478 S.E.2d 302 (Va. 1996), 961216, Mickens v. Commonwealth

Docket Nº961216.
Citation478 S.E.2d 302, 252 Va. 315
Opinion Judge[8] The opinion of the court was delivered by: Stephenson
Party NameWalter MICKENS, Jr. v. COMMONWEALTH of Virginia
Case DateNovember 01, 1996
CourtSupreme Court of Virginia

Page 302

478 S.E.2d 302 (Va. 1996)

252 Va. 315

Walter MICKENS, Jr.

v.

COMMONWEALTH of Virginia

No. 961216.

Supreme Court of Virginia.

November 1, 1996.

Page 303

[252 Va. 316] Bryan L. Saunders, Newport News (Warren F. Keeling, on brief), for appellant.

Robert Q. Harris, Assistant Attorney General (James S. Gilmore, III, Attorney General, on brief), for appellee.

Present: [252 Va. 315] All the Justices

[252 Va. 316] STEPHENSON, Justice.

In this appeal, we review a judgment sentencing Walter Mickens, Jr., to death following a second sentencing hearing.

I

Mickens was convicted of the capital murder of Timothy Jason Hall, i.e., the willful, deliberate, and premeditated killing of Hall in the commission of, or subsequent to, attempted forcible sodomy, in violation of Code § 18.2-31(5), and sentenced to death. We affirmed the conviction and death sentence. Mickens v. Commonwealth, 247 Va. 395, 442 S.E.2d 678 (1994) (Mickens I ). The Supreme Court of the United States, however, vacated the judgment and remanded the case to this Court for reconsideration in light of Simmons v. South Carolina, 512 U.S. 154, 114 S.Ct. 2187, 129 L.Ed.2d 133 (1994). Mickens v. Virginia, 513 U.S. 922, 115 S.Ct. 307, 130 L.Ed.2d 271 (1994). Upon remand, we concluded that the holding in Simmons required a remand of the case to the trial court for a new [252 Va. 317] sentencing hearing. Mickens v. Commonwealth, 249 Va. 423, 457 S.E.2d 9 (1995) (Mickens II ). 1

On February 5-8, 1996, the trial court conducted the new sentencing hearing, and, after hearing evidence in aggravation and in mitigation, the jury fixed Mickens' punishment at death, based upon both the "vileness" and the "future dangerousness" predicates. Code § 19.2-264.2. After considering

Page 304

a probation officer's report and additional evidence presented during a post-sentencing hearing, the trial court sentenced Mickens in accordance with the jury's verdict.

In this appeal of right, we review Mickens' death sentence and consider Mickens' assignments of error to various rulings by the trial court during the new sentencing hearing. Code § 17-110.1.

II

A

A full statement of the facts surrounding the crime is set forth in Mickens I, 247 Va. at 398-401, 442 S.E.2d at 681-83. At the new sentencing hearing, however, evidence of the crime was limited to the testimony of two witnesses, an Identification Technician with the Crime Scene Search Unit of the Newport News Police Department and an Assistant Chief Medical Examiner for the Commonwealth.

In the early afternoon of March 30, 1992, the police technician was dispatched to the crime scene on the shoreline of the James River, near 29th Street, in the City of Newport News. There she saw the body of the victim, later identified as Timothy Jason Hall. The body was nude from the waist down, except for white athletic socks, and the victim's legs were spread apart approximately 12 inches. Pubic hairs were recovered from the victim's buttocks. Bloody "transfer" stains were apparent on the outsides of the victim's thighs, and a "whitish" fluid was evident around the victim's anus and on his inner thighs. 2

An autopsy on the victim's body, performed by the medical examiner, revealed 143 separate "sharp force injuries." Of these, 62 were paired stab wounds which were present over the victim's head, neck, back, and shoulders. There also were 13 single stab wounds [252 Va. 318] and three paired incised wounds. The medical examiner concluded that the victim had bled to death and that 25 of the 143 wounds were fatal. The fatal wounds included a stab wound to the right neck that severed the carotid artery and the jugular vein, four paired stab wounds that punctured the right lung, three stab wounds that punctured the left lung, seven stab wounds to the skull that penetrated the brain, a stab wound to the forehead that also penetrated the brain, and one pair of stab wounds that perforated the liver. The medical examiner opined that the fatal wounds may not have caused instant death, and she estimated that the victim could have survived for as long as 30 to 40 minutes after the last wound had been inflicted.

