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Nash v. Russell

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

November 24, 2015

Donald R. Nash, Petitioner - Appellant
v.
Terry Russell, Respondent - Appellee

Submitted September 22, 2015

Page 893

Appeal from United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri - St. Louis.

Donald R. Nash, Petitioner - Appellant, Pro se, Bonne Terre, MO.

For Donald R. Nash, Petitioner - Appellant: Jonathan Barton Potts, Litigation Counsel, Stephen Robert Snodgrass, Charles Andrew Weiss, Bryan & Cave, Saint Louis, MO.

For Terry Russell, Respondent - Appellee: Stephen David Hawke, Assistant Attorney General, Michael Joseph Spillane, Assistant Attorney General, Attorney General's Office, Jefferson City, MO.

Before MURPHY, MELLOY, and SMITH, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 894

MELLOY, Circuit Judge.

A jury convicted Donald R. Nash of capital murder in violation of section 565.001 of the Revised Statutes of Missouri (1978) in 2009. Following an unsuccessful appeal to the Missouri Supreme Court, Nash filed this 28 U.S.C. § 2254 habeas corpus petition. He argues that his conviction is not supported by sufficient evidence and his constitutional rights were violated by Missouri's " direct connection rule," under which the trial court excluded evidence of a third-party's potential guilt. The district court[1] denied the petition, and Nash appeals. We affirm.

I. Background

On March 11, 1982, Judy Spencer was found dead in a rural area near Salem, Missouri. Her body had been dragged to and dumped in the foundation of an abandoned outhouse about thirty minutes from where her car was found stuck down a steep embankment on the side of a road. An initial police investigation determined Spencer had been strangled with her shoelace, then shot in the neck by a shotgun postmortem. Her postmortem blood alcohol content was 0.18.

At the time of her death, Spencer had been living with her boyfriend, Appellant Nash. Spencer had spent the afternoon and evening of March 10 driving around and drinking with friends. Because Spencer had agreed with Nash to stop drinking, she lied to him about her whereabouts. When Nash learned that Spencer was drinking at Janet Jones's apartment, he went to the apartment and confronted her, saying: " This is the last time you'll ever lie to me, bitch." After Nash left Jones's apartment, Spencer washed her hair in a sink and restyled it. She then went to the home she shared with Nash, where they continued to argue about her drinking and where she changed her

Page 895

clothes. Spencer returned to Jones's apartment and invited Jones to go drinking at bars in Houston, Missouri, more than thirty miles away. Jones declined, and ...


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