JAMES CHANDLER RYDER, by and through his Next Friend, Sue Ryder, Petitioner - Appellant,
MAURICE WARRIOR,  Interim Warden, Oklahoma State Penitentiary, Respondent - Appellee
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Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma. (D.C. No. 6:05-CV-00024-JHP-KEW).
Patti Palmer Ghezzi, Assistant Federal Public Defender (Randy A. Bauman, Assistant Federal Public Defender with her on the briefs), Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, for Petitioner-Appellant.
Jennifer J. Dickson, Assistant Attorney General (Jennifer L. Crabb, Assistant Attorney General, and E. Scott Pruitt, Attorney General of Oklahoma, with her on the briefs), Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, for Respondent-Appellee.
Before TYMKOVICH, Chief Judge, PHILLIPS, and McHUGH, Circuit Judges.
McHUGH, Circuit Judge.
Petitioner-Appellant James Chandler Ryder, an Oklahoma state prisoner who was convicted of murder and sentenced to death, appeals from the district court's denial of his petition for writ of habeas corpus. In a prior unpublished order, we granted a certificate of appealability on three issues: (1) whether the district court erred in denying Mr. Ryder a definite stay of his habeas proceedings based on his incompetency; (2) whether Mr. Ryder was incompetent to stand trial and whether the procedures employed by Oklahoma to assess his competency violated his constitutional right to the effective assistance of counsel; and (3) whether Mr. Ryder's trial counsel was ineffective in failing to fully investigate his mental health and background as they related to competence to stand trial and his mitigation case at sentencing, and whether appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to raise the ineffective-assistance-of-trial-counsel claim. Applying the deferential standard required under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), we affirm the district court's denial of Mr. Ryder's petition for habeas relief.
A. Factual History
The facts underlying Mr. Ryder's conviction are largely undisputed. On April 8, 1999, after an ongoing dispute over personal property Mr. Ryder had been storing at the residence of Daisy Hallum and her adult son Sam Hallum, Mr. Ryder killed the Hallums. The property in dispute consisted of supplies Mr. Ryder had collected in preparation for a world-ending apocalypse he believed would occur on January 1, 2000. Mr. Ryder planned to depart for the Yukon region of Canada in the spring of 1999 because he believed the Yukon was the only place he could survive the pending apocalyptic event. When his plans were frustrated by the Hallums' refusal to return his property, Mr. Ryder went to the Hallums' home and beat Daisy Hallum to death and shot and killed Sam Hallum.
B. State Criminal Trial, Appeal, and Postconviction Proceedings
1. Criminal Trial
The State charged Mr. Ryder with two counts of first-degree murder. The State offered Mr. Ryder a plea agreement of two concurrent life sentences, with the possibility of parole in as early as fifteen years. Mr. Ryder rejected the plea agreement, stating to the trial court, " if I am found guilty and y'all kill me I will be free anyway. Let's see what happens."
Less than two weeks before trial, psychologist Dean P. Montgomery issued a report to Mr. Ryder's trial counsel in which he opined that Mr. Ryder suffered from a longstanding schizoid personality disorder and was incompetent to assist in his own defense. But based on Mr. Ryder's interactions with counsel and participation in preparing his defense, trial counsel did not have a " good faith doubt" as to Mr. Ryder's competency to stand trial. Counsel therefore did not raise the issue of competency at that time.
Mr. Ryder's case went to trial and a jury convicted him on both first-degree-murder counts. Following Mr. Ryder's convictions, but before the sentencing phase commenced, defense counsel filed an application for a determination of competency. See Okla. Stat. tit. 22, § 1175.2. The application was supported by Dr. Montgomery's report, which explained that although Mr. Ryder at times presented himself as competent, he demonstrated a pattern of resisting counsel and refusing to reveal mitigating evidence, including refusing to allow his family to testify on his behalf.
The trial court held a hearing on the application, out of the presence of the jury. At the hearing, trial counsel expressed concerns that Mr. Ryder had refused to assist in preparation for the sentencing phase and had instructed counsel not to offer any mitigating evidence. The trial court denied the request for a separate competency hearing and instead called Mr. Ryder to the stand to assess his competency to waive his mitigation case.  During his colloquy with the court, Mr. Ryder assured the judge that he understood he had been convicted on two counts of first-degree murder and the State was pursuing the death penalty. He further attested that he understood the purpose of mitigation evidence. Mr. Ryder testified that he did not want to present any mitigation evidence because he preferred the death penalty to life in prison without parole. Mr. Ryder also expressed his own belief that he was competent to make that decision. In response to questions from the court, Mr. Ryder denied having ever been treated for a mental illness, stating, " No, nothing [is] wrong with me."
After concluding its colloquy with Mr. Ryder, the court asked defense counsel to identify the proposed mitigation witnesses and the nature of their expected testimony. Counsel proceeded to describe the various witnesses they hoped to call, including family members, acquaintances, and prison staff. During this presentation, Mr. Ryder became upset, interrupting counsel and stating " I've heard all I need to. . . . Get me out of here. I do not want any second stage. Nobody to testify. And if I don't have that right, then get me out of here."
Defense counsel next called Mr. Ryder's mother, Sue Ryder, to testify on the competency issue. Not wishing to hear his mother's testimony, Mr. Ryder left the courtroom. Ms. Ryder then described her interactions with Mr. Ryder shortly before the murders took place and stated she believed he was severely depressed. She also testified that Mr. Ryder spent much of his time helping others, that he hated being in enclosed spaces, and that he asked her not to testify as a mitigation witness.
