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Dorr v. Hauser

United States District Court, D. Alaska

May 28, 2019

ROBERT R. DORR, Petitioner,
EARL L. HOUSER, Superintendent, Goose Creek Correctional Center, Respondent.



         Robert R. Dorr, a state prisoner now represented by counsel, filed a Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus with this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Dorr is in the custody of the Alaska Department of Corrections and incarcerated at Goose Creek Correctional Center. Briefing is now complete, and the case is before the undersigned judge for adjudication.


         On June 27, 2003, Dorr was charged with first-degree murder, extreme indifference second-degree murder, kidnapping, two counts of first-degree sexual assault, and one count of second-degree misconduct involving weapons after he shot his wife, Gail Dorr, several times with a handgun, leading to her death. Dorr also shot himself twice in the head, but he survived. On direct appeal of his conviction, the Alaska Court of Appeals laid out the following facts underlying the charges against Dorr and the evidence presented at trial:

The Dorrs married in 1998, but Gail told Dorr in August 2002 that she wanted a divorce. Dorr suspected that Gail was having an affair, but Gail denied it. After Gail moved out the next month, Dorr hired a private investigator, Walter Compton, to spy on Gail to see if she had a lover.
Compton videotaped a man heading toward Gail's new apartment. The video convinced Dorr that something was going on, and Dorr decided that Gail had falsely denied an affair. On October 11th, Dorr bought a .38 caliber handgun.
On October 12th, Dorr staked out Gail's home. He saw a man arrive in a truck and enter Gail's apartment. Dorr recorded the truck's license plate number and gave the information to Compton, who identified the driver for Dorr.
Dorr called the man's wife and told her what he had observed. The man called Dorr and confirmed Dorr's suspicions that he was Gail's lover.
Before 5:00 a.m. on October 28th, Dorr arrived at Gail's residence with his handgun. Gail called her office and spoke with Barbara Pelletier, a co-worker, telling her she wanted to speak with Kevin Scott, Gail's supervisor. She told Pelletier that someone was banging on her door and would not go away. Pelletier thought that Gail sounded “very shaky, very distraught and upset, panicked, ” but Pelletier could not locate Scott.
Gail called back a few minutes later and spoke with Scott, telling him that she was sick and would not come into work. Scott felt that something was wrong because of Gail's tone of voice, so he asked her if Dorr was there. Gail answered that he was and ended the conversation abruptly.
Dorr and Gail left Gail's apartment with Gail driving her truck and headed towards Dorr's house. As they passed by a gas station/convenience store, Gail suddenly turned into the parking lot, jumped from the moving truck, and ran toward the store's front door. Dorr fired several shots at Gail, hitting her twice in the back and once in the head, killing her. Dorr then shot himself twice in the head, but neither wound was fatal. Dorr was hospitalized and underwent surgery for his wounds.
On the following day and fifteen hours after surgery, the police interviewed Dorr at the hospital when Dorr was medicated. The police returned the next day, October 30, and interviewed Dorr twice more.
Dorr moved to suppress the statements he gave to the police while in the hospital. Superior Court Judge Larry D. Card granted the motion in part, suppressing the portion of the second October 30 interview that continued after Dorr “broke off questioning indicating he had spoken to his attorney and the attorney told him not to say anything else.” Judge Card rejected Dorr's argument that his admissions were involuntary.
During the trial, Judge Card granted Dorr's request that the jury be instructed on the heat-of-passion defense with respect to the charge of second-degree murder. The State petitioned this Court for review and we granted the petition in part. We instructed the superior court to use verdict forms that would require the jury to specify if the jury agreed that the State failed to disprove Dorr's heat-of-passion defense, and if so, to which murder charge (first-or second-degree) ...

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