Argued: September 15, 2017
from the United States District Court for the Eastern
District of Virginia, at Richmond. John A. Gibney, Jr.,
District Judge. (3:11-cv-00746-JAG)
Michele Davison, VIRGINIA CAPITAL REPRESENTATION RESOURCE
CENTER, Charlottesville, Virginia, for Appellant.
Matthew P. Dullaghan, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF
VIRGINIA, Richmond, Virginia, for Appellee.
Elizabeth Hambourger, Johanna Jennings, CENTER FOR DEATH
PENALTY LITIGATION, Durham, North Carolina, for Appellant.
E. Lee, Jr., VIRGINIA CAPITAL REPRESENTATION RESOURCE CENTER,
Charlottesville, Virginia, for Appellant.
R. Herring, Attorney General, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
OF VIRGINIA, Richmond, Virginia, for Appellee.
GREGORY, Chief Judge, WYNN and DIAZ, Circuit Judges.
a bifurcated jury trial in the Circuit Court, City of
Norfolk, Virginia, a jury convicted and sentenced to death
Petitioner Anthony Juniper ("Petitioner") for the
January 16, 2004 murders of Keshia Stephens, her younger
brother Rueben Harrison, and her two daughters Nykia Stephens
and Shearyia Stephens. After unsuccessfully pursuing
collateral relief from his conviction and death sentence in
Virginia courts, Petitioner filed an action under 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern
District of Virginia against Respondent David W. Zook, in his
official capacity as Warden, Sussex I State Prison
("Respondent"). Before the district court,
Petitioner asserted numerous bases for relief, including that
his prosecutors failed to turn over certain pieces of
"material" exculpatory and impeaching evidence in
violation of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963).
The district court granted Petitioner limited documentary
discovery, denied Petitioner's request for an evidentiary
hearing, and rejected all of Petitioner's claims and
dismissed his petition.
conducting a careful review of the record, we conclude that
the district court abused its discretion in dismissing
Petitioner's Brady claim without holding an
evidentiary hearing because it failed to assess the
plausibility of that claim through the proper legal lens.
Accordingly, we vacate the district court's decision as
to the Brady claim and remand the case to the
district court for further proceedings consistent with this
According to the evidence presented at trial, Petitioner and
Keshia Stephens had been involved "in an on-again,
off-again tumultuous relationship for approximately two
years." Juniper v. Commonwealth, 626 S.E.2d
383, 394 (Va. 2006). On the morning of the murders, Renee
Rashid, who testified under a grant of immunity, took
Petitioner to Keshia's apartment to retrieve some of his
belongings. Rashid and Petitioner arrived at the apartment,
which was on the second floor of a building in Norfolk,
Virginia, at approximately 10:20 a.m. While in the apartment,
Rashid heard Petitioner and Keshia arguing, with "Keshia
repeatedly ma[king] comments such as, '[T]here's
nobody but you. I told you I'm not seeing anybody but
you.'" Id. at 393. Rashid left the
apartment, and Petitioner remained behind. Rashid testified
that as she drove away, "she heard four 'booms,
' which she described as 'sound[ing] like
drove to the house of Gwendolyn Rogers, Petitioner's
mother, where she met Rogers and Keon Murray, a friend of
Petitioner. Murray, also testifying under a grant of
immunity, said that while at Rogers's house he received a
call from Petitioner, which originated from Keshia's
phone number. According to Murray's testimony, Petitioner
told Murray over the phone that "They gone, " and
that Petitioner "killed them, " but did not name
whom he had killed. Id. at 395.
then called his friend Tyrone Mings, a twice-convicted felon
who lived with his girlfriend, Melinda Bowser, one block from
Keshia's apartment building. According to Mings's
testimony, Murray asked Mings to check on Keshia's
apartment because "[Murray] heard some shots." J.A.
at 412. Some time later, Mings walked down the street to
Keshia's apartment and found that Keshia's front door
appeared to have been "kicked in."
Juniper, 626 S.E.2d at 395.
Upon entering Keshia's apartment, Mings testified that he
saw [Petitioner] standing in the living room with a white
substance on his face and holding an automatic pistol. When
Mings asked [Petitioner] about Keshia, [Petitioner] directed
Mings to the back of the apartment. Upon entering the master
bedroom, Mings saw Rueben and a young girl lying on the bed.
