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Marvallous KEENE

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Robberies
Number of victims: 5
Date of murder: December 24/26, 1992
Date of arrest: Next day
Date of birth: July 5, 1973
Victims profile: Joseph Wilkerson, 34; Danita Gullette, 18; and Sarah Abraham, 38 / Wendy Cottrill, 16, and Marvin Washington, 18
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Montgomery County, Ohio, USA
Status: Executed by lethal injection in Ohio on July 21, 2009
 
 
 
 
 
 
clemency report
 
 
 
 
 
 

Summary:

Keene was the head of a self-proclaimed Downtown Posse of juveniles and young adults in Dayton. Working with three young co-conspirators, Keene murdered Joseph Wilkerson, 34, an acquaintance; Danita Gullette, 18, a stranger using a public telephone on the street; and Sarah Abraham, 38, a clerk at a convenience store.

When he feared they would snitch on him, Keene was involved in the silencing of two acquaintances who knew too much: Wendy Cottrill, 16, and Marvin Washington, 18. Washington was shot by co-conspirator DeMarcus Smith. Keene’s girlfriend, Laura Taylor, killed a sixth victim, Richmond Maddox, 19.

The crimes spanned Dec. 24-26, 1992 and were known as the "Christmas Killings." Taylor and Smith were juveniles at the time of the killings and thus ineligible for the death penalty. Another defendant, Heather Matthews, was indicted on two capital murder charges, but was granted a plea agreement in exchange for her testimony against Keene and Taylor. Smith, Taylor and Matthews all are serving prison sentences in excess of 100 years.

Citations:

State v. Keene, 81 Ohio St.3d 646, 693 N.E.2d 246 (Ohio 1998). (Direct Appeal)
Keene v. Mitchell, 525 F.3d 461 (6th Cir. 2008). (Habeas)

Final/Special Meal:

A Porterhouse steak with A-1 sauce, a pound of jumbo fried shrimp with cocktail sauce, french fries and onion rings with ketchup, dinner rolls and butter, two plums, a mango, a pound of seedless white grapes, German chocolate cake, two bottles of Pepsi and two bottles of A&W cream soda.

Final Words:

"I have no words."

ClarkProsecutor.org

 
 

Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction

Inmate#: OSP #A286-363
Inmate: MARVALLOUS KEENE
DOB: July 5, 1973
County of Conviction: Montgomery County
Date of Offense: December 24-26, 1992
Date of Sentencing: December 10, 1993
Presiding Judge: Robert M. Brown, Lee A. Bixler, Robert D. Nichols
Prosecuting Attorney: Mathias H. Heck Jr.
Gender: Male
Race: Black
Institution: Southern Ohio Correctional Facility
Convictions: Count 1: Aggravated Burglary (10-25 yrs), Counts 2, 5, 8, 9, 11, 13: Aggravated Murder (Death).

 
 

Ohio executes man for 1992 Christmas killing spree

By Matt Leingang - Associated Press

Jul 21, 2009

LUCASVILLE, Ohio — Ohio has executed a man convicted in a 1992 Christmas holiday killing spree that left six people dead and two wounded. Marvallous Keene died by lethal injection at 10:36 a.m. Tuesday at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, one week after the state's last execution.

The 36-year-old Keene and three accomplices went on a three-day murder and robbery rampage in Dayton that began on Christmas Eve 1992. The victims included an 18-year-old mother gunned down at a pay phone, a convenience store clerk and two teenage acquaintances whom Keene feared would tell police about his crimes.

Prosecutors say Keene was the triggerman in four of the five deaths for which he was convicted. His three accomplices are serving life sentences.

 
 

Dayton's Christmas killer set to die today

By Tom Beyerlein - Dayton Daily News

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

LUCASVILLE — Marvallous Keene’s last meal request was almost as long as his list of victims. Keene, ringleader of Dayton’s worst murder spree known as the 1992 “Christmas killings,” was transferred to the death house at the state prison here Monday, July 20. He is to die by lethal injection at 10 a.m. today at the maximum-security Southern Ohio Correctional Facility.

Keene, 36, arrived at Lucasville at 9:43 a.m. Monday from death row at the Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown. Staff members gave him a medical evaluation and checked his veins to be sure they could accept the intravenous lines containing a lethal cocktail of three drugs. “He’s generally been calm,” said Julie Walburn, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. “He’s pretty quiet right now.”

He received a “special meal” of his choice about 4 p.m. consisting of a porterhouse steak cooked medium with A-1 steak sauce, a pound of deep-fried jumbo shrimp, fries, onion rings, dinner rolls with strawberry preserves, two plums, a mango, a pound of white seedless grapes, two bottles of Pepsi, two bottles of A&W cream soda and German chocolate cake.

Keene, head of a self-proclaimed Downtown Posse of juveniles and young adults, was convicted of aggravated murder in five of the gang’s six killings. He did not fight efforts to execute him.

Keene did not request to meet with family members, and no relatives are known to be attending the execution. Two attorneys from the Ohio Public Defender’s Office are his chosen witnesses.

Walburn said officials expect nine people from the victims’ families to witness, as well. By Monday afternoon, Keene had not decided whether he would make a final statement, Walburn said. He spent most of the day watching television and writing what appeared to be letters, she said.

The Christmas killings

Facts: Working with three young co-conspirators, Keene murdered Joseph Wilkerson, 34; Danita Gullette, 18; and Sarah Abraham, 38. When he feared they would snitch on him, Keene was involved in the silencing of two acquaintances who knew too much: Wendy Cottrill, 16, and Marvin Washington, 18. Washington was shot by co-conspirator DeMarcus Smith. Keene’s girlfriend, Laura Taylor, killed a sixth victim, Richmond Maddox, 19. The crimes spanned Dec. 24-26, 1992.

Aftermath: Taylor and Smith were juveniles at the time of the killings and thus ineligible for the death penalty. Another defendant, Heather Matthews, was indicted on two capital murder charges, but was granted a plea agreement in exchange for her testimony against Keene and Taylor. Smith, Taylor and Matthews all are serving prison sentences in excess of 100 years.

 
 

Killer of 5 leaves no words of regret

By Alan Johnson - Dispatch.com

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

LUCASVILLE, Ohio -- Marvallous Keene's death was swift, silent, subdued. Just four minutes after being strapped down to the lethal-injection table -- and two minutes after the chemicals began flowing into his veins -- the Dayton "Christmas Killer" turned his head slightly to the left, then closed his eyes for the last time. The official time of Keene's death at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility near Lucasville was 10:36 a.m. But he seemed gone much earlier: He didn't move, and his chest showed no sign that he was breathing.

Seven witnesses representing some of Keene's victims were wrapped in their own silent thoughts as the man who had taken away their loved ones slipped calmly into death, without saying he was sorry or explaining what motivated him to kill. "I have no words," Keene said when Warden Phillip E. Kerns put a microphone to his mouth so he could make a final statement.

Keene, 36, became the second Ohioan to be executed in a week. The Ohio Supreme Court subsequently changed its procedures so that executions occur no closer than three weeks apart.

Keene ordered a large last meal of a Porterhouse steak with A-1 sauce, a pound of jumbo fried shrimp with cocktail sauce, french fries and onion rings with ketchup, dinner rolls and butter, two plums, a mango, a pound of seedless white grapes, German chocolate cake, two bottles of Pepsi and two bottles of A&W cream soda.

He paid the ultimate price for a 1992 Christmastime killing rampage in Dayton that left five people dead and a string of broken lives and dreams. Keene took the lives of Joseph Wilkerson, 34; Danita Gullette, 18; Sarah Abraham, 38; Wendy Cottrill, 16; and Marvin Washington, 18. Several of Gullette's relatives witnessed the execution. When it was over, Gary Gullette, the slain woman's uncle, put his arm around Connie Gullette, her stepmother, and gently rubbed her shoulders. None of the victims' family members spoke to the media after the execution. Keene's public-defender attorneys, Kelly Schneider and Rachel Troutman, likewise chose not to comment. Outside the prison, 25 protesters sang Amazing Grace as a battered black hearse carried Keene's body away.

 
 

Ohio puts to death second man in 7 days; Prisoner rejected appeal of sentence

Toledo Blade

July 22, 2009

LUCASVILLE, Ohio - A man whose 1992 Christmas holiday killing spree left six people dead was executed yesterday. The execution was Ohio's second in two weeks and the 1,000th lethal injection in the United States since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. Marvallous Keene, 36, who was convicted in five of the murders, chose not to file a late appeal of his death sentence.

He died at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville seven days after Ohio's last execution. The time lapse was the shortest since the state executed two inmates in six days in 2004.

The Ohio Supreme Court, in denying a request last month to delay Keene's ex- ecution, said that it would schedule executions at least three weeks apart so public de- fenders will have more time to prepare clemency cases for inmates who wish to pursue them. Ohio has one execution a month scheduled through February.

Keene, 36, died at 10:36 a.m. "No, I have no words," he said when asked whether he had anything to say before the lethal chemicals were administered. Within a couple of minutes, he appeared to be unconscious. Seven witnesses for the victims silently watched the execution from a room near the death chamber. None spoke afterward. Outside, about 25 protestors sang "Amazing Grace" as the hearse carrying Keene's body drove away.

Keene and three accomplices went on a three-day murder and robbery rampage in Dayton that began on Christmas Eve, 1992. Victims included Sarah Abraham, 38, a convenience store clerk shot in the head after handing over $30 from a cash register, and Marvin Washington and Wendy Cottrill, two teenage acquaintances whom Keene feared would tell police about his crimes.

According to the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, Keene's was the 1,171st execution - and the 1,000th by injection - since the United States reinstated the death penalty. Ohio has executed 31 men since it reinstated the death penalty in 1999.

Defense attorneys have said Keene, who was 19 at the time of the slayings, was despondent over the shooting death of his brother a year earlier. At his trial, Keene also told a three-judge panel that a falling out with his father contributed to his troubled emotional state.

Keene's accomplices are serving life sentences.

 
 

ProDeathPenalty.com

Marvallous Keene, was sentenced to death for the aggravated murders of five victims. The offenses occurred on December 24 and 26, 1992.

In December 1992, Keene was consorting with a group of people, including several juveniles, who at various times stayed at Bill McIntire’s apartment at 159 Yuma Avenue, Dayton. This group included Laura Taylor, DeMarcus Smith, Nicholas Woodson, Heather N. Mathews, Wendy Cottrill, Marvin Washington, and Jeffrey Wright.

On December 24, 1992, Keene and Taylor enlisted Mathews to help them rob Joseph Wilkerson, an acquaintance of Taylor’s. Taylor told Mathews that she had arranged for the three of them to go to Wilkerson’s house on the pretext of having an orgy with Wilkerson. Mathews agreed to take part in the robbery. Keene, Taylor, and Mathews walked to Wilkerson’s house. After a drink, Wilkerson and Taylor went to the bedroom. After waiting briefly, Keene and Mathews followed them. Wilkerson began to take his clothes off. Taylor and Mathews pretended to do the same. Keene began to remove his own pants, then pulled them back up and drew a gun. He ordered Wilkerson onto the bed, then commanded Taylor and Mathews to tie Wilkerson’s hands to the bed. While Keene watched Wilkerson, Taylor and Mathews went through the house, looking for things to steal. They took a microwave oven, a TV, a cordless phone, a curling iron, and a blow dryer, which they loaded into Wilkerson’s Buick. Wilkerson told Keene that he kept a .32-caliber derringer in the garage. Keene found it and brought it back to the bedroom. Keene subsequently confessed that he shot Wilkerson in the chest with the derringer, after covering him with blankets to muffle the noise. Taylor and Mathews, hearing the shot, returned to the bedroom and saw Keene holding the derringer. Wilkerson’s feet were shaking. Keene handed the derringer to Taylor, but it would not fire again. So Keene gave Taylor his own gun, and Taylor shot Wilkerson in the head. Wilkerson stopped shaking. Keene and his accomplices then left in the Buick. Keene warned his accomplices not to tell Cottrill and Washington.

Later that evening, Keene, Taylor, and Smith went walking. Keene and Smith were carrying guns. Keene later confessed to police that, as they were walking, they saw Danita Gullette at a public telephone. Smith and Keene drew their guns, and Smith forced Gullette at gunpoint to take her shoes off. Smith and Keene then shot Gullette. Smith took her shoes and jacket. When they returned to the apartment, Taylor was wearing Gullette’s jacket and Smith was carrying Gullette’s shoes. Later that night, Smith shot Mathews’s boyfriend, Jeffrey Wright, outside 159 Yuma. Keene, Mathews, Taylor, and Smith then left in Wilkerson’s Buick. On December 25, Keene returned to Wilkerson’s house and stole more items, including Wilkerson’s other car, a Pontiac.

Also on December 25, Taylor robbed and murdered her former boyfriend, Richmond Maddox. Early in the morning of December 26, Mathews drove the Pontiac to a BP service station, where Keene and Smith stole Kathie Henderson’s car at gunpoint. Keene and Smith drove off in Henderson’s car; Mathews followed in the Pontiac. Later that morning, Mathews drove the Pontiac to the Short Stop Mini-Mart, with Keene, Smith, and Taylor in the car. Taylor went into the store, then came back to report that there were only two people inside. Mathews handed a .32-caliber revolver to Smith; Smith and Keene were also carrying .25-caliber automatic pistols. Keene and Smith went into the store. Sarah Abraham, whose family owned the store, was working behind the cash register. Keene ordered her at gunpoint to open it. Abraham did so and removed $40, which she handed to Keene. Keene shot Abraham in the head. Several days later, Abraham died of her wound. Smith also shot at two other people, Jones Pettus, a customer, wounding him, and Edward Thompson, a helper, both of whom survived and testified against Keene.

Later that day, Taylor and Mathews discussed "jumping" Cottrill because they "thought she was telling on us." According to Mathews’s testimony, there was no discussion of shooting her. However, in a subsequent conversation with Keene, Taylor, Mathews, and Woodson, Smith said that "he was going to unload a clip in [Marvin Washington’s] ass." According to Keene’s confession, Smith "thought that Wendy and Marvin were going to snitch about [Smith] shooting Jeff Wright." The group discussed picking Washington and Cottrill up and taking them "to a park or something." The group drove to 159 Yuma and picked up Washington and Cottrill. They dropped Woodson off at his home, then drove to a gravel pit. At the gravel pit, Smith ordered Washington out of the car, and Keene dragged Cottrill out. Washington and Cottrill protested that they had not gone to the police or "snitched." Keene and Smith forced them at gunpoint to walk behind a pile of gravel. There, Keene shot Cottrill, and Smith shot Washington.

