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Christopher Cornelius GOINS





Classification: Mass murderer
Characteristics: Pregnant 14-year-old girlfriend
Number of victims: 5
Date of murder: October 4, 1994
Date of arrest: November 17, 1994
Date of birth: November 5, 1973
Victims profile: James Nathaniel Randolph Jr., 35; Daphne Jones, 29; and 3 of Jones' children - Nicole, 9; David, 4; and Robert, 3
Method of murder: Shooting (.45-caliber Glock pistol)
Location: Richmond, Virginia, USA
Status: Executed by lethal injection in Virginia on December 6, 2000


On October 14, 1994, Christopher Goins entered the home of 14-year-old Tamika Jones, who was seven months pregnant with Goins' child.

Goins proceeded to brutally murder Tamika's parents, her nine-year-old sister, Nicole, her four-year-old brother, David, and her three-year-old brother, Robert. Goins shot each of these victims at least once in the head.


Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty

In July 1995, Christopher C. Goins was sentenced to death for the capital murder of Robert Jones. Goins had also been indicted for the murders of Daphne Jones, Nicole Jones, David Jones, James Nathaniel Randoph, Jr. and the malicious wounding of Tamika Jones, and Kenya Jones. Goins was 20 at the time of the crime.

Goins was raised by his mother who frequently used drugs in the presence of Goins. During his childhood Goins had virtually no positive adult role models in his family. His mother and aunt were drug abusers, another aunt died of AIDS contracted through intervenous drug use, and he had an uncle who served time in prison.

Because his mother abused him, at the age of 12 Goins was forced to move to New York to live with his grandmother. His aunt, who provided mitigating evidence at his trial, testified that "Goins' mother never held, hugged, or nurtured any of her children.

According to Dickerson [his aunt], Goins was devastated when his grandmother died, because she was the only person who had shown him any love." Goins' cousins also testified to the abuse Goins suffered as a child and stated that Goins was a kind man who liked to play with his six-year-old cousin Phillip.

Goins contested the Commonwealth's admission into evidence videotape of the crime scene. He felt that it provided no new evidence in the case because the identity of the victims was not contested.

He believed that it would bias the jury more than it would help enlighten the case. However, both the trial court and the Appellate court disagreed with Goins and found that the tape could be admitted because it displayed motive, and intent.

Goins also argues that he should have been able to view the results of the polygraph test given to Barry Scott who was present during the commission of the crime. Goins believed that he was entitled to any evidence which might help to prove his innocence.

Because the Commonwealth's attorney stated he would have revealed any information to Goins which would have indicated his innocence, both the trial court and the Appellate court ruled that it was not necessary for Goins to view the results of the polygraph test.

In addition, Goins appealed the playing of the 911 call make by Tamika. During the conversation Tamika implicates Goins in the murders even though she witness the crimes. He believed that the statement was hearsay and thus inadmissible in court. However, because Tamika was in a state of excited utterance, both the trial court and the Appellate court ruled that the taped was admissible.

Goins has been on death row since July 20,1995.


Virginia Governor Gilmore Press Release

Richmond - "On October 14, 1994, Christopher Goins entered the home of 14-year-old Tamika Jones, who was seven months pregnant with Goins' child.

Goins proceeded to brutally murder Tamika's parents, her nine-year-old sister, Nicole, her four-year-old brother, David, and her three-year-old brother, Robert. Goins shot each of these victims at least once in the head.

During the course of this killing spree, Goins appeared in the doorway of Tamika's bedroom and shot the pregnant teen nine times including three times in the stomach, one bullet fatally piercing the head of the unborn baby. He also shot her 21-month-old sister, Kenya, who survived.

A jury convicted Goins of capital murder, four counts of first degree murder, two counts of malicious wounding, and seven counts of illegal use of a firearm in the commission of those felonies, and sentenced him to death.

Upon review of the case, the trial judge imposed the jury's sentence. The convictions and death sentence were upheld on multiple appeals. "Upon a thorough review of the Petition for Clemency, the numerous court decisions regarding this case, and the circumstances of this matter, I decline to intervene."

A Dec. 6 execution date was set for Christopher C. Goins, who killed 5 people in a Gilpin Court apartment in October 1994.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Goins' appeal on Aug. 31, and Richmond Circuit Judge Thomas N. Nance set the date in a conference call with Assistant Attorney General Katherine P. Baldwin, defense attorneys Frank Salvato and Robert Stanley Powell from Northern Virginia, and city Commonwealth's Attorney David M. Hicks. Hicks and Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Claire G. Cardwell prosecuted Goins. Salvato acknowledged in the call that he had no legal grounds to object to the date.

A last-minute stay from the U.S. Supreme Court or clemency from Gov. Jim Gilmore appear to be the only possible obstacles to Goins' execution.

Goins, 25, was convicted of killing James Nathaniel Randolph Jr., 35; Daphne Jones, 29; and 3 of Jones' children - Nicole, 9; David, 4; and Robert, 3. He also was convicted of maliciously wounding Jones' other 2 children, Tamika, who was 14 at the time, and Kenya, her toddler sister.

Tamika also lost the 7-month-old fetus she was carrying at the time of the shooting. Goins was the father of the fetus, and authorities believe that was the motive for the shooting.

Goins was sentenced to death for murdering Robert, to life terms in the other 4 deaths and to a total of 40 years for wounding Tamika and Kenya.

Tamika testified at Goins' trial in June 1995 that she heard Goins talking to her mother shortly before the shooting and then heard a series of shots in 2 rooms before Goins appeared at her door and shot her 9 times. Goins also shot Kenya in the arm as Tamika tried to shield her sister, according to Tamika's testimony.

Forensics experts testified that all the bullets and cartridge casings came from the same firearm, and a cartridge from the same .45-caliber Glock pistol was found in the apartment of Goins' girlfriend, witnesses said.


Fight the Death Penalty USA

A man who killed 5 members of his girlfriend's family was executed last night, hours after the Supreme Court and Gov. James S. Gilmore III declined to intervene.

Christopher Goins, who fatally shot the parents and three of the siblings of his pregnant 14-year-old girlfriend in the family's Richmond apartment, was put to death by injection at the Greensville Correctional Center. He was pronounced dead at 9:04 p.m., said Corrections Department spokesman Larry Traylor.

As Goins was brought into the death chamber, he said, "Look, we've got an audience." In his final statement, Goins said, "There's no God but Allah."

Trial testimony indicated that Goins, who turned 27 Tuesday, had threatened to kill Tamika Jones and her family because he was upset that she was pregnant by him. Jones and her 18-month-old sister were shot but survived the 1994 massacre. Jones lost her unborn baby in the shooting.

Goins was convicted of the murders of James Nathaniel Randolph Jr., 34; Daphne Jones, 29; and 3 of Daphne Jones's 4 children: Nicole, 9; David, 4; and Robert, 3. He was sentenced to die for the capital murder of Robert Jones and received 4 life terms and 73 years for the other crimes.

"I just want him off this Earth," Tamika Jones, now 20 and living in California, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch before the execution. "I just want him away from here so he can go to God and let God deal with it."

Among those witnessing the execution were Richmond Commonwealth's Attorney David Hicks, who prosecuted Goins, and Detective C.T. Woody, the lead investigator in the case. Hicks said afterward that Goins "died showing no remorse." The execution was witnessed by members of the victims' family, including Tamika Jones. About 15 death penalty opponents protested in a field near the prison.

Earlier today, the U.S. Supreme Court voted 7 to 2 to deny Goins's appeal and request for a stay of execution. In his appeal, Goins said another man was in the apartment with him and killed the family.

Gilmore denied a request for clemency about two hours before the execution. The execution was the eighth in Virginia this year and the 81st in the state since the Supreme Court allowed the death penalty to resume in 1976.

(source: Washington Post)



Virginia - Christopher Goins - Dec. 9, 2000 . . . 9:00pm (EST)

Chris Goins was 21 years old at the time he was sentenced to die by the Circuit Court for the City of Richmond.

The circumstances of Goins’ trial and death sentence were unusual. Goins, an African-American, was brought to trial before a predominantly white jury drawn from rural Gloucester County, Virginia.

Goins’ trial lawyer had asked for a change of venue due to extensive pretrial publicity within the city of Richmond. Instead of moving the entire trial or picking a venire that more closely represented the City of Richmond, the trial court selected rural Gloucester County where jurors would be selected and then brought by bus to downtown Richmond for the trial.

