Juniper v. Com.

Citation626 S.E.2d 383
Decision Date03 March 2006
Docket NumberRecord No. 051424.,Record No. 051423.
CourtVirginia Supreme Court

Andrew A. Protogyrou (Protogyrou & Rigney, on brief), Monticello, for appellant.

Steven A. Witmer, Assistant Attorney General (Judith Williams Jagdmann, Attorney General; Jerry P. Slonaker, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Michael T. Judge, Assistant Attorney General, on brief), for appellee.



In these consolidated appeals, we consider the four capital murder convictions and death sentences imposed upon Anthony Bernard Juniper by the Circuit Court of the City of Norfolk, along with his convictions for statutory burglary and use of a firearm during the commission of a felony.

In the first stage of a bifurcated trial conducted under Code § 19.2-264.3, a jury convicted Juniper of capital murder for each of the four killings, statutory burglary while armed with a deadly weapon, and four counts of use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. In the penalty phase of the trial the jury "found unanimously and beyond a reasonable doubt" that Juniper "would commit criminal acts of violence that would constitute a continuing serious threat to society" and that his conduct in committing the offenses involved either "depravity of mind and/or aggravated battery to the victim beyond the minimum necessary to accomplish the act of murder."1 The jury fixed Juniper's punishment at death for each capital murder conviction, life imprisonment for statutory burglary while armed with a deadly weapon, and one three-year and three five-year terms for the convictions for use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. After reviewing the post-sentence report required by Code § 19.2-264.5, the trial court sentenced Juniper in accordance with the jury verdicts.

Juniper appealed his convictions for the crimes other than capital murder to the Court of Appeals. We certified that appeal (Record No.051424) to this Court under the provisions of Code § 17.1-409 for consolidation with the appeal of Juniper's capital murder convictions (Record No. 051423) and the review of his death sentence mandated by Code § 17.1-313(A).

After consideration of Juniper's assignments of error, the record, the arguments of counsel, and the review required by Code § 17.1-313, we find no error in the judgment of the trial court and will affirm that judgment, including the sentences of death.


Under well-settled principles of appellate review, we consider the evidence presented at trial in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth, the prevailing party in the trial court.2 Burns v. Commonwealth, 261 Va. 307, 313, 541 S.E.2d 872, 877, cert. denied, 534 U.S. 1043, 122 S.Ct. 621, 151 L.Ed.2d 542 (2001); see also Lovitt v. Commonwealth, 260 Va. 497, 502, 537 S.E.2d 866, 870 (2000), cert. denied, 534 U.S. 815, 122 S.Ct. 41, 151 L.Ed.2d 14 (2001).


On the afternoon of January 16, 2004, Keshia Stephens, her younger brother Rueben Harrison, III,3 and two of Keshia's daughters, Nykia Stephens and Shearyia Stephens,4 were killed in Keshia's apartment in the City of Norfolk. When police arrived, they found that the door to Keshia's apartment had been forcibly opened. All four victims were discovered in the master bedroom; each had died as a result of gunshot wounds.

Keshia was stabbed through her abdomen, shot three times, and grazed by a fourth bullet. One bullet went through her intestine, kidney, and spine, causing spinal shock and leg paralysis. Another bullet also passed through her intestines and then proceeded to her abdominal aorta and inferior vena cava, causing extensive bleeding.

The stab wound did not fatally wound Keshia, but tore through the muscle of her abdominal wall. There was a great deal of blood accompanying the wound, however, which led the medical examiner performing the autopsy to conclude that the stab wound was probably the first injury inflicted on Keshia. The stab wound was consistent with a wound that would have been caused by the knife blade found at the scene of the crime.

Two-year old Shearyia was shot four times while in her mother's arms. Two bullets entered Shearyia's body in the shin of her left leg, fractured the bone, and exited through her calf. A third bullet entered and exited Shearyia's body through her thigh. The fourth bullet entered the crown of her head and passed through her brain, causing bone fragments to chip off.

Rueben Harrison was shot three times. One bullet struck his pelvic bone, and ricocheted through his body into his abdomen, liver, heart and lung, finally coming to rest in his armpit. A second bullet hit his hip bone, and exited through the front of his leg. A third bullet broke his femur bone, and exited his body at his front thigh. The medical examiner testified that the broken bones would have caused excruciating pain and immediately disabled Rueben.