The grand jury indicted Keene on eight counts of aggravated murder — two counts each for Wilkerson, Washington, and Cottrill; one count each for Gullette and Abraham. The Wilkerson counts each carried six death specifications (course of conduct, escaping detection, two aggravated robbery, two aggravated burglary). The Cottrill counts each carried four death specifications (course of conduct, witness-murder, two kidnapping). The Washington counts each carried three death specifications (course of conduct, witness murder, kidnapping). The Gullette and Abraham counts each carried two death specifications (course of conduct, aggravated robbery). The indictment also included six counts of aggravated robbery, one count of aggravated burglary, one count of burglary, two counts of kidnapping, and two counts of attempted aggravated murder. All counts carried a firearm specification.

Waiving a jury, Keene was tried to a three-judge panel, which found him guilty on all counts. The panel found four death specifications as to Wilkerson’s aggravated murder counts (course of conduct, escaping detection, aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary); however, the panel merged the "escaping detection" and felony-murder specifications. The panel found three death specifications on the Cottrill murder (course of conduct, kidnapping-principal offender, witness murder), three on the Washington murder (same), and two on the Gullette and Abraham murders (course of conduct, aggravated robbery). The Wilkerson, Washington, and Cottrill aggravated murder counts were merged so that only one remained for each victim, a total of five. After a mitigation hearing, the panel sentenced Keene to death on each of the five counts. The court of appeals affirmed.

 
 

Lethal injection execution: 1,000th since ’76

1992 Christmas rampage left six people dead and two wounded

Msnbc News

July 21, 2009

LUCASVILLE, Ohio - A man who went on a 1992 Christmas holiday killing spree that left six people dead, including an 18-year-old mother gunned down at a pay phone, was executed Tuesday, the 1,000th execution by lethal injection in the U.S. since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.

Marvallous Keene, 36, who was convicted in five of the murders, chose not to file a late appeal over his death sentence. He died by lethal injection at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville — seven days after Ohio's last execution. It was the fastest turnaround since the state executed two inmates in six days in 2004.

The European Union presidency, currently held by Sweden, released a statement noting the 1,000th lethal injection execution and calling on the U.S. to halt executions, pending the abolition of the death penalty. "The European Union is opposed to the use of capital punishment in all cases and under all circumstances," the statement said. "We believe that the abolition of the death penalty is essential to protect human dignity, and to the progressive development of human rights." The death penalty is abolished in the European Union, and the United Nations General Assembly has called upon all countries that use it to stop executions and end the practice.

More time between executions

The Ohio Supreme Court, in denying a request last month to delay Keene's execution, said it would schedule future executions at last three weeks apart so that public defenders will have more time to prepare clemency cases for inmates who wish to pursue it. Ohio has one execution scheduled per month through February 2010.

Keene and three accomplices went on a three-day murder and robbery rampage in Dayton that began on Christmas Eve 1992. Victims included Sarah Abraham, 38, a convenience store clerk shot in the head after handing over $30 from a cash register, and Marvin Washington and Wendy Cottrill, two teenage acquaintances who Keene feared would tell police about his crimes.

Cottrill's mother, Donna Cottrill, stood when Keene entered the death chamber, but he didn't acknowledge her or look directly at anyone as he lay on the gurney. When the prison warden asked Keene if he wanted to make a final statement, Keene replied, "No, I have no words." He stared at the ceiling, then closed his eyes. His chest slightly heaved as the drugs were administered.

Seven members of the victims' families who witnessed the execution declined to speak to reporters afterward, as did Keene's attorneys.

Didn't fight execution

According to the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, D.C., Keene's was the 1,171st execution — and the 1,000th by lethal injection — since the U.S. reinstated the death penalty in 1976. Keene did not fight his execution. At a June 17 clemency hearing, he directed his attorneys not to present evidence on his behalf, saying he didn't want to cause additional pain to his family or to the victims' families. Gov. Ted Strickland last week denied clemency for Keene, who didn't request it.

Defense attorneys have said Keene, who was 19 at the time of the slayings, was despondent over the death of his brother, who was shot and killed a year earlier. At his trial, Keene also told a three-judge panel that a falling out with his father contributed to his troubled emotional state.

Downtown Posse

Prosecutors described Keene as the ringleader of a group that called itself the Downtown Posse. The killings began with 34-year-old Joseph Wilkerson. Keene and his accomplices arrived at Wilkerson's home under the pretext of wanting to participate in an orgy, prosecutors said. They tied Wilkerson to his bed and ransacked the house, and when Keene found a .32-caliber handgun in the garage, he returned to the bedroom and shot Wilkerson twice.

Later Christmas Eve, Keene and accomplice DeMarcus Smith approached 18-year-old Danita Gullette at a pay phone, took her jacket and shoes and fatally shot the woman, prosecutors said. Gullette was the mother of a 2-year-old girl. Washington, 18, and Cottrill, 16, were acquaintances who sometimes stayed at Keene's apartment and observed Keene returning with stolen items, prosecutors said. They were shot and killed behind a gravel pit.

Keene's accomplices are serving life sentences.

Ohio has put 31 men to death since it reinstated the death penalty in 1999. John Fautenberry, 45, a former Oregon truck driver who went on a multistate killing spree in the early 1990s, was executed last week.

 
 

10 years after Dayton's worst murder spree

Dec. 29, 2002

DAYTON - It began with a sudden impulse for excitement and an itch for easy cash.

Before the Christmas weekend ended in 1992, six people would be dead and two others wounded, the bloodiest murder spree in Dayton's history.

And the ones who did it got little more than a few dollars, some jewelry and a pair of gym shoes.

Marvallous Keene, 20, and his 16-year-old girlfriend, Laura Taylor, had been inseparable for two weeks, ever since they got drunk and spent that first night together.

Now, two days before Christmas, they had used up their money for a night at a downtown hotel. Then Taylor came up with an idea. She knew a man on Prescott Avenue who had a job at General Motors, drove a nice car and always had money, especially for sexual favors. He would let them in his house and they could rob him.

Let's do it, Keene said. He packed up his few things, including two cheap .25-caliber automatic handguns, one nickel-plated, the other black.

The night of Dec. 23, 1992, was clear and in the bitter low 20s as the couple left the hotel. Without a car, they walked the mile over the river to 159 Yuma Place, an apartment in the Edgewood Court public housing complex where an older man named Bill ran a crack-cocaine den. "Bill's" was where the loosely connected gang that dubbed itself the Downtown Posse crashed and did drugs after a night of drinking and panhandling on Courthouse Square.

The nine youths were of different races, different backgrounds, but all were rebellious, at odds with their parents and shared the craving for a thrill.

Taylor, expelled from Meadowdale High School four months before, hadn't seen her parents in nearly three weeks. Keene, once a choir boy and regular churchgoer, had just returned to Dayton after 18 months with his father in Los Angeles. His mother had hoped the stay would help him overcome his rage at the murder of his brother, fatally shot during a foiled robbery attempt the previous year.

Taylor was 5 feet tall, with long straightened hair and a sweet, almost childlike face. Keene was big and flashy, with a box haircut and a penchant for jewelry. But he could be surprisingly polite, addressing those in authority with "yes, sir" and "no, sir."

From Bill's apartment, Taylor called the man on Prescott Avenue and promised him an orgy. Then she and Keene recruited 20-year-old Heather Nicole Matthews, just out of prison in October and reacquainting herself with crack cocaine.

Together, in the biting cold, the trio walked the three miles up Salem Avenue to 34-year-old Joseph W. Wilkerson's house in the 3300 block of Prescott Avenue. There, they robbed and killed their first victim.

On Christmas Eve morning, Matthews' boyfriend, 17-year-old DeMarcus Maurice Smith, joined the spree. Smith was wanted by police for parole violations. Another 48 hours would pass before the killers' trail was picked up.

And for the families of the victims and the investigators who labored to bring them to justice, Christmas would never feel the same.

Christmas Eve Dec. 24, 1992

At about 7 a.m., Keene, Taylor and Matthews drove Wilkerson's red Buick back to Bill's, unloaded the trunk and then slept at the apartment until noon. Then they got up, went downtown and spent the afternoon hanging out at Courthouse Square and the Arcade.

Later that evening, Taylor wanted to rob a trick. Keene and Smith drove her to Main Street, where she lured one and got into his car. Keene and Smith followed in the Buick. When the car stopped on Neal Avenue, Smith got out of the Buick and shot out the trick's back window, with Taylor still in the car.

The trick hightailed it for Main Street, over the bridge downtown and into the parking lot of Dayton police headquarters on Third Street.

Keene and Smith followed, but soon quit the chase. The two drove around for a while until Smith decided to look for Taylor. Keene left him out on Main Street. Smith was carrying his gun.

Eventually, Keene, Taylor and Smith all returned to Yuma Place, but left again that night in the Buick looking for another victim. They found one at a public pay phone.

A brutal and baffling scene

When dispatchers contacted members of the Dayton homicide squad at nearly 10:15 that night, Detective Doyle Burke was at his aunt's house for Christmas dinner; Detectives Wade and Tom Lawson - brothers who lived in Miamisburg - were with their families, and Sgt. Larry Grossnickle was at an evening service at the Happy Corner Church of the Brethren in Englewood.

The call was not unusual; squad members are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. ("We're like King Kwik - we never close," Burke said.) Christmas season was no exception.

The investigators found a brutal and baffling scene at 517 Neal Ave. Blood and shell casings - nine in all - lay spilled on the pavement near an open phone booth.

Uniformed officers told the homicide squad that 18-year-old Danita Gullette, who was on the phone when attacked, had been removed to Grandview Hospital, where she was pronounced dead soon after arrival.

Five bullets had pierced her body. Her shoes and her jacket were all that seemed missing.

Witnesses said they had seen two black males running from the scene into a long, dark red car.

"We had no idea why this lady was shot, or why so many shots were fired," said Wade Lawson, who would be named lead investigator.

"Sometimes on this job, you can look at the scene and get an idea of the `why,' '' Burke said. "But in some cases, and this is a good example, there is no why. There is just no reason whatever."

Unknown to investigators, Gullette was the gang's second victim. The first, Wilkerson, lay dead in his home on Prescott Avenue.

The squad queried witnesses and gathered evidence on Neal Avenue, including empty aluminum casings from nine .25-caliber Blazer bullets.

Blazer wasn't rare ammunition, but it was cheap and the casings couldn't be reloaded with new powder and a bullet, and then reused. Most people used it for target practice, not for killing.

Though seemingly unimportant at the time, the casings would supply the one thread that would tie together the long string of murders.

'We shot her! We shot her!'

Late that night, the apartment on Yuma was in party mode. Bill wasn't there, but most of the gang was, including Wendy Cottrill, 16, and her 18-year-old boyfriend, Marvin Washington.

Matthews was there, too, recovering from a fight with her old boyfriend, 28-year-old Jeffrey Wright, who had just stormed out.

Suddenly, Keene, Taylor and Smith came bursting in. Taylor was holding Gullette's bag and clothing.

"We shot her! We shot her!" she excitedly told Matthews. She and Smith went through her bag and clothing they had taken. They found 50 cents.

"Yeah, we laid her out," Smith bragged.

He put on Gullette's Fila gym shoes and discovered they fit. He kept them on.

Smith still had the black .25-caliber automatic that Keene had given him, and liked to flash it. Taylor now had a .32-caliber derringer stolen from Wilkerson's garage. The apartment on Yuma contained other items stolen from Wilkerson's home - including a portable color television and a microwave.

A half-hour before midnight, Wright returned to the apartment looking for Matthews. He dragged her by the hair to a bedroom. Smith followed and they battled over Matthews.

Smith chased Wright out of the upstairs apartment and fired at him as he raced across an open field. As Wright hit the ground and tried to play dead, Smith walked up and pulled the trigger on the automatic until the gun emptied.

Shot four times in the legs, Wright got up and ran for a neighbor's house, who helped him to the Fifth District police station on Salem Avenue. He would get treatment and survive.

The incident must have gotten Taylor thinking about one of her own former boyfriends, Richmond Maddox.

Maddox had money and a car.

Christmas Day, 1992

Having spent most of the night on the Gullette case, the homicide squad members caught some fitful daytime sleep and were trying to enjoy Christmas evening with their families - until dispatchers called at 8:50 p.m.

The Lawson brothers were the first to arrive at the scene in Dayton View, where a blue Chevy Caprice had smashed into a tree in front of a house at 2256 Benton Ave. The driver's body, a young black male, was slumped across the floor by the front seat.

Nothing had appeared suspicious to uniformed officers, but doctors at Good Samaritan Hospital found a .32-caliber bullet in the skull of the driver, 19-year-old Maddox.

The Lawsons and other investigators talked to neighbors and possible witnesses. One, John Scroggins, said he had emerged from his house soon after hearing the crash. He said he saw two black males standing next to the smashed car.

"He wrecked your car," the taller man said to the shorter, Scroggins recalled.

When Scroggins shouted at the men that he had called the police, the two calmly walked toward Salem Avenue. The men were Keene and Smith; Matthews picked them up in the Buick.

To the Lawsons and the other investigators, it was one more bizarre Christmas murder. And it didn't even hint at a link to the brutal killing of Gullette. This time, the killer had used .32-caliber ammunition, not .25-caliber.

And death was delivered with a single shot.

'I shot him in the head'

When Matthews picked up Taylor in the parking lot of a Salem Avenue shopping center, Taylor was agitated, trying to unjam her derringer. Matthews told her to calm down and tell her what happened.

"I shot him in the head," she said. "I shot him."

Taylor had lured Maddox from his parents' home by promising to go with him to a hotel. When Maddox noticed a car following, with Matthews, Keene and Smith inside, Taylor said they were her cousins just making sure she "got to the hotel safe."

But Maddox, suspicious, stopped for a minute on Benton Avenue, then hit the accelerator.

That's when Taylor put the derringer to his right temple and pulled the trigger.

Taylor threw open the passenger door and rolled out of the careening car just before it hit a tree. Her right leg injured from the jump, she ran limping all the way to Salem Avenue.

Dec. 26, 1992

After the shooting of Wright on Yuma Place late Christmas Eve, the gang changed its choice of hangout to elude the police. Now they gathered at the Kumler Avenue home of Sandra Pinson, the mother of another gang member, 16-year-old Deon, and the aunt of yet another, 17-year-old Nicholas Woodson.

The youths talked about ways to get quick cash, then took off in two cars, one following the other. But sometime between 1 and 2 a.m., the cars separated.

Riding in the Buick, Matthews, Taylor, Keene and Smith decided to drive to a bank on Salem Avenue and rob someone using the ATM machine.