B

In the new sentencing hearing, as in the first trial, the Commonwealth proved that Mickens had been convicted of six prior felonies, which are summarized as follows:

Date Offense Punishment March 16, 1973 Attempted larceny 3 years' from the person imprisonment June 3, 1974 Sodomy 3 years' imprisonment June 3, 1974 Robbery 6 years' imprisonment June 3, 1974 Grand larceny from 4 years' the person imprisonment February 4, 1980 Sodomy 10 years' imprisonment February 4, 1980 Robbery 7 years' imprisonment

The evidence also established that Mickens had been paroled from prison three times. His initial parole on October 30, 1973, was revoked on August 16, 1974, because he had been convicted of robbery, grand larceny from the person, and sodomy. Mickens' second parole on July 1, 1979, was revoked on April 11, 1980, because he had been convicted of sodomy and robbery. His third parole commenced on December 19, 1991, and he was on parole when Hall was murdered.

[252 Va. 319] Charles Edward Siron, one of Mickens' sodomy victims, testified that, on February 14, 1974, when he was 18 years old, he and Mickens were incarcerated in the Newport News City Jail. While Siron was sleeping,

Page 305

Mickens put a razor blade to Siron's throat and forced him out of bed and into the shower area where Mickens attempted to sodomize him.

Ruby Bunn, one of Mickens' robbery victims, testified that, on February 7, 1974, she was teaching her second grade class at Erwin School in the City of Newport News. Mickens appeared at the classroom door holding a knife and demanding her pocketbook. Bunn went to get her money from her purse, and, when she looked up, she saw Mickens standing near a small boy and holding the knife a few inches from the boy's head. Bunn gave Mickens her money, and he left the classroom.

Mickens called three witnesses, Darius L. Robinson, Jacquelyn Carter Brown, and his mother, Catherine Mickens. Robinson, a correctional officer who supervises Mickens in prison, testified that Mickens does his assigned chores "very well." Also, Mickens participates in a Literacy Incentive Program that teaches inmates mathematics, spelling, and reading. Robinson stated that Mickens has not been a problem to him while in prison and that he has no "personal apprehension" of Mickens. Robinson further stated that, if Mickens were given a life sentence, he first would be "housed in an area of people of the same type of conviction," and, if he "progresses," he probably would be placed in a "less secure area," with nonviolent offenders.

Brown, a counselor with the Department of Corrections, talks to prisoners "about family situations, personal problems, [and] things of that nature." She has provided counseling services to Mickens and has found him to be receptive to her counseling.

Mickens' mother testified that Mickens has two siblings and that the three children lived with her during their "developmental years." The children's father was not at home and did not provide assistance, and Mrs. Mickens worked and supported the family with the help of her grandfather. Mrs. Mickens testified that her son began to get into trouble when he was about 12 or 13 years old. During that time, she said, the "court system" did not provide any help for Mickens or services to assist her. She expressed hope that the jury would give her son a life sentence.

