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Lynch v. Florida Dep't of Corr.

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

January 8, 2015

RICHARD E. LYNCH, Petitioner-Appellee Cross Appellant,

Page 1210

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida. D.C. Docket No. 6:09-cv-00715-CEH-DAB.

AFFIRMED in part and REVERSED in part.

For Richard E. Lynch, Petitioner - Appellee-Cross Appellant: Marie-Louise Samuels Parmer, The Samuels Parmer Law Firm, PA, Tampa, FL.

For Attorney General, State of Florida, Secretary, Florida Department of Corrections, Respondents - Appellants-Cross Appellees: Katherine McIntire, Attorney General's Office, West Palm Beach, FL; Kenneth Sloan Nunnelley, Office of the State Attorney - Ninth Circuit, Orlando, FL; Mitchell David Bishop, Attorney General's Office, Daytona Beach, FL.

Before ED CARNES, Chief Judge, TJOFLAT and JORDAN, Circuit Judges.


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ED CARNES, Chief Judge:

This is an appeal and cross-appeal from a judgment granting in part and denying in part the federal habeas petition of Florida death row inmate Richard Lynch. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254. He was sentenced to death in 2001 for the 1999 murder of thirty-year-old Roseanna Morgan and her thirteen-year-old daughter, Leah Caday. The State of Florida's appeal is from the part of the judgment granting Lynch habeas relief based on his claim that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel because his attorneys advised him, after he had entered a guilty plea, to waive his right to a jury in the sentence stage of his capital trial. Lynch cross-appeals the part

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of the judgment denying three of his other ineffective assistance claims that he raised in his habeas petition.


Lynch murdered Morgan and Caday on March 5, 1999, because he could not accept Morgan's decision to end their extramarital affair. See Lynch v. State, 841 So.2d 362, 366 (Fla. 2003). The affair had lasted from August 1998 until February 1999. Id. While it was underway, although Lynch was unemployed and relied on his wife for financial support, he obtained three credit cards that were used to make more than $6,000 worth of purchases for Morgan. See Lynch v. State, 2 So.3d 47, 66 (Fla. 2008). She ended the affair on February 9, 1999 after her husband returned from Saudi Arabia where he had been working as a military contractor. See Lynch, 841 So.2d at 374. While Morgan moved on, Lynch did not. He began stalking Morgan, hanging around her apartment complex, showing up at her job, following her on her way home from work, and calling her apartment. Morgan's husband confronted Lynch several times and told him to leave her alone, but it did no good. Lynch persisted.

On March 3, 1999, about three weeks after Morgan had ended the affair, Lynch wrote a letter to his wife declaring his intention to kill Morgan and then himself. See id. at 366, 368. In that letter he asked his wife to send Morgan's parents copies of the letters and cards Morgan had written to him, as well as nude pictures of Morgan that he had taken. Id. at 366. He wrote that " I want them to have a sense of why it happened, some decent closure, a reason and understanding . . . . I want them to know what she did, the pain she caused, that it was not just a random act of violence." Lynch, 2 So.3d at 64 (emphasis omitted). Lynch went on in the letter about the debts that had been run up on the credit cards, his fear that Morgan would not pay him back for any of the purchases, and the pain that she had caused him by ending their affair. After describing in explicit and unnecessary detail the various sexual acts he and Morgan had engaged in and how much he had enjoyed them, on the last page of the letter Lynch apologized to his wife " for all the pain, suffering, expense, embarrassment and hardship I will cause and give to you," but concluded that Morgan " must pay the price." Lynch left the letter in his garage.

Two days later, on March 5, he packed three pistols and ammunition into a black bag and drove to Morgan's apartment. See id. at 59. He parked his car down the street and around the corner from the apartment complex so that Morgan and her daughter Caday would not see it when they arrived at the complex. Id.; Lynch, 841 So.2d at 367 n.3. Lynch grabbed the bag with the three pistols and ammunition from the trunk of his car, walked to the complex, and picked an inconspicuous spot to wait for Morgan to return. See Lynch, 2 So.3d at 76.