After a long wait, a driver finally pulled up to the ATM, but suspicious of the other car in the lonely parking lot, drove away without taking money

The gang moved on, and pulled into a BP station on Salem Avenue, where they spotted a young woman pumping air into her tires.

Keene and Smith burst out of the car. Keene pulled his silver automatic and Smith said, "Shoot her."

The woman ran without shots being fired, and Keene and Smith got into her car, a black Dodge Shadow. Both cars returned to Kumler Avenue.

They still had no cash.

Keene and Smith decided they should rob a store.

Taylor chose the target: A little place on West Fifth Street, the Short Stop Mini Market, where just two people worked. It was isolated and easy. Matthews gave Smith her gun and drove the four of them there.

Taylor walked in first to case the place. The plan was, if she didn't come out after several minutes, it meant the coast was clear.

Taylor bought chewing gum, then walked to the back of the store and took out a Chilly Willy fruit juice from the refrigerator case. She asked how much the Chilly Willy was.

Sarah Abraham, the clerk behind the counter and the working mother of an 11-year-old girl, answered, "Thirty-five cents."

Taylor was a nickel short, so she went up to Jimmy Thompson, 71, a regular at the store who sometimes did errands for Abraham and her assistant, Jones Pettus. Thompson gladly gave the sweet-looking girl a nickel.

Then Keene and Smith entered the store.

Playing dead to live

After a long Christmas night working the Maddox case, the homicide squad was called out a third time at 8 a.m. - barely enough time for breakfast, shower and a shave.

The scene at the Short Stop Mini Mart was a frightening mess, especially behind the counter where Abraham had been shot. She had been removed to St. Elizabeth Medical Center, clinging to life with two bullet wounds, one through her mouth, the other into the top of her head. She would linger five days before she died.

The gang had fled with $44.

But this time detectives had two excellent witnesses. Pettus had been shot in the stomach but was still conscious. Thompson had escaped injury by faking a hit and slumping over the counter.

"We had good descriptions of both the suspects and the getaway car," Wade Lawson said.

It was a blue Pontiac Grand Am, the second of two cars stolen from Wilkerson, whom the squad still had no idea was dead. No one had reported him missing.

And the killers left an intriguing clue - the gunmen had used .25-caliber Blazer ammunition, the same caliber and brand that had killed Gullette. But until the shells had undergone ballistics tests, there was no way to be certain it was a match.

As more witnesses were interviewed, the killers' descriptions began to overlap.

Burke left the Short Stop with a nagging feeling they would be hearing from the same shooters again.

'We didn't snitch'

Back at Kumler Avenue, Keene and Smith were getting scared. Too many people now knew too much, and any one of them could snitch to police.

Keene and Smith moved the blue Grand Am to Catalpa Drive, the next street over from Kumler, then switched license plates between the stolen Dodge Shadow and Wilkerson's car to try to throw off police.

But Smith still didn't feel safe, especially from Cottrill and her boyfriend, Washington. "We ought to unload a clip in Marvin. . ." Smith said. He was convinced that Washington had told police he had shot Wright, Matthews' old boyfriend.

Five gang members - Keene, Smith, Taylor, Matthews and now Nick Woodson - then crammed into the black Shadow and drove to Bill's at Yuma Place. There they invited Cottrill and Washington to drive around and get something to drink.

Behind Keene, who was driving, sat Woodson, with Cottrill in the middle sitting on Washington's lap and Taylor by the door. Cottrill was pregnant with Washington's child.

They drove first to a liquor drive-through, and passed the drinks around the car.

Keene soon decided to visit his brother's grave, and drove them over to the cemetery on Germantown Street.

Woodson, who sensed what would happen next, asked to be taken home. Keene dropped him off on Limestone Avenue and the remaining six drove around until Keene happened to see an open gate at a city gravel storage area off Richley Drive. Keene pulled through the gate and stopped the car.

Keene got out and drank some Wild Irish Rose. Then Smith got out and drank his Thunderbird.

Keene told Cottrill to get out of the car. Smith told Washington to do the same.

Keene pulled his gun first, then Smith.

"We didn't snitch," Cottrill pleaded. "We didn't snitch."

'Can you come in and talk?'

Tipsters' calls were flooding into the downtown homicide office by that afternoon. Grossnickle, who like the rest of the squad hadn't had a decent night's sleep in three days, was going through a mountain of paperwork for the Abraham case when dispatch sent through a call from a man named Nick Woodson.

After years of investigating homicides, Grossnickle had developed an instinct about good tipsters: "Sometimes, when you talk to people, there's just more clarity to their voice. You know what I mean? This guy, I could tell he was in trouble, and he knew it."

"What have you got for me?" Grossnickle asked.

Woodson said he was very scared of some people who were trying to get him to help rob and kill people.

"Can you come in and talk?" Grossnickle asked.

Woodson said he couldn't.

Grossnickle took the information over the phone.

Woodson, it turned out, was for real. He confirmed much of what the investigators already knew, and added more.

He gave Grossnickle the full name of DeMarcus Smith and Matthew's first name, Heather, but could only describe Keene and Taylor. He also said the gang had been driving several cars in the past few days - a red Buick, a blue Grand Am and a black Dodge Shadow. Woodson said he knew where there was yet another body - a white man in a home off Salem Avenue.

The gang had taken Woodson there to party while the man lay dead.

Grossnickle told Woodson that, for his own safety, officers would bring him downtown for further questioning.

"You'd better be quick about it," Woodson said.

Grossnickle dispatched the Lawson brothers, who were on Fifth Street finishing interviews in the Abraham case.

When the Lawsons got to Woodson's home on Limestone Avenue, Woodson already had left for the downtown police station. But a neighbor of Woodson's was talking.

Just before leaving, Woodson had told the woman he was afraid some killers were coming to pick him up, most likely in a black Dodge Shadow.

Dispatchers spread the information to patrol units, with a reminder to use caution - the four suspects in the car were clearly armed and dangerous.

'Suspect vehicle on the move'

In his downtime, Sgt. John Huber liked to drive his cruiser along the streets of his northwest Dayton beat, checking on businesses and homes and keeping an eye out for trouble and stolen cars.

At about 2:45 p.m. the day after Christmas, Huber was driving along Cornell Drive when he glanced south down Kumler Avenue and saw something that caught his eye - a black Dodge Shadow he had never seen in the neighborhood before.

The car was in front of 726 Kumler. Huber called in license number - FKO 727 - to see if it belonged to the stolen Shadow. A check showed the plate belonged to a blue 1989 Pontiac Grand Am - registered to Wilkerson. Huber, then a 16-year veteran of the streets, quickly realized the suspects had switched the plates.

He turned down an alley in front of the Shadow, where he intended to turn around and keep an eye on the car. But at the end of the alley, he stumbled on another find - a blue 1989 Grand Am with no rear plate.

Huber got out, checked the front license plate - FMB18 - and recognized it as that of the stolen Shadow reported early that day.

Huber radioed the information to dispatchers and called for more crews to assist in surveillance.

He was in the alley when he saw the black Dodge Shadow take off.

Huber called on his hand radio as he raced to his cruiser: "Suspect vehicle on the move. Repeat, suspect vehicle moving."

When Huber reached Kumler in his cruiser, he was surprised to find the Shadow had traveled just two blocks. Moments later, the car stopped and one of the four suspects got out and ran. Unknown to Huber, it was Smith, fleeing back to the Pinsons' house on Kumler Avenue.

Huber focused on the Shadow and the other three suspects.

By the time the Shadow turned east on Riverview Avenue, backup units were closing in. Huber turned on his emergency lights. At the same time, the Lawson brothers, in the area to pick up Woodson, were traveling west on Riverview. They blocked the Shadow with their unmarked car.

The Shadow stopped. Huber jumped from his cruiser with his gun drawn, careful to stand behind his door.

An unmarked police van pulled up beside Huber. Three plainclothes officers with riot shotguns emerged from its side door. Three more backup units pulled up behind Huber.

Every officer had his gun pointed at the Shadow. Shouts of "Get out of the car!" ricocheted through the air.

The suspects came out slowly and peaceably.

They found Keene's .25-caliber, nickel-plated handgun under the driver's seat.

One of Wendy Cottrill's delicate gold necklaces was around Keene's neck. He was wearing Danita Gullette's red-and-white plaid jacket. In his pocket was a commemorative pocket knife that matched knives Wilkerson gave to his male relatives.

Soon, a woman told Detective Terry Pearson where the man who fled from the car had gone - the Pinson address on Kumler.

Gym shoes and traffic tickets

Pearson and Detective Frank Nankivell arrived at the Kumler address and asked Sandra Pinson if they could come in. She said fine.

Pearson asked if anyone else was home.

"No," Pinson said.

But the detectives heard steps. Coming downstairs was a young black male wearing a pair of green slacks, no shirt, no shoes.

"Who are you?" Pearson asked.

"Deon," he said. "I live here."

Sandra Pinson said nothing.

"Could we check the rest of the house?"

Sandra Pinson said they could.

Upstairs, they found Earl Strickland, Sandra Pinson's boyfriend. Strickland told the officers that the man in the green pants was not Sandra Pinson's son, Deon, but the person they were looking for.

Pearson and Nankivell arrested the young man, whom they later learned was Smith. Before they took him to headquarters, the detectives had him get his clothes out of the bedroom closet. Among the items there were Gullette's Fila gym shoes.

Sandra Pinson told the detectives that the gang had been living in her home the last few days. She and Strickland had been too afraid even to come downstairs because they all had guns.

She said that her son, Deon, had been arrested on traffic violations with a stolen car given him by Keene - a red 1974 Buick.

Sandra Pinson showed them her son's traffic tickets.

Pearson called in the registration on the stolen car. It belonged to Joseph W. Wilkerson, in the 3300 block of Prescott Avenue.

Culmination

Police converged on Wilkerson's home at about 3 p.m., and found no signs of forced entry. But the door was unlocked and no one was answering.

In the living room, they saw furniture overturned and items scattered. A TV set appeared to be missing, dust on an empty stand the only clue. The kitchen in the back was an even bigger mess: Cabinets open, their contents spilled. Silverware, magazines and coins were strewn about. A small microwave appeared to be missing from its niche.

Room after room had been ransacked.

In the back bedroom, Wilkerson's body lay on the bed in the middle of the room. Arms spread-eagled, his wrists were tied to bedposts with electrical cord, his face and chest covered with bloody quilts. He had apparent gunshot wounds to the right eye, another to the left chest.

In the bed's tangled sheets, Burke found what he had feared - an aluminum casing for a .25-caliber Blazer bullet.

"That was the culmination of everything," Burke said. "We realized what we had been dealing with all along."

'A cold-hearted girl'

The four suspects, now in custody downtown, were interrogated in separate rooms.

Keene, Smith and Matthews volunteered nearly everything - "nearly" because no one mentioned what had happened to Cottrill and Washington at the city gravel storage area.

Then again, the investigators, who knew nothing of those murders, hadn't asked.

Keene was cooperative, even respectful, answering "yes, sir" and "no, sir" - a throwback, perhaps, to his choirboy days.

"It was hard to believe, with his demeanor, that he was responsible for these murders," Wade Lawson said.

Matthews, who had never pulled a trigger but often drove the getaway car, gave the most complete statement to avoid a death sentence.

But Taylor, tight-mouthed and defiant, wanted a lawyer.

"None of them showed any remorse, but at least with the other three you got the impression that they realized the consequences of their actions," Burke said. "But Laura (Taylor) couldn't have cared less - or at least it seemed to me."

"A cold-hearted girl," Wade Lawson called Taylor.

It had been Taylor's idea to rob the Short Stop Mini-Mart, police interviews would disclose. She didn't shoot anyone there, but she had cased the place for Keene and Smith.

It had been Taylor's idea to entice Wilkerson with sex, then rob him in his home. After Keene shot Wilkerson in the chest, Taylor finished him with a second shot to his head, using the derringer she found in his home.

It had been Taylor's idea to rob and kill her old boyfriend, Richmond Maddox. She used the same derringer to put a bullet in his head.

Perhaps most cold-blooded of all, Keene said Taylor had watched as he put a gun into the mouth of her friend, Cottrill, and fired.

But because of her age and her sex, and perhaps her petite size, local civil rights activists viewed Taylor as an unwilling accomplice. They pressed for her release, and she was transferred to the youth detention center.

There she was counseled by the Rev. William Head, chief investigator of the Dayton branch of the NAACP.

Soon after, Head would supply police with a final word to complete the grisly case.

Dec. 27, 1992

At 4:45 p.m., Burke with his family in North Dayton, sitting down to Christmas dinner, two days late. He felt good that the four suspects were off the streets.

Then the phone rang. When he heard the Rev. Head had paged him, his heart sank. The reverend never bothered him at home unless it was urgent.

Two more bodies, Head said.

At about 5:30 p.m., investigators gathered at the city gravel storage area south of Richley Drive. It was in a woods across the street from Louise Troy School. The gate to the complex was open.

Just beyond a large pile of dirt and gravel, two bodies lay.

Cottrill had been shot in the mouth and through the ear. Her shoes were missing. She was on her back, her coat open and the inside pockets pulled out. Above her head, a foot away, were three spent .25-caliber Blazer casings.

Eight feet away was Washington's body, also on his back, shot several times in his side and in the head. Seven .25-caliber casings silhouetted his body.

Cottrill's mother identified her from a photograph. She hadn't seen her 16-year-old daughter in three weeks.

Postscript

Keene, Taylor, Matthews and Smith were convicted of murder. The trial and sentencing went smoothly, thanks to a strong investigation and willing witnesses.

Barring a miracle, none of the four will ever see the outside of a jail cell.

Taylor and Matthews are in the Ohio Reformatory for Women in Marysville. Taylor will be eligible for parole in 2098, Matthews in 2132. Smith, at the Mansfield Correctional Institute, won't be up for parole until 2123.

Keene is on death row at Mansfield.

Grossnickle called the investigation "a great one," in part because "of all the information we got from citizens."

A great investigation, but the worst crime the investigators have seen in their careers.

Some might argue the dubious honor belongs to Samuel Moreland, convicted in one of Dayton's bloodiest mass murders after he killed two women and three children in a South Ardmore Avenue home in 1985.

"But that was a one-time act," Grossnickle said. "He didn't have time to think about it the next day, and then kill another one, and think about it the next day and kill another, and on and on."

Alton Coleman, another killer, comes to mind, Burke said. He and his girlfriend, Debra Denise Brown, killed least seven people in Ohio and Indiana during a multistate rampage of rape, robbery and murder in 1984.