Mings did not see Keshia and asked [Petitioner] where she
was. [Petitioner] told Mings she was "between the bed
and the dresser." Mings returned to the bedroom and
called to the people in the room, but no one answered. Mings
departed Keshia's apartment, leaving [Petitioner] in the
living room, still holding the pistol.
Id. Mings testified that he then returned to his
apartment and told Bowser what he had seen at Keshia's
according to Rashid's and Murray's testimony, Rashid
and Murray left Rogers's apartment in Rashid's car,
picked up Petitioner's cousin, John Jones, and proceeded
to Keshia's apartment building. While Rashid waited in
the car, Murray and Jones got out of the car and searched for
Petitioner. Jones called out several times for Petitioner to
"[c]ome out." J.A. 406. Petitioner came down to the
car and got into the passenger seat, beside Rashid. Murray
and Jones got in the back seats. Both Rashid and Murray
testified that Petitioner was holding a handgun when he got
in the car. Id. at 390, 408. Rashid further
testified that Petitioner "appeared to be jittery"
and "was breathing real hard." Id. at 389.
And according to Murray, Petitioner "look[ed]
nervous." Id. at 407.
telling Bowser what he had seen, Mings walked back from his
apartment toward Keshia's apartment. Mings testified that
while he was walking to Keshia's apartment, he saw
Petitioner, Murray, and Jones leaving Keshia's apartment.
Mings then observed Petitioner, Murray, and Jones get into a
car, which was driven by "a female, " and drive
off. Id. at 415-17. At that point, Mings walked back
to his apartment. Mings testified that when he returned to
his apartment, Bowser called the police. At trial, a Norfolk
Police officer testified that at 12:44 p.m. he responded to a
call reporting a disturbance and possible gunshots at
Keshia's apartment. The officer, who was later joined by
another officer, walked around the complex, talked to two
residents, and, finding nothing troubling, "left the
apartment complex believing the call to have been a false
report." Juniper, 626 S.E.2d at 395.
Rashid drove Petitioner and Jones to Jones's apartment,
and then returned to her own apartment. Rashid testified
that, after arriving at home, she called Petitioner's
mother. Phone records introduced at trial established that
this call occurred at 1:10 p.m.
meantime, Mings walked back to Keshia's apartment a third
time, this time accompanied by Bowser. On the way to her
apartment, Mings and Bowser saw the officers who had
responded to the 12:44 p.m. call leave. Mings and Bowser
returned to their apartment, and Bowser called the police a
second time. At approximately 2:20 p.m., a large number of
Norfolk Police Department officers responded to a second call
regarding a disturbance at Keshia's apartment. Mings and
Bowser were waiting outside the apartment when the officers
arrived. Mings testified that he told the officers there were
victims inside, but did not tell the officers that he had
observed Petitioner inside the apartment with a gun because
Mings "feared for [his] safety." J.A. 419.
the officers who responded to the 2:20 p.m. call testified
that, when he reached the front door of Keshia's
apartment, the "whole center part of the door was
completely knocked . . . inward into the apartment, and
wooden debris from the door was lying inside the
apartment." Juniper, 626 S.E.2d at 395. Upon
entering the apartment, officers found
Nykia's body lying across Rueben on the bed in the master
bedroom. They then observed Shearyia's body lying across
Keshia's body on the floor beside the bed. The officers
received no response from any of them. . . .
All four victims . . . died as a result of gunshot wounds.
Keshia was stabbed through her abdomen, shot three times, and
grazed by a fourth bullet. . . . The stab wound did not
fatally wound Keshia, but tore through the muscle of her
abdominal wall. There was a great deal of blood accompanying
the wound, however, which led the medical examiner performing
the autopsy to conclude that the stab wound was probably the
first injury inflicted on Keshia. . . . Two-year old Shearyia
was shot four times while in her mother's arms. . . .
Rueben Harrison was shot three times. . . . Four-year old
Nykia was shot one time behind her left ear.
Id. at 394-95.
crime scene, police officers found the handle and blade of a
steak knife, which originally were joined. According to
expert testimony, the "stab wound was consistent with a
wound that would have been caused by the knife blade found at
the scene of the crime." Id. at 394.
Investigators found Petitioner's latent thumbprint on the
part of the knife blade nearest the handle, and
Petitioner's DNA on the knife ...