[252 Va. 320]

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7 practice notes
  • 240 F.3d 348 (4th Cir. 2001), 00-4, Mickens v. Taylor
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
    • February 16, 2001
    ...again fixed Mickens' sentence at death. Mickens appealed, the Supreme Court of Virginia affirmed the sentence, Mickens v. Commonwealth, 478 S.E.2d 302, 307 (Va. 1996), and the United States Supreme Court denied certiorari, Mickens v. Virginia, 520 U.S. 1269 (1997). The Supreme Court of Virg......
  • 227 F.3d 203 (4th Cir. 2000), 00-4, Mickens v. Taylor
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
    • September 14, 2000
    ...fixed Mickens' sentence at death. Mickens appealed, the Supreme Court of Virginia affirmed the sentence, see Mickens v. Commonwealth, 478 S.E.2d 302, 307 (Va. 1996), and the Supreme Court denied certiorari, see Mickens v. Virginia, 520 U.S. 1269 (1997). Mickens then pursued state post-convi......
  • 74 F.Supp.2d 586 (E.D.Va. 1999), Civ. A. 398cv102, Mickens v. Greene
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 4th Circuit Eastern District of Virginia
    • November 5, 1999
    ...and the "future dangerousness" predicates of Virginia's death penalty statutes. See Mickens v. Commonwealth, 252 Va. 315, 478 S.E.2d 302 (1996), cert. denied, 520 U.S. 1269, 117 S.Ct. 2442, 138 L.Ed.2d 202 (1997). After conducting a post-trial hearing pursuant to Va.Code Ann. § 19......
  • 513 S.E.2d 642 (Va. 1999), 981798, Cherrix v. Commonwealth
    • United States
    • Virginia Supreme Court of Virginia
    • February 26, 1999
    ...154 (1988). (6) The review provided by this Court on direct appeal in capital cases is not unconstitutional. Mickens v. Commonwealth, 252 Va. 315, 320, 478 S.E.2d 302, 306 (1996), cert. denied, 520 U.S. 1269, 117 S.Ct. 2442, 138 L.Ed.2d 202 (7) Capital murder defendants do not have the cons......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
7 cases
  • 240 F.3d 348 (4th Cir. 2001), 00-4, Mickens v. Taylor
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
    • February 16, 2001
    ...again fixed Mickens' sentence at death. Mickens appealed, the Supreme Court of Virginia affirmed the sentence, Mickens v. Commonwealth, 478 S.E.2d 302, 307 (Va. 1996), and the United States Supreme Court denied certiorari, Mickens v. Virginia, 520 U.S. 1269 (1997). The Supreme Court of Virg......
  • 227 F.3d 203 (4th Cir. 2000), 00-4, Mickens v. Taylor
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
    • September 14, 2000
    ...fixed Mickens' sentence at death. Mickens appealed, the Supreme Court of Virginia affirmed the sentence, see Mickens v. Commonwealth, 478 S.E.2d 302, 307 (Va. 1996), and the Supreme Court denied certiorari, see Mickens v. Virginia, 520 U.S. 1269 (1997). Mickens then pursued state post-convi......
  • 74 F.Supp.2d 586 (E.D.Va. 1999), Civ. A. 398cv102, Mickens v. Greene
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 4th Circuit Eastern District of Virginia
    • November 5, 1999
    ...and the "future dangerousness" predicates of Virginia's death penalty statutes. See Mickens v. Commonwealth, 252 Va. 315, 478 S.E.2d 302 (1996), cert. denied, 520 U.S. 1269, 117 S.Ct. 2442, 138 L.Ed.2d 202 (1997). After conducting a post-trial hearing pursuant to Va.Code Ann. § 19......
  • 513 S.E.2d 642 (Va. 1999), 981798, Cherrix v. Commonwealth
    • United States
    • Virginia Supreme Court of Virginia
    • February 26, 1999
    ...154 (1988). (6) The review provided by this Court on direct appeal in capital cases is not unconstitutional. Mickens v. Commonwealth, 252 Va. 315, 320, 478 S.E.2d 302, 306 (1996), cert. denied, 520 U.S. 1269, 117 S.Ct. 2442, 138 L.Ed.2d 202 (7) Capital murder defendants do not have the cons......
  • Request a trial to view additional results