Case Chronology

In September 1989, Hawkins was indicted for the aggravated murders of Richard and Marteen. For each of the two murders, Hawkins was indicted on two counts: one charging that the offense was committed with prior calculation and design and one charging felony murder premised upon aggravated robbery. Each of the four counts of aggravated murder carried two death penalty specifications. Hawkins also was indicted on two counts of aggravated robbery with a firearm.

Hawkins was tried in December 1989 before a jury in the Hamilton County, Ohio Common Pleas Court. He testified on his own behalf and denied the murders and robberies. He also presented the testimony of other witnesses. Nonetheless, the jury convicted Hawkins of all charges and all specifications. The jury recommended a death sentence for each aggravated murder count. The trial court sentenced Hawkins to death.

Hawkins appealed the verdict to the Ohio First District Court of Appeals and the Ohio Supreme Court, both of which affirmed his conviction and sentence of death. The Ohio Supreme Court also sua sponte merged the two separate convictions for each murder so that a single death sentence remained for each homicide. The Ohio Supreme Court denied Hawkins motion for rehearing and the United States Supreme Court denied certiorari. Hawkins petition for post-conviction relief also was deniedby the state courts. Finally, Hawkins Application to Reopen under Ohio R. App. P.26(B) and additional motions for reconsideration and petitions for writs of certiorari were denied by the Ohio courts and the Supreme Court.

In 1997, Hawkins petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus in the Southern District of Ohio, advancing twenty-seven claims for relief. After discovery and an evidentiary hearing, the district court denied twenty-six of Hawkins’ claims,  and granted relief on one, Hawkins’ second claim: ineffective assistance of trial counsel. The court found Hawkins’ counsel constitutionally ineffective because in preparation for the sentencing phase, he failed to conduct any investigation for mitigation purposes, choosing instead to rely on a theory of residual doubt.

The State of Ohio now appeals that determination. The district court granted Hawkins a Certificate of Appealability (COA) on five of his other theories of recovery. Hence, the following grounds for habeas relief(which we have numbered as they appear in the habeas petition) are before us in this appeal:

2. Hawkins was denied his rights as guaranteed by the Fifth, Sixth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments by his trial Counsels utter lack of investigation and preparation for the mitigation phase of his capital trial.

3. The cumulative effect of the States misconduct regarding Keith Miree violated Petitioner Hawkins rights under the Fifth, Sixth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and prejudiced him.

4. The States misconduct regarding the bloody fingerprint violated Petitioner Hawkins rights under the Fifth, Sixth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments  to the United States Constitution.

7. The prosecutors failure to provide Hawkins counsel with material and exculpatory evidence violated his rights as guaranteed by the Fifth, Sixth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.

11. The trial court’s denial of Hawkins Motion for Mistrial based on prosecutorial misconduct violated Hawkins’ rights under the Fifth, Sixth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments.

27. The trial court violated Mr. Hawkins right to confront, present a defense, due process and equal protection as guaranteed by the Sixth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments when the court failed to disclose and seal Henry Browns juvenile records.

 December 21, 1989

A jury convicted Shawn Hawkins of four counts of aggravated murder and two death specifications under each count. He was also convicted of two counts of theft and one firearm specification under each count. Despite the jury’s verdict and the potential death sentence, defense counsel failed to put on any mitigating evidence. Counsel’s entire closing argument focused on berating and threatening the jury for its prior determination of Shawn’s guilt.

January 10, 1990 thru February 5,1990.

The sentencing phase of Shawn’s trial began and ended on January 10, 1990. The next day, January 11, 1990, the jury returned a verdict recommending death on all four counts of aggravated murder. On January 26, 1990, the trial court accepted those recommendations

December 14, 1990

Shawn filed a motion for a new trial based on newly discovered evidence. The murder weapon (gun) was turned over to court. Tests on weapon were inconclusive. This motion was denied on December 27, 1990

December 18, 1991 thru 1993

Shawn timely pursued his direct appeals of right, both of which were denied by Ohio Courts.

