental history. First, it noted the testimony of Dr. James W. Siddall, a clinical psychologist, who had interviewed Cooey and performed a standard battery of psychological tests on him. Dr. Siddall determined that Cooey exhibited a “mental disorder” consisting of a “conduct disorder” and a pattern of substance abuse. Id. at 919.

The Ohio Supreme Court noted that Siddall “testified that a ‘mental disorder’ is not necessarily a ‘mental illness,’ but that it probably ‘would affect judgment as well as behavioral control.’ ” Id. The Court also observed that Siddall testified that Cooey's history of child abuse was significant, a fact which Cooey's mother further attested to. Id. The Court ultimately concluded that Cooey's mental disorder was entitled to “little legal weight,” because his mental disorder “consisted of the ingestion of drugs in combination with his ‘conduct disorder,’ ” and Dr. Siddall's “definition of ‘conduct disorder’ as a pattern of violating other people's rights could apply to virtually every criminal.” Id.

The Ohio Supreme Court also took into account Cooey's youth, subject to his military status, and his lack of previous criminal convictions: Cooey's youth is entitled to some weight, but his military status makes it reasonable to expect more maturity from him than one might otherwise expect of a nineteen-year-old. His history as a severely abused child is certainly relevant for whatever it may have contributed to his mental problems. Although the record shows that Cooey has had contact with juvenile authorities, the record does not demonstrate any previous criminal convictions or delinquency adjudications. This factor is entitled to some weight in mitigation. Id.

Nevertheless, the Ohio Supreme Court ultimately concluded as follows: These factors tend to suggest that Cooey may have been less responsible for his acts than were most people. However, they are outweighed beyond any reasonable doubt by the aggravating circumstances of rape and kidnapping. Cooey used deceit to lure Wendy and Dawn into his car, drove them to a deserted area, then took what he wanted from them by force. He beat them repeatedly with a nightstick, then tried to make sure Wendy was dead by strangling her.

We conclude that the properly admitted evidence overwhelmingly proves that the aggravating circumstances outweigh, beyond a reasonable doubt, the mitigating factors. Id.

As the foregoing illustrates, the Ohio Supreme Court followed the dictates of Clemons in that it gave individualized consideration to Cooey's circumstances, his background, and the crime. As the district court ruled:

In this case, the Supreme Court of Ohio committed no such error. First, in its decision, the Court gave no consideration to those factors which the trial court had erroneously included in its analysis. Id. at 41-42, 544 N.E.2d 895, 46 Ohio St.3d 20, 544 N.E.2d 895. Second, it did not reach its decision merely on the existence of a single aggravating circumstance. Instead, it noted the specific nature of the crimes at issue, the use of deceit in committing those crimes, and the amount of force employed by the perpetrator. Id. (“[The mitigating factors] are outweighed beyond any reasonable doubt by the aggravating circumstances of rape and kidnaping. Cooey used deceit to lure Wendy and Dawn into his car, drove them to a deserted area, then took what he wanted from them by force. He beat them repeatedly with a nightstick, then tried to make sure Wendy was dead by strangling her.”). Finally, the Court provided a thorough discussion of and gave careful consideration to all mitigating factors relevant to Cooey's sentence. In sum, the Ohio Supreme Court acted properly when, pursuant to § 2929.05, it elected to reweigh the aggravating circumstances and mitigating factors of this case. Cooey v. Anderson, 988 F.Supp. at 1097-98 (footnote omitted).

Thus, it is simply baseless to suggest, as Cooey does in his brief at 46-47, that the Ohio Supreme Court's reweighing was merely conclusory and insufficient under constitutional standards. The Ohio Supreme Court's decision was not “ ‘contrary to,’ nor did it involve[ ] an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law.” The Ohio Supreme Court was properly allowed to reweigh under Clemons, and considered all the factors Clemons set out as part of the reweighing analysis. And even if we thought that the Ohio Supreme Court's application of Clemons was incorrect, which we do not, it was certainly not an *892 unreasonable application of Clemons. Nor can it be said that the Ohio Supreme Court's holding was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the state proceedings. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1) & (2). In short, the “reweighing issue” provides no basis upon which to grant the writ.

B. Ineffective Assistance of Trial Counsel

Cooey also argues that his trial counsel were ineffective for various reasons. To show that counsel was constitutionally ineffective, a petitioner must demonstrate that counsel's performance was deficient in that it fell below an objective standard of reasonableness, and also that counsel's deficiencies prejudiced his defense. Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed.2d 674 (1984). In other words, the defendant must show “that there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different. A reasonable probability is a probability sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome.” Id. at 694, 104 S.Ct. 2052.