Due to this strange circumstance, Goins requested that the potential jurors be questioned on the issue of whether any juror had any fear of a person of another race or believed that blacks were more violent than others.

Despite no objection from the prosecutor, the trial court declined to ask jurors anything about potential racial prejudice. This issue is being presented in Goins’ petition to the United States Supreme Court. Also, Goins counsel provided him ineffective assistance of counsel.

Despite having the ability to effectively cross-examine the lone eyewitness to the case (the only survivor to the shootings), Goins’ trial attorney did not bring out critical differences between her description of the events and the descriptions provided by Goins’ alleged accomplice.

The only defense they had (that the accomplice was responsible) would have made a difference if properly presented.

At sentencing his attorney failed to present significant mitigating evidence regarding Christopher’s earlier life. This evidence included the abuse suffered upon him by his family, his mother’s drug addiction, as well as his own psychological and medical problems.

Despite all of these circumstances, the courts have turned down all appeals and Christopher is scheduled to die on December 6, 2000. (note: This alert was taken from a text submitted by Frank Salvato, Christopher Goins’ attorney.)


Suspect in 5 Killings Caught in New York

The New York Times

November 18, 1994

New York City police officers yesterday arrested a man accused of killing five people last month in a public housing project in Richmond, Va.

The suspect, Christopher C. Goins, 20, and a companion, Monique Michelle Littlejohn, were taken into custody without resistance at an apartment building in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn by members of the police department's Special Weapons and Tactics unit, officials said.

The authorities in Virginia have charged Mr. Goins with murder in the shooting deaths of three children and two adults on Oct. 14. Ms. Littlejohn is charged with forgery and unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.

Both were to be arraigned today in Manhattan Crminal Court. The authorities in Virginia are expected to seek their extradition.

Federal and state officials, acting partly on leads generated by Mr. Goins's being featured on the television program "America's Most Wanted," recently narrowed their nationwide search to New York City, said William Gavin, the deputy assistant director of the F.B.I. office in Manhattan.

Mr. Goins is charged in the deaths on Oct. 14 of Daphne Jones, 29, and three of her children: Nicole, 9; David, 4; and Robert, 3. Ms. Jones's two other children -- Tamika, 14, and Kenya, 18 months -- were wounded.


226 F.3d 312

Christopher C. Goins, Petitioner-Appellant,
Ronald Angelone, Director, Virginia Department of Corrections,

No. 99-13

Federal Circuits, 4th Cir.

August 31, 2000

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, at Alexandria.

Before LUTTIG, TRAXLER, and KING, Circuit Judges.

Certificate of appealability denied and appeal dismissed by published opinion. Judge King wrote the opinion, in which Judge Luttig and Judge Traxler joined.


KING, Circuit Judge:

Appellant Christopher C. Goins, convicted and sentenced to death by a Virginia jury for the capital murder of Robert Jones, appeals the district court's dismissal of his petition for a writ of habeas corpus. Finding no error, we deny a certificate of appealability and dismiss the appeal.



The facts underlying the murder charges against Goins were set forth in some detail by the Supreme Court of Virginia in its decision on Goins's direct appeal, Goins v. Commonwealth , 470 S.E.2d 114 (Va. 1996), and are quoted below.

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 Little john, 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 Little john'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 Little john'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 Little john'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 Little john'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 Little john. 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 Little john 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 town in the trunk of a friend's car. Davis refused to do so. After the Commonwealth rested its case, Goins presented testimony from two witnesses. Mildred S. Plumber, an employee of the taxicab company for which Davis worked, testified that company records for October 1994 indicated Davis had reported no fares for service to or from the address at which Little john and Goins lived. However, Plumber conceded that Davis might have provided service to that location and not have reported the fares to the company.

Goins also offered the testimony of Jason Lamont Williams, who stated that, during the week before the killings, he "might have" ridden with Goins in a taxicab driven by Davis. Williams stated that Goins never said anything in his presence about guns or about "doing away" with Tamika Jones or her family.

On cross-examination, the Commonwealth's attorney asked Williams, "Do you or have you in the past sold drugs for Mr. Goins?" The trial court sustained Goins' objection to the question. The Commonwealth's attorney then asked, "Sir, have you ever told your probation officer, Ms. Bircham, that you sold drugs for this defendant?" Once again, the trial court sustained Goins' objection to the question. Finally, the trial court permitted the Commonwealth's attorney to ask Williams, "Did you ever tell your probation officer, Ms. Bircham, that you had a business relationship with Mr. Goins?" Williams responded,"No."

During the penalty phase of the trial, the Commonwealth offered testimony from Detective John J. Riani of the Henrico County Police Department, who testified that, in February 1994, he had encountered Goins while working as a narcotics investigator at the Amtrack station on Staples Mill Road. Goins had alighted from a train arriving from New York when Riani approached and asked him some questions. When Goins later consented to a search of his bags and clothing, Riani found 55.35 grams of crack cocaine in a bag inside Goins' coat pocket. This amount of cocaine had a "street value" of approximately $5,500.

Riani then arrested Goins for possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. Goins told Riani that he was addicted to crack cocaine.

Goins never appeared for trial and a capias was issued for his arrest. Both the cocaine charge and the capias remained outstanding at the time of the present offenses.

The Commonwealth also presented evidence from Dr. Jack Daniel, Assistant Chief Medical Examiner for the Commonwealth. Dr. Daniel testified that James Randolph, Jr., Nicole Jones, and Robert Jones all suffered multiple lethal gunshot wounds. He also testified that one of Nicole's lethal wounds occurred while she was lying face down. In addition, Dr. Daniel stated that the dried blood on Robert's face indicated that Robert had not moved after he was shot the first time.

In mitigation of the offenses, Goins presented the testimony of Paulette Goins Dickerson, his mother's sister. Dickerson testified that Goins' mother had used drugs frequently in front of Goins. Dickerson also testified that Goins has an aunt who abuses drugs, and that another of his aunts died of AIDS acquired from drug use. Dickerson further related that Goins has an uncle who is incarcerated in New York. Another uncle is mentally handicapped, as a result of a head injury sustained at age two when Goins' mother pushed him out of a third-story window.

Dickerson also testified that, when Goins was 12 years old, he moved from Richmond to New York to live with his grandmother because his mother had abused him. Dickerson stated that Goins' mother never held, hugged, or nurtured any of her children. According to Dickerson, Goins was devastated when his grandmother died, because she was the only person who had shown him any love.

Goins' cousin, Leah Butler, testified that she had lived briefly in the same household with Goins and had observed his mother use drugs and neglect her children. Butler also testified that Goins is a caring, "giving" man. Butler's son, Phillip, age six, testified that he liked Goins, and that Goins would often play games with him and bring him candy.

Goins, 470 S.E.2d at 119-122.


On June 13, 1995, a jury in the Circuit Court of the City of Richmond convicted Goins on one count of capital murder for the killing of Robert Jones, four counts of first degree murder, two charges of malicious wounding, and seven counts of illegal use of a firearm. At the conclusion of the separate sentencing proceeding, the jury found both statutory aggravating factors to be present: (1) that Goins's conduct was "outrageously or wantonly vile, horrible, or inhuman;" and (2) that he represented "a continuing serious threat to society." Va. Code § 19.2-264.2.1

Based on these findings, the jury fixed Goins's punishment at death for the capital murder of Robert Jones. For the noncapital offenses, the jury sentenced Goins to four life terms plus seventy-eight years in prison. After considering the probation officer's report and conducting a sentencing hearing, the trial court imposed the death penalty, in accordance with the jury's verdicts.2 Goins appealed his convictions and sentences to the Supreme Court of Virginia, which affirmed by published opinion issued on April 19, 1996. See Goins, 470 S.E.2d at 132. The Supreme Court, on October 7, 1996, denied Goins's petition for a writ of certiorari. See Goins v. Virginia, 519 U.S. 887 (1996).

On December 6, 1996, Goins, through newly appointed counsel, filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the Supreme Court of Virginia. On December 26, 1996, Goins filed an amended petition to comply with a fifty-page limit established by state rules. See Va. Sup. Ct. R. 5:7(h). On May 5, 1997, the Supreme Court of Virginia dismissed Goins's amended petition. See Goins v. Warden, No. 962477 (Va. 1997).

