Grant v. Royal, No. 14-6131 (10th Cir. 2018)Annotate this Case
Death row Oklahoma prisoner, petitioner Donald Grant sought habeas relief. In 2001, he was convicted with two counts of first degree murder and two counts of robbery with a firearm for the murders of Brenda McElyea and Suzette Smith during the robbery of the La Quinta Inn in Del City, Oklahoma. With respect to the murder counts, the State sought the death penalty. It charged several aggravating circumstances to support its request. In October 2012, Grant filed this instant 28 U.S.C. 2254 petition with the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, raising numerous propositions of error, five of which are relevant here: (1) he argued he was denied procedural due process because the trial court failed to hold a second competency hearing in response to Grant’s alleged manifestations of incompetence leading up to and during trial; (2) he raised several ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claims relating to trial counsel’s failures to investigate and present evidence regarding his competence and other mitigating circumstances; (3) he challenged the constitutionality of a jury instruction and related prosecutorial statements concerning mitigation evidence; (4) Grant raised a constitutional challenge to the peremptory strike of a potential juror on the basis of race; and (5) Grant argued that he was prejudiced by cumulative error. The district court denied Grant’s petition and granted a COA on the single issue of procedural competency. Grant moved the trial court to expand his certificate of appealability (COA). The Tenth Circuit concluded after review of the facts of this case, "no reasonable jurist could debate the correctness of the district court’s decision to deny Mr. Grant a COA regarding the exclusion of the Grundy Reports and the other expert reports, or deem the matter one that was worthy of encouragement to proceed further. Accordingly, we deny Mr. Grant’s motion to expand the COA."