from the United States District Court for the Northern
District of Georgia D.C. Docket No. 2:12-cv-00051-WBH
WILSON, WILLIAM PRYOR, and NEWSOM, Circuit Judges.
WILLIAM PRYOR, Circuit Judge:
Garnell Morrow, a Georgia prisoner convicted and sentenced to
death for the murders of Barbara Young and Tonya Woods,
appeals the denial of his petition for a writ of habeas
corpus, 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Morrow contends that we should
vacate his sentence on the grounds that his trial attorneys
provided ineffective assistance when they failed to uncover
and introduce mitigating evidence from Morrow's childhood
and when they failed to hire an independent crime-scene
expert to corroborate Morrow's account of the murders. We
disagree. The Supreme Court of Georgia reasonably concluded
that Morrow's attorneys were not deficient for failing to
uncover mitigating evidence and that the attorneys'
failure to hire an independent crime-scene expert did not
prejudice Morrow. We affirm.
divide this background in four parts. We begin with the facts
of the crime. Next, we explain counsel's preparations for
trial. Then, we describe Morrow's trial and sentencing.
We then provide an overview of the state and federal habeas
December 29, 1994, Scotty Garnell Morrow murdered Barbara
Young and Tonya Woods, and he severely injured LaToya Horne.
Humphrey v. Morrow ("Morrow
III"), 717 S.E.2d 168, 171-72 (Ga. 2011). Young was
Morrow's girlfriend, and Morrow repeatedly abused her.
Id. at 171. On December 6 of the same year, Morrow
struck Young; on December 9, he abducted, beat, and raped her
twice; and on December 24, Young told a neighbor that
"Morrow was going to kill her." Id.
day of the murders, Morrow and Young argued over the
telephone before Morrow, armed with a handgun, went to
Young's house, id. at 172, which was occupied by
Young, Woods, Horne, and two children, id. at
171-72. Morrow entered the house and found the three women in
the kitchen. Id. at 172. He argued with Woods before
shooting her "in her abdomen, severing her spine and
paralyzing her." Id. He then shot Horne in the
arm. Id. Young fled into the bedroom, but Morrow
pursued her and kicked open the bedroom door. Id. As
they struggled, the gun discharged and "likely
injur[ed]" Young. Id. She then ran into the
hallway, but Morrow again caught her. Id. Forensic
evidence presented by the state, id. at 177,
suggested that Morrow "smashed her head into the
bedroom's doorframe, leaving behind skin, hair, and
blood, " before he executed her with a single shot to
the head, id. at 172. The bullet passed
through Young's left palm, suggesting that she was
"attempt[ing] to shield her head." Id.
Morrow disputes this account and argues that "the blood
and hair found on the doorframe in the hallway were deposited
there by . . . Young's wounded hand, not by Morrow
striking her head against the door jamb." Regardless,
after Young died, Morrow returned to the kitchen and either
reloaded or unjammed his pistol. Id. He murdered
Woods by shooting her in the "head at close range, and
he shot . . . Horne in the face and arm." Id.
Horne survived, but suffered permanent injuries. Id.
Morrow then fled the scene after cutting the telephone line.
The Attorneys' Pretrial Preparations
1995, the trial court appointed Harold Walker Jr. and William
Brownell Jr. to represent Morrow, and in March of the same
year a grand jury indicted Morrow for two counts of malice
murder and several lesser offenses. Walker and Brownell
decided to pursue mitigating evidence to support their theory
that the crime was an out-of-character outburst by an
otherwise "good man." They met with Morrow
"almost right away" and probed "his general
life history." They repeatedly discussed Morrow's
childhood with Morrow's sister and mother. And they hired
an investigator, Gary Mugridge, who interviewed, among
others, Morrow's sister, mother, father, former
girlfriend, former co-workers, and bishop. Although Mugridge
lacked specific experience with capital investigations, he
had 40 years of investigative experience and "literally
reported everything he did back to [counsel]."
attorneys hired two psychologists. The first, Dr. Dave Davis,
interviewed Morrow about his personal and family history.
Davis learned that Morrow's father "battered"
his mother, that Morrow "[got] in trouble with school,
" and that Morrow had been in several "serious
[romantic] relationships, " "ha[d] always been
heterosexual, [had] beg[u]n intercourse at age 16, and ha[d]
had sexual relations with about thirty women." Davis
reported that Morrow was "cooperative, " that a
"[g]ood rapport was established, " and that Morrow
was "responsive and spontaneous." The second
psychologist, Dr. William Buchanan, saw Morrow four times,
and the attorneys met several times with Buchanan. Buchanan
testified that "Morrow was cooperative and honest"
in their sessions. Morrow shared other sexual details with
Buchanan, including that he "was picked up with a
transvestite" in 1992 and that his son had been
molested. But Morrow never told Buchanan that he had been
attorneys' investigation revealed that Morrow had spent
"a lot of [his] youth . . . in the New York [and] New
Jersey area" before moving to the south as an older
teenager. They learned that Morrow had struggled in school,
had undergone psychological testing, had experienced
"blackouts as a child, " and had a "big
brother mentor through the school." And they discovered
that "Morrow's childhood life was not ideal"
because "he saw his mother physically abused, saw his
family members emotionally abused . . . [and] was made fun of
by . . . other children."
investigation led the attorneys to "believ[e] [they] had
[found] everything" and that Morrow had not experienced
sexual or extreme physical abuse in the light of his and his
family's statements. They also saw little reason to doubt
the truthfulness and completeness of these accounts because
the family offered candid responses to their questions. For
example, Morrow's mother freely discussed "how her
husband beat her in front of [the] children, " and
counsel learned that Morrow was subject to "some
physical abuse" such as "intense spanking[s]."
Although the attorneys found the mother "difficult in
terms of providing information" and perceived that she
gave "the same answers over and over again, " they
determined that she was honest and never "hostile or
unwilling to help." And Walker later testified that he
"never got the feeling [Morrow] was trying to mislead
attorneys encountered a few "dead ends, " such as
when they unsuccessfully attempted to reach out to officials
at Morrow's childhood school and Morrow's childhood
mentor. They also declined to send Mugridge to New York and
New Jersey to further explore Morrow's childhood. And the
attorneys did not hire a social worker to help with the
investigation because they concluded that doing so was
unnecessary in the light "of what . . . Buchanan was
doing and the mitigation evidence that . . . Mugridge was
finding." They also did not retain a forensic expert to
rebut the state investigator's forensic account of the
The Trial and Sentencing
trial, Morrow testified that his victims had verbally
provoked the assault and gave a less-brutal description of
the murders. He asserted that Woods was standing upright and
taunting him when he fired the first shot. He also gave an
account of his struggle with Young that conflicted with
evidence presented by the state that "Young's
forehead likely was injured when her head struck a
doorframe." Id. at 177. And he disputed that he
reloaded his gun mid-rampage. The prosecutor underscored the