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Morris v. Haynes

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

February 23, 2018

Anthony John Morris, Petitioner,
Ron Haynes, Warden, Respondent.


         Petitioner Anthony John Morris (Petitioner) filed a Petition[1] asking the Court for a Writ of Habeas Corpus, arguing that his New Mexico first-degree murder conviction violates his constitutional rights. He makes the following claims: (1) there was insufficient evidence to prove Petitioner possessed any premeditated thought requisite for a first-degree murder charge and conviction; (2) the state failed to present any evidence of deliberate intent to kill. In response, Warden Ron Haynes (Respondent) contends that substantial evidence supports Petitioner's conviction.[2] On February 12, 2017, Petitioner untimely sought to amend his Petition to include a claim of ineffective assistance of appellate counsel based on appellate counsel's failure to argue that trial counsel had failed to object or contest state forensic evidence.[3] The Court has reviewed the Motion and all briefing. For the reasons explained below, the Court denies Petitioner leave to amend his Petition and dismisses the Petition with prejudice.


         On December 26, 1991, at approximately 7:00 p.m., Victor Zabel Senior[4] found the body of Mary DuPris on a road on the outskirts of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

         That morning, Mary DuPris, her children, her sister, her mother, and a friend drove from their residence in Acomita, New Mexico to Albuquerque, New Mexico. After dropping her mother off to work at 8:00 a.m., Mary DuPris and the others spent the day driving to various locations in the city. At a grocery store, Mary DuPris purchased alcohol, which she drank.

         At 4:30 p.m., they went to pick up Mary DuPris' mother in downtown Albuquerque. Her mother decided to take over driving from Mary DuPris because of the alcohol her daughter had consumed. Mary DuPris decided not to return to Acomita with her family, but to stay in Albuquerque with her aunt. She gathered her personal belongings from the car and started walking toward Central Avenue.

         Witness Donja Kaye Nations, who at that time managed a hotel at 1020 Central Avenue, reported seeing a woman who resembled Mary DuPris walking on Central Avenue sometime that afternoon. A red truck pulled past the woman and stopped. A man jumped out, picked up the woman, and forced her into the car. According to Ms. Nations, the woman appeared terrified and did not seem to know the man. Ms. Nations could not positively identify Petitioner as the man who abducted the woman.

         On that day, the Zabel family worked at the Double Eagle Airport outside of Albuquerque. Around 6:30 p.m., Victor Zabel Jr. left the airport before his father. As he drove home, he saw a yellow car make a U-turn and head toward the airport. He also passed a red truck stopped by the side of the road. He did not see the driver of the red truck or anything else out of the ordinary. At the time Mr. Zabel Jr. drove by, the road was clear of obstacles.

         Approximately fifteen minutes later, Mr. Zabel Sr. left the airport using the same road. About one mile from the highway, Mr. Zabel Sr. saw something in the road and unsuccessfully swerved to avoid it. He looked back to see what he had hit and realized it was a person. After reporting the incident to the police from a phone at a nearby gas station, Mr. Zabel Sr. returned to the scene and waited. When the police arrived, they processed the scene believing that a motor vehicle accident had killed Mary DuPris. Later, the chief medical examiner determined the cause of death as a gunshot wound to the right temple from a 9-millimeter handgun. Mary DuPris' body had other injuries consistent with a vehicle or vehicles having hit her post mortem.

         During the autopsy, the examiner took several swabs from the body. The swabs revealed the presence of sperm cells in the victim's mouth and stomach. In 1991, DNA testing was not as sophisticated as it is today, so it could not establish the identity of the individual who deposited the cells. The police kept the swabs as evidence.

         Five months later, another woman was murdered with a 9-millimeter handgun. Her body was found 0.7 miles from where Mary DuPris had been found. The police suspected Calvin Winfield committed the crime. Subsequently, Mr. Winfield committed suicide using a 9-millimeter handgun. Forensic examiners inspected the 9-millimeter handgun for evidence of use in the woman's homicide, Winsfield's suicide, and Mary DuPris' homicide. The results were inconclusive in all aspects. Mary DuPris' case went cold.

         Approximately twenty years later, a detective reopened the Mary DuPris case. The detective conducted DNA testing on the preserved swabs. A CODIS hit matched the semen in the samples taken from Mary DuPris' body to Petitioner.

         On July 20, 2012, Detectives interviewed Petitioner. During the interview, Petitioner told detectives that at the time of Mary DuPris' death, he “had a bad habit with prostitutes” who he used to pick up on Central Avenue. He also said sometimes he picked up a hitchhiker and that “if it ended up that way, that's the way it ended up, you know.” He stated that he did not remember Mary DuPris and could not explain the presence of his DNA in her body. The detectives took a buccal swab from Petitioner. Further analysis revealed that Petitioner had a DNA profile similar to that found in the swabs.

         In the course of the interview, Detectives also learned Petitioner owned a 1971 red Dodge pickup at the time of the murder, and he still owned it. Following the interview, Petitioner spoke telephonically about the truck with his ex-wife. He told her to “junk” it. He further stated the police could not get him on first-degree murder.

         Based on the conversations between Petitioner and his wife, investigators obtained a search warrant for the truck. Forensic examination revealed blood on the seat. While testing established the blood as human, ...

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