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Weathers v. Davis

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

February 15, 2019

OBIE D. WEATHERS, III, Petitioner - Appellant

          Appeals from the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas


          Before KING, JONES, and HAYNES, Circuit Judges.


         This case was remanded from the Supreme Court of the United States for reconsideration in light of its decision in Moore v. Texas, 137 S.Ct. 1039 (2017). There, on direct appeal, the Supreme Court held that the Briseño factors "may not be used . . . to restrict qualification of an individual as intellectually disabled." Moore, 137 S.Ct. at 1044; see Ex parte Briseño, 135 S.W.3d 1, 3 (Tex. Crim. App. 2004), abrogated by Moore v. Texas, 137 S.Ct. 1039 (2017). Because applying Moore retroactively to this case contradicts the Court's recent decision in Shoop v. Hill, ___ S.Ct. ___ (Jan. 7, 2019), we affirm the district's court's judgment


         Obie Weathers III was convicted of the 2000 capital murder of Ted Church and was sentenced to death for that crime. His conviction and sentence were affirmed on direct appeal, Weathers v. State, 2003 WL 22410067 (Tex. Crim. App. Oct. 22, 2003). Then followed two rounds of state habeas review, the last of which concerned his Atkins claim and was resolved against him in 2014. In Weathers v. Davis, 659 Fed.Appx. 778 (5th Cir. 2016), cert. granted, judgment vacated, 138 S.Ct. 315 (2018), this court denied a COA to appeal the federal district court's rejection of habeas relief on his Atkins claim.

         Weathers sought certiorari from the Supreme Court, urging for the first time that Texas's Briseño factors used as an adjunct to clinical findings of mental retardation were unconstitutional. In light of Moore, the Supreme Court granted his petition and remanded the case to this court for further consideration. We granted a COA and obtained additional briefing from both parties to consider whether the state courts' rejection of Weathers's Atkins claim was reasonable in light of Moore.

         In 2016, this court summarized the facts of this case:

After a crime spree involving a string of burglaries, theft, one murder, and one sexual assault of an elderly man over the course of just a few months, one evening in February, 2000, Weathers entered Pierce's Ice House, a tavern in San Antonio, Texas, wielding a handgun and concealing his face with a pillowcase with eyeholes cut out. Weathers informed the patrons that he intended to rob the ice house, but he told the three black men present to remain calm because he only wanted to rob the white individuals. Weathers robbed the white patrons, then ordered a waitress at gun point to empty the cash register. While the waitress was carrying the till to Weathers, she stumbled and Weathers pointed his gun at her head. At this time, one of the bar patrons, Ted Church . . . swung at and grabbed Weathers. In the ensuing struggle, Weathers shot Church twice in the head and once in the abdomen. Weathers fled with over two-hundred dollars, but he was apprehended eleven days later and confessed to this and other crimes. Church was rushed to the hospital and underwent multiple surgeries, but he died weeks later from irreparable damages to his pancreas caused by the gunshot wound.

Weathers, 659 Fed.Appx. at 779-80.

         This court's 2016 opinion discusses at length Weathers's various appeals and concluded that reasonable jurists could not debate the district court's denial of his Atkins-claim. That opinion also examines the facts underlying his contention that the state court inappropriately credited the State's medical expert while discrediting Weathers's expert. This court also noted "the dearth of evidence concerning the third prong of Briseño (adopting the AAMR), whether any intellectual disability and adaptive deficits were evident before age 18." Weathers, 659 Fed.Appx. at 789.[1]


         We granted a COA on remand from the Supreme Court, received further briefing, and reviewed the district court's findings of fact for clear error and its conclusions of law de novo. Martinez v. Johnson,255 F.3d 229, 237 (5th Cir. 2001). To obtain federal habeas relief from state custody, AEDPA requires the petitioner to demonstrate that the state court's adjudication of the claim "resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law," 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1), or "resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding," id. ยง ...

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