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BRADSHAW, WARDEN v. STUMPF, 545 U.S. ---

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BRADSHAW, WARDEN v. STUMPF

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT

No. 04-637.Argued April 19, 2005--Decided June 13, 2005

Respondent Stumpf and his accomplice Wesley committed an armed robbery that left Mr. Stout wounded and Mrs. Stout dead. Stumpf admitted shooting Mr. Stout but has always denied killing Mrs. Stout. In Ohio state court proceedings, Stumpf pleaded guilty to, among other things, aggravated murder and one of three capital murder specifications charged in his indictment. This left Stumpf eligible for the death penalty. In a contested penalty hearing before a three-judge panel, Stumpf 's principal mitigation arguments were that he had participated in the robbery at Wesley's urging, that Wesley had killed Mrs. Stout, and that Stumpf 's minor role in the murder counseled against the death sentence. The State, however, claimed that Stumpf had shot Mrs. Stout, and that he therefore was the principal offender in her murder. In the alternative, the State noted that even an accomplice can be sentenced to death under Ohio law if he acted with the specific intent to cause death, and the State argued that such intent could be inferred from the circumstances of the robbery regardless of who actually shot Mrs. Stout. The panel concluded that Stumpf was the principal offender and sentenced him to death. At Wesley's subsequent jury trial, however, the State presented evidence that Wesley had admitted to shooting Mrs. Stout. But Wesley argued that the prosecutor had taken a contrary position in Stumpf 's trial, and Wesley was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole. After Wesley's trial, Stumpf moved to withdraw his own plea or vacate his death sentence, arguing that the evidence endorsed by the State in Wesley's trial cast doubt on Stumpf 's conviction and sentence. This time, however, the prosecutor emphasized other evidence confirming Stumpf as the shooter and again raised, in the alternative, the aider-and-abettor theory. The court denied Stumpf 's motion, and Ohio's appellate courts affirmed. Subsequently, the Federal District Court denied Stumpf habeas relief, but the Sixth Circuit reversed on two grounds. First, the Sixth Circuit found that Stumpf had not understood that specific intent to cause death was a necessary element of the aggravated murder charge, and that his guilty plea therefore had not been knowing, voluntary, and intelligent. Second, the court found that the conviction and sentence could not stand because the State had secured convictions of both Stumpf and Wesley for the same crime, using inconsistent theories.

Held:


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