Caday got home first. See id. Lynch talked the thirteen-year-old into letting him inside by telling her that he wanted to speak with her mother. See id. at 62. Once inside the apartment, he pulled one of the pistols from the black bag and held Caday at gunpoint for thirty or forty minutes while waiting for Morgan to arrive. See Lynch, 841 So.2d at 366. All the while, the young girl was " terrified." Id. She asked Lynch " why he was doing this to her." Id.

When Morgan finally returned home, Lynch met her at the door with a pistol in his hand. See Lynch, 2 So.3d at 59. Sensing what Lynch was going to do, Morgan refused to come inside. They had a heated discussion, which ended when Lynch fired seven shots. See id. at 58, 70.

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Three of the shots hit Morgan in the legs. See id. at 53, 69-70. One hit her eye and tore through her neck. See id. at 69-70. She fell to the floor in the hallway outside her apartment, bleeding and screaming for help. See Lynch, 841 So.2d at 366, 371. Lynch walked outside the apartment into the hallway where Morgan lay, and the door closed behind him. He dragged Morgan's bleeding body by her wrist back to the door, where he knocked and told Morgan's daughter to " Hurry up, open the door, your mom is hurt." Id. at 367. When Caday opened the door, Lynch dragged her mother inside, closing the door behind him. Id.

Inside the apartment, Lynch pulled a second pistol from his bag, and several minutes after he had first shot Morgan he killed her in front of her daughter by firing a single, execution-style shot to her head. See id. at 370-73; Lynch, 2 So.3d at 69. He then called his wife at their home, Lynch, 841 So.2d at 366, and told her he was " sorry for what I'm going to do." During that phone call, Lynch's wife could hear Caday screaming hysterically in the background. See id. at 369. After Lynch hung up, he killed the young girl by shooting her in the back. See id. at 366.

Lynch then called his wife again. Id. He told her that he had accidentally shot Caday and told her that he had left a letter in the garage. See id. When that call ended, Mrs. Lynch dialed 911. She told the operator about Lynch's phone calls and asked for the police to investigate. She then began to look for the letter. Her sister Juliette, whom Mrs. Lynch had paged after Lynch's first phone call, arrived at the home and joined in the search. Mrs. Lynch found the letter and started to read it but was interrupted when her husband called a third time. Both she and Juliette talked to him, begging him not to kill himself. See id. While Juliette was speaking with Lynch, Mrs. Lynch used her cell phone to call 911 again. She told the operator about the murder-suicide letter she had just found and that Lynch was willing to turn himself in. After that 911 call ended and Lynch had ended his call to Mrs. Lynch, she returned to reading the letter he had left. Before she could finish reading it, several police officers arrived at her home. See Lynch, 2 So.3d at 68. One officer, after confirming that she was Mrs. Lynch, asked her for the letter. See id. She did not want to hand it over until she had finished reading it, but the officer kept asking and she gave him the letter.

While Mrs. Lynch was talking with the officers, Lynch himself called 911. See Lynch, 841 So.2d at 370. He talked with the 911 operator for the next thirty or forty minutes. See Lynch, 2 So.3d at 57-58. By the time that call began, two officers were at Morgan's apartment responding to the neighbors' reports of shots fired. The officers attempted to enter the apartment, but quickly retreated when Lynch fired a shot at them. See Lynch, 841 So.2d at 366. Eventually, the SWAT team arrived, there were negotiations, and Lynch gave himself up. Before he did that, Lynch told the 911 operator that he had killed two people, that he had shot Morgan to " put her out of her misery," and that he had fired at the two police officers who tried to enter the apartment. Id.