Thereafter, on August 14, 1997, the Circuit Court scheduled Goins's execution for September 15, 1997. However, on September 5, 1997, Goins filed a motion in the Eastern District of Virginia seeking a stay of execution and appointment of counsel to prepare a federal habeas corpus petition. On September 11, 1997, the district court stayed Goins's execution and granted his motion for appointment of counsel. On January 7, 1998, Goins filed a motion seeking the appointment of experts and an investigator, which the district court denied without prejudice. On February 17, 1998, Goins filed his application for a writ of habeas corpus in the district court, asserting thirty-six separate grounds for relief. In a published opinion, the district court rejected these claims and denied habeas corpus relief. See Goins v. Angelone, 52 F. Supp. 2d 638 (E.D. Va. 1999). By order of August 24, 1999, the district court denied Goin's application for a certificate of appeal-ability.


On appeal, Goins contends that the district court erred in dismissing his petition for habeas corpus relief, asserting that: (1) errors in the jury selection process during the guilt phase of his murder trial violated his rights under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments; (2) the prosecution failed to produce results of a polygraph examination in violation of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963); (3) evidence of his parole eligibility was erroneously excluded; (4) the performance of his counsel at trial and on direct appeal was constitutionally defective; (5) he was impermissibly excluded from critical stages of his trial; and (6) the district court erred in denying his motions for discovery and an evidentiary hearing.

Each of these assertions was thoroughly considered and resolved by the district court. After careful consideration of the record, the applicable legal principles, and the arguments and briefs, we find the district court's analysis to be well-reasoned and persuasive. See Goins, 52 F. Supp. 2d at 648-81. As further explained below, we therefore deny a certificate of appealability and dismiss Goins's appeal.


Pursuant to the standards prescribed by Congress at 28 U.S.C. 2254 (1994 & Supp. III 1997), as amended by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), Pub. L. No. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214, a federal court may not grant a writ of habeas corpus with respect to a claim adjudicated on the merits in state court proceedings unless the state's adjudication: (1) "resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States," 28 U.S.C. 2254(d)(1); or (2) "resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding." Id. § 2254(d)(2).

A state court adjudication is"contrary to" clearly established federal law if "the state court arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by [the Supreme] Court on a question of law or if the state court decides a case differently than [the Supreme] Court has on a set of materially indistinguishable facts." Williams v. Taylor, 120 S. Ct. 1495, 1523 (2000). A state court decision unreasonably applies clearly established federal law if the state court, despite correctly identifying the governing legal principle, "unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the prisoner's case." Id.



During the jury selection proceedings of Goins's murder trial, Goins's counsel requested that the trial court voir dire potential jurors on a number of topics, including two race-related inquiries: (1) "Have you ever experienced fear of a person of another race? If so, what were the circumstances?" and (2) "Do you think that African Americans are more likely to commit crimes than whites? If so, why?" The trial court declined to ask either of these voir dire questions. On direct appeal, Goins contended that "the trial court erred in refusing to ask these questions because they were relevant to establishing relationship, interest, opinion, or prejudice." 470 S.E.2d at 124-25.

However, the Supreme Court of Virginia rejected this contention on the merits, concluding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to allow Goins to ask the race-related questions. Finding that the questions permitted during voir dire were sufficient to preserve Goins's right to a fair and impartial jury, the Supreme Court of Virginia held that the trial court's "refusal to ask [the additional] questions during voir dire did not violate Goins' rights under the Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution." Id. at 125. This adjudication on the merits may not be overturned on federal habeas review unless the state court's determination "was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States." 28 U.S.C. 2254(d).3



The Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments guarantee a criminal defendant the right to a trial by an impartial jury. Turner v. Murray, 476 U.S. 28, 36 n.9 (1986). A principal mechanism used to safeguard this right is the voir dire of prospective jurors. Indeed, voir dire "plays a critical function in assuring the criminal defendant that his Sixth Amendment right to an impartial jury will be honored." Rosales Lopez v. United States, 451 U.S. 182, 188 (1981) (plurality opinion). Voir dire "serves the dual purpose" of (1) identifying those individuals in the venire who are incapable of following the court's instructions and evaluating the evidence, and (2) assisting lawyers in the exercise of peremptory strikes. Mu'Min v. Virginia, 500 U.S. 415, 431 (1991).

Because the adequacy of voir dire frequently turns on the trial judge's evaluation of the responses and demeanor of prospective jurors, the conduct of voir dire "must be committed to the good judgment of the trial judge whose `immediate perceptions' determine what questions are appropriate for ferreting out relevant prejudices." United States v. Barber, 80 F.3d 964, 967 (4th Cir. 1996) (en banc) (citing Rosales-Lopez, 451 U.S. at 189). As the plurality in Rosales-Lopez observed:

The trial judge's function as this point in the trial is not unlike that of the jurors later on in the trial. Both must reach conclusions as to impartiality and credibility by relying on their own evaluations of demeanor evidence and of responses to questions. In neither instance can an appellate court easily second-guess the conclusions of the decision-maker who heard and observed the witnesses.

451 U.S. at 188. For these reasons, trial courts"retain[ ] great latitude in deciding what questions should be asked on voir dire." Mu'Min, 500 U.S. at 424; see also Ham v. South Carolina , 409 U.S. 524, 528 (1973) (recognizing "the traditionally broad discretion accorded to the trial judge in conducting voir dire . . . .") (citation omitted).


Despite this broad discretion, trial courts are constitutionally required, under certain circumstances, to allow a criminal defendant to voir dire potential jurors concerning racial or ethnic bias. Indeed, "some cases may present circumstances in which an impermissible threat to the fair trial guaranteed by due process is posed by a trial court's refusal to question prospective jurors specifically about racial prejudice during Voir dire." Ristaino v. Ross , 424 U.S. 589, 595 (1976).

Thus, when "special circumstances" indicate that racial issues are "inextricably bound up with the conduct of the trial," an accused's constitutional right to a trial by an impartial jury prohibits a trial court from refusing a request for voir dire directed to racial prejudice. Id. at 597. The critical inquiry is whether the circumstances in a given case demonstrate a "constitutionally significant likelihood that, absent questioning about racial prejudice, the jurors would not be as `indifferent as (they stand) unsworne.'" Ristaino , 424 U.S. at 596 (citation omitted).

A review of the Supreme Court's decisions in this regard is instructive. In Ristaino, supra, the Supreme Court described the "special circumstances" under which a trial court is constitutionally required to permit voir dire relating to racial bias. The Ristaino Court contrasted the facts of that case with those in Ham, supra, where the Court reversed the defendant's conviction based on the state trial court's failure to honor such a request.

In Ham, an African-American defendant was charged with possession of marijuana, and his defense was based on his assertion that law enforcement officers had "framed" him in retaliation for his active and widely known participation in local civil rights activities. Under those facts, the Court held that "special circumstances" existed such that the defendant was constitutionally entitled to explore the racial attitudes of the venire. 409 U.S. at 527. By contrast, in Ristaino, an African-American defendant was charged with a violent crime against a Caucasian victim. The Court in Ristaino concluded that those facts did not create a similar need of "constitutional dimensions" to inquire into the racial prejudices of potential jurors. 424 U.S. at 597.

The critical factor present in Ham, but not present in Ristaino, was that the racial issues in Ham were "inextricably bound up with the conduct of the trial." Id. As a result, voir dire inquiries specifically directed to the potential racial biases of prospective jurors were necessary to assure an impartial jury in that case. Id. Conversely, the blackon-white crime alleged in Ristaino, standing alone, did not suggest a "significant likelihood that racial prejudice might infect [the defendant's] trial." Id. at 598.

A third Supreme Court decision also informs our analysis. In Turner, 476 U.S. at 36-37, an interracial crime formed the basis of a capital prosecution. The Supreme Court distinguished Ristaino and concluded that the trial court was constitutionally required to permit voir dire into the possible racial prejudices of the venire. The Court recognized that capital sentencing proceedings require jurors to make a "highly subjective, unique, individualized judgment regarding the punishment that a particular person deserves." Id. at 33-34 (citations and internal quotations omitted). As a result of"the range of discretion entrusted to a jury in a capital sentencing hearing, there is a unique opportunity for racial prejudice to operate but remain undetected." Id. at 35.

