Bush v. Carpenter, No. 16-6318 (10th Cir. 2019)Annotate this Case
Petitioner Ronson Bush was an Oklahoma state prisoner who pled guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to death. After exhausting his state court remedies by way of a direct appeal and an application for state post-conviction relief, Bush filed a federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The district court denied Bush’s petition, and also denied him a certificate of appealability (COA). Bush appealed and the Tenth Circuit subsequently granted him a COA with respect to five issues. Bush argued: (1) the state trial court violated his due process rights by allowing the prosecution to make an offer of proof from a jailhouse informant regarding incriminating statements allegedly made by Bush; (2) the admission of improper victim impact testimony, including requests by the victim’s family members for the death penalty, violated his rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments’; (3) trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object to the admission of the unconstitutional victim impact testimony; (4) his direct appeal counsel was ineffective for failing to argue that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to challenge the constitutionality of an Oklahoma statute that bars capital defendants who plead guilty from being sentenced by a jury; and (5) cumulative error. Taking each issue in turn, the Tenth Circuit ultimately affirmed the district court’s denial of habeas relief.