They assaulted two couples in Dayton but killed no one here.

But the Christmas killers in Dayton did it clearly for the thrill. And when it seemed their own friends might turn them in, they killed them without mercy.

"This was a game. This was for fun," Burke said. "They had taken these people's lives just the way we swat a fly. They wanted the violence, and everything else seemed secondary." Grossnickle, 56, retired as head of the homicide squad six years ago, soon after his own son, 25-year-old Officer Jason Grossnickle, was shot and killed in the line of duty in 1996.

Grossnickle feels all four gang members deserve the death penalty. But he also realizes that no punishment can bring back the victims or satisfy their loved ones.

"I realize how hard it is for these people to go on," he said.

Daytondailynews.com

 
 

The State of Ohio, Appellee, v . Keene, Appellant.

(No. 96-2455 — Submitted January 21, 1998 — Decided May 13, 1998.)

Appeal from the Court of Appeals for Montgomery County, No. 14375.

Defendant-appellant, Marvallous Keene, was sentenced to death for the aggravated murders of five victims. The offenses occurred on December 24 and 26, 1992. He appeals his convictions and death sentences.

In December 1992, appellant was consorting with a group of people, including several juveniles, who at various times stayed at Bill McIntire’s apartment at 159 Yuma Avenue, Dayton. This group included Laura Taylor, DeMarcus Smith, Nicholas Woodson, Heather N. Mathews, Wendy Cottrill, Marvin Washington, and Jeffrey Wright.

On December 24, 1992, appellant and Taylor enlisted Mathews to help them rob Joseph Wilkerson, an acquaintance of Taylor’s. Taylor told Mathews that she had arranged for the three of them to go to Wilkerson’s house on the pretext of having an orgy with Wilkerson. Mathews agreed to take part in the robbery.

Appellant, Taylor, and Mathews walked to Wilkerson’s house. After a drink, Wilkerson and Taylor went to the bedroom. After waiting briefly, appellant and Mathews followed them. Wilkerson began to take his clothes off. Taylor and Mathews pretended to do the same.

Appellant began to remove his own pants, then pulled them back up and drew a gun. He ordered Wilkerson onto the bed, then commanded Taylor and Mathews to tie Wilkerson’s hands to the bed.

While appellant watched Wilkerson, Taylor and Mathews went through the house, looking for things to steal. They took a microwave oven, a TV, a cordless phone, a curling iron, and a blow dryer, which they loaded into Wilkerson’s Buick. Wilkerson told appellant that he kept a .32-caliber derringer in the garage. Appellant found it and brought it back to the bedroom.

Appellant subsequently confessed that he shot Wilkerson in the chest with the derringer, after covering him with blankets to muffle the noise.

Taylor and Mathews, hearing the shot, returned to the bedroom and saw appellant holding the derringer. Wilkerson’s feet were shaking. Appellant handed the derringer to Taylor, but it would not fire again. So appellant gave Taylor his own gun, and Taylor shot Wilkerson in the head. Wilkerson stopped shaking. Appellant and his accomplices then left in the Buick. Appellant warned his accomplices not to tell Cottrill and Washington.

Later that evening, appellant, Taylor, and Smith went walking. Appellant and Smith were carrying guns. Appellant later confessed to police that, as they were walking, they saw Danita Gullette at a public telephone. Smith and appellant drew their guns, and Smith forced Gullette at gunpoint to take her shoes off. Smith and appellant then shot Gullette. Smith took her shoes and jacket. When they returned to the apartment, Taylor was wearing Gullette’s jacket and Smith was carrying Gullette’s shoes.

Later that night, Smith shot Mathews’s boyfriend, Jeffrey Wright, outside 159 Yuma. Appellant, Mathews, Taylor, and Smith then left in Wilkerson’s Buick.

On December 25, appellant returned to Wilkerson’s house and stole more items, including Wilkerson’s other car, a Pontiac. Also on December 25, Taylor robbed and murdered her former boyfriend, Richmond Maddox.

Early in the morning of December 26, Mathews drove the Pontiac to a BP service station, where appellant and Smith stole Kathie Henderson’s car at gunpoint. Appellant and Smith drove off in Henderson’s car; Mathews followed in the Pontiac.

Later that morning, Mathews drove the Pontiac to the Short Stop Mini-Mart, with appellant, Smith, and Taylor in the car. Taylor went into the store, then came back to report that there were only two people inside. Mathews handed a .32-caliber revolver to Smith; Smith and appellant were also carrying .25-caliber automatic pistols. Appellant and Smith went into the store.

Sarah Abraham, whose family owned the store, was working behind the cash register. Appellant ordered her at gunpoint to open it. Abraham did so and removed $40, which she handed to appellant. Appellant shot Abraham in the head. Several days later, Abraham died of her wound. Smith also shot at two other people, Jones Pettus, a customer, wounding him, and Edward Thompson, a helper, both of whom survived and testified against appellant.

Later that day, Taylor and Mathews discussed "jumping" Cottrill because they "thought she was telling on us." According to Mathews’s testimony, there was no discussion of shooting her. However, in a subsequent conversation with appellant, Taylor, Mathews, and Woodson, Smith said that "he was going to unload a clip in [Marvin Washington’s] ass." According to appellant’s confession, Smith "thought that Wendy and Marvin were going to snitch about [Smith] shooting Jeff Wright." The group discussed picking Washington and Cottrill up and taking them "to a park or something."

The group drove to 159 Yuma and picked up Washington and Cottrill. They dropped Woodson off at his home, then drove to a gravel pit. At the gravel pit, Smith ordered Washington out of the car, and appellant dragged Cottrill out. Washington and Cottrill protested that they had not gone to the police or "snitched." Appellant and Smith forced them at gunpoint to walk behind a pile of gravel. There, appellant shot Cottrill, and Smith shot Washington.

The grand jury indicted appellant on eight counts of aggravated murder — two counts each for Wilkerson, Washington, and Cottrill; one count each for Gullette and Abraham. The Wilkerson counts each carried six death specifications (course of conduct, escaping detection, two aggravated robbery, two aggravated burglary). The Cottrill counts each carried four death specifications (course of conduct, witness-murder, two kidnapping). The Washington counts each carried three death specifications (course of conduct, witness murder, kidnapping). The Gullette and Abraham counts each carried two death specifications (course of conduct, aggravated robbery).

The indictment also included six counts of aggravated robbery, one count of aggravated burglary, one count of burglary, two counts of kidnapping, and two counts of attempted aggravated murder. All counts carried a firearm specification.

Waiving a jury, appellant was tried to a three-judge panel, which found him guilty on all counts. The panel found four death specifications as to Wilkerson’s aggravated murder counts (course of conduct, escaping detection, aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary); however, the panel merged the "escaping detection" and felony-murder specifications.

The panel found three death specifications on the Cottrill murder (course of conduct, kidnapping-principal offender, witness murder), three on the Washington murder (same), and two on the Gullette and Abraham murders (course of conduct, aggravated robbery). The Wilkerson, Washington, and Cottrill aggravated murder counts were merged so that only one remained for each victim, a total of five. After a mitigation hearing, the panel sentenced appellant to death on each of the five counts. The court of appeals affirmed.

ALICE ROBIE RESNICK, Justice.

Alice Robie Resnick, J. R.C. 2929.05(A) requires us to undertake a three-part analysis of capital cases. First, we must review the specific issues raised by the appellant with respect to the proceedings below “in the same manner that [we] review other criminal cases.” Second, we must independently weigh the aggravating circumstances found by the trier of fact against the mitigating factors existing in the case. Finally, we must consider whether the sentence of death is disproportionate to penalties imposed in similar cases.

In this appeal, appellant raises twenty-six propositions of law. Finding that none of these claims affords a basis for reversing appellant's convictions or sentences, we overrule all twenty-six propositions of law. We have also independently reviewed appellant's death sentences, as required by R.C. 2929.05(A). As a result, we affirm the death sentences imposed herein.

I Discriminatory Prosecution

Appellant filed a motion in the trial court to dismiss the death specifications from the indictment for “discriminatory enforcement.” Appellant claimed that the Montgomery County Prosecuting Attorney discriminates against black defendants in exercising his discretion to seek the death penalty. The trial court denied the motion to dismiss, and also denied appellant's requests for discovery and an evidentiary hearing on his discriminatory-prosecution claim.

In his first proposition of law, appellant claims that the trial court should have afforded discovery and a hearing on his discriminatory-prosecution claim. He relies on both Crim.R. 16 and federal constitutional law. We begin by analyzing his Crim.R. 16 claim.

Crim.R. 16(B)(1)(f) requires the prosecutor to disclose “all evidence * * * favorable to the defendant and material either to guilt or punishment.” According to appellant, evidence that the prosecuting attorney has discriminated against black defendants in seeking the death penalty would be both “favorable” to him and “material to * * * punishment.” Such evidence, appellant contends, would be “favorable” because it would support his claim of discriminatory prosecution. And it would be “material to * * * punishment,” he contends, because it has to do with the prosecuting attorney's charging practices in seeking the death penalty. Appellant therefore contends that any evidence in the prosecutor's possession that supports his claim of discrimination is discoverable under Crim.R. 16(B)(1)(f).

However, the history of the rule's language, “favorable to the defendant and material to guilt or punishment,” suggests a different interpretation. That phrase comes directly from Brady v. Maryland (1963), 373 U.S. 83, 87, 83 S.Ct. 1194, 1196-1197, 10 L.Ed.2d 215, 218, which requires the state to disclose “evidence favorable to an accused * * * where the evidence is material either to guilt or to punishment.” We therefore conclude that the terms “favorable” and “material” in Crim.R. 16(B)(1)(f) have the same meaning as they do in Brady and its progeny.

Under Brady, “evidence favorable to an accused [and] * * * material either to guilt or to punishment” is generally construed to encompass only exculpatory, mitigating, and impeachment evidence. “Thus the principles of Brady do not apply unless the evidence is material to mitigation, exculpation or impeachment.” Calley v. Callaway (C.A.5, 1975), 519 F.2d 184, 221.

Appellant's selective-prosecution claim does not fall within those categories. “A selective-prosecution claim is not a defense on the merits to the criminal charge itself, but an independent assertion that the prosecutor has brought the charge for reasons forbidden by the Constitution.” United States v. Armstrong (1996), 517 U.S. 456, 463, 116 S.Ct. 1480, 1486, 134 L.Ed.2d 687, 689. Similarly, appellant's selective-prosecution claim is not a “defense on the merits” to the death penalty; that is, the claim goes neither to appellant's eligibility for the death penalty nor to whether his offenses merit death. Instead, his claim is that the death penalty may not be applied because the prosecutor sought it “for reasons forbidden by the Constitution.” Id.

We conclude that evidence relevant to a selective-prosecution claim is not “favorable to an accused [and] * * * material either to guilt or to punishment” within the meaning of Brady and Crim.R. 16(B)(1)(f); therefore, such evidence is not discoverable under the rule.

Having rejected appellant's state-law claim, we must assess appellant's claim that the trial judge had a constitutional obligation to allow discovery.

In United States v. Armstrong, the court held that a defendant, in order to obtain discovery on a selective-prosecution claim, must “produce some evidence that similarly situated defendants of other races could have been prosecuted, but were not * * *.” FN1 517 U.S. at 469, 116 S.Ct. at 1488, 134 L.Ed.2d at 701. The standard is deliberately “rigorous,” 517 U.S. at 468, 116 S.Ct. at 1488, 134 L.Ed.2d at 701, because “the showing necessary to obtain discovery should itself be a significant barrier to the litigation of insubstantial claims.” Id. at 464, 116 S.Ct. at 1486, 134 L.Ed.2d at 698.

FN1. Armstrong does not expressly state that the right to discovery on a claim of racially discriminatory prosecution is grounded in the Constitution (and hence applicable to state as well as federal prosecutions). However, the parties to this case have proceeded on the assumption that the discovery right is constitutionally grounded. We think that assumption correct, since the discovery right outlined in Armstrong derives from, and is meant to enforce, the Fourteenth Amendment's prohibition of racially discriminatory prosecutions.

Appellant failed to produce some evidence that similarly situated defendants could have been prosecuted but were not.

Appellant points to the treatment of his white co-defendant, Mathews. Mathews was indicted with death specifications, but the prosecutor dropped the specifications in exchange for Mathews's testimony against appellant. Why, appellant asks, did the prosecutor not bargain with him and seek the death penalty for Mathews?

Appellant was the triggerman in four of the five aggravated murders involved here. Mathews was charged with only two of these murders. In neither case did Mathews pull the trigger. Indeed, the record discloses no clear evidence that Mathews actually intended the deaths of Wilkerson and Abraham. Mathews, therefore, is not a “similarly situated” defendant.

Appellant also cites the case of three white defendants who went on what appellant describes as a killing spree involving the robbery, burglary, and murder of two victims. Appellant alleges that “the same” death specifications could have been lodged, yet the Montgomery County Prosecutor did not seek the death penalty. However, the state contends that the evidence against these defendants was significantly weaker than the evidence against appellant. Two of the defendants received plea bargains and testified against the third; in spite of this, the third defendant was acquitted of one of the two murders.

Appellant claims that sixty-four percent of capital indictments in Montgomery County since 1981 have been lodged against black defendants, while the county's population was only seventeen percent black. However, as the court of appeals noted, this statistic creates no inference of discrimination by itself. Appellant did not show the percentage of black and white defendants in potentially capital cases who were indicted without capital specifications. Without that, there can be no meaningful comparison.

Appellant's contrary argument appears to rest on a presumption that, if seventeen percent of the county's population is black, then blacks must have committed about seventeen (or, at any rate, substantially less than sixty-four) percent of potentially capital crimes. Appellant argues that even to question that presumption would constitute forbidden racial stereotyping. However, that cannot be correct, for the Armstrong court itself rejected a presumption “ ‘that people of all races commit all types of crimes.’ ” (Emphasis sic.) 517 U.S. at 469, 116 S.Ct. at 1488, 134 L.Ed.2d at 701, quoting United States v. Armstrong (C.A. 9, 1995), 48 F.3d 1508, 1516-1517.

In any event, statistical evidence does not satisfy Armstrong' s requirement that the defendant identify similarly situated defendants who could have been prosecuted, but were not. “[T]he general rule [is] that in cases involving discretionary judgments ‘essential to the criminal justice process,’ statistical evidence of racial disparity is insufficient to infer that prosecutors in a particular case acted with a discriminatory purpose.” United States v. Olvis (C.A.4, 1996), 97 F.3d 739, 746, quoting McCleskey v. Kemp (1987), 481 U.S. 279, 297, 107 S.Ct. 1756, 1769-1770, 95 L.Ed.2d 262, 281. The state has no duty to explain such a statistical disparity. Olvis, 97 F.3d at 746.