Moreover, the Court found that the absolute finality of the death penalty renders the danger of racial bias infecting a capital sentencing proceeding especially serious. Id. Given the danger of racial prejudice infecting a capital sentencing proceeding, coupled with the underlying interracial crime, the Court concluded that "special circumstances" existed to implicate the defendant's constitutional rights: "[A] capital defendant accused of an interracial crime is entitled to have prospective jurors informed of the race of the victim and questioned on the issue of racial bias." Id. at 36-37.


Asserting that such "special circumstances" existed during his murder trial, Goins contends that racial issues were"inextricably bound up with the conduct of the trial." Goins's argument in this regard is based principally on the fact that he was tried by a predominantly white jury from rural Gloucester County, Virginia.4 That is, Goins asserts that racial issues were "inextricably bound up" with his murder trial because the proceedings involved an African-American defendant and a predominantly white jury. As Goins's trial counsel argued during jury selection, Race actually is an issue in this case; and that is-that's because we have the -while we have an African American defendant and African American victims, we have a number of white jurors. And if they feel that blacks are more violent in nature, then they're liable to look at the defendant and assume, yes; he is a more violent person . . . .[Moreover,] [i]f people have attitudes about African Americans that are based on racial prejudice, then they're more likely to render a more severe punishment; i.e., the death penalty, than someone who isn't a racist.

J.A. 24-25.

We must reject this argument. As the district court correctly observed, "[t]here is no constitutional presumption of juror bias for or against members of any particular racial or ethnic group, presumably even when a jury pool is predominantly white." Goins, 52 F. Supp. 2d at 671 (citation and internal quotation omitted). Indeed, the Supreme Court has cautioned trial courts to avoid entertaining the "divisive assumption -as a per se rule -that justice in a court of law may turn upon the pigmentation of skin, the accident of birth, or the choice of religion." Ristaino, 424 U.S. at 596 n.8.

Furthermore, the Supreme Court's decision in Turner -although based largely on the unique responsibilities of jurors in a death penalty case -is of little assistance to Goins. Turner was based on the confluence of three separate, but equally critical, factors: (1) the broad discretion given to capital sentencing jurors; (2) the serious risk of improper sentencing in a capital case; and (3) the charged offense involved interracial violence. 476 U.S. at 37. The crucial factor absent from this case, of course, is an underlying interracial crime. As the district court aptly noted, [Turner] has no application here, as both Goins and the victims were African-American. Moreover, no Supreme Court or Fourth Circuit decision has held that capital defendants accused of crimes against victims of their own race have a right to question prospective jurors on the issue of racial bias.

Goins, 52 F. Supp. 2d at 671.

Put simply, Goins's presumptions as to the racial attitudes of the jurors fail to demonstrate a "significant likelihood" that racial prejudice influenced their deliberations. None of the charges against Goins -one count of capital murder, four counts of first degree murder, two counts of malicious wounding, and seven counts of illegal use of a firearm -involved any element relating to race. See Barber, 80 F.3d at 968 (recognizing that racial issues may become "inextricably bound up" with the trial when "race is an issue to be tried either as an element of the offense or a defense or where racial issues are connected with the resolution of relevant facts"). Likewise, race was not an element of any legitimate defense advanced by Goins. See id.

Furthermore, none of the evidence adduced during the guilt phase of Goins's murder trial suggested race as an issue in the case. See id. Indeed, race became an issue only when Goins sought to explore the racial attitudes of prospective jurors. On this basis alone, we cannot conclude that racial issues were "inextricably bound up with the conduct of the trial."5 The racial makeup of the jury panel, even when coupled with the capital charge at issue, "did not create a need of `constitutional dimensions' to question the jury concerning racial prejudice." Rosales-Lopez, 451 U.S. at 190. Accordingly, the state trial court was not constitutionally required to ask the questions requested by Goins.

Of course, we agree that "the wiser course generally is to propound appropriate questions designed to identify racial prejudice if requested by the defendant." Ristaino, 424 U.S. at 597 n.9. Indeed, the Supreme Court, pursuant to its supervisory authority over the federal courts, has required the district courts to permit voir dire directed to the discovery of racial bias under circumstances in which such an inquiry would not be constitutionally required. Id. Under this "non-constitutional" standard, a plurality of the Supreme Court in Rosales-Lopez stated that a federal district court's "[f]ailure to honor [a defendant's] request [to examine the racial prejudices of potential jurors] . . . will be reversible error only where the circumstances of the case indicate that there is a reasonable probability that racial or ethnic prejudice might have influenced the jury." 451 U.S. at 191.6

A trial court in the Commonwealth of Virginia, however, is not bound by this "non-constitutional" standard. As the Supreme Court recently observed in Dickerson v. United States , 2000 WL 807223 (June 26, 2000), "With respect to proceedings in state courts, our `authority is limited to enforcing the commands of the United States Constitution.'" Id. at *7 (quoting Mu'Min, 500 U.S. at 422); see also Harris v. Rivera, 454 U.S. 339, 344-345 (per curiam) ("Federal judges have no general supervisory power over state trial judges; they may not require the observance of any special procedures except when necessary to assure compliance with the dictates of the Federal Constitution.").

Moreover, a federal habeas court's review is "limited to deciding whether a conviction violated the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States." Estelle v. McGuire, 502 U.S. 62 , 68 (1991). Therefore, in the absence of "special circumstances" that trigger an accused's constitutional right to inquire into racial prejudice, the "conduct of voir dire [is left] to the sound discretion of state trial judges," Turner, 476 U.S. at 38 n.12 (1986), in which case a "generalized but thorough inquiry into the impartiality of the veniremen" will be constitutionally sufficient. Ristaino, 424 U.S. at 598.

As noted, federal habeas corpus relief is available only where a petitioner demonstrates that state court proceedings resulted in a decision that was "contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of clearly established Federal law" or was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts. 28 U.S.C. 2254(d). With respect to his voir dire claim, Goins has failed to establish the existence of "special circumstances" indicating that racial issues were"inextricably bound up in the trial." Accordingly, Goins was not constitutionally entitled to ask prospective jurors the specific questions requested. In this regard then, we find that the Supreme Court of Virginia correctly rejected this claim and, by definition, its conclusion was not "unreasonable" in the Williams sense. See Tucker v. Catoe, 221 F.3d 600, 2000 WL 763597, *15 (4th Cir. June 13, 2000). Goins's claim in this regard therefore fails.


Goins also asserts other bases for his claim to federal habeas corpus relief, which we discuss below.


First, Goins contends that the trial court failed to fulfill its obligation to select a fair and impartial jury by refusing to allow him to conduct voir dire of the jurors individually. After initially questioning jurors in groups of three and five, the trial court decided to conduct the remainder of voir dire in groups of thirteen. Goins maintains that individual voir dire was necessary -particularly in light of extensive pretrial publicity -to preserve his constitutional right to a fair and impartial jury.

We reject this argument. As we observed in United States v. Bakker, 925 F.2d 728, 734 (4th Cir. 1991), it "is well established that a trial judge may question prospective jurors collectively rather than individually." Of course, in federal court, if the district judge determines that a member of the venire has been exposed to prejudicial pretrial publicity, that juror "must then be examined, individually and outside the presence of the other jurors, to determine the effect of the publicity." United States v. Hankish, 502 F.2d 71, 77 (4th Cir. 1974) (quoting Margoles v. United States, 407 F.2d 727, 735 (7th Cir. 1969)).

As the district court recognized, we have never held that "such safeguards are constitutionally required of state courts, rather than simply observed as a matter of prudent procedure in federal courts." Goins, 52 F. Supp. 2d at 669. Accordingly, the district court correctly concluded that Goins was not entitled to relief on this claim. Id. (citing Teague v. Lane, 489 U.S. 288, 309 (1989) ("[N]ew constitutional rules of criminal procedure will not be applicable to those cases which have become final before the new rules are announced.")).


Next, Goins asserts that the prosecutor's failure to reveal the results of a polygraph examination administered to Barry Scott -who accompanied Goins to Tamika Jones's apartment on the day of the murders -violated Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963). Under Brady, a prosecutor's failure to disclose "evidence favorable to an accused upon request violates due process where the evidence is material either to guilt or to punishment, irrespective of the good faith or bad faith of the prosecution." 373 U.S. at 87. Evidence is "favorable" if it is exculpatory or if it could be used to impeach prosecution witnesses. See United States v. Ellis, 121 F.3d 908, 914 (4th Cir. 1997) (citation omitted). Evidence is "material" under Brady if "there exists a `reasonable probability' that had the evidence been disclosed the result at trial would have been different." Wood v. Bartholomew, 516 U.S. 1, 5 (1995) (per curiam).

