State of Missouri v. Milton Griffin-El

756 S.W. 2d 475 (Mo. banc 1988)

Milton Griffin-El was executed on March 25, 1998

Case Facts
:  On August 14, 1986 Milton Griffin-El and five other individuals met to discuss a burglary and robbery. The intended victims were Mr. Jerome Redden and his girlfriend, Ms. Loretta Trotter, who lived with their four-month-old son in Redden’s apartment, located above the Redden Cleaners, a family owned business. One of the group, Antoine Owens, knew of some stereo and television equipment Redden owned because he had visited the apartment on occasion with his girlfriend, Pamela Trotter, Loretta Trotter’s sister. Owens indicated to the others that following the burglary he would have to kill Redden and Loretta Trotter because they knew him.

Later that day Griffin-El, Owens and three others went to Redden’s’ apartment. Griffin-El and Owens knocked on the door and asked Redden for a ride home. Redden asked Loretta Trotter if it was all right for the men to come upstairs but she told him no. When Redden returned he told the two men that they could not enter the apartment. Griffin-El and Owens then forced their way into the apartment.

The two men told Redden and Trotter to lie on the floor in the living room. Trotter begged the two men not to hurt them and told them that her four-month-old baby was also in the apartment. Griffin-El decided that Redden and Trotter needed to be tied up. After Trotter was tied up with an extension cord Griffin-El told Owens to take Redden into the kitchen and tie him up. After Owens took Redden into the kitchen Griffin-El choked Trotter until she passed out. Griffin-El then went to the kitchen where he began to tie up Redden.

Owens returned to the living room to check on Trotter and the two struggled. Griffin-El then tied Trotter up a second time with some torn bed sheets. Griffin-El then returned to the kitchen and asked Redden where the money was. Redden continued to reply “don’t hurt her.” Griffin-El began strangling Redden with an extension cord and torn bed sheets. In the living room, Owens stabbed Trotter twice in the lower chest and four times in the throat with a steak knife. She died from a stab wound that penetrated her heart.

Redden then continued to yell from the kitchen whereupon Griffin-El hit Redden in the back of- the head with a wrench he had secured from the kitchen area. The blow knocked Redden out whereupon Owens stabbed Redden twice in the abdomen with the steak knife. As Redden came to he began struggling and Griffin-El stabbed him with a butcher knife four times in the chest. The Medical Examiner ruled that the blow to Redden’s head was the cause of death

The two men covered Redden and Trotter with bed sheets and Griffin-El took the wrench and threw it into a trashcan. Owens took the two knives out of the apartment and disposed of them. The men who were waiting downstairs then helped load the stolen stereo and television equipment into a van owned by Redden Cleaners. Griffin-El had taken the keys for the van from victim Redden. Redden and Trotter’s four-month-old baby was left unharmed in the apartment.

Four days later Pamela Trotter overheard Griffin-El describe the beating and murder of Redden and her sister. The police were contacted and they arrested Owens and two other men. Griffin-El then called Owens’ mother and reported that the three men had nothing to do with the crime and that he had killed the couple. Griffin-El also told Mrs. Owens that he was going to kill Pamela Trotter for reporting the crime to the police. Following his statements Griffin-El was subsequently arrested.

Legal Chronology

10/09 — Milton Griffin-El pleaded guilty to Burglary Second Degree in the City of St. Louis and was sentenced to 90 days in the St. Louis Medium Security institution.

03/24 — Milton Griffin-El pleaded guilty Attempted Burglary Second Degree and was sentenced to one year in the St. Louis County Jail.
12/12 — Milton Griffin-El pleaded guilty to Robbery First Degree and Stealing a Motor Vehicle in the City of St. Louis and was sentenced to nine years in the Missouri Department of Corrections.

8/14 – Griffin-El participates in the murders of Jerome Redden and Loretta Trotter in the City of St. Louis.
9/9 – Griffin-El is indicted for two counts of murder first degree, two counts of robbery first degree, stealing a motor vehicle and knowingly burning.

2/7 – Griffin-El is charged by amended information as a prior and Class X offender.
6/22 – Griffin-El is tried in the St. Louis City Circuit Court.
6/30 – Griffin-El is convicted of two counts of murder first degree. The jury sentences Griffin-El to life imprisonment without parole in the murder of Loretta Trotter and deadlocks on punishment for the murder of Jerome Redden.
7/7 – The trial court imposes a sentence of death for the murder of Jerome Redden.
8/7 – Griffin-El’s motion for a new trial is denied.

6/29 – Griffin-El files a motion for post-conviction relief.

8/21 – The Circuit Court denies the motion for post-conviction relief.
8/29 – The Missouri Supreme Court affirms Griffin-El’s convictions and sentences.

7/31 – The Missouri Supreme Court affirms the denial for post-conviction relief.

7/5 – Griffin-El files a petition for habeas corpus in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.

1/13 – Habeas corpus petition held in the United States District Court.

7/31 – Petition for habeas corpus denied and certificate of probable cause to appeal issued.
9/27 – Notice of Appeal filed in the United States Eighth Court of Appeals.
10/7 – Appeal docketed by the U. S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.
10/22 – Respondent moves to quash the certificate of appealability and dismiss the appeal.
11/4 – U. S. Court of Appeals orders Griffin-El to show why a certificate of appealability should not be denied.
12/30 – Griffin-El responds to the show cause order.

3/21 – The U. S. Court of Appeals denies the certificate of appealability, quashes the certificate of probable cause and dismisses the appeal.
8/11 – Griffin-El’s petition for a rehearing en banc is denied.
9/4 – The U. S. Court of Appeals issues its mandate.

1/20 – The U. S. Supreme Court denies certiorari and the State of Missouri files a motion to set an execution date in the Missouri Supreme Court.
2/10 -The Missouri Supreme Court sets an execution date for March 25, 1998.