APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF THE VIRGIN ISLANDS; DIVISION OF ST. CROIX.
Adams, Rosenn and Hunter, Circuit Judges.
Henry C. Bradshaw appeals his judgment of conviction for first degree murder. After his trial by jury in the District of the Virgin Islands, he was sentenced to life imprisonment. The appeal challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the verdict and raises the question of whether a new trial should be granted because the trial judge, now, on appeal, concededly in error, allowed defendant to exercise only five peremptory challenges instead of ten.*fn1 For the reasons discussed below, we affirm.
Defendant was charged with first degree murder, 14 V.I.C. § 922(a)(1), by an information filed November 12, 1976. Trial commenced February 28, 1977. At the start of jury selection the trial judge indicated that the law allowed defense only five peremptory challenges. Defense counsel used all five strikes.
The jury returned a guilty verdict on March 3, 1977. The hearing on sentencing was held on March 30. Bradshaw was given the mandatory sentence for first degree murder, life imprisonment without parole or probation. 14 V.I.C. § 923(a).
The facts as developed at trial were as follows. On March 7, 1976, Marilyn Pickering, a St. Thomas resident, registered at a hotel in Christiansted, St. Croix. The following morning she was found shot to death. An expert testified at trial that she had been dead for at least twelve hours before her body was found. The victim had been shot twice with a.38 caliber weapon. An autopsy showed a.22 percent level of alcohol in her blood at the time of her death and the presence of epoxy in her digestive tract. No gun was found, but a test done by investigators showed that decedent had not fired any weapons.
According to his testimony, Bradshaw became acquainted with decedent a month before the killing, when she hired him as a private detective. Subsequently, the two developed a close personal relationship. He testified that decedent had asked him to accompany her to St. Croix on the day of the shooting. Bradshaw arrived by seaplane on the island from St. Thomas the same morning as decedent though on a different flight. He had traveled under an assumed name.
Two hotel employees testified that they saw defendant that afternoon at the hotel. One saw him walking towards decedent's room at about 1:00 p.m. Bradshaw's fingerprint was found on a drinking glass in the room.
Although Bradshaw and one witness testified that he returned to the seaplane terminal at 3:45 p.m., two witnesses placed him there between 4:30 and 5:00 p.m. Employees at the hotel testified that they had heard a gunshot or explosion coming from the vicinity of decedent's room between 4:00 and 4:30 p.m.
After returning to St. Thomas by seaplane under another false name, Bradshaw flew under his own name to Puerto Rico for an overnight stay.
When contacted by investigators, Bradshaw acknowledged that he owned a licensed .38 caliber Smith and Wesson revolver. He informed them, however, that the gun had that day been stolen from his car trunk. The investigators testified that they inspected the car and found no signs of tampering or break-in.
Questioned about his activities on November 7, Bradshaw told police that he had spent the day fixing his car on St. Thomas and then flew to Puerto Rico for an ...