The defense trial theory was that Scott -rather than Goins -was the murderer. Goins maintains that Scott failed his polygraph examination and that the results of the examination were therefore exculpatory evidence which should have been disclosed. However, as the district court correctly observed, the record does not reveal whether Barry Scott "in fact failed his polygraph examination or, if he failed, what statements he made were judged to be untruthful." Goins, 52 F. Supp. 2d at 675 n.31. Accordingly, there is simply no basis in the record upon which to conclude that the results of Scott's polygraph examination were "favorable" to Goins.

Moreover, Goins cannot show that the polygraph results were "material" to either his guilt or punishment. Because polygraph results are inadmissible -even for impeachment purposes-in Virginia, see e.g., Robinson v. Commonwealth, 341 S.E.2d 159, 167 (Va. 1986), the non-disclosure of Scott's results could not have had any direct impact on the trial. See Wood, 516 U.S. at 6. Therefore, Scott's polygraph results could be "material" -within the meaning of Brady -only if their disclosure "would have been `reasonably likely' to result indirectly in a different trial outcome -for instance, if disclosure would have led trial counsel to conduct additional discovery that would have led to important admissible evidence." Goins , 52 F. Supp. 2d at 675 (citing Wood, 516 U.S. at 6-8). Goins cannot demonstrate any such indirect impact in this case. As the district court aptly stated,

In this instance, it is unlikely that trial counsel's strategy would have been significantly different had they learned that Scott failed the polygraph examination, if in fact he did. Goins' attorneys had already decided to base their defense on the theory that Scott was the murderer, in reliance on Goins' representations to them that Scott did the killings. Even without the polygraph results, counsel had ample motivation to investigate this theory. It does not appear that the polygraph results would have assisted trial counsel in marshaling their evidence or arguments. Thus, it does not seem that there is any reasonable likelihood that disclosure of the results would have changed the outcome of the trial.

Goins, 52 F. Supp. 2d at 675.

Because the record fails to demonstrate that the prosecutor withheld exculpatory and material evidence, Goins cannot demonstrate that the Virginia Supreme Court's rejection of this claim was contrary to or an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law. See 28 U.S.C. 2254(d)(1).7


Goins also alleges that he had a right to inform the jury during voir dire and during his capital sentencing proceeding of the nature and possibility of parole. These claims have been resolved on the merits on direct appeal, and they are therefore subject to review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 2254(d). However, because the Supreme Court of Virginia decided these claims without written analysis, the distinction between section 2254(d) "reasonableness" review and de novo review becomes insignificant. See Cardwell v. Greene , 152 F.3d 331, 339 (4th Cir. 1998).


Goins initially argues that the trial court's refusal to allow voir dire regarding the jurors' perceptions of a life sentence deprived him of a fair and impartial jury. Goins's trial counsel sought to voir dire prospective jurors on the meaning of a life sentence in Virginia, namely that if Goins were convicted of a Class 1 felony in Virginia and sentenced to two or more life sentences, he would be eligible for parole only after he served thirty years in prison. See Va. Code § 53.1151(D).

Goins alleges that the trial court's refusal to permit this line of voir dire deprived him of a fair and impartial jury, because "it left him unable to determine which jurors held mistaken impressions regarding the meaning of a life sentence in this case." Goins, 52 F. Supp. 2d at 672. Additionally, Goins asserts that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment required that he be permitted to present evidence regarding the nature of a life sentence during his capital sentencing proceeding.

In Simmons v. South Carolina, 512 U.S. 154 (1994), the Supreme Court held that a capital defendant must be permitted to instruct the jury as to his parole ineligibility in situations where: (1) if sentenced to life imprisonment, he will never become eligible for parole; and (2) the prosecution argues that he presents a future danger. Id. at 171 (emphasis added).

Goins contends that the rule in Simmons is equally applicable to his situation -where if sentenced to a life term, he would not be eligible for parole for thirty years. However, we have repeatedly held that "Simmons does not require that a jury be instructed on the effects of parole for a parole-eligible defendant." Clagett v. Angelone, 209 F.3d 370, 375 n.2 (4th Cir. 2000); see also Wilson v. Greene, 155 F.3d 396, 408 (4th Cir. 1998) (concluding that Simmons does not entitle a capital defendant to an instruction about when he would become eligible for parole). Accordingly, because the result urged by Goins is not dictated by clearly established federal law, his Fourteenth Amendment claims must fail.


Additionally, Goins contends that he should have been permitted to introduce mitigating evidence regarding his life sentence under the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment. This claim is premised on the Eighth Amendment guarantee that the jury should "not be precluded from considering, as a mitigating factor, any aspect of a defendant's character or record and any of the circumstances of the offense that the defendant proffers as a basis for a sentence less than death." Eaton v. Angelone , 139 F.3d 990, 996 (4th Cir. 1998) (quoting Lockett v. Ohio, 438 U.S. 586, 604 (1978) (plurality opinion)).

As the district court recognized, however, Goins's contention -that the trial court had a duty, under the Eighth Amendment, to instruct the jury that Goins would not be eligible for parole until he served at least thirty years of a life sentence -would require the announcement of a "new rule" inapplicable to Goins on federal habeas corpus review. See O'Dell v. Nether-land, 95 F.3d 1214, 1238 n.13 (4th Cir. 1996), aff'd, 521 U.S. 151 (1997). Accordingly, the district court correctly dismissed Goins's Eighth Amendment claim.


Next, Goins asserts numerous errors by his trial and appellate counsel that allegedly deprived him of effective assistance of counsel. Specifically, Goins contends that: (1) his trial counsel inadequately investigated his case; (2) he was denied effective assistance during voir dire; (3) after the trial court granted Goins's motion for change of venue, his trial attorneys "simply acquiesced to the trial court's selection of a group of jurors with little understanding or exposure to the type of environment Goins was from," Br. for Appellant at 48 n.14; (4) he was deprived of effective assistance of counsel during the guilt phase of his murder trial by his attorneys' failure to call Barry Scott as a defense witness; and (5) his attorneys failed to introduce sufficient mitigating evidence and render an effective closing argument during Goins's capital sentencing proceeding.

The district court carefully considered Goins's ineffective assistance claims and concluded that the claims must fail"both because in some instances Goins cannot establish that trial counsel's performance fell below an objective standard of reasonableness and because, even assuming this were established, Goins, in all instances, fails to show that any such deficiencies prejudiced either the trial or the sentencing." Goins, 52 F. Supp. 2d at 652. Likewise, we have carefully reviewed Goins's asserted instances of ineffective assistance and we are unable to conclude that the Supreme Court of Virginia's dismissal of these claims was unreasonable under Williams, supra.


In addition, Goins asserts that he was improperly excluded from numerous bench conferences during the guilt phase of his murder trial. The Supreme Court of Virginia held this claim to be procedurally defaulted under the rule of Slayton v. Parrigan, 205 S.E.2d 680 (Va. 1974). Slayton proscribes state habeas review of claims that were available to petitioner at trial or on direct appeal, if petitioner failed to raise them at that time. Id. at 682.

We have consistently found the rule of Slayton to constitute an independent and adequate state procedural rule for the purposes of federal habeas procedural default analysis. See , e.g., Fisher v. Angelone, 163 F.3d 835, 844 (4th Cir. 1998). As a result, federal habeas corpus review of this claim is barred unless Goins can show that: (1) there is cause for, and actual prejudice from, the default; or (2) the failure to review the claim would result in a fundamental miscarriage of justice. Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722 , 749-50 (1991). Because Goins cannot make either showing, we affirm the district court's dismissal of this claim.


Finally, Goins contends that the district court erred in denying his motion for an evidentiary hearing on his preserved claims. Pursuant to our decision in Cardwell, supra, a federal habeas corpus petitioner -when denied the opportunity to develop an evidentiary basis for his claims in state court -is entitled to an evidentiary hearing if he is able to allege "additional facts that, if true, would entitle him to relief." Id. at 338 (citation omitted). As the foregoing discussion indicates, however, Goins has not alleged facts that, if true, would warrant relief. Accordingly, the district court properly denied Goins's motion for an evidentiary hearing.