A Florida grand jury issued a four-count indictment on March 23, 1999, charging Lynch with: (1) first-degree premeditated murder of Roseanna Morgan; (2) first-degree premeditated murder of Leah Caday; (3) armed burglary of a dwelling; and (4) kidnapping. See id. at 365-66. There was a mountain of evidence against Lynch, piled up stone by stone through the testimony of multiple witnesses, the presentation

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of documents, undisputed circumstances, and Lynch's own words. It was conclusively proven that: Lynch had barricaded himself inside Morgan's apartment, had fired from it at police officers, and when he emerged had left inside two dead bodies, one of which was riddled with five bullets. The prosecution also presented: the murder-suicide letter Lynch had written two days before the murders, the testimony of the neighbor across the hall who saw Lynch drag Morgan inside the apartment after she had been shot several times, the testimony of a second neighbor who described the five to seven minute pause between the two groups of gunshots, the testimony of Mrs. Lynch about his three phone calls to her, the recording of his own lengthy 911 call, the testimony of the police negotiator who talked Lynch out of the apartment, and a videotape of Lynch's post-arrest interview confessing to the killings. See Lynch, 841 So.2d at 366-67, 371.

Together, the evidence showed that: (1) two days before the murder Lynch wrote about his intent to kill Morgan; (2) he packed a bag with three loaded pistols and took them to her apartment; (3) he intentionally parked away from the apartment complex so that neither victim would see his vehicle and know he was there; (4) he held the thirteen-year-old Caday in the apartment at gunpoint for thirty or forty minutes while waiting for Morgan to return home; (5) he shot at Morgan a total of eight times, hitting her five times; (6) Morgan was still breathing when he switched to a different pistol and fired the final shot into the back of her head; (7) he said that he had fired that last shot to " put her out of her misery," but he had not done it until five to seven minutes after the first of the five shots he had fired into her; and (8) Caday watched her mother suffer from the other gunshot wounds for those five to seven minutes before he killed both of them. Lynch, 2 So.3d at 53, 59, 66, 69-70; Lynch, 841 So.2d at 366, 368-69. The only evidence in Lynch's favor, if it can be called that, was a few self-serving statements -- sprinkled among his numerous incriminating admissions -- in which he claimed that the initial shots he fired at Morgan through the doorway and the single shot fired into Caday had been accidental. See, e.g., Lynch, 2 So.3d at 66. He never explained how the first pistol had accidentally discharged, not once, not twice, not three or four times, but seven times. See id. at 68-70; Lynch, 841 So.2d at 378.

Lynch's two trial attorneys, who had more than twenty-five years of capital case experience between them, understandably concluded that it would be impossible to persuade a jury that Lynch had accidentally killed Morgan. See Lynch, 2 So.3d at 57-58. They believed from their experience that juries tended to be quite unsympathetic in the sentence stage to defendants who had murdered children. See id. at 57, 71. They also knew that the trial judge -- Judge O.H. Eaton, Jr. -- was a seasoned jurist and a recognized authority on Florida's death penalty procedure, which they believed would make him more receptive to their mitigation arguments. See id. at 72, 82. For those reasons Lynch's two experienced trial counsel advised him to plead guilty to all four counts and waive his right to a sentence-stage jury. He did so in October 2000. See id. at 52, 70-71; Lynch, 841 So.2d at 366.


At the sentence hearing, which was held in January 2001, the defense built its mitigation case on the testimony of forensic neuropsychologist Dr. Jacquelyn Olander. See Lynch, 841 So.2d at 367; Lynch, 2 So.3d at 72. She testified that Lynch had a schizoaffective disorder, which was a combination of schizophrenia and a mood

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disorder. See Lynch, 841 So.2d at 367. She concluded that he was " under the influence of an extreme mental and emotional disturbance" when he committed the murders " and that his psychotic process substantially impaired his capacity to conform his conduct with the requirements of the law." Id.

The State called its own expert, psychologist Dr. William Riebsame. See id. at 374. He agreed with Dr. Olander that Lynch had mental health issues but disagreed about their severity. See id. In Dr. Riebsame's opinion, Lynch's lack of delusions and his ability to recall the facts of the crime were inconsistent with a schizoaffective disorder. Id. He concluded that while Lynch was " emotionally disturbed" he had not been acting under a severe mental or emotional disturbance during the crimes, and his ability to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law " was impaired, but not substantially impaired." Id.

