Goins v. Com.

Decision Date19 April 1996
Docket NumberNos. 951869,951870,s. 951869
Citation470 S.E.2d 114,251 Va. 442
PartiesChristopher C. GOINS v. COMMONWEALTH of Virginia. Record
CourtVirginia Supreme Court

From the Circuit Court of the City of Richmond; Thomas N. Nance, Judge.

Susan D. Hansen (Robert N. Johnson, on briefs), Richmond, for appellant.

Katherine P. Baldwin, Asst. Atty. Gen. (James S. Gilmore, III, Atty. Gen., on brief), for appellee.

Present: All the Justices.

KEENAN, Justice.

In this appeal, we review the capital murder conviction and the death sentence imposed on Christopher C. Goins, along with his convictions for first degree murder, malicious wounding, and use of a firearm in the commission of murder and malicious wounding.

I. Proceedings

Goins was indicted for capital murder for the killing of Robert Jones, based on the willful, deliberate, and premeditated killing of more than one person as part of the same act or transaction. Code § 18.2-31(7). He was also indicted on four charges of first degree murder for the killing of Daphne Jones, Nicole Jones, David Jones, and James Nathaniel Randolph, Jr. Code § 18.2-32. Finally, Goins was indicted for the malicious wounding of Tamika Jones and Kenya Jones, and for seven charges of use of a firearm during the commission of each of these felonies. Code §§ 18.2-51 and -53.1.

In the first stage of a bifurcated jury trial conducted pursuant to Code § 19.2-264.3, the jury convicted Goins of all offenses charged in the indictments. The jury fixed his punishment at four terms of life imprisonment for the first degree murder convictions, two terms of twenty years' imprisonment for the malicious wounding convictions, and six terms of five years' imprisonment, as well as one term of three years' imprisonment, for the convictions of use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.

At the penalty phase of the capital murder trial, the jury heard evidence in aggravation and mitigation of the offense and fixed Goins' punishment for capital murder at death, based on findings of both "future dangerousness" and "vileness." After considering the probation officer's report and conducting a sentencing hearing, the trial court sentenced Goins in accordance with the jury verdicts. Under Code § 17-116.06, we have certified Goins' appeals of his non-capital convictions from the Court of Appeals, which we have consolidated with his appeal of the capital murder conviction and our review of the death sentence.

II. The Evidence

We review the evidence in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth, the prevailing party below. Cheng v. Commonwealth, 240 Va. 26, 42, 393 S.E.2d 599, 608 (1990). On the morning of October 14, 1994, Goins and his friend Barry Scott arrived at the home of Tamika Jones, where Tamika and the six other members of her family were present. Both Goins and Scott were friends of the Jones family.

Tamika, who was 14 years old, was seven months pregnant with Goins' child and recently had returned from the hospital after receiving treatment for complications related to the pregnancy. When Scott attempted to show Goins an ultrasound photograph of the fetus, Goins refused to look and became angry.

Tamika saw Goins in the living room, but was in her bedroom when she later heard him participating in a conversation in the kitchen. The conversation was interrupted by the sound of gunfire. The shots were fired rapidly and were followed by screams, crying, and the sound of a single set of footsteps in the hall. Tamika stated that she then heard more shots and saw "flashes in the hall."

Goins appeared in the doorway of Tamika's bedroom and shot her nine times. He also shot her 21-month-old sister, Kenya, whom Tamika had attempted to shield with her body.

When Tamika believed that Goins had left the apartment, she telephoned "911" for emergency assistance. She told the operator that Goins had shot her. The operator asked if anyone was with her. Tamika responded, "Yes. He shot them too."

When the City of Richmond police arrived at the Jones' home, they determined that all the members of the Jones family had been shot. Only Tamika and Kenya survived. In the kitchen, the police found the body of Tamika's four-year-old brother, David, as well as the bodies of her parents, Daphne Jones and James Randolph, Jr. In one of the bedrooms, the police found the bodies of Nicole Jones, Tamika's nine-year-old sister, and Robert Jones, Tamika's three-year-old brother.

Daphne Jones was shot four times, twice in the head, once in the left wrist, and once in the right leg. Both of the gunshot wounds to her head were lethal. One of these wounds showed evidence of "stippling," consisting of burned and unburned gun powder, which indicated that the gun was fired within a few feet of her head.