Pursuant to the foregoing, we conclude that Goins has failed to make a substantial showing of the denial of a federal constitutional right with regard to any of his assertions of error. See 28 U.S.C. 2253(c)(2). Therefore, we decline to award Goins a certificate of appeal-ability and we dismiss his appeal.




1 Virginia's capital punishment statute involves a two-step determination by the jury in the sentencing phase of the trial. If the defendant has been found guilty in the trial's guilt phase, the jury must decide, in the sentencing phase, whether the prosecution has established one or both of the statutory aggravating factors. Va. Code Ann.§ 19.2-264.4(C)-(D) (1995). If the jury finds neither aggravating factor satisfied, it must impose a sentence of life imprisonment. Id. However, if the jury finds one or both of the aggravating factors established, it has full discretion to impose either a death sentence or a sentence of life imprisonment. Id. 2 "Under Virginia's statutory capital sentencing scheme, it is the jury's responsibility to `fix' the punishment of a defendant who has been convicted of a capital offense and it is the court's responsibility to impose sentence." Frye v. Commonwealth, 345 S.E.2d 267, 286 (Va. 1986).

3 Pursuant to Hawks v. Cox, 175 S.E.2d 271, 274 (Va. 1970), which established that state habeas review is not available for claims raised and decided against petitioner on direct review, the Supreme Court of Virginia dismissed Goins's state habeas claims asserting constitutional error in the jury selection process of his capital murder trial. See Goins v. Warden, No. 962477 (Va. May 5, 1997). The rule articulated in Hawks does not however, prevent federal habeas review of otherwise properly raised claims. See Correll v. Thompson, 63 F.3d 1279, 1289 n.8 (4th Cir. 1995).

4 The venire was selected from Gloucester County as a result of the trial court's decision to grant Goins's motion for change of venue. Despite having moved for the change of venue, Goins asserted in his state habeas petition that the trial court's decision to select the venire from Gloucester County denied him the right to an impartial jury and a fair trial. The Supreme Court of Virginia found this claim to be procedurally defaulted under the rule of Slayton v. Parrigan, 205 S.E.2d 680, 682 (Va. 1974), which prohibits state habeas review of claims that were available to petitioner at trial or on direct appeal and that petitioner failed to raise at that time.

Because the rule of Slayton qualifies as an independent and adequate state procedural rule for the purposes of federal habeas procedural default analysis, see, e.g., Fisher v. Angelone, 163 F.3d 835, 844 (4th Cir. 1998), federal review of this defaulted claim is barred unless Goins can show that: (1) there is cause for, and actual prejudice from, the default; or (2) the failure to review the claim would result in a fundamental miscarriage of justice. Coleman v. Thompson , 501 U.S. 722 , 750 (1991). Because Goins cannot make either showing, the district court properly concluded that "there is no obligation here to consider the application of either exception to the procedural default rule." Goins, 52 F. Supp. 2d at 650.

5 Additionally, Goins contends he was entitled to voir dire jurors regarding racial bias because some jurors had given false answers during voir dire in an attempt to be excluded from serving on the jury. However, as the district court recognized, "there is no evidence or offer of evidence that any jurors gave false answers to disguise racial prejudice, and thus the allegation that jurors were lying does not suggest that racial issues were `inextricably bound up in the trial.'" Goins, 52 F. Supp. 2d at 67172.

6 The circumstances necessary to implicate the "non-constitutional" standard differ in degree from those necessary to trigger the constitutional standard. To prompt the application of the constitutional standard, the facts must demonstrate a "significant likelihood" that racial bias might infect the proceedings. Ristaino, 424 U.S. at 598. By contrast, to implicate the "non-constitutional" standard in federal courts, a defendant need demonstrate only a "reasonable possibility" that racial prejudice might influence the jury. Rosales-Lopez, 451 U.S. at 191.

7 Goins further argues that results of Scott's polygraph examination should have been admissible as relevant mitigating evidence during his capital sentencing proceeding. As the district court noted, however, "[U]nder current controlling precedent, the Constitution does not mandate admission of polygraph results in capital sentencing proceedings." Goins, 52 F. Supp. 2d at 675.



Present:  Judges Benton, Annunziata and Overton
Argued at Richmond, Virginia


Record No. 1834-95-2


MARCH 18, 1997

Robert W. Duling, Judge

A jury convicted Monique Littlejohn of (1) one charge of being an accessory before the fact to capital murder, (2) four charges of being an accessory before the fact to first degree murder, (3) two charges of being an accessory before the fact to malicious wounding, and (4) seven charges of being an accessory before the fact to the use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.  This Court granted Littlejohn's appeal on the issues whether the trial judge abused his discretion when he denied Littlejohn's motion for a change in venue and whether the evidence was sufficient to uphold the convictions.  Because the evidence was insufficient, we reverse the convictions.


The evidence proved that at approximately 9:30 a.m. on October 14, 1994, police officers from the City of Richmond went to 1008 St. James Street, Apartment C, in response to a report of multiple shootings.  Tamika Jones, a minor, had reported to the police by telephone that Christopher Goins had shot her and her family. 

Inside the apartment, the police found two adults and three children dead from multiple gunshot wounds.  The officers also found three baggies of powder and crack cocaine on James Randolph, Jones' deceased father, and later learned that Daphne Jones, Jones' deceased mother, had cocaine in her blood.  Jones and one of her infant siblings had been shot but were alive.

Littlejohn was indicted on fourteen charges of being an accessory before the fact to Goins' commission of these crimes.

At trial, Jones testified that Goins often visited her mother and stayed overnight at their apartment with her mother.

Although Jones and her parents knew that Goins sold illegal drugs, Goins and the Jones family members trusted each other. Jones also testified that at one point she wanted to leave home and live with an aunt because of all the drug dealing that occurred in her family's apartment.  Jones testified, however, that she developed a close relationship with Goins and on one occasion kept for him $2,400 of proceeds from his drug business.

Three years after Jones met Goins, she began having a sexual relationship with Goins.  She was then twelve years old.  She testified that she became pregnant by Goins in March 1994, when she was fourteen years old.  Jones testified that although Goins was pleased that she was pregnant, when she told Goins that she did not wish to deliver the baby, Goins said he would abide by her wishes.  However, Goins did not give her money for an abortion as he had promised. 

Devon Hicks, Jones' teenage friend, testified that Jones had confided only in him that she and Goins were sex partners.  Hicks also testified that Jones hid that fact from her mother.  No evidence established whether Jones' mother knew that Goins was the person who had impregnated her daughter.

Jones learned in 1993 that Littlejohn also had a sexual relationship with Goins.  Littlejohn also had become pregnant by Goins during the same time period as Jones.  In June 1994, however, Littlejohn underwent an emergency abortion due to a complication with her pregnancy.  That same month, Jones' friends told Jones that Littlejohn had asked them to beat Jones in order to cause Jones to abort her baby.  When Jones confronted Littlejohn about these allegations, Littlejohn admitted that they were true and said that she made the statements only because she was upset.  Later in June, Jones overheard Littlejohn threaten to use a knife to "cut the baby out" of Jones.  Littlejohn told Jones that if Littlejohn could not have Goins' baby, then neither could Jones.

Jones also testified that Littlejohn never hit her or shoved her and that Littlejohn made no threats against her after June 1994.  Indeed, when Jones was in the hospital at various times between July and early October because of her pregnancy, Littlejohn visited Jones several times.  Littlejohn, who worked at the hospital where Jones was receiving treatment, spent free time in Jones' room and on occasion asked if Jones needed things that Littlejohn could deliver to her.  Although Littlejohn acted as a friend and their dispute seemed to have subsided, Jones did not believe Littlejohn was sincere. 

On October 11, 1994, Littlejohn visited Jones in her hospital room several times during Littlejohn's work breaks.  She told Jones that Goins "didn't want anything to do with the baby" and that on October 14 she and Goins planned to go to New York, where Goins' ill father lived, to start a new life.  She said Jones needed to find someone to love her and help her take care of her child.

Hicks, Jones' teenage friend who lived across from Jones' apartment, testified that on the morning of October 14, between 8:00 a.m. and 8:30 a.m., he saw Goins and Stefan Winston on the porch leading to Jones' apartment.  He also saw Barry Scott at Jones' door.  Hicks, who knew Winston was involved in drugs, told Winston that Hicks' brother wanted to see Winston.  Hicks then returned to his apartment and prepared for school.  When Hicks was leaving for school, Jones called to him from her window and urged him to go to school.  At that time, Goins was talking to one of Hicks' schoolmates and asked her if she wanted a ride to school.