In Lockhart v. Fretwell, 506 U.S. 364, 113 S.Ct. 838, 122 L.Ed.2d 180 (1993), the Supreme Court explained that “[t]he prejudice component of the Strickland test ... focuses on the question whether counsel's deficient performance renders the result of the trial unreliable or the proceeding fundamentally unfair.” Id. at 372, 113 S.Ct. 838. The Court further explained that “unreliability or unfairness does not result if the ineffectiveness of counsel does not deprive the defendant of any substantive or procedural right to which the law entitles him.” Id.

1. Impermissible Cumulation of Aggravating Factors

First, Cooey claims that his trial counsel failed to prevent or redress the impermissible cumulation of aggravating factors at the sentencing phase. Specifically, Cooey asserts that trial counsel were constitutionally ineffective for failing to object to the trial court's separate weighing of duplicative aggravating factors, in contravention of the clear mandate of the Ohio Supreme Court in State v. Jenkins, 15 Ohio St.3d 164, 473 N.E.2d 264 (1984) (syllabus, ¶ 5).

The Ohio Supreme Court acknowledged the underlying weighing error, but concluded that “Cooey did not raise this error in the court of appeals, and we find it far from clear that it affected the panel's verdict. We therefore cannot hold it plain error.” State v. Cooey, 544 N.E.2d at 917. As to Cooey's assigned error of ineffective assistance of counsel based on counsel's failure to object, the Ohio Court of Appeals held:

The Ohio Supreme Court reviewed this claim and found that the failure of the trial court to merge the aggravating circumstances at issue was not plain error. This Court concludes that there also was not a ‘reasonable probability’ that defendant was prejudiced by his trial lawyers' failure in regard to the merger of aggravating circumstances. State v. Cooey, 1994 WL 201009, at * 15.

As the district court held, “the evidence confirming the aggravating circumstances of Cooey's offenses is overwhelming.” Cooey v. Anderson, 988 F.Supp. at 1088. More importantly, the Ohio Supreme Court corrected the trial court's error in failing to merge the aggravating circumstances, and upon independent reweighing, still concluded that “the properly admitted evidence overwhelmingly proves that the aggravating circumstances outweigh, beyond*893 a reasonable doubt, the mitigating factors.” State v. Cooey, 544 N.E.2d at 919.

The Ohio Court of Appeals ruled on Cooey's postconviction petition by holding that there was not a “reasonable probability” that Cooey was prejudiced by his trial lawyers' failure to argue that the aggravating circumstances should not have been merged. Cooey has not contended, and cannot establish, how this conclusion is at odds with Strickland. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d).

2. Other Failures

Cooey also alleges that trial counsel were deficient for several other reasons, which we address in order.

a. Failure to Object to Constitutionally Infirm Procedures

Cooey claims that counsel were ineffective regarding jury waiver, selection of the three-judge panel, introduction of gruesome slides, and the indictment.

i. Jury Waiver Cooey claims that his trial counsel failed to insure that he knew that he was waiving his fundamental right to a jury trial. However, as the Ohio Court of Appeals found, Cooey failed to present any evidence supporting his assertion. State v. Cooey, 1994 WL 201009, at *13, *14. See also State v. Kapper, 5 Ohio St.3d 36, 448 N.E.2d 823, 826 (1983). In other words, the court held implicitly that Cooey defaulted this claim in the state postconviction trial proceeding. By failing to submit evidence, Cooey barred himself from developing the claim further, and is not now entitled to an evidentiary hearing. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(2)(A)(ii).

The court also held that Cooey “failed to show that his trial lawyers' performance fell below an objective standard of reasonable representation.” State v. Cooey, 1994 WL 201009, at *14. Cooey makes no attempt to show how this ruling is contrary to, or an unreasonable application of, Supreme Court precedent. It is meritless.

ii. Three-Judge Panel

Cooey complains that trial counsel should have objected to the method of empaneling the three judges. The Ohio Court of Appeals held: Defendant has failed to indicate how the makeup of the three judge panel had an adverse impact on him. Accordingly, defendant did not demonstrate a “reasonable probability” that he was prejudiced by his trial lawyers' alleged failure. State v. Cooey, 1994 WL 201009, at *12. Again, the state appellate court's finding that Cooey had not demonstrated prejudice under Strickland ' s second prong was reasonable. This claim is utterly without merit.

iii. Gruesome Slides

The Ohio Court of Appeals held that: The Ohio Supreme Court ruled that, although the photographs were gruesome, they were highly probative. Cooey II, at 36, 544 N.E.2d 895. The Supreme Court further ruled that the trial court committed harmless error in admitting four of the photographs that were duplicative. Id. There is no “reasonable probability” that defendant was prejudiced by his trial lawyers' failure to object to the admissibility of the photographs at issue. Id. at *14.