James Randolph, Jr. was shot nine times, twice in the head, three times in the left arm and chest, once in the abdomen, once in the right arm, once in the left leg, and once on the chin. Four of these wounds were lethal. The evidence showed that some of the shots were fired from less than "arm's length" and other shots were fired after Randolph had fallen to the ground.

David died as a result of a lethal gunshot wound to the head. This wound also showed evidence of stippling. Nicole suffered two lethal gunshot wounds. One bullet passed through her heart and a lung. The other bullet was fired into her head at close range. Robert sustained two lethal gunshot wounds to his head. Kenya sustained a wound, measuring between two and three inches long, through her left wrist.

Tamika was shot three times in the abdomen, three times in her thighs, once in her right hand, once in the neck, and once in her left shoulder. Her obstetrician performed a hysterectomy on her after the shootings, because multiple bullets had perforated her uterus and her right ovary and fallopian tube. When removed from the uterus, the fetus had sustained a gunshot wound to its face and was dead.

The police retrieved from the kitchen seven .45 caliber cartridge casings, various bullets, and bullet jacket fragments. In the bedroom where Nicole and Robert were shot, the police found two .45 caliber cartridge casings, as well as two bullets, a bullet jacket, and a lead fragment. In the bedroom where Tamika and Kenya had been shot, the police recovered six .45 caliber cartridge casings and two bullets. No weapon was found.

James L. Pickelman, a firearms identification expert at the Commonwealth's Division of Forensic Science, explained that hollow point bullets, such as those used in the commission of these offenses, are designed by the manufacturer to explode on impact with the target. Frequently, at the point of impact, the bullet core separates from its jacket. Pickelman examined the weight and rifling characteristics of the bullets, bullet jackets, and jacket fragments recovered from the apartment and the victims' bodies. He testified that all these items were ".45 auto caliber."

After examining the rifling marks on the bullet jackets and jacket fragments retrieved from Jones' apartment, Pickelman concluded that the bullet jackets were ejected from a firearm constructed by a manufacturer who uses polygonal rifling. Pickelman also stated that Glock, Inc. is the major manufacturer which uses this type rifling in the design of its firearms.

Ann D. Jones, also an expert in firearms identification at the Division of Forensic Science, compared the various microscopic markings on each cartridge casing that was recovered. Her examination of these markings established that all the cartridge casings were fired from the same .45 caliber Glock pistol. Jones stated that .45 caliber Glock pistols produce an elliptical shape firing pin impression, which is unique to that brand and type of pistol. She observed this impression on all the cartridge casings recovered from the crime scene.

Jones also testified that she compared the markings on one of the cartridge casings found at the crime scene with the markings on the unfired .45 caliber cartridge found in the home of Monique Littlejohn, Goins' girlfriend. Jones observed that these items exhibited the same extractor marks and concluded that both items had been in the same weapon.

On two occasions, the police searched Littlejohn's apartment. In addition to the unfired .45 caliber cartridge, they found an instruction manual for Glock pistols lying on the floor near some men's clothing.

In Littlejohn's automobile, the police found a Sam's Club identification card. Although Goins' photograph appeared on the card, the card was issued in the name of Derrick Reardon. Two other identification cards were also found in Littlejohn's car. Both cards were issued in the name of Derrick Reardon, but displayed Goins' picture. Investigators also found a high school equivalency diploma issued in the name of Derrick Lydell Reardon in Littlejohn's vehicle, as well as the business card of a taxicab driver, Parrish Davis.

Approximately one month after the shootings, Goins was apprehended in New York with Monique Littlejohn. At the time of his arrest, Goins had shaved his head.

Parrish Davis, who had known Goins for several months prior to the shootings, testified that Goins had been a passenger in his taxicab approximately once or twice each week during those months. Davis stated that, during this time, Goins was living with Littlejohn at her apartment.

Davis also stated that about one week before the shootings, he had a conversation with Goins, in which Goins stated that he was upset because Tamika was pregnant by him. Goins told Davis that "he wanted to do away with her and her family." At that time, Davis did not believe that Goins intended to harm the Jones family. However, Davis stated that he and Goins occasionally discussed the subject of .45 caliber pistols.

Davis also testified that he spoke with Goins on the evening of October 14, 1994, after the shootings. During that conversation, Goins asked Davis to drive him out of...

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