Sherwyn Green testified that at 8:30 a.m. on the morning of October 14, he drove a friend, who was a cocaine dealer, to the Jones' apartment.  The cocaine dealer intended to sell cocaine to people in the apartment.  When Green and the cocaine dealer arrived at the street in front of the apartment, they saw Goins and Winston talking outside the Jones' apartment building.  Green testified that he and the cocaine dealer did not leave Green's car.  Instead, they "wait[ed] for [Goins and Winston] to leave because [the cocaine dealer] didn't want to go up there while [Goins] was going up there because it would create a conflict."

Green feared a conflict because his friend, the cocaine dealer, and Goins "both . . . were trying to sell drugs" to people in Jones' apartment.  Green had been in Jones' apartment previously when his friend, the cocaine dealer, sold cocaine there.  While Green and the cocaine dealer waited in Green's automobile, Goins went inside Jones' apartment.  After Goins stayed in the apartment for a while and Winston remained outside, Green and the cocaine dealer drove to a nearby store three blocks away.

Jones testified that on the morning of October 14, between 6:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m., Barry Scott entered the apartment and visited her family.  Scott entered the bedroom where Jones was playing with her four infant siblings.  Scott talked to her and looked at the ultrasound "picture" that she had obtained while in the hospital.  Scott left the apartment but returned ten minutes later with Goins.  While Goins was in the apartment, Scott returned to the bedroom where Jones was and obtained the ultrasound "picture."  He took the ultrasound "picture" into the living room and showed it to Goins.  Goins responded, "I don't want to see that.  Take it back to her.  Why are you showing me that . . . ?"  When Scott returned the ultrasound "picture" to Jones, she admonished him for showing it to Goins and said, "I didn't want him to see it."

In the ensuing thirty or forty minutes, Jones heard her mother, her father, Scott, and Goins talking and laughing in the living room.  When Jones went to the bathroom, she saw Goins sitting on the sofa.  Although she made eye contact with Goins, they did not speak.  Jones returned to her bedroom and heard more talking and laughing for fifteen minutes.  Then she "started hearing shots."  She heard her brother crying, her mother scream, shots, and footsteps of one person walking to the bedrooms.  She then saw Goins standing at the door with a gun.  After Goins shot her multiple times, she did not hear anything.  Jones testified that she remained still and pretended to be dead.  After a while, she got up and called the police.

Green testified that after he and the cocaine dealer drove to the nearby store, they made calls on the telephone.  They also purchased sandwiches and waited for calls to be returned to them. While they were waiting, Green saw Littlejohn arrive in her automobile.  As Littlejohn sat in the automobile, they observed Winston walking along Baker Street.  Shortly thereafter, Goins arrived, walking along another street.  Goins spoke to Winston and then entered Littlejohn's automobile.  Littlejohn drove away with Goins as her passenger.  Winston walked away.

The police met Littlejohn while she was on her way to work on the afternoon of October 14.  When the police told her of the shootings, Littlejohn went with the police for questioning.

Littlejohn falsely told the police that she had not seen Goins that day, that she had recently moved to get away from Goins, and that Goins did not know where she lived.  When the police searched Littlejohn's apartment, with her permission, they found men's clothing and various handgun publications, including a manual for the operation of a Glock .45 caliber automatic.  The police also saw a safe, which Littlejohn falsely told them was in the apartment before she began her occupancy.  Later, the police found inside the safe Littlejohn's social security card, birth certificate, car title, and an identification card bearing a photograph of Goins with the name, "Derrick Readon," an alias used by Goins.  Upon searching Littlejohn's car, the police found Littlejohn's driver's license and another identification card bearing a photograph of Goins with the name, "Derrick Readon." After the police questioned Littlejohn, they released her.

A few days later, after Littlejohn's apartment had already been searched by the police, Littlejohn's mother found a .45 caliber cartridge underneath Littlejohn's bed and informed the police.  Firearms experts concluded that the unspent cartridge had been loaded at some time into the same magazine that had held the bullets used to kill Jones' family.  The evidence proved that Jones and the people in the apartment had all been shot with .45 caliber ammunition shot from a gun of a type made only by Glock.

On November 17, 1994, Littlejohn and Goins were arrested in New York.  At that time, Littlejohn was charged with obtaining a drug without a prescription, a charge unrelated to this case. 

Renita Phifer testified that she was incarcerated in the same prison in New York with Littlejohn.  She talked with Littlejohn after Littlejohn learned in a telephone conversation that "Barry" talked to the police about Goins and Littlejohn.

Phifer said Littlejohn became upset and confided in her.  She testified that Littlejohn said "they were really out to get her." She also testified that Littlejohn told her that the police had found a gun which had been discarded and that Littlejohn was worried because she did not know if her fingerprints were on the gun.  She further testified that Littlejohn told her "Barry" said that Goins had killed people and that Littlejohn "knew about it."

Phifer testified that Littlejohn said that there were rumors that she had threatened Jones and her family.  When she asked Littlejohn if the rumors were true, Littlejohn "smirk[ed]" and nodded affirmatively.

Phifer testified that Littlejohn was angry about the "other girl" and had several "run-ins" with her because the girl was "saying she was carrying [Littlejohn's] 'husband's' baby."

Phifer testified that Littlejohn said that she had waited in her car parked near the Jones' apartment for Goins on October 14, and that she and Goins left together.  Phifer also testified that Littlejohn said "one little mistake had ruined her whole life." Phifer did not know the nature of Littlejohn's "mistake."

At the close of the Commonwealth's case, Littlejohn moved to strike the evidence on the ground that no proof of a plan or shared intent had been established.  The trial judge denied the motion.  The jury convicted Littlejohn of all of the charges against her.  The trial judge imposed the jury's recommended sentence of one hundred and eighty-eight years, and the judge suspended ten years.


Before trial, the trial judge denied Littlejohn's motion for a change in venue.  This Court granted Littlejohn's petition for appeal on this issue.  However, Littlejohn failed to submit a written argument on the issue in her brief.  That issue was therefore waived.  See Rule 5A:20(c); Roach v. Commonwealth, 251 Va. 324, 335, 468 S.E.2d 98, 104, cert. denied,     U.S.    , 117 S. Ct. 365, 136 L. Ed. 2d 256 (1996).


Littlejohn argues that the evidence was insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she was an accessory before the fact to the charged offenses.  We agree.

An accessory before the fact "is one not present at the commission of the offense, but who is in some way concerned therein, . . . before[hand] . . . , as [a] contriver, instigator or adviser."  Hitt v. Commonwealth, 131 Va. 752, 759, 109 S.E. 597, 600 (1921).

This definition mandates that in the trial of an accessory before the fact the Commonwealth establish the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:  the commission of the crime by the principal, the accessory's absence at the commission of the offense, and that before the commission of the crime, the accessory was "in some way concerned therein . . . as [a] contriver, instigator or advisor." McGhee v. Commonwealth, 221 Va. 422, 425-26, 270 S.E.2d 729, 731 (1980) (citations and footnotes omitted).

The Commonwealth, therefore, must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that "the accused . . . either [knew] or [had] reason to know of the principal's criminal intention and . . . [that the accused] intend[ed] to encourage, incite, or aid the principal's commission of the crime."  Id. at 427, 270 S.E.2d at 732.

Although the Commonwealth may meet its burden of proof through circumstantial evidence, see Dickerson v. City of Richmond, 2 Va. App. 473, 477, 346 S.E.2d 333, 335 (1986), "[u]nder familiar principles, such proof is insufficient if it creates merely a suspicion of guilt; the . . . evidence must be consistent with guilt and exclude every reasonable hypothesis that the accused is innocent of the charged offense."  Id.

Viewed in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth, the evidence proved that Littlejohn was angry with Jones because Jones was pregnant with Goins' child and that Littlejohn had threatened to harm Jones four months before the murders.

Although the evidence proved that Littlejohn harbored animosity toward Jones four months before the murders, no evidence linked that animosity to Goins' killing of five people in the apartment or his shooting of Jones and her sibling.  No evidence proved that Littlejohn was with Goins and Scott before they went to the apartment.  Furthermore, no evidence proved that Littlejohn knew beforehand that Goins intended to kill or shoot the people in the apartment. 

