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Stumpf v. Mitchell

United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
367 F.3d 594 (2004)


In 1984, Norman and Mary Jane Stout let John David Stumpf (appellant) and Clyde Wesley into their home supposedly to make a phone call. But Stumpf and Wesley pulled guns and announced a robbery. Stumpf shot Norman twice—but Norman survived to hear four shots that killed his wife in another room. Both robbers were apprehended, but not tried together, because Wesley was fighting extradition in another state. Meanwhile, Stumpf confessed and pleaded guilty to aggravated murder. The prosecutor argued during plea and sentencing proceedings that Stumpf must have killed Mary Jane because ballistics showed the same gun was used to shoot both victims. A three-judge panel found Stumpf had shot Mary Jane, and Stumpf received the death penalty. However, seven months later, the same prosecutor used a jailhouse confession to prove that Wesley—not Stumpf—shot Mary Jane. Wesley’s cellmate testified that Wesley confessed to shooting Mary Jane with Stumpf’s gun after Stumpf dropped it. Ballistics evidence supported that version of events because Wesley’s gun tended to jam after one round, suggesting he discarded it after firing one shot. The jury convicted Wesley of aggravated murder and recommended a sentence of 20 years to life. Stumpf appealed, arguing the prosecutor’s use of conflicting theories to convict both Stumpf and Wesley for the same murder violated due process.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Daughtrey, J.)

Dissent (Boggs, C.J.)

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