Appellant also points out that the Montgomery County Prosecuting Attorney has never obtained a death sentence against a white defendant. This is quite irrelevant, however, since appellant claims discrimination in charging practices.

We conclude that appellant failed to show “some evidence” that similarly situated defendants of other races could have been charged with death penalty specifications but were not. Therefore, he did not establish a constitutional right to discovery on his claim.

Appellant also claims that he was entitled to an evidentiary hearing on his due-process claim. Again, he raises both a federal constitutional claim and a state-law claim.

Citing United States v. Hazel (C.A.6, 1983), 696 F.2d 473, 475, appellant contends that due process entitled him to a hearing because he presented sufficient facts to raise a reasonable doubt as to the prosecutor's purpose. However, for the same reasons that he was not entitled to discovery, he was not entitled to a hearing. The facts he presented do not raise a reasonable doubt as to the prosecutor's purpose.

Appellant further argues that Ohio law entitles a defendant to a hearing on any pretrial motion that “states the motion's legal and factual bases with sufficient particularity to place the prosecutor and the court on notice of the issues to be decided.” For this assertion, he cites Crim.R. 12(B) and State v. Shindler (1994), 70 Ohio St.3d 54, 636 N.E.2d 319, syllabus.

However, Shindler involved a motion to suppress evidence found in a warrantless search. In that situation, the prosecutor bore the burden of proving the legality of the search. With a selective-prosecution claim the burden is upon the defendant; the prosecutor is presumed not to have discriminated. “In order to dispel [that] presumption * * *, a criminal defendant must present ‘clear evidence to the contrary.’ ” Armstrong, 517 U.S. at 465, 116 S.Ct. at 1486, 134 L.Ed.2d at 698-699, quoting United States v. Chem. Found., Inc. (1926), 272 U.S. 1, 14-15, 47 S.Ct. 1, 6, 71 L.Ed. 131, 143. We agree with the court of appeals that Shindler is distinguishable. Appellant's first proposition of law is overruled.

In his fourteenth proposition of law, appellant argues that the evidence he submitted was by itself enough to show racial bias on the part of the county prosecutor. Therefore, he argues, his convictions should be reversed.FN2 Yet, appellant candidly admits that he “did not prove that the prosecutor purposefully intended to discriminate against him. Therefore, he has not met the burden for this type of claim as enunciated in McCleskey v. Kemp * * * .”

FN2. Presumably, appellant means his death sentences should be reversed; he makes no claim that the prosecutor's decision to prosecute him in the first place was tainted by discrimination.

This concession would seem fatal to appellant's claim. However, appellant argues that-despite McCleskey-he was not required to prove purposeful discrimination against him.

First, he argues that the state, by successfully opposing his motion for discovery and a hearing, made it impossible to establish discriminatory purpose. Thus, he argues, the prosecutor “waived the McCleskey requirements.” But we can see no sense in penalizing the prosecutor for successfully opposing appellant's motion.

Next, appellant tries to distinguish McCleskey on its facts. But the requirement of proving purposeful discrimination was not a novel creation of the McCleskey court and cannot be limited to the specific facts of McCleskey. Rather, it is a basic and generally applicable principle of Fourteenth Amendment equal protection analysis that a party claiming an equal protection violation has the burden of proving purposeful discrimination. McCleskey, 481 U.S. at 292, 107 S.Ct. at 1767, 95 L.Ed.2d at 278, quoting Whitus v. Georgia (1967), 385 U.S. 545, 550, 87 S.Ct. 643, 646, 17 L.Ed.2d 599, 603-604. See, also, Armstrong, 517 U.S. at 465, 116 S.Ct. at 1487, 134 L.Ed.2d at 699, quoting Wayte v. United States (1985), 470 U.S. 598, 608, 105 S.Ct. 1524, 1531, 84 L.Ed.2d 547, 556.

Finally, appellant argues that we should construe the Ohio Constitution to require a finding of racially biased charging decisions in capital cases “upon a showing of disparate impact, without a need to prove the prosecutor's subjective intent.” But appellant offers no textual analysis of the state constitutional provisions he purports to rely upon (Ohio Constitution, Article I, Sections 1, 9, 10, 16, and 20), cites no precedent construing those provisions as he suggests, and states no reason why we should so construe them.

Appellant concedes that he has not met his burden of proving that the prosecutor purposely discriminated against him in charging him with capital offenses, and he offers no persuasive reason to relieve him of this burden. We therefore overrule his fourteenth proposition of law.

II Evidentiary Sufficiency

In his sixth proposition of law, appellant contends that the state failed to adduce sufficient evidence to prove his guilt of certain death specifications.

A. Wendy Cottrill-Marvin Washington

Counts Sixteen, Seventeen, Nineteen, and Twenty charged appellant with the aggravated murders of Cottrill and Washington. Each count carried a death specification under R.C. 2929.04(A)(8), charging that appellant murdered the victims “to prevent [their] testimony in any criminal proceeding.” Appellant claims that the state failed to prove the (A)(8) specifications. However, his claim is based on a patent misreading of R.C. 2929.04(A)(8).

Under R.C. 2929.04(A)(8), it is an aggravating circumstance that “[t]he victim * * * was a witness to an offense who was purposely killed to prevent his testimony in any criminal proceeding * * * or * * * in retaliation for his testimony in any criminal proceeding.” (Emphasis added.)

The state's evidence showed that appellant murdered Cottrill and Washington because they had seen Smith shoot Wright. However, appellant claims that, if he killed the victims to prevent their testimony against Smith, the (A)(8) specification does not apply. According to appellant, the specification would apply only if he killed them to prevent them from testifying against appellant.

Appellant's argument is inconsistent with the plain language of the statute. R.C. 2929.04(A)(8) says “ any criminal proceeding.” No language limits it to cases where the victim witnessed a crime committed by his killer. Nor would such a limitation make sense: appellant's reading of R.C. 2929.04(A)(8) would shield an organized-crime assassin who murdered witnesses to protect his fellow gangsters.

Appellant argues, “Under the State's logic, anyone could be charged with a capital specification as long as the individual they [ sic ] murdered, at one time, was a witness to a crime.” That is incorrect. The (A)(8) specification applies only where the murder was committed “ to prevent [the victim's] testimony * * * or * * * in retaliation for his testimony.” (Emphasis added.)

The state adduced sufficient evidence to permit a finding that appellant killed Cottrill and Washington to prevent them from testifying against Smith. Therefore, the evidence supports appellant's conviction on the (A)(8) specifications.

B. Joseph Wilkerson

Appellant contends that he was not proven to be the principal offender in this murder because the coroner did not testify that his bullet caused Wilkerson's death. Appellant appears to assume that the state had to prove appellant's bullet was the sole cause of death. We disagree. We have said that “principal offender” means “the actual killer.” State v. Penix (1987), 32 Ohio St.3d 369, 371, 513 N.E.2d 744, 746. However, we have never held that it means “the sole offender.” There can be more than one actual killer-and thus more than one principal offender-in an aggravated murder. See State v. Joseph (1995), 73 Ohio St.3d 450, 469, 653 N.E.2d 285, 300 (Moyer, C.J., dissenting in part and concurring in part).

The coroner testified that Wilkerson died of multiple gunshot wounds and that appellant's shot to Wilkerson's heart would by itself have killed Wilkerson. Thus, the fact that Taylor finished Wilkerson off does not alter appellant's role as a principal offender.

C. Danita Gullette

Some evidence indicates that the shots fired by appellant in this killing may not have been fatal by themselves. Appellant said in his confession that he fired “not that many” shots at Gullette. The two bullets recovered from Gullette's body were fired from two different guns, which means appellant shot her at least once, but it is unknown which gun he fired. The coroner stated that only one of Gullette's wounds would have been immediately fatal by itself.

Nonetheless, the coroner testified that Gullette died of “multiple” gunshot wounds. His testimony supports an inference that appellant's shots at least contributed to Gullette's death. Thus, we hold that the evidence was sufficient to prove that appellant was a principal offender in the Gullette murder. See Holsemback v. State (Ala.Crim.App.1983), 443 So.2d 1371, 1381-1382; Cox v. State (1991), 305 Ark. 244, 248-249, 808 S.W.2d 306, 309; People v. Bailey (1996), 451 Mich. 657, 676-678, 549 N.W.2d 325, 334.

D. Kathie Henderson

Finally, appellant contends that the state failed to prove the attempted aggravated murder of Kathie Henderson. However, appellant was never charged with that crime. Only Counts Twelve and Fourteen of the indictment charged appellant with attempted aggravated murder. The bill of particulars shows that those counts related to the attempted aggravated murders of Pettus and Thompson, respectively. The only count charging appellant with a crime against Henderson was Count Eight, which charged aggravated robbery -not aggravated murder. We overrule all aspects of appellant's sixth proposition of law.

III Suppression Issues

On December 26, 1992, appellant was arrested. At the police station, he was taken to an interrogation room, where he sat for about three hours, until Detectives Tom Lawson and Wade Lawson arrived. Tom Lawson administered Miranda warnings. Appellant stated orally that he understood his rights. After the warnings were completed, appellant agreed to answer questions and signed a Dayton Police Department waiver form to signify that he understood his rights and was willing to answer questions. He answered questions for forty-five minutes. After that, the detectives recorded appellant's statement on videotape. The next day, the detectives re-advised appellant of his rights and interviewed him again.

In his fifth proposition of law, appellant claims that the trial court should have suppressed his confessions of December 26 and 27, 1992, because the state did not prove that his waiver of Miranda rights on December 26 was voluntary, knowing, and intelligent.

Voluntariness is a legal question for a reviewing court to determine independently. See, e.g., Beckwith v. United States (1976), 425 U.S. 341, 348, 96 S.Ct. 1612, 1617, 48 L.Ed.2d 1, 8. However, this court must defer to the trial court's factual findings, if those are supported by the record. See, e.g., State v. Wilson (1996), 74 Ohio St.3d 381, 390, 659 N.E.2d 292, 303.

Appellant argues that police misconduct, combined with his own intoxication and “psychological deficits,” rendered him unable to voluntarily waive his rights. He claims that, on the day of his arrest, he ingested two fifths of wine, eighty ounces of beer, and several pills (Valium, Xanax, and Dalmane). He claims that, despite his repeated requests, police denied him permission to use the bathroom for seven hours on December 26, until they were through interrogating him.

As to police misconduct and intoxication, appellant's claims are based wholly upon his own self-serving testimony at the suppression hearing. However, appellant's testimony was contradicted by several Dayton police officers. The trial court accepted the police testimony as true and found that appellant's testimony was not credible.

The court specifically rejected appellant's testimony that he was intoxicated. The court noted that appellant had displayed a “lucid memory” in his own testimony. Moreover, appellant was driving Henderson's car when he was arrested. The trial court pointed out that, if appellant “had ingested the amount of wine and pills which he claims, * * * he would be unconscious and certainly not able to operate a motor vehicle.”

Based on police testimony and appellant's videotaped confession, the court found that appellant appeared “normal, alert * * * lucid and oriented”; that he “was in full command of his senses” and “aware of the seriousness of the charges”; and that he showed no signs of intoxication.

Moreover, the trial court found, contrary to appellant's testimony, that appellant was permitted, at his request, to use the bathroom before the December 26 interrogation. This finding was supported by the testimony of Detective Sergeant John Huber and Patrolman Herb Rogers, who escorted appellant to the bathroom about one-half hour after he was brought in. Also, Detective Wade Lawson testified that he permitted appellant to use the bathroom during his interrogation.

Since the hearing record supports the trial court's findings of fact, we are bound thereby. Thus, to the extent appellant's arguments rest on his own testimony, which the trial court disbelieved, they are invalid. See State v. Otte (1996), 74 Ohio St.3d 555, 562, 660 N.E.2d 711, 719.

Appellant also claims that his waiver was not knowing and intelligent. On this issue, appellant relies upon the testimony of Dr. Eugene S. Cherry, a psychologist. Dr. Cherry felt that appellant's waiver was not knowing and intelligent because the Dayton Police waiver form contains only one signature line. By signing, the suspect both acknowledges understanding of his rights and waives them. Because appellant is a “passive, dependent” personality, Cherry felt appellant could not be assumed to have understood his rights unless someone “required [him] to actively assert his understanding * * * .” To ensure that appellant really understood his rights instead of just going along, Cherry felt the police should have had appellant acknowledge his rights separately from waiving them.

Here again, however, the trial court rejected Dr. Cherry's testimony. The court had ample grounds to do so; Cherry admitted his opinion was “really not well established.” Moreover, Cherry assumed that appellant's claim of intoxication was true; that claim was ultimately rejected by the trial court. Since we cannot second-guess the trial court's factual findings, appellant's reliance on Cherry's testimony is misplaced. Appellant's fifth proposition of law is overruled.

In his tenth proposition of law, appellant claims the testimony of Henderson, identifying appellant as the man who pointed a gun at her on December 26, was tainted by an improper photographic lineup and should have been suppressed. See Neil v. Biggers (1972), 409 U.S. 188, 93 S.Ct. 375, 34 L.Ed.2d 401.

We note that, even if appellant were to prevail on this issue, Henderson's testimony was relevant only to Count Eight, which charged appellant with aggravated robbery for stealing Henderson's car at gunpoint. Although appellant seems to contend otherwise, this issue does not affect his death sentences.

Henderson had described her assailant as having a “box” haircut. Appellant was the only suspect in the photo lineup with such a haircut. Appellant argues, with some persuasiveness, that it was unnecessarily suggestive to arrange a lineup with only one distinctive box haircut in it.

The state argues that, even if the lineup was suggestive, Henderson's identification of appellant was reliable under the totality of the circumstances, and hence admissible.

We find reliability to be a close question on the facts of this case. However, assuming that the identification was erroneously admitted, the error was harmless. Appellant confessed that he stole a car at the BP service station on the morning of December 26. Mathews testified that she saw him do it. Appellant was actually in Henderson's car when he was arrested. Moreover, the plates on that car belonged to Wilkerson's Pontiac, which appellant also admitted he stole; the Pontiac, in turn, was found with one of Henderson's plates on it. On this evidence, it is clear beyond a reasonable doubt that appellant would have been convicted on Count Eight even without Henderson's identification. Appellant's tenth proposition of law is overruled.