Mr. Ryder was then brought back into the courtroom. The court confirmed with Mr. Ryder that he wished to waive his mitigation case and that he understood the
strong likelihood he would receive the death penalty as a result.
The trial court then ruled Mr. Ryder was competent to stand trial and to waive his right to present mitigating evidence. The court also found Mr. Ryder had knowingly and voluntarily done so. Next, defense counsel argued that although Mr. Ryder had the right to waive his mitigation case under the Eighth Amendment, counsel still had a Sixth Amendment obligation to provide effective assistance. Counsel therefore requested that the court permit the defense to call two mitigation witnesses who were not among the family members Mr. Ryder had explicitly asked to not testify. The court granted this request and stated it would not foreclose counsel from calling mitigation witnesses.
During the sentencing phase, the State put forward evidence of three aggravating factors it claimed supported a sentence of death: Daisy Hallum's death was especially cruel, heinous, and atrocious; Mr. Ryder knowingly created a grave risk of death to more than one person; and there existed a probability that Mr. Ryder would commit acts of violence that would constitute a continuing threat to society. After the State rested, Mr. Ryder left the courtroom for the defense's presentation of its mitigation evidence. Defense counsel called family friend Sue Epley and jail staff member Sue Watkins. Ms. Epley testified that she had known Mr. Ryder for several years and he was honest, decent, hardworking, and not violent, but he was a loner who often talked about going to the Yukon in anticipation of the end of the world. Ms. Watkins, a dispatcher at the county jail where Mr. Ryder was then incarcerated, testified that Mr. Ryder was quiet and gave no problems to jail staff or other inmates.
The jury then deliberated and recommended a sentence of life in prison without parole for Sam Hallum's murder and death for Daisy Hallum's murder. The trial court sentenced Mr. Ryder accordingly.
2. Direct Appeal, Retrospective Competency Hearing, and State Postconviction Proceedings
Mr. Ryder appealed his conviction and sentence to the OCCA. On appeal, Mr. Ryder was represented by new counsel, Gloyd L. McCoy. He argued, among other things, that the trial court erred in failing to make a proper competency determination prior to the sentencing phase and that trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance by failing to notify the court of the competency issues before trial and by failing to present an adequate mitigation case. The OCCA remanded the case to the trial court to conduct a hearing to determine whether a retrospective competency trial was feasible, and, if so, to conduct such a trial to determine whether Mr. Ryder had been competent to stand trial. On remand, the trial court determined that a retrospective competency hearing was feasible.
The trial court thus began the process of selecting a jury to determine whether Mr. Ryder had been competent to stand trial. During voir dire, defense counsel told the jury venire that Mr. Ryder was on death row and asked whether the prospective jurors could give him a fair hearing, despite that fact. Later, during the prosecution's voir dire, a prospective juror raised
the fact that Mr. Ryder was on death row, and the prosecution explained that Mr. Ryder had been convicted of capital murder. The juror then inquired whether Mr. Ryder would be taken off death row or whether his case would be overturned if the jury determined he was incompetent. The court instructed the jury that its only concern was competency and the OCCA would decide what happens after the resolution of that issue.
Once the jury was empaneled, defense counsel called one witness, Dr. Montgomery. Dr. Montgomery discussed his 2000 and 2002 evaluations of Mr. Ryder, including the results of the MacArthur Competence Assessment Tool-Criminal Adjudication (MacCAT-CA), a test designed to assess the competency of criminal defendants. Dr. Montgomery testified that the MacCAT-CA results showed Mr. Ryder's competency to stand trial was questionable in that he was uncooperative with counsel and did not seem to be acting in his own best interest by withholding evidence, refusing to cooperate in any plea agreements, and refusing to allow his family to assist defense counsel. Dr. Montgomery further explained that although he had diagnosed Mr. Ryder with a schizoid personality disorder in 2000, his 2002 evaluation led him to believe that Mr. Ryder suffered from a more severe, delusional disorder under the schizophrenic group of disorders. This diagnosis was based on Mr. Ryder's hyperreligiosity, his delusions about the end of the world, his desire to live off the land in the Yukon, and other information Dr. Montgomery obtained through the historical records defense counsel provided in 2002.
After the defense rested, the State called three witnesses: Charlie Rogers, a deputy sheriff at the county jail where Mr. Ryder was incarcerated during his trial; Judge Thomas M. Bartheld, who had presided over Mr. Ryder's criminal trial;  and Charlie Mackey, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation agent who worked on Mr. Ryder's case. Each of the State's witnesses testified as to their interactions with Mr. Ryder before and during his criminal trial and their perceptions as to his participation in and understanding of the trial proceedings. After the State rested, the jury found Mr. Ryder had been competent during his original criminal trial.
Mr. Ryder then refiled his direct appeal to the OCCA, challenging both his underlying criminal trial and the retrospective competency trial. See generally Ryder v. State, 2004 OK CR 2, 83 P.3d 856 (Okla.Crim. App. 2004). The OCCA denied relief on all grounds and affirmed Mr. Ryder's conviction and sentence. Id. at 879.
Mr. Ryder then applied for postconviction relief with the OCCA, but the court denied the application on all grounds. Ryder v. State, No. PCD-2002-257 (Okla.Crim. App. Mar. 18, 2004). Mr. Ryder filed a petition for writ of certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court, which the Court denied. Ryde ...