Ohio Supreme court Justice Pfeifer dissented from that court’s denial of Shawn’s direct appeal. Shawn’s motion for rehearing was denied and Justice Wright dissented from this denial. The United States Supreme Court denied certiorari in 1993

January 19, 1995

Shawn timely pursued Post conviction relief by filing a Post Conviction petition pursuant to Ohio Revised Code 2953.21. The trial court denied this petition and entered findings of fact and conclusions of law which adopted the States proposed entry verbatim.

June 22, 1996

The First Appellate District affirmed the denial of Shawn’s Post Conviction. The Ohio Supreme court then declined to take jurisdiction of Shawn’s Post Conviction appeal with Ohio Supreme court Chief Justice Moyer and Justice Pfeifer dissenting. The United States Supreme Court denied certiorari in 1997. Shawn also challenged the effectiveness of his direct appeal attorney in the First Appellate District. That court denied Shawn’s application for reopening his direct appeal. The Ohio Supreme court affirmed this denial. Shawn’s motion for reconsideration was denied in 1996 with Ohio Supreme court Justice Wright dissenting from this decision.

May 19, 1997

Having properly exhausted his federal constitutional claims in the state courts, Shawn filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus with the United States District court for the Southern District of Ohio

September 5, 1997

The Warden filed an Answer (Return of Writ) including an Appendix containing relevant records of state proceedings.

June 4, 1999

Shawn filed an amended petition alleging twenty seven grounds in support of relief

July 6, 1999

The Warden filed an amended Return of Writ.

October 4, 1999

Hawkins filed a Reply (Traverse) to the Warden’s Amended Return.

April 5, 2000

The District Court referred the case to United States Magistrate Judge Michael Merz for further proceedings

February 6, 2001

The Magistrate Judge issued an order granting in part Shawn’s motions for expansion of the record and an evidentiary hearing.

January 2002

An evidentiary hearing was subsequently convened on January 2002 and continued on April 18, 2002 and May 20, 2002

June 30, 2005

The District Court issued an opinion and judgment adopting the report and recommendations of the Magistrate Judge and issuing a Writ of Habeas Corpus, conditioned upon the states reinitiating of sentencing proceedings with 180 days.

July 19, 2005 

District Court of granted Shawn conditional relief, which was reversal of the Death Sentence based on ineffective assistance of legal counsel during the mitigation phase of the trial

August 15, 2005

The Warden filed a notice of appeal of the District Courts judgment, insofar as the District Court granted a writ of habeas corpus.

August 18, 2005

Shawn filed a notice of crossappeal.

November 29, 2005

The Magistrate Judge issued a report in which he recommended the issuance of a certificate of appealability with respect to the District Courts denial of relief on the Fourth, Seventh (in part), Eleventh and Twenty-Seventh grounds.

February 1, 2006

District Court granted Shawn permission to further pursue appeal on certain issues and also allowed the State to appeal the District Courts reversal of Shawn’s death sentence.

March 4, 2006

After filing of timely objections by Shawn, the District Court issued an Opinion and Order adopting in part the Magistrate Judges recommendations. The District Court issued a Certificate of Appealability with respect to its denial of relief on the first and second subclaims of the Third ground; the fourth ground; the portion of the first subclaim on the Seventh ground pertaining to the nondisclosure of information (other than polygraph information) about States witness Henry Brown, and the Eleventh and Twenty-Seventh grounds

2007 (entire year)

Appeal filed with the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals

November 18, 2008

The Sixth Circuit Court reversed the July 19, 2005 decision citing that counsel was not ineffective during mitigation and reinstated the death sentence

February 19, 2009

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, En Banc denied Shawn’s petition for a rehearing

November 9, 2009

Writ of Certiorari Petition was filed with the U.S. Supreme Court and denied by the Court

February 2011

The Ohio Supreme Court set an execution date for June 14, 2011.

May 2011

Shawn filed for clemency

After a full hearing, the Parole Board recommended clemency.  The Board’s decision was unanimous 7-0.

May 2011

Shawn filed a motion for a new trial.

June 8, 2011

Six days before Shawn was scheduled to be executed, Governor Kasich issued an executive order, granting Shawn clemency.  He was automatically given a Life Without Parole sentence.

June 13, 2011

Shawn was removed from death row and transferred to Warren Correctional Institution.

Read on:
Sister Alice Gerdeman article and her involvement with Shawn’s caseCASE CHRONOLOGY


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