IV Jury Waiver

A waiver of a defendant's jury trial right must be voluntary, knowing, and intelligent. State v. Ruppert (1978), 54 Ohio St.2d 263, 271, 8 O.O.3d 232, 236, 375 N.E.2d 1250, 1255. In his ninth proposition of law, appellant argues that his jury trial waiver was invalid because of his “propensity to acquiesce to authority figures.”

The trial judge conducted the following colloquy with appellant: “THE COURT: First of all, do you understand that you are entitled to have your case tried to a jury of twelve people? “MR. KEENE: Yes, sir. “THE COURT: Do you understand that in that event you could not be convicted of any one or more of these charges unless all twelve jurors were to agree on your guilt? “MR. KEENE: Yes, sir. “THE COURT: Now, you have the right under the statutes and the Constitution of the State of Ohio to waive or give up that right by jury [ sic ] and have your case tried to a court consisting of three judges. Do you understand that? “MR. KEENE: Yes, sir. “THE COURT: Now, after your discussion with your attorneys, do you understand that this is a constitutional as well as a statutory right to trial by jury? “MR. KEENE: Yes, sir. “THE COURT: And * * * you fully understand this right? “MR. KEENE: Yes, sir. “THE COURT: And you have discussed this with your attorneys on more than one occasion, I'm sure. Is that right? “MR. KEENE: Yes, sir. “THE COURT: And after giving careful consideration to it, is it your desire to waive-and again by that I mean give up your right to trial by jury and proceed before a three-judge panel? “MR. KEENE: Yes, sir. “THE COURT: Do you understand that the panel will consist of the Court-this Court * * * and two other judges to be designated by the Chief Justice * * * ? “MR. KEENE: Yes, sir.” Appellant signed a jury waiver in open court. The trial judge then continued: “THE COURT: Before the Court accepts these waivers, Mr. Keene, has anyone promised you anything in order to get you to give up that right? “MR. KEENE: No, sir. “THE COURT: Has anyone threatened you or otherwise brought pressure upon you, twisted your arm, to get you to give up that right? “MR. KEENE: No, sir. “THE COURT: * * * I understand, therefore, that it's under careful consideration, consultation * * * with your attorneys that you feel it is in your best interests to proceed in this manner? * * * “MR. KEENE: Yes, sir.”

Appellant claims that this colloquy, and the written waiver that accompanied it, are insufficient to prove that he voluntarily, knowingly, and intelligently waived his right to a jury trial. Appellant bases this argument on Dr. Cherry's testimony from the suppression hearing regarding appellant's “personality style.” Cherry had testified that appellant was a “follower” and a “passive, dependent type.” Therefore, Cherry believed, appellant could not be assumed to have understood his rights unless someone “required [him] to actively assert his understanding * * * .”

Based on Dr. Cherry's opinion, appellant argues that the trial court should have conducted the colloquy so as to require him to “actively assert his understanding” of his jury trial right. Appellant claims that the trial court's “yes or no” questions elicited mere “mechanical responses” that do not demonstrate a genuinely knowing and intelligent decision on appellant's part.

Yet the trial court had already rejected Cherry's testimony as ill-founded. Cherry's testimony, rejected by the trial court, is simply not a sufficient basis for impeaching appellant's waiver.

Even if Cherry's opinion had been accepted, appellant cites no precedent requiring a trial court to take a defendant's individual “personality style” into account when inquiring into the validity of his jury waiver. Indeed, a trial court may accept a defendant's jury waiver without any such inquiry at all. “There is no requirement for a trial court to interrogate a defendant in order to determine whether he * * * is fully apprised of the right to a jury trial.” State v. Jells (1990), 53 Ohio St.3d 22, 559 N.E.2d 464, paragraph one of the syllabus. Accord United States v. Martin (C.A.6, 1983), 704 F.2d 267, 274. Appellant's ninth proposition of law is overruled.

V Evidentiary Issues

Appellant claims in his seventh proposition of law that the state used “other acts” evidence to attack his character, violating Evid.R. 404(B), which reads, “Evidence of other crimes, wrongs, or acts is not admissible to prove the character of a person in order to show that he acted in conformity therewith. It may, however, be admissible for other purposes * * * .”

Appellant claims that the state erred by introducing evidence involving Taylor's murder of Maddox. Appellant had agreed to help Taylor rob Maddox, but there was no evidence that he was involved in the murder, and he was not charged with any crimes against Maddox.

We agree that this uncharged crime was irrelevant. However, we find the error harmless. Appellant confessed to the five murders he was charged with. Evidence of his minor participation in Taylor's scheme to rob Maddox could not have done much further damage to appellant's character. Moreover, the prosecutor did not use the evidence to show that appellant was a person of bad character. Finally, the trier of fact was a three-judge panel. See State v. Post (1987), 32 Ohio St.3d 380, 513 N.E.2d 754.

Appellant also claims that evidence involving the shooting of Wright was “other acts” evidence. But this crime was clearly introduced for a valid purpose having nothing to do with appellant's character. One of the death specifications for the Cottrill-Washington murders alleged that the victims were killed because they were witnesses to a crime-and Smith's shooting of Wright was the crime they witnessed. Therefore, the state did not violate Evid.R. 404(B) by proving that Smith shot Wright.

Woodson testified that he saw appellant shoot an unidentified robbery victim, and that appellant told him about yet another shooting. The defense did not object, so these issues are waived. Appellant's seventh proposition of law is overruled.

Appellant's sixteenth proposition of law reargues issues raised in his seventh proposition of law with regard to Woodson's testimony. Appellant's sixteenth proposition of law is overruled.

In his eleventh proposition of law, appellant argues that the state introduced “victim impact” evidence in the guilt phase, where such evidence is inadmissible. See, e.g., State v. Tyler (1990), 50 Ohio St.3d 24, 553 N.E.2d 576. However, appellant objected to only one of the alleged errors.

Over objection, Gullette's friend, Angela Martin, testified that she had a close relationship with Gullette and that they borrowed each other's clothes. However, the panel properly overruled the objection. Gullette had borrowed Martin's jacket the night she was killed; that was the same jacket stolen from Gullette, and Martin identified it. Martin's relationship with Gullette explains how Martin could identify the jacket and why Gullette was wearing it. Thus, it was relevant for a nonvictim-impact purpose.

As to other alleged “victim impact” testimony, appellant did not object, so these issues are waived. We overrule appellant's eleventh proposition of law.

In his seventeenth proposition of law, appellant argues that Gullette's Fila sneakers should have been excluded due to the state's failure to prove an unbroken chain of custody. However, the state was not required to prove a perfect, unbroken chain of custody. The break identified by appellant was minor. We find no error in the admission of the sneakers. (The alleged error would be harmless in any event. Appellant confessed to shooting Gullette while robbing her, and specifically described to police how Smith stole Gullette's sneakers after forcing her to take them off.) Appellant's seventeenth proposition of law is overruled.

In capital cases, gruesome photographs are inadmissible if their probative value is outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, or the photos are repetitive or cumulative. See, e.g., State v. Morales (1987), 32 Ohio St.3d 252, 513 N.E.2d 267. Appellant argues in his eighteenth proposition of law that State's Exhibits 117, 118, 119, 138, 139, 140, and 148, which are autopsy slides, were unfairly prejudicial and/or cumulative. However, appellant did not object to these slides at trial, so this issue is waived. We overrule appellant's eighteenth proposition of law.

VI Sentencing Issues

A. Sentencing Opinion

In his second proposition of law, appellant argues that the three-judge panel failed to conduct a proper sentencing analysis. Appellant argues that the panel erred by referring to “the cold and calculated plans that were developed, the deliberate execution of those plans and the manner and means by which five people were killed * * * .” Appellant claims that these were “non-statutory aggravating circumstances” and are unconstitutionally vague under Maynard v. Cartwright (1988), 486 U.S. 356, 108 S.Ct. 1853, 100 L.Ed.2d 372, and Godfrey v. Georgia (1980), 446 U.S. 420, 100 S.Ct. 1759, 64 L.Ed.2d 398.

However, the panel's opinion recited the specific statutory aggravating circumstances of which appellant was convicted. There is no indication that the panel believed the “calculated,” “deliberate” nature of these murders or the “manner and means” of their commission were aggravating circumstances. See, e.g., State v. Moreland (1990), 50 Ohio St.3d 58, 69, 552 N.E.2d 894, 905. Rather, the panel was explaining why the aggravating circumstances outweighed the mitigating factors. See State v. Stumpf (1987), 32 Ohio St.3d 95, 512 N.E.2d 598, paragraph one of the syllabus.

Appellant also argues that the trial court weighed a statutory aggravating circumstance, R.C. 2929.04(A)(3), “that did not exist in this case.” Appellant was found guilty of an (A)(3) “escaping detection” specification and an (A)(7) felony-murder specification as to each of the Wilkerson aggravated murder counts. However, the panel merged the (A)(3) specifications into the (A)(7) specifications.

Later in its opinion, the panel wrote, “The panel having previously found the Defendant guilty of specifications under R.C. 2929.04(A) (3), (5), (7) and (8), it is necessary to address all mitigation circumstances developed by the evidence * * * .” (Emphasis added.)

Appellant argues that this meant the panel was weighing the (A)(3) specifications-which, having merged with the (A)(7) specifications, should not have been weighed. We disagree. On its face, the quoted sentence says nothing about weighing or considering the (A)(3) specifications. Rather, the panel was simply reciting the specifications of which it had found appellant guilty. Only a few pages earlier, the panel had stated that the (A)(3) specifications merged into the (A)(7) specifications. It cannot be rationally believed that the panel forgot about that and weighed the (A)(3) specifications.

Appellant's Eighth Amendment vagueness claim lacks merit. See Tuilaepa v. California (1994), 512 U.S. 967, 971-975, 114 S.Ct. 2630, 2634-2636, 129 L.Ed.2d 750, 759-761; State v. Gumm (1995), 73 Ohio St.3d 413, 417-418, 653 N.E.2d 253, 260.

In State v. Cooey (1989), 46 Ohio St.3d 20, 544 N.E.2d 895, paragraph three of the syllabus, this court held, “Only the aggravating circumstances related to a given count may be considered in assessing the penalty for that count.” Appellant claims that the panel weighed all the aggravating circumstances collectively against the mitigating factors, rather than assessing the penalty for each individual count separately as Cooey requires.

The sentencing opinion states, “In conclusion, after fully and carefully considering all the evidence presented, * * * we unanimously find * * * that the aggravating circumstances found with respect to each aggravated murder count outweigh the several mitigating factors * * * .” (Emphasis added.)

The “with respect to each” language suggests that each count was evaluated separately. If any ambiguity remains, the verdict forms clarify it. The panel signed a separate verdict for each victim. The verdict on Count Four states, “We do find that the aggravating circumstances in the aggravated murder of Joseph Wilkerson outweigh the mitigating circumstances [ sic].” (Emphasis added.) The same language is used with respect to Counts Six (Gullette), Ten (Abraham), Seventeen (Cottrill), and Twenty (Washington). Thus, as to each individual aggravated murder, the panel made a specific finding that the aggravating circumstances present with respect to that aggravated murder outweighed the mitigating factors.

Finally, as part of his second proposition of law, as well as in his twenty-fifth proposition of law, appellant argues that the panel incorrectly believed that the death penalty was mandatory. The opinion states, “In conclusion * * * we unanimously find beyond a reasonable doubt that the aggravating circumstances found with respect to each aggravated murder count outweigh the several mitigating factors established by a preponderance of the evidence. Following these conclusions, the law of this State requires the imposition of the death penalty * * * .” (Emphasis added.)

Clearly, the panel did not incorrectly believe that the death penalty was mandatory. Rather, it correctly believed that, having found aggravation to outweigh mitigation, it was required to impose the death penalty. See State v. Lawson (1992), 64 Ohio St.3d 336, 349, 595 N.E.2d 902, 912. Appellant's second and twenty-fifth propositions of law are overruled.

In his third proposition of law, appellant claims that the death sentence should not have been imposed in this case. Appellant argues that the mitigating factors outweigh the aggravating circumstances so that the death penalty is inappropriate, and asks this court to reverse the sentence of death. Our independent sentence determination, infra, will resolve this issue.

B. Duplicative Aggravating Circumstances

In his fourth proposition of law, appellant argues that Count Four was invalid because it charged him with murder during a “burglary and/or robbery.” (Emphasis added.) However, he concedes that he never raised this issue at trial. Consequently, it is waived. There is no plain error, because appellant was separately convicted of both aggravated burglary (Count One) and aggravated robbery (Count Two) with respect to Wilkerson. Therefore, the outcome would not clearly have been otherwise had the indictment been worded differently. See, e.g., State v. D'Ambrosio (1993), 67 Ohio St.3d 185, 197-198, 616 N.E.2d 909, 919.

Appellant argues that this alleged error is “plain error per se,” and cannot be waived by lack of objection. We reject this claim, which is inconsistent with our precedents holding that similar alleged errors were waived.FN3 Appellant's fourth proposition of law is overruled.

FN3. Appellant's claim is based on a misreading of United States v. Beros (C.A.3, 1987), 833 F.2d 455, and State v. Johnson (1989), 46 Ohio St.3d 96, 104, 545 N.E.2d 636, 644. In Beros, the question of waiver and plain error never came up because “a sufficient objection was made * * * to preserve [the duplicity] issue for appeal.” 833 F.2d at 458, fn. 3; see, also, id. at 462-463. Johnson does not discuss waiver or plain error at all with regard to the duplicity issue. See 46 Ohio St.3d at 104-105, 545 N.E.2d at 644.

One of the specifications to Count Four alleged murder during an aggravated burglary; another alleged murder during an aggravated robbery. In appellant's thirteenth proposition of law, he argues that if this court rejects his fourth proposition of law on the ground that the aggravated robbery and aggravated burglary “were in fact the same event,” then the aggravating circumstances based on them should have merged into one. However, we have rejected appellant's fourth proposition of law on other grounds. Consequently, appellant's thirteenth proposition of law lacks merit.

C. Length of Deliberations

The record shows that the three-judge panel retired to deliberate at 3:37 p.m. and returned with a sentencing decision at 4:55 p.m., one hour and eighteen minutes later. In his twenty-first proposition of law, appellant claims that the panel completed its deliberations too quickly. But he cites no authority for the proposition that an appellate court may second-guess whether the trier of fact deliberated long enough.

In his twenty-second proposition of law, appellant claims that the panel actually returned at 4:40 p.m., not 4:55. It is undisputed that, pursuant to App.R. 9(E), appellant filed a motion in the trial court to correct the record; in support, he adduced an affidavit by trial counsel stating that the panel returned at 4:40 p.m. The trial court denied the motion. Noting that the record was made “contemporaneously,” the court declined to modify it based on the year-old recollection of trial counsel. Appellant argues that the trial court violated App.R. 9(E) by denying his motion.