Four-year old Nykia was shot one time behind her left ear. The bullet moved through her skull and cerebellum to the base of her skull, into her esophagus and trachea, causing substantial damage and bleeding, before exiting her chest. The medical examiner testified that the bullet's path was consistent with Nykia ducking her head and body toward the shooter prior to being shot. In addition, the presence of blood in Nykia's lungs indicated that she had taken one or two breaths between being shot and dying. Her body was found lying on top of her uncle's body.

Evidence presented at trial showed that Juniper and Keshia had been involved in an on-again, off-again tumultuous relationship for approximately two years. On the morning of the shootings, Juniper telephoned his friend, Renee Rashid, from his mother's house where he was living at the time. Juniper asked Rashid to drive him to Keshia's apartment so that he could retrieve some of his belongings. A short time later Rashid picked up Juniper at his mother's house and drove him to Keshia's apartment.

Both Juniper and Rashid entered Keshia's apartment, which was on the second floor of the apartment building. Rashid saw four individuals in the apartment: Keshia, Rueben, who was asleep on the couch, and two of Keshia's children, Nykia and Shearyia, who were preparing to take a bath. After helping Juniper disconnect a DVD player, Rashid was talking to the two girls, but overheard Juniper and Keshia arguing in another room. Keshia repeatedly made comments such as, "[T]here's nobody but you. I told you I'm not seeing anybody but you."

After Rashid announced that she was leaving, Juniper followed her to the door of the apartment. Hearing the door shut, Rashid assumed Juniper was behind her as she began to descend the apartment building steps. But as she was going down the stairway outside Keshia's apartment, Rashid heard a "loud boom" that she described as "sound[ing] like the door being kicked in." Not stopping to look behind her, Rashid hurried to her car. While waiting in her car outside the apartment, Rashid heard Keshia crying and repeating her statement that she was not seeing anyone but Juniper. Rashid sounded her horn to alert Juniper that she wanted to leave. Juniper yelled at Rashid to "Go ahead" so she began to drive away. As she drove away from the apartment she heard four "booms," which she described as "sound[ing] like gunshots."

Rashid did not stop, but proceeded to Juniper's mother's house, and expressed her concern that Juniper had remained at Keshia's apartment. Juniper's friend, Keon Murray, was there when Rashid arrived. Juniper called his mother's house and Murray talked to him on the telephone. Murray observed that Juniper was calling from Keshia's apartment because the Caller ID number matched Keshia's telephone number. Juniper told Murray that "They gone," and that Keshia's apartment was surrounded. He also stated that he "killed them," although he did not name particular individuals.

Murray then called Tyrone Mings, a friend who lived near Keshia's apartment building, and asked him to check Keshia's apartment. Mings walked to the apartment and observed that the front door appeared to have been kicked in. Upon entering Keshia's apartment, Mings testified that he saw Juniper standing in the living room with a white substance on his face and holding an automatic pistol. When Mings asked Juniper about Keshia, Juniper directed Mings to the back of the apartment. Upon entering the master bedroom, Mings saw Rueben and a young girl lying on the bed. Mings did not see Keshia and asked Juniper where she was. Juniper told Mings she was "between the bed and the dresser." Mings returned to the bedroom and called to the people in the room, but no one answered. Mings departed Keshia's apartment, leaving Juniper in the living room, still holding the pistol. Upon returning to his apartment, Mings called the police.

In the meantime, Rashid and Murray picked up Juniper's cousin ("Little John") and drove to Keshia's apartment. Murray and Little John went to look for Juniper, while Rashid stayed in the car. They returned to the car with Juniper, who sat in the front passenger seat next to Rashid, the driver. Rashid described Juniper as being "jittery" and "breathing real hard." Juniper kept looking in the mirrors, saying, "they're behind us" throughout the car ride. Murray stated that Juniper "look[ed] nervous," "[l]ike he was in shock," and that he had a powdery substance like cocaine on his face. Juniper held a black and chrome automatic pistol in his right hand, resting on his lap.

The police first arrived at Keshia's apartment...

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