Again, Cooey has not shown how the Ohio Court of Appeals' decision is an unreasonable application of Strickland's prejudice prong. More fundamentally, *894 this fails to state a constitutional claim, see Gerlaugh v. Stewart, 129 F.3d 1027, 1032 (9th Cir.1997) (holding that the claim that a gruesome photo of decedent was erroneously admitted did not raise “the spectre of fundamental fairness such as to violate federal due process of law”), and therefore is not cognizable on habeas.

iv. Unsigned Indictment

Finally, Cooey argues that trial counsel failed to object to the use of an unsigned indictment against him. According to Cooey, the indictment was invalid because it was not signed by the foreman of the jury. First of all, the Ohio Supreme Court found that, although it was not originally part of the appellate record, the signed indictment was subsequently sent to the high court by the trial court. State v. Cooey, 544 N.E.2d at 909. Thus, “that it was journalized at all requires us to accept it as genuine and as having been filed at the time indicated by the date stamp, for the journal of a court of record imports absolute verity absent clear and convincing evidence to the contrary.” Id. at 909-10. Then, the Ohio Court of Appeals found that:

The Ohio Supreme Court held that there was a signed indictment filed in the trial court in this case. Cooey II, at 30, 544 N.E.2d 895. Accordingly, there was not a “reasonable probability” that defendant was harmed by his trial lawyers' failure to raise this claim. State v. Cooey, 1994 WL 201009, at *14. As an initial matter, the Ohio Supreme Court's fact finding is entitled to deference. Furthermore, Cooey has not demonstrated how the Ohio Court of Appeals' ruling is an unreasonable application of Strickland's prejudice component.

b. Presentence Report

Cooey complains that his trial lawyers were ineffective because they requested a presentence report. According to Cooey, the request was problematic because the presentence report contained the police captain's sentence recommendation as well as prior uncharged criminal misconduct. The Ohio Court of Appeals ruled to the contrary. Id. at *13. The Ohio court reasonably applied Strickland. Indeed, Cooey does not even make a stab at showing how this decision is contrary to federal law.

c. Preparation for Mitigation

Cooey maintains that counsel were ineffective in failing to prepare for mitigation. More precisely, Cooey complains that counsel requested a presentence report a mere ten days prior to the mitigation hearing. This claim was not raised in the state courts and is therefore defaulted. Even if we reviewed the claim, and even if this alleged deficiency constituted ineffective assistance, Cooey has not explained how he suffered actual prejudice. In short, Cooey has not shown a violation of Strickland.

Cooey asserts that counsel should have contacted social workers to assist in presenting mitigating evidence, especially since the strongest factors in favor of mitigation were Cooey's youth and substance abuse. The Ohio Court of Appeals held that Cooey “failed to proffer any exculpatory evidence in support of his petition that was not presented at defendant's trial and arguably would have been if the trial court had appointed a social worker to assist defendant. Accordingly, he did not demonstrate a ‘reasonable probability’ that he was prejudiced by his trial lawyers' failure to request assistance of a social worker.” Id. at *14.

Cooey has not shown that the Ohio Court of Appeals's ruling is contrary to, or an unreasonable application of Strickland.

Third, Cooey contends that trial counsel failed to obtain a pharmacologist and/or toxicologist to assist them in preparing Cooey's case pursuant to Ohio Rev.Code § 2929.024. The Ohio Court of Appeals ruled as follows:

Trial counsel failed to request the appointment of a pharmacologist and/or toxicologist to give opinions as to the effect of chemicals in defendant's system. The Supreme Court ruled on direct review that expert testimony about defendant's alleged diminished capacity was properly excluded from the guilt/innocence phase of his trial. Cooey II, at 26, 544 N.E.2d 895. Although the psychologist whose affidavit was attached to defendant's petition to vacate or set aside sentence opined that a pharmacologist and/or toxicologist could have presented the three judge panel “ ‘a more detailed and complete understanding of the impact’ of drugs on defendant's cognitive and emotional functioning,” neither the psychologist nor defendant's counsel has explained how that “more detailed and complete understanding” would have been exculpatory. Accordingly, defendant did not demonstrate a “reasonable probability” that he was prejudiced during either phase of his trial by his trial lawyers' alleged failure. Id. at *11. Again, Cooey has not shown that the Ohio Court of Appeals unreasonably applied Strickland.

d. Failure to Object to Prosecutorial Misconduct

The Ohio Court of Appeals ruled as follows: The properly admitted evidence against defendant was so overwhelming that, to the extent defendant's trial lawyers failed to object to irrelevant evidence or prosecutorial misconduct, there was not a “reasonable probability” that defendant was prejudiced by that failure. Id. at *13. Cooey has simply not demonstrated how this ruling is an unreasonable application of Strickland.

IV. Conclusion

For all of the foregoing reasons articulated in this opinion and accompanying unpublished appendix, we conclude that Cooey is not entitled to habeas relief. SO ORDERED.

 

 

 
 
 
 
home last updates contact