App.R. 9(E) states in part, “If any difference arises as to whether the record truly discloses what occurred in the trial court, the difference shall be submitted to and settled by the court and the record made to conform to the truth.” Thus, “it is within the province of the trial court to resolve disputes about the record on appeal.” State v. Schiebel (1990), 55 Ohio St.3d 71, 81, 564 N.E.2d 54, 66. Here, the trial court did resolve the dispute; it found the year-old recollection of the former counsel for an interested party insufficiently persuasive to impeach the stenographic record. “Where it is supported by competent, reliable evidence, such ruling will not be reversed by a reviewing court absent an abuse of discretion.” Id. at 82, 564 N.E.2d at 67. Appellant's twenty-first and twenty-second propositions of law are overruled.

VII Recusal

In his eighth proposition of law, appellant claims that Judge Robert Brown, who presided over the suppression hearing, should have recused himself from the three-judge panel that tried the case.

During the suppression hearing, appellant testified on his own behalf. On cross-examination, the prosecutor asked appellant several questions relating to the facts of the charged offenses. Judge Brown overruled a defense objection, noting that appellant's testimony could not be used against him at trial. (See Simmons v. United States [1968], 390 U.S. 377, 394, 88 S.Ct. 967, 976, 19 L.Ed.2d 1247, 1259.) At one point defense counsel informed the judge that “there is a potential of having a three-judge panel.” The judge said, “In that event I'll remove myself.” Ultimately, the case was indeed tried to a panel, but Judge Brown did not recuse himself and sat on the panel.

Appellant never filed a motion for Judge Brown's recusal. This failure alone would waive this issue. Furthermore, appellant's written jury waiver, signed and filed while Judge Brown was presiding, specifically states, “I * * * consent to be tried by a Court to be composed of three Judges, consisting of the Judge presiding at this time and two other Judges to be designated by the Chief Justice * * * .” (Emphasis added.) We reject appellant's eighth proposition of law.

VIII Prosecutorial Misconduct

In his fifteenth proposition of law, appellant claims prosecutorial misconduct.

In guilt-phase closing arguments, the prosecutor described the crimes as “brutal, heinous, violent,” and stated that “only a person without regard for or concern for or appreciation of the value of human life could commit” such crimes. But a prosecutor may denounce the defendant's wrongdoing. See State v. Bissantz (1982), 3 Ohio App.3d 108, 113, 3 OBR 123, 129, 444 N.E.2d 92, 98.

The prosecutor described Edward Thompson as “one of the best witnesses any of us has seen in quite awhile.” Appellant claims the prosecutor was improperly “vouching” for Thompson's credibility. However, the prosecutor's statement was not a voucher: it neither implied knowledge of facts outside the record nor placed the prosecutor's personal credibility in issue.

The prosecutor's allegedly improper statement concerning Jones Pettus was not objected to, and any issue was therefore waived.

Finally, the prosecutor stated that “we are left here with those witnesses given to us by this defendant,” and the prosecution “would have loved to have put on” Wilkerson, Gullette, Abraham, and Cottrill as witnesses. We see nothing improper in this statement.

Appellant further argues that the prosecutor introduced “victim impact” evidence in the guilt phase. This claim, which simply reargues appellant's eleventh proposition of law, was waived at trial, and lacks merit.

Finally, appellant argues that the prosecutor made improper comments during penalty-phase closing arguments. As appellant did not object to any of the arguments to which he objects here, the issue is waived. None of the alleged errors amounted to plain error. Appellant is therefore not entitled to an adjudication on the merits of his arguments in this regard.

In sum, appellant's fifteenth proposition of law is overruled.

IX Ineffective Counsel

In his nineteenth proposition of law, appellant claims that his trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance. To demonstrate ineffective assistance, an appellant must show that counsel's performance fell “below an objective standard of reasonable representation.” State v. Bradley (1989), 42 Ohio St.3d 136, 538 N.E.2d 373, paragraph two of the syllabus. He must also demonstrate prejudice- i.e., “a reasonable probability that, were it not for counsel's errors, the result of the trial would have been different.” Id., paragraph three of the syllabus. “A reasonable probability is a probability sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome.” Strickland v. Washington (1984), 466 U.S. 668, 694, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 2068, 80 L.Ed.2d 674, 698.

Appellant lists various objections he thinks his counsel should have made at trial. However, he fails to show that any of these omissions constituted ineffective assistance.

Appellant argues that his counsel should have moved to dismiss Count Four, the felony-murder of Wilkerson, because the averment was worded in the alternative (“[aggravated] burglary and/or [aggravated] robbery”). However, failure to so move was nonprejudicial. Appellant was also charged with murdering Wilkerson under Count Three (prior calculation and design). Dismissal of Count Four would have left Count Three intact, and the panel ultimately found appellant guilty on that count. Thus, dismissal would have meant only that appellant would have been sentenced on Count Three instead of on Count Four.

Appellant also argues that counsel should have requested the court not to consider Count Four in the penalty phase, because of the “and/or” language. However, by then- after Count Three had been merged into Count Four-it was too late to make such a request, which would have provoked justifiable charges of “sandbagging.”

Appellant's other claims also fail. It was not deficient for appellant's counsel to forgo a double jeopardy claim that was inconsistent with binding precedent. See, e.g., State v. Moss (1982), 69 Ohio St.2d 515, 23 O.O.3d 447, 433 N.E.2d 181, infra. Nor was it deficient performance not to request Judge Brown's recusal just because he presided over the suppression hearing. See State v. Gillard (1988), 40 Ohio St.3d 226, 229, 533 N.E.2d 272, 276; cf. Withrow v. Larkin (1975), 421 U.S. 35, 56, 95 S.Ct. 1456, 1469, 43 L.Ed.2d 712, 728-729.

Declining to interrupt the prosecutor's argument with objections, or failing to object to certain evidence, was not deficient performance, especially in a bench trial. “A trial is not a law-school examination. * * * [N]o one will reward you for making every possible objection.” McElhaney, Clutter (Mar.1991), 77 A.B.A.J. 73. See State v. Campbell (1994), 69 Ohio St.3d 38, 43-44 and 52-53, 630 N.E.2d 339, 347 and 352-353; State v. Holloway (1988), 38 Ohio St.3d 239, 244, 527 N.E.2d 831, 837. Nor do such failures undermine one's confidence in a verdict supported by extensive forensic evidence, eyewitness testimony, and appellant's videotaped confession.

Failing to argue that the death penalty violates international law is not ineffective assistance, given the dearth of legal authority supporting that argument. (See discussion of twenty-fourth proposition of law, infra.)

Appellant has shown neither deficient performance nor prejudice with respect to any of his ineffective-assistance allegations. Therefore, his nineteenth proposition of law is overruled.

X Settled Issues

In his twelfth proposition of law, appellant claims it is double jeopardy to sentence him for both felony-murder and the underlying felony, as the trial court did with respect to the Wilkerson, Gullette, and Abraham murders. However, felony-murder under R.C. 2903.01(B) is not an allied offense of similar import to the underlying felony. See, e.g., State v. Moss (1982), 69 Ohio St.2d 515, 520, 23 O.O.3d 447, 450, 433 N.E.2d 181, 186; State v. Bickerstaff (1984), 10 Ohio St.3d 62, 66, 10 OBR 352, 355-356, 461 N.E.2d 892, 895-896; State v. Henderson (1988), 39 Ohio St.3d 24, 28, 528 N.E.2d 1237, 1242. That being the case, R.C. 2941.25 authorizes punishment for both crimes, and no double jeopardy violation occurs. See Moss at 521-522, 23 O.O.3d at 451, 433 N.E.2d at 186-187, and paragraph one of the syllabus. Appellant's twelfth proposition of law is overruled.

In his twenty-third proposition of law, appellant challenges the statutory definition of “reasonable doubt,” R.C. 2901.05(D). We have previously rejected his position, State v. Van Gundy (1992), 64 Ohio St.3d 230, 594 N.E.2d 604, and reject it again here.

In his twenty-sixth proposition of law, appellant raises constitutional challenges to the Ohio death penalty statutes. We have repeatedly rejected each of appellant's arguments, and summarily overrule them here. We also overrule appellant's twentieth proposition of law, which reargues issues raised in his fourth and sixth propositions of law, supra.

Appellant's twenty-fourth proposition of law raises questions of international law, which appellant did not raise at trial. They are thereby waived, and appellant's twenty-fourth proposition of law is overruled.

XI Independent Sentence Review and Proportionality Analysis

Having affirmed appellant's aggravated-murder convictions, we now must independently determine whether the evidence supports the aggravating circumstances, whether the aggravating circumstances outweigh the mitigating factors beyond a reasonable doubt with respect to each murder, and whether the death sentences are proportionate to those affirmed in similar cases.

After merger, Wilkerson's murder had three aggravating circumstances: course of conduct, aggravated robbery, and aggravated burglary. Cottrill's murder and Washington's murder each had three aggravating circumstances: course of conduct, kidnapping, and witness murder. Gullette's murder and Abraham's murder each had two aggravating circumstances: course of conduct and aggravated robbery.

We find that the evidence supports each of these aggravating circumstances. All specifications were proven by appellant's confession, by strong physical evidence, and by the testimony of such eyewitnesses as Pettus, Thompson, Woodson, and Mathews.

In weighing aggravation against mitigation, we note that the penalty for each aggravated murder must be assessed separately; the aggravating circumstances attached to a given count may be considered only with respect to that count. Cooey, paragraph three of the syllabus.

Appellant was nineteen years old at the time of the murders and appears to have been relatively immature. His youth is entitled to some weight under R.C. 2929.04(B)(4). The trial court found that appellant lacked a significant history of criminal convictions or delinquency adjudications. This factor is entitled to weight under R.C. 2929.04(B)(5).

Dr. Robert Smith, a psychologist, testified that appellant has a “passive-aggressive personality disorder.” He also diagnosed appellant with post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”). Smith believed that appellant could adjust well to prison with support and counseling. In the county jail, appellant had a good disciplinary record and socialized with other inmates.

Under R.C. 2929.04(B)(3), a mitigating factor exists if “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 law.” Appellant claims his personality disorder and his PTSD qualify under this factor. We disagree. A personality disorder is not a “disease or defect.” However, we accord this factor some weight, as the trial court did, under R.C. 2929.04(B)(7) (the catchall provision).

With respect to Cottrill and Washington, appellant argues that R.C. 2929.04(B)(1) applies, “Whether the victim of the offense induced or facilitated it.” Appellant states that “there was evidence that both Wendy Cottrill and Marvin Washington were involved in criminal activities.” Even if this was true, they were not involved in any of the crimes in this case. (They witnessed the shooting of Wright, but did not participate in that crime.) It is clear that Cottrill and Washington in no way “induced or facilitated” their own murders.

Appellant did not play the role of a follower with respect to Wilkerson's murder. Even if Taylor suggested the robbery, appellant was the leader during the robbery and murder. He was the only one who brought a gun. He ordered Taylor and Mathews to tie Wilkerson up. It was appellant who decided to kill Wilkerson-Taylor and Mathews were not in the bedroom when he fired the first bullet at point-blank range into Wilkerson's heart. Appellant handed Taylor his gun to fire a second bullet. When that gun would not fire, appellant handed her another. When appellant, Taylor, and Mathews left, appellant drove the stolen car. He suggested taking the car to Detroit to sell it, and he told the others not to say anything to Cottrill and Washington.

As for the other murders, it is true that appellant did not instigate them. He did not begin shooting in the mini-mart robbery until Smith did. Smith also suggested robbing Gullette. We accord these circumstances some mitigating weight. However, appellant overstates his case by claiming that he “was not the principal offender in most of the murders.” He was in fact a principal, as we have defined that term- i.e., the actual killer, not a mere accomplice-in four of the five murders.

Appellant was born in 1973. On the day appellant's mother was released from the hospital after giving birth to him, appellant's father left home. Appellant's mother married three times. Her second husband, James Douglas, habitually abandoned the family, disappearing for months at a time. This upset appellant, who “had really gathered a love [for] Douglas.” When appellant's mother finally divorced her second husband (after he had been gone for a year), appellant was devastated. Her third husband drank to excess, gambled, and inflicted unspecified verbal and physical abuse on appellant's mother and her children.

Appellant developed a close relationship with his older brother, Maurice. However, Maurice was shot to death in 1991. Appellant became depressed and withdrawn and began to fail academically, although his grades had been better before.

After his brother was killed, appellant moved to California to live with his father. However, their relationship soured because appellant's father felt appellant was behaving irresponsibly. Appellant's father ultimately threw appellant out of his house.

Appellant did display some remorse: he wept during his confession. Retrospective remorse, however, is entitled to little weight. Indeed, we are inclined to doubt the sincerity of appellant's remorse, which slumbered while he murdered five people in succession, and awoke only after his arrest.

We find that several mitigating factors exist here, including appellant's youth, clean record, mental disorders, his remorse and confession, and the repeated, traumatic loss of father figures from his life.

Yet, we are faced with a defendant who murdered five people in three days. The course of conduct specification is common to all five murders, and it has great weight with respect to each. And while his family life has been troubled, he has also had the advantage of a hardworking, churchgoing mother and family. His mental disorders are entitled to some weight, but they did not substantially diminish his capacity to understand the criminality of his actions or to choose between right and wrong.

The aggravating circumstances are strongest with respect to the Cottrill-Washington murders. Murdering a witness to prevent his or her testimony strikes at the heart of the criminal justice system. Combined with the course of conduct and the kidnapping, these crimes clearly merit the death penalty; beyond a reasonable doubt, the aggravation outweighs the mitigation presented by appellant.

In the Wilkerson murder, the aggravating circumstances are aggravated burglary, aggravated robbery, and course of conduct. With respect to the two felony-murder factors, we find especially noteworthy the cynical deception by which appellant and his accomplices induced Wilkerson to allow them into his home. Moreover, the mitigating factors with respect to Wilkerson's murder are weaker, because appellant played the leading role in that crime. We find, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the aggravating circumstances attached to Wilkerson's murder outweigh the mitigating factors.

Gullette's murder combined aggravated robbery with a course of conduct involving the murder of five people. In this case, we conclude that these two aggravating circumstances outweigh the mitigating factors beyond a reasonable doubt. Finally, Abraham's murder has the same two aggravating circumstances as Gullette's. Again, we find beyond a reasonable doubt that aggravation outweighs mitigation.

