Remington v. Com., Record No. 010579.

Citation551 S.E.2d 620,262 Va. 333
Decision Date14 September 2001
Docket NumberRecord No. 010579.
CourtSupreme Court of Virginia
PartiesJeffery A. REMINGTON v. COMMONWEALTH of Virginia.

James M. Dungan, Staunton, (W.T. Robey, III, Buena Vista, on brief), for appellant.

Pamela A. Rumpz, Assistant Attorney General (Mark L. Earley, Attorney General, on brief), for appellee.

Present: All the Justices.

HASSELL, Justice.

In this appeal, we review the capital murder conviction and sentence of death imposed upon Jeffery Alan Remington.

I. Proceedings

Remington was tried before a jury on an indictment charging him with the capital murder of Brent H. Parker in violation of Code § 18.2-31(3), for "[t]he willful, deliberate, and premeditated killing of any person by a prisoner confined in a state or local correctional facility." Remington and Parker were inmates at the Augusta Correctional Center at the time of Parker's death.

Upon motion of the defendant, and without objection from the Commonwealth, the circuit court entered an order that transferred the capital murder trial from Augusta County to the City of Buena Vista. At the conclusion of the guilt phase of the proceedings, the jury found Remington guilty of capital murder.

In the penalty phase of the capital murder trial, the jury fixed Remington's punishment at death, finding that he represented a continuing serious threat to society and that his conduct in committing the offense was outrageously or wantonly vile, horrible, or inhuman in that it involved torture, depravity of mind, or aggravated battery to the victim. See Code § 19.2-264.2. The circuit court considered a report prepared by a probation officer pursuant to Code § 19.2-264.5 and sentenced the defendant in accord with the jury verdict.

II. The Evidence Adduced During the Guilt Phase

As required by familiar principles of appellate review, we will recite the evidence presented at trial in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth, the prevailing party in the circuit court, and we will accord the Commonwealth the benefit of all inferences fairly deducible from that evidence. Dowden v. Commonwealth, 260 Va. 459, 461, 536 S.E.2d 437, 438 (2000).

On Sunday, January 16, 2000, the defendant, Parker, Michael William Lenz, and three other inmates attended a meeting of a group referred to as the Ironwood Kindred. The meeting occurred in a room in Building J-5 at the Augusta Correctional Center in Augusta County. Earl Jones, a corrections officer, supervised the six inmates who attended the meeting. A door separated Officer Jones from the inmates. However, the door contained a window which permitted Jones to observe the inmates.

Officer Jones "saw a commotion in the room." As he walked to the door, "three of the inmates ran out, and said . . . `They're stabbing him.'" Officer Jones saw the defendant and Lenz stabbing Parker, who was "lying on the floor." Jones testified that Parker was on his back "making a feeble attempt to ward the knife strokes off from him. . . . Remington was on Parker's right; and as Parker would put his hand up, Remington would push [Parker's] hand aside, and stab him with . . . the knife. Lenz was on the other side, and doing basically the same thing."

Jones, who was unarmed, did not enter the room but opened the door and told Remington and Lenz to stop stabbing Parker. "They simply looked at [Jones], and went back to stabbing Parker." Parker was not armed with any type of weapon.

Jones used his radio to summon help. Two corrections officers, John Edward Simmons and Edward Lee Houching, responded. Jones, accompanied by Simmons and Houching, entered the room, and Simmons directed Remington and Lenz to "drop their weapons." Lenz placed his weapon on a table, but Remington "continued to hold onto his." Eventually, Remington surrendered his "homemade kni[fe]" to the officers. Jones testified that Remington "seemed really excited" and "happy."

Corrections Officer Simmons testified that he "saw Inmate Parker laying on the ground in a fetal position, with Inmate Lenz and Inmate Remington standing over top of him, stabbing him several times." Simmons saw Remington stab Parker "[a]bout four or five times."

Corrections Officer Houching testified that when he responded to the crime scene, he "saw Mr. Parker, laying on the ground, in a fetal position. Inmate Lenz and Inmate Remington were bent over, stabbing him." Remington stabbed Parker "[a]round the chest area; the stomach—around the stomach." Houching saw Remington stab Parker "eight to ten times."

Rita K. Dietz, a registered nurse, rendered assistance to Parker after the attack. When she entered the room where the assault had occurred, Parker was "laying in the floor, and there was a pool of blood around his chest area." Dietz described Parker's condition as critical. She made that assessment because of "[t]he amount of blood; all his chest wounds—there was air coming out of his chest."

