No. 2:07-CV-00322-DB) (D. Utah).
BRISCOE, HOLMES, and CARSON, Circuit Judges.
ORDER DENYING CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY
Beck Briscoe Circuit Judge.
Ronald Watson Lafferty was convicted in Utah state district
court of multiple criminal charges, including two counts of
first degree murder, and was sentenced to death. After
exhausting his state court remedies, Lafferty sought federal
habeas relief by filing a petition in federal district court
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. The district court denied
his petition and also denied him a certificate of
appealability (COA). Lafferty has now filed a renewed motion
with this court seeking a COA on four claims that were
asserted in his federal habeas petition. We deny a COA and
dismiss this matter.
grew up in Orem, Utah and was a member of the Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints (the LDS Church). During the
period between 1982 and 1983, he became increasingly critical
of the LDS Church and he was excommunicated in 1983.
following year, Lafferty's wife Diana filed for and
obtained a divorce and moved with their six children to
Florida. Lafferty felt his excommunication was unjust and was
distraught over the dissolution of his marriage.
and some of his brothers organized themselves into what he
called the "School of the Prophets." The brothers
claimed that they received communications from God and they
would meet as a group to discuss these
during this time that Lafferty first told his brothers that
he had received a revelation that his ex-wife Diana had been
the wife of the devil in a previous world. Lafferty believed
their union angered the devil, who in turn caused him trouble
in this world out of jealousy. In the spring of 1984,
Lafferty claimed to have received another revelation from God
(the "removal revelation") ordering that four
people were to be "removed." Among those to be
"removed" were his brother Allen's wife Brenda,
their fifteen-month-old daughter Erica, Richard Stowe, and
to this time, Lafferty had expressed negative feelings to
other family members and friends about the four persons named
in the removal revelation. He believed that all four in some
way had either helped his wife obtain a divorce or played a
part in his excommunication from the LDS Church.
conjunction with the removal revelation, Lafferty claimed to
have received another revelation on March 13, 1984,
commanding that he and the School of the Prophets
"consecrate" an "instrument" to be used
in the removal of the four named individuals. When he
discussed this new revelation, only two of his brothers, Dan
and Watson, agreed to such an action; the others involved
with the School of the Prophets felt that this and the
removal revelation were not of God and disassociated
themselves from the revelations. The School of the Prophets
disbanded because of disagreement over this issue, but Dan
and Lafferty continued in their belief that the revelations
needed to be fulfilled.
24, 1984, Lafferty, Dan and two other men, Charles Carnes
("Chip") and Ricky Knapp, drove together to
Brenda's apartment. Lafferty and Dan went into the
apartment. The other two men stayed in the car. Brenda was
beaten, strangled with a vacuum cord, and had her throat
slit. Brenda's fifteen-month-old daughter also had her
next drove to Low's house. After they determined no one
was there, the men broke into the house and took numerous
items. As they left Low's house, Lafferty began talking
about going on to Stowe's home.
accidentally missing the turnoff to Stowe's home, Dan and
Lafferty decided to abandon trying to fulfill the rest of the
revelation. They stopped at a service station and then headed
toward Wendover. Chip testified at trial that during the
drive Lafferty admitted to killing Brenda. Chip also
testified that Lafferty thanked Dan for killing the baby.
Wendover, the group rented a small kitchenette apartment
where they cleaned up, ate, and spent the night. The next
night, afraid of what the Lafferty brothers had said they had
done, Ricky and Chip quietly left the apartment and drove
away in the car. They were arrested in Cheyenne, Wyoming on
July 30, 1984. Lafferty and Dan were taken into custody by
the FBI in Reno, Nevada, on August 17, 1984.
The original state criminal proceedings
was charged in Utah state district court with two counts of
first degree murder, two counts of aggravated burglary, and
two counts of conspiracy to commit first degree murder.
Lafferty's competency to stand trial became a key issue,
but the state trial court ultimately found Lafferty competent
to stand trial. At trial, Lafferty was convicted by a jury on
all counts and sentenced to death. The Utah Supreme Court
subsequently affirmed Lafferty's convictions and
Lafferty's first federal habeas petition
filed a petition for federal habeas relief pursuant to §
2254. The district court denied the petition and Lafferty
appealed. This court concluded that the state trial judge had
applied the wrong legal standard in determining
Lafferty's competency to stand trial. See Lafferty v.
Cook, 949 F.2d 1546, 1556 (10th Cir. 1991). This court
further concluded that a competency determination could not,
as a matter of law, be made on the record that existed, and
it also concluded that the passage of time rendered
impractical a remand for an after-the-fact competency
hearing. Id. In light of ...