Thompson v. Parker, No. 13-6085 (6th Cir. 2017)Annotate this Case
In 1986, Thompson, having served 12 years of a life sentence for an unrelated murder for hire, killed his prison-farm supervisor, stole his possessions, and fled. Thompson was captured and convicted of murder, robbery, and escape. Thompson was granted a retrial on direct appeal, then pleaded guilty to all three counts to avoid jury sentencing. A state court held that Commonwealth was entitled to jury sentencing despite the plea agreement. The jury returned a death-penalty verdict. In state post-conviction proceedings, Thompson succeeded on his claim that the trial court had failed to hold a mandatory competency hearing but was unsuccessful on his other claims for relief. After the trial court held the required competency hearing and found that Thompson had been competent to plead guilty, the Kentucky Supreme Court affirmed Thompson’s convictions and sentences. The Sixth Circuit affirmed denial of Thompson’s federal habeas corpus petition raising claims that the jury improperly considered extraneous evidence when it discussed a news account about another violent criminal who had committed a murder after earning parole at age 70; that jury instructions violated the Supreme Court’s 1988 holding, Mills v. Maryland, because they stated that the “verdict” had to be returned unanimously but did not expressly state that unanimity was not required for a juror to find a mitigating factor; and the Kentucky Supreme Court did not adequately conduct a comparative-proportionality review in assessing whether Thompson’s death sentence was excessive or disproportionate.