Dietz stated that Parker was placed on a stretcher "and he helped to roll himself on the sheet, with us; and we lifted him by the drawsheet . . . [a]nd, of course, blood was pouring out. And we put him on the stretcher, and . . . we brought him to the front to meet the ambulance as fast as we could." Parker died later that evening at a hospital.

Dr. Gregory Price Wenger, who was employed as an Assistant Chief Medical Examiner for the Western District of Virginia, performed an autopsy on Parker's body. Wenger qualified as an expert witness on the subject of forensic pathology. Wenger determined that Parker died from "multiple sharp force injuries." Parker had 68 stab wounds to his body. The wounds were "scattered over the surfaces of the body, involving his chest, his abdomen, his back, his arm — his right arm. [The wounds] penetrated vital internal organs." Parker had seven stab wounds in the left lung and three stab wounds in the right lung. Parker's liver contained seven stab wounds.

In response to the question, "did any one of these stab wounds by itself cause Mr. Parker to die?", Wenger replied: "Certainly the ones internally, that produced the injuries to the lungs and liver, were the most serious ones. There isn't any safe place that you can stab people. All these [wounds] had produced some bleeding. Together, just the large number of stab wounds that he had, even the soft tissue ones certainly contributed." Dr. Wenger testified that all the wounds occurred when Parker was alive, and all the wounds contributed to his death.

III. Evidence Adduced During the Penalty Phase

During the penalty phase of the trial, the Commonwealth introduced the defendant's prior convictions for robbery, abduction, rape, and use of a firearm during the commission of robbery. The Commonwealth also relied upon evidence that it presented during the guilt phase of the trial.

The defendant offered evidence in mitigation of his offense. The defendant called Michael Lenz to the witness stand. Lenz invoked his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination and refused to testify. The defendant was permitted to read to the jury portions of a transcript of prior testimony that Lenz had given under oath.

According to Lenz's prior sworn testimony, Parker, Remington, and Lenz were members of the Ironwood Kindred, a group that practiced the Asatru religion. Lenz testified: "[Parker and I had] been through a lot of times when—when it was close to fighting. . . . And things just kept building and building and building. And he had problems with me. And I had problems with him. I didn't like the way that he was portraying my religion to other people." During the inmates' meeting on January 16, 2000, Lenz called Parker "up to the altar." Lenz stated, "I asked—and I said to him, `It's been a long, hard path between us.' And he said, `Yes, it is.' And I pulled the knife out of my pocket. And I said, `Are you trying to take it to the next step?' And he said, `Yes, I am.' And so I stabbed him."

Lenz testified that when he started stabbing Parker, "Jeffery attacked him. . . . Jeffery [Remington] attacked him as well. And [Parker] wasn't ready for it. [Parker] was surprised. Hehe was probably just as surprised as the people were at Pearl Harbor in 1941, though he shouldn't have been. And then the other guys jumped up and—and tried to—to jump on Jeffery Remington."

In 1999, Remington received an excellent rating on his "inmate job performance review." He also received his general education development certificate, commonly referred to as a G.E.D., issued by the Virginia Department of Education while he was incarcerated.

Joel Sickler, a criminologist and sentence consultant, testified without objection from the Commonwealth. Sickler stated that Remington "had a very troubled upbringing." His parents were divorced when he was five years old, and his biological father was "a tyrant, . . . an alcoholic, [and] a very violent man." Remington was sexually molested as a child. Remington, who has a history of drug addiction, began to use drugs at age 14 or 15.

The defendant testified during the penalty phase. He stated that he had been raped when he was an inmate in the Greensville Correctional Facility. On another occasion at the Powhatan Correctional Center, an inmate tried to rape him. Remington testified that several inmates at the Augusta Correctional Center had told him that they intended to rape him, and he believed that Parker was involved in those threats of rape. Remington also testified that Parker "threatened [his] life." Remington informed Lenz about Parker's threats, and Lenz directed Remington to arm himself with a knife.

Remington admitted that he intended to confront Parker at the meeting on January 16, 2000. When asked, "[s]o you went there armed with a deadly weapon, for a confrontation with Mr. Parker, to find a solution to the situation?", Remington responded: "I took the knife there for my protection." Remington testified that Parker was incarcerated at the Augusta Correctional Center...

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