The trial court considered all of the expert testimony, along with the evidence establishing Lynch's conduct before, during, and after the murders. See id. at 368. After having the matter under submission for two months, the court issued a written order sentencing Lynch to death for each murder. The order specified three statutory aggravating factors that supported imposing the death penalty for each of the two murders. See id.

The trial court rested the death sentence for Morgan's murder in large part on the fact that Lynch had planned days in advance to kill Morgan and then had methodically carried out his plan. It placed " great weight" on the statutory aggravating circumstance that " the murder was cold, calculated, and premeditated." Id. (applying Fla. Stat. § 921.141(5)(i)). The court put " moderate weight" on the aggravating circumstance that Lynch " had previously been convicted of a violent felony." Id. (applying Fla. Stat. § 921.141(5)(b)). It reasoned that the previously-convicted-of-a-violent-felony factor applied because the murder involved multiple victims[1] but decided that factor should receive only moderate weight because Morgan was the first victim killed. The court also found the aggravating circumstance that Lynch had committed the murder " while . . . engaged in committing one or more other felonies." Id. (applying Fla. Stat. § 921.141(5)(d)). It reasoned that the circumstance applied because Lynch had killed Morgan in the course of committing armed burglary,[2] but it concluded that the factor should be given little weight since the armed burglary was part of Lynch's premeditated plan and thus already covered by the " cold, calculated, and premeditated" aggravating circumstance.

On the other side of the scale, the trial court found that the only statutory mitigating factor that applied was the one for " no significant history of prior criminal activity," and that it should receive only " moderate weight." Id. at 368 & n.5. Lynch contended that two more statutory mitigating factors should apply -- that he had committed the murders while " under the influence of extreme mental or emotional disturbance" and that his capacity

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" to conform his . . . conduct to the requirements of law was substantially impaired." See Fla. Stat. § 921.141(6)(b), (f). The court determined, however, that the circumstances on which Lynch based those contentions were entitled to only " moderate weight" as non-statutory mitigating circumstances because Lynch had not proven that his disturbance or impairment was great enough to meet the statutory mitigating circumstances definitions. See Lynch, 841 So.2d at 374-75. The court also found six other non-statutory mitigating circumstances for a total of eight.[3]

Concluding that the three aggravating factors outweighed the one statutory mitigating factor and the eight non-statutory mitigating factors, the court sentenced Lynch to death for the murder of Morgan. See id. at 368 & n.5.

For Caday's murder, the trial court's determination that a death sentence was warranted centered on the terror that Caday had experienced before she died. The court placed " great weight" on the fact " that the murder was heinous, atrocious, or cruel." Id. at 368 (applying Fla. Stat. § 921.141(5)(h)). It reasoned that the fear and emotional strain Caday had suffered from the time Lynch talked her into letting him into the apartment until he shot her to death made her murder heinous. It noted that Lynch had held the terrified young girl at gunpoint for thirty or forty minutes before her mother arrived and then shot her mother dead in front of her. Caday was screaming hysterically during Lynch's first phone call to his wife.

The court found that Lynch had been " previously convicted of a violent felony," id. (applying Fla. Stat. § 921.141(5)(b)), and it placed " great weight" on that aggravating circumstance because Caday was the second victim killed in a multiple murder. The court also found the aggravating circumstance that Lynch had killed Caday while he " was engaged in committing one or more other felonies," id. (applying Fla. Stat. § 921.141(5)(d)), because Caday was a minor.[4] But it decided that the factor should receive only moderate weight because Caday's " killing was an afterthought" and would have been second-degree murder but for the felony murder rule.

The court found the same statutory and non-statutory mitigating circumstances it had in sentencing Lynch for the murder of Morgan, and concluded that the three aggravating circumstances outweighed that single statutory mitigating factor and the same eight non-statutory mitigating ...

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