Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia

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The Supreme Court affirmed Petitioner’s convictions for felony escape, destruction of property, and petit larceny and the circuit court’s denial of a new trial, holding that the circuit court committed no reversible error. Specifically, the Court held (1) an individual charged with a felony who escapes from lawful confinement as prescribed in W. Va. Code 61-5-10 may be convicted of the offense of felony escape irrespective of the ultimate outcome of the charge for which he or she was in lawful custody or confinement; (2) the trial court did not err in denying Petitioner’s motion for a new trial as to the escape and destruction of property charges on the basis of newly-discovered evidence; and (3) the circuit court did not commit reversible error in permitting the escape and destruction of property charges to be tried first. View "State v. Allman" on Justia Law

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The circuit court abused its discretion in not affording Petitioner a hearing to offer a defense, other than not guilty by reason of mental illness, to the merits of the criminal charges against him pursuant to W. Va. Code 27-6A-6. In 2004, Petitioner was charged with two counts of sexual abuse by a parent, guardian or custodian and two counts of second degree sexual assault. In 2008, the circuit court found that Petitioner was not competent to stand trial and that he would have been convicted of the charges against him. The court determined that it would maintain jurisdiction over Petitioner for forty to ninety years or until Petitioner attained competency, whichever occurred first. In 2016, Petitioner filed the instant motion for a hearing to offer a defense to the merits of the charges brought against him. The circuit court denied the motion. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the matter for a hearing, holding that, under the circumstances of this case, the circuit court erred in denying Petitioner’s request for a hearing to present evidence of a defense to the charges in the criminal indictment against him. View "State v. King" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed Petitioner’s convictions for four felony counts of driving under the influence (DUI) causing death, two felony counts of child neglect resulting in death, and three misdemeanors, holding that the trial court’s comments at the beginning of the jury selection process tainted Petitioner’s presumption of innocence and deprived him of a fair trial. In this case involving multiple casualties, the trial court informed the jury pool that Petitioner decided to plead guilty and that he “probably did everyone a favor by doing the plea. It was a pretty tragic case.” The court later repeated this sentiment. The Supreme Court held that the trial court expressed its opinion on a material matter at trial - that of Petitioner’s guilt - and once Petitioner decided to reject the plea deal and proceed to trial, this jury pool was irrevocably tainted with the knowledge that Petitioner was willing to plead guilty in this case. View "State v. Thompson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the sentencing order of the circuit court imposing an effective sentence of sixteen to thirty-eight years and denying Petitioner’s request for credit for time served on home incarceration as a condition of pretrial bail on the basis that Petitioner benefited from his plea bargain with the State. Petitioner pleaded guilty to sexual abuse by a parent, incest, and attempt to commit a felony. Petitioner appealed his sentence. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) in accordance with State v. Hughes, 476 S.E.2d 189 (1996), the circuit court properly refused to grant Petitioner credit for time served on home incarceration; and (2) Petitioner’s argument that his sentence was disproportionate to the nature of the offense because he was denied credit for time served on home incarceration was without merit. View "State v. Jedediah C." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions for accessory to murder and conspiracy to commit murder and his sentence to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, holding that none of Defendant’s assignments of error warranted reversal. Specifically, the Court held (1) the circuit court’s refusal to grant Defendant’s third motion for a continuance did not result in prejudice to Defendant; (2) the circuit court did not err by refusing to grant a discovery violation against the State; (3) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion by admitting autopsy photographs of the victim; and (4) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion by declining to instruct the jury on the lesser included offenses of first degree murder. View "State v. Richardson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions for accessory to murder and conspiracy to commit murder and his sentence to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, holding that none of