The fact that Littlejohn had animosity toward Jones does not, without more, permit an inference that, before the fact, she contrived, instigated, or advised in Goins' rampage in the apartment.  Indeed, no evidence in this record proved that when Goins entered the apartment he did so with the intent to commit murder.

Unlike McGhee, where the evidence proved that the accused repeatedly encouraged the assailant to commit the murders, see 221 Va. at 427-28, 270 S.E.2d at 733, here no such facts were proved.  The evidence that Littlejohn was angry with Jones four months before the murders does not support an inference, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Littlejohn encouraged Goins to commit murder, that she knew of Goins' intention when he entered the apartment, or that Littlejohn intended to aid in Goins' commission of the murders.

Other evidence at trial proved that after Goins went into the apartment, Littlejohn arrived at a store three blocks away from the apartment and waited for Goins in her automobile.  Although the jury could have reasonably concluded that Littlejohn was waiting at the store for Goins to arrive, no evidence proved and no inference arises from the evidence that Littlejohn knew that Goins was in the Jones' apartment, that Goins went there intending to kill anyone, or that Littlejohn's presence at the store was for the purpose of aiding him in so doing.  See Moehring v. Commonwealth, 223 Va. 564, 568, 290 S.E.2d 891, 892 (1982) ("Under such circumstances, it is difficult to regard [her] as a 'lookout,' or an accessory before the fact."). 

The jury had no evidentiary basis to infer that Littlejohn knew that Goins would commit murder before he met her.  The evidence does not exclude the hypothesis that Littlejohn was waiting for Goins after having agreed merely to meet him at that time and place. "'[W]here a fact is equally susceptible of two interpretations one of which is consistent with the innocence of the accused, [the trier of fact] cannot arbitrarily adopt that interpretation which incriminates [the accused].'"  Corbett v. Commonwealth, 210 Va. 304, 307, 171 S.E.2d 251, 253 (1969) (citation omitted).

Other evidence adduced at trial, but which does not prove Littlejohn's involvement before the crimes were committed, was the evidence that when the police questioned Littlejohn after the murders and informed her of Goins' involvement, Littlejohn lied concerning her relationship with Goins.  However, "such suspicious conduct does not constitute evidence sufficient to support a finding of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt."  Bishop v. Commonwealth, 227 Va. 164, 170, 313 S.E.2d 390, 393 (1984).

"The giving by the accused of an unclear or unreasonable or false explanation of his conduct or account of his doings are matters for the jury to consider, but they do not shift from the Commonwealth the ultimate burden of proving by the facts or the circumstances, or both, that beyond all reasonable doubt the defendant committed the crime charged against him." Hyde v. Commonwealth, 217 Va. 950, 955, 234 S.E.2d 74, 78 (1977) (citation omitted).

Although the police found in Littlejohn's apartment an unused cartridge matching the bullets used in the murders and a manual describing the operation of a gun similar to the one used in the murders, that proof only engenders a suspicion.  Likewise, the evidence proved that Littlejohn talked to Phifer about events that occurred after the murders.  None of these circumstances proved or supported an inference that before the murders, Littlejohn knew that Goins intended to commit the murders or in any way aided, encouraged, or incited him to do so.

Moreover, the evidence did not exclude the hypothesis that Goins committed the murders for reasons completely unrelated to Littlejohn.  See McGhee, 221 Va. at 427, 270 S.E.2d at 732 ("The evidence must . . . establish that the accessory before the fact shared the criminal intent of the principal."). 

In fact, no evidence in this record proved the catalyst for the shootings. The evidence proved that before Goins went to the Jones' apartment, in a neighborhood where he was well known, he was openly socializing with Scott and Winston on the street in front of the apartment.  He also talked with a teenage girl.  No evidence tended to prove that he sought to hide his presence at the apartment or was concerned about being seen there.  Thus, evidence exists that supports a reasonable inference that the murders were not planned in advance of Goins' arrival in the Jones' apartment.

Moreover, the evidence raises the possibility that something that occurred in the apartment caused Goins to react spontaneously.  The evidence proved that after Goins entered the apartment, he was laughing and talking with Jones' parents.  The evidence proved that in the past Goins sold illegal drugs to Jones' mother and was known as a drug dealer by people in and around the low income housing complex where the Joneses lived.

Goins often stayed overnight in the Jones' apartment, a place where drug activity occurred.  The evidence also proved that when Goins murdered the Jones family, Jones' mother had cocaine in her body and Jones' father had three bags of cocaine on his person.

Furthermore, the evidence proved that while Goins was in the apartment, another cocaine dealer was in the vicinity of the Jones' apartment waiting for Goins to leave so that he could sell cocaine to Jones' parents without creating a conflict with Goins.

The evidence proved that this other cocaine dealer, tired of waiting, went three blocks away to a store, made telephone calls, and received messages on a pager while Goins was in the apartment.  The conclusion is inescapable that drug activity was inexorably linked to the events that occurred in the apartment.

The evidence also established that Goins became perturbed in the apartment when his friend showed him an ultrasound picture of Jones' fetus.  Evidence in the record also proved that Jones had attempted to hide from her mother her sexual relationship with Goins.  Indeed, Jones did not testify whether she had informed her parents that Goins had impregnated her. 

The evidence did prove that when Goins and Jones saw each other, they did not speak.  Thus, the evidence raises the possibility that Goins went on a rampage as a result of being confronted with the ultrasound "picture."  The evidence also proved, however, that after Goins saw the ultrasound "picture" Goins continued laughing and talking with Jones' parents for almost an hour before he began shooting the people in the apartment. 

Simply put, the evidence in this record fails to establish why Goins went on his murderous rampage.  The record leaves that to speculation, including the possibility that he planned the murders before he entered the apartment.

Because no direct evidence tends to prove that Littlejohn knew that Goins intended to commit the murders and the shootings and that she encouraged him, the Commonwealth argues that the jury could have inferred that whatever the catalyst for Goins' actions may have been, Littlejohn had prior knowledge and shared his intent because of her animosity toward Jones.  However, that inference could only have arisen if the jury "engage[d] in speculation and conjecture."  Wright v. Commonwealth, 217 Va. 669, 670, 232 S.E.2d 733, 734 (1977).

"[E]vidence is not sufficient to support a conviction if it engenders only a suspicion or even a probability of guilt.  Conviction cannot rest upon conjecture.  The evidence must be such that it excludes everyreasonable hypothesis of innocence."

Hyde, 217 Va. at 955, 234 S.E.2d at 78 (citation omitted).  When, from the circumstantial evidence, "it is just as likely, if not more likely," that a "reasonable hypothesis of innocence" explains the accused's conduct, the evidence cannot be said to rise to the level of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.  Haywood v. Commonwealth, 20 Va. App. 562, 567-68, 458 S.E.2d 606, 609 (1995).

In summary, nothing about Littlejohn's conduct provides a basis from which the jury could have inferred beyond a reasonable doubt that, before Goins committed the murders, Littlejohn shared in Goins' intent.  No evidence proved or tended to prove that Littlejohn knew Goins' whereabouts or purposes prior to meeting him.  Most critically, no evidence was admitted from which the jury could have drawn an inference, to the exclusion of an equally reasonable contrary inference, that Littlejohn knew Goins was going to commit the murders or that she intended to assist Goins in committing the murders.

In addition, the evidence proved that Goins was known as a drug dealer, that his relationship with the adults in the apartment was tied to his drug dealing, and that drugs were found on and in the bodies of the dead adults.  The evidence also proved that another seller of cocaine was outside the apartment and dared not enter lest he and Goins met and had a conflict.

Thus, the evidence also did not exclude the hypothesis that the killings and Goins' motive were drug related, unknown to Littlejohn, and completely unrelated to her attitude toward Jones.

Therefore, the evidence failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Littlejohn "share[d] the criminal intent of the principal."  McGhee, 221 Va. at 427, 270 S.E.2d at 732.  Suspicion, no matter how strong, is not enough.  See Bishop, 227 Va. at 170, 313 S.E.2d at 393.  Convictions cannot rest upon speculation and conjecture.  See Smith v. Commonwealth, 192 Va. 453, 461, 65 S.E.2d 528, 533 (1951).  Accordingly, we reverse the convictions.



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