Moreover, the death penalty for the Wilkerson, Gullette, and Abraham murders is proportionate in comparison with death sentences we have affirmed in cases combining multiple-murder specifications with aggravated robbery and/or aggravated burglary specifications. See, e.g., State v. Gillard (1997), 78 Ohio St.3d 548, 679 N.E.2d 276 (two victims); State v. Lorraine (1993), 66 Ohio St.3d 414, 613 N.E.2d 212 (nineteen-year-old defendant; two victims); State v. Hawkins (1993), 66 Ohio St.3d 339, 612 N.E.2d 1227 (two victims); State v. Montgomery (1991), 61 Ohio St.3d 410, 419, 575 N.E.2d 167, 174 (two victims; twenty-year-old defendant with “violent and unstable family environment”); State v. Dickerson (1989), 45 Ohio St.3d 206, 543 N.E.2d 1250 (two victims; defendant proved diminished capacity).

Also, the death penalty for the Cottrill-Washington murders is proportionate to State v. Lundgren (1995), 73 Ohio St.3d 474, 653 N.E.2d 304 (multiple murder and kidnapping). Indeed, we have frequently affirmed death sentences in cases where multiple murder was the sole death specification. See, e.g., State v. Williams (1997), 79 Ohio St.3d 1, 679 N.E.2d 646; State v. Kinley (1995), 72 Ohio St.3d 491, 651 N.E.2d 419; State v. Sowell (1988), 39 Ohio St.3d 322, 530 N.E.2d 1294 (one victim; one intended victim).FN4

FN4. This court did reject the death sentence in the multiple-murder case of State v. Lawrence (1989), 44 Ohio St.3d 24, 541 N.E.2d 451. However, in Lawrence there were only two murders, each aggravated murder count carried only one death specification, and the mitigating factors were far stronger.

Accordingly, the judgment of the court of appeals is affirmed.

 
 

Keene v. Mitchell, 525 F.3d 461 (6th Cir. 2008). (Habeas)

Background: Following affirmance of multiple state convictions, including aggravated murder and imposition of the death penalty, 81 Ohio St.3d 646, 693 N.E.2d 246, defendant filed petition for federal habeas relief. The United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Sandra S. Beckwith, Chief Judge, 2004 WL 3325797, denied petition, and appeal was taken.

Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Siler, Circuit Judge, held that: (1) decision to pursue death penalty against African-American defendant and not against white codefendant was not motivated by a discriminatory purpose, and (2) even if pretrial identification of defendant was unduly suggestive, the identification was reliable under the totality of the circumstances. Affirmed.

SILER, Circuit Judge.

Marvallous Keene, an Ohio death row inmate, appeals from the district court's denial of his petition for a writ of habeas corpus filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Two issues were certified for appeal: (1) whether Keene was denied equal protection when the prosecutor allegedly selectively prosecuted him because he is African-American; and (2) whether his due process rights were violated when a pretrial identification procured by allegedly unduly suggestive procedures was admitted into evidence at trial. We affirm the district court's denial of Keene's habeas petition.

BACKGROUND

In 1992, Keene went on a crime spree and committed multiple homicides. The details of his crime spree can be found at State v. Keene, 81 Ohio St.3d 646, 693 N.E.2d 246, 250-52 (Ohio 1998). He was indicted on eight counts of aggravated murder, six counts of aggravated robbery, one count of aggravated burglary, one count of burglary, two counts of kidnapping, and two counts of attempted aggravated murder. Id. 81 Ohio St.3d 646, 693 N.E.2d at 251-52. The first murder count carried six death specifications (course of conduct, escaping detection, two aggravated robbery, two aggravated burglary), the second murder count carried four death specifications (course of conduct, witness-murder, two kidnapping), the third count carried three death specifications (course of conduct, witness-murder, kidnapping), and the fourth and fifth counts each carried two death specifications (course of conduct, aggravated robbery). Id. All counts carried a firearm specification. Id. 81 Ohio St.3d 646, 693 N.E.2d at 252. Keene waived his jury trial rights and a three-judge panel found him guilty of all the charges. Id. Following the guilt phase, the panel merged the aggravated murder charges and reduced the number of those convictions to be considered in the sentencing phase to five. Id. The panel imposed five sentences of death. Id. The convictions and sentences were affirmed on direct appeal. State v. Keene, 1996 WL 531606, at *70 (Ohio Ct.App. Sept.20, 1996), aff'd, 81 Ohio St.3d 646, 693 N.E.2d at 267.

In 2000, Keene filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the district court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. He raised 30 claims of constitutional error, but the magistrate judge reported that his arguments lacked merit and that his petition should be denied. In 2005, the district court overruled Keene's objections and adopted the magistrate judge's report and recommendations.

ANALYSIS

We review de novo the district court's denial of a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. Cone v. Bell, 492 F.3d 743, 750 (6th Cir.2007). Keene's habeas petition is subject to the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 because he filed his petition after the effective date of the Act, April 24, 1996. Whiting v. Burt, 395 F.3d 602, 609 (6th Cir.2005). An application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court shall not be granted with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in State court proceedings unless the adjudication of the claim (1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States; or (2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). Clearly established Federal law refers to the holdings, as opposed to the dicta, of the Supreme Court's decisions as of the time of the relevant state-court decision. McCalvin v. Yukins, 444 F.3d 713, 719 (6th Cir.) (citing Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 412, 120 S.Ct. 1495, 146 L.Ed.2d 389 (2000)), cert. denied, 549 U.S. 1002, 127 S.Ct. 510, 166 L.Ed.2d 381 (2006).

Equal Protection Claim

Keene first argues that his equal protection rights were violated because the prosecutor for Montgomery County, Ohio, sought the death penalty against him because he is African-American. In support of this argument, he asserts that African-Americans constitute 17 percent of the county's population but account for 64 percent of capital indictments. He points to a “factually similar aggravated murder” case in which the prosecutor did not seek the death penalty against three white males. He argues that the other adult defendant in this case, Heather Matthews, who is a white female, was similarly situated to him but was not charged with capital specifications. The Ohio Supreme Court denied Keene relief on this claim because it found that there was no evidence that similarly-situated defendants could have been prosecuted but were not. Keene, 81 Ohio St.3d 646, 693 N.E.2d at 253. The Ohio Supreme Court did not violate clearly established Federal law when it denied him relief on this claim because he was unable to make a showing of bias under McCleskey v. Kemp, 481 U.S. 279, 292-93, 107 S.Ct. 1756, 95 L.Ed.2d 262 (1987); and Coleman v. Mitchell, 268 F.3d 417, 441-42 (6th Cir.2001).

The Ohio Supreme Court stated that Keene's argument regarding the racial disparity: appears to rest on a presumption that, if seventeen percent of the county's population is black, then blacks must have committed about seventeen (or, at any rate, substantially less than sixty-four) percent of potentially capital crimes. Appellant argues that even to question that presumption would constitute forbidden racial stereotyping. However, that cannot be correct, for the Armstrong court itself rejected a presumption “that people of all races commit all types of crimes.” Keene, 693 N.E.2d at 254. We find this reasoning persuasive. A defendant who alleges an equal protection violation bears the burden of proving the existence of purposeful discrimination. United States v. Armstrong, 517 U.S. 456, 465, 116 S.Ct. 1480, 134 L.Ed.2d 687 (1996); McCleskey, 481 U.S. at 292, 107 S.Ct. 1756. In McCleskey, the Supreme Court held that a study indicating that the death penalty in Georgia was imposed more often on black defendants and killers of white victims than on white defendants and killers of black victims failed to establish that any of the decision makers in the habeas petitioner's case acted with discriminatory purpose in violation of the Equal Protection Clause. 481 U.S. at 292, 107 S.Ct. 1756. Each decision to impose the death penalty is made by a jury “unique in its composition” and “the Constitution requires that its decision rest on consideration of innumerable factors that vary according to the characteristics of the individual defendant and the facts of the particular capital offense.” Id. at 294, 107 S.Ct. 1756. Thus, in Coleman, we rejected a habeas petitioner's equal protection challenge based on a study that found a racial discrepancy between the African-American population in Ohio (9 percent) and African-American representation on Ohio's death row (49 percent) because the petitioner could not make a showing of discrimination specific to him under McCleskey. Coleman, 268 F.3d at 441. Like the habeas petitioner in McCleskey, Keene “offers no evidence specific to his own case that would support an inference that racial considerations played a part in his sentence.” 481 U.S. at 292-93, 107 S.Ct. 1756.

Keene's argument that the prosecutor did not seek the death penalty against similarly-situated white defendants has no merit. In addition to showing a discriminatory purpose, an equal protection claimant must show that a prosecutorial policy had a discriminatory effect. Armstrong, 517 U.S. at 465, 116 S.Ct. 1480. To establish a discriminatory effect in a race case, the claimant must show that similarly-situated individuals of a different race were not prosecuted. Id. There were significant differences between Keene's prosecution and the allegedly similar case where the prosecution did not seek the death penalty against three white defendants.

Three white men, Elofskey, Howe, and Polson, robbed and murdered two men under the guise of providing sexual favors in exchange for money. State v. Howe, 1994 WL 527612, at * 1-2 (Ohio Ct.App. Sept.30, 1994). These defendants were accused of murdering two individuals, while Keene had five murder convictions that the panel considered at sentencing. Elofskey and Polson agreed to plead guilty and cooperate with the prosecution by testifying against Howe. Id. at * 1. Keene and Howe are not similarly situated because the evidence against Howe was much weaker than the evidence against Keene. The jury acquitted Howe for one of the two murders for which he was charged. Id. at *3. Moreover, unlike Keene, Howe was acquitted of the firearm specifications attached to all of the charges against him. Id. Thus, Keene was not similarly situated to Elofskey, Polson, or Howe.

Keene argues that his co-defendant, Matthews, is similarly situated to him and the prosecutor's decision not to seek the death penalty against her shows the prosecutor's racial bias. However, Mathews is not similarly situated because, unlike Keene, she was not the triggerman for any of the murders. Keene, 693 N.E.2d at 254. She was charged with only two of the murders and, while she participated in those murders, there was “no clear evidence” that she “actually intended” the deaths of the two victims. Id. In contrast to Mathew's relatively minor role in only two of the murders, Keene was the triggerman in four out of the five aggravated murders. Id. 81 Ohio St.3d 646, 693 N.E.2d at 253. Keene's equal protection rights were not violated because he has not demonstrated that the prosecutor's decision to pursue the death penalty against him was motivated by a discriminatory purpose and he has not shown a discriminatory effect.

Eyewitness Testimony

Keene argues that his due process rights were violated when a pretrial identification procured by unduly suggestive procedures was admitted into evidence at trial. From two sheets of police photographs, Kathie Henderson identified Keene as the man who stole her car from her at gunpoint. She testified that she did not recall giving a description of the man to the police. She later testified that she told the police that the man “had a hairstyle like the boy in the movies-the box, squared hair, you know.” She picked Keene from the photo sheets but no other person in the photo sheets had a box haircut.

The Ohio Supreme Court and the district court found that even if the identification procedure was unduly suggestive, any error was harmless. We agree. The admission of the pretrial identification did not violate clearly established Federal law. “The Supreme Court has held that an identification violates a defendant's right to due process where the identification procedure was so unnecessarily suggestive as to run the risk of irreparable mistaken identification.” Howard v. Bouchard, 405 F.3d 459, 469 (6th Cir.2005) (citing Neil v. Biggers, 409 U.S. 188, 198, 93 S.Ct. 375, 34 L.Ed.2d 401 (1972)). However, we consider “the reliability of the identification in determining its admissibility; if an identification is reliable, it will be admissible even if the confrontation procedure was suggestive.” Carter v. Bell, 218 F.3d 581, 605 (6th Cir.2000) (citing Manson v. Brathwaite, 432 U.S. 98, 114, 97 S.Ct. 2243, 53 L.Ed.2d 140 (1977)). We consider the totality of the circumstances to determine whether an identification is reliable. Howard, 405 F.3d at 472. In considering the totality of the circumstances, we pay special attention to five factors. Id. First, we consider the opportunity of the witness to view the defendant at the initial observation, second we consider the witness' degree of attention, third we consider the accuracy of the witness' prior description of the defendant, fourth we consider the level of certainty shown by the witness at the pretrial identification, and finally we consider the length of time between the initial observation and the identification. Carter, 218 F.3d at 605 (citing Biggers, 409 U.S. at 199-200, 93 S.Ct. 375). We must weigh these factors against the corrupting effect of the suggestive identification. Howard, 405 F.3d at 472.

Even if the identification was unduly suggestive, it was reliable under the totality of the circumstances. First, Henderson had ample opportunity to view Keene at the initial observation. We are more likely to find an identification reliable when the witness was able to view the assailant with a heightened degree of attention, as compared with disinterested bystanders or casual observers. See Haliym v. Mitchell, 492 F.3d 680, 705 (6th Cir.2007). Henderson had ample opportunity to observe Keene because they were separated only by the width of her vehicle as they stood near a well-lit gas station. He asked her for a quarter and she looked at him and informed him she did not have one. A few minutes later he held her at gunpoint and stole her car, undoubtedly calling her undivided attention to him. Second, she had reason to pay a high degree of attention to him. After he asked for a quarter, Henderson saw the man talking to a third person. The third person told the man “If you're-do what you're going to do. If you're going to kill her, come on.” The man who asked for the quarter walked back to Henderson's car, pointed a gun at her, and said “You'll die today.” Henderson looked at the man's face and paid special attention to his eyes. Third, Henderson's prior description of Keene that she gave to the police was accurate, although not very detailed. She testified that the man who accosted her had a box style haircut, and Keene had such a haircut. Fourth, she displayed a high degree of certainty at the pretrial identification. Finally, the time period between the initial observation and the identification was short. She identified Keene from two sheets of photographs only two days after the incident.

Moreover, taking into consideration other circumstances, Henderson's identification is reliable because there is overwhelming evidence that Keene accosted Henderson at the gas station and stole her car. Keene confessed to stealing a car at the gas station on the morning in question. Keene, 693 N.E.2d at 258. Mathews testified that she saw him do it. Id. Keene was in Henderson's car when he was arrested. Id. Keene switched the plates on Henderson's car with those of a car belonging to Joseph Wilkerson, whom Keene had murdered. Id. When police found Wilkerson's car, it had Henderson's plates on it. Id. Finally, we note that any error in admitting the identification was harmless because the identification only related to an armed robbery charge for stealing Henderson's car at gunpoint. Id. The identification had no bearing on any of the counts for which Keene received a death sentence. Id.

AFFIRMED.

 
 


Lethal injection execution: 1,000th since ’76.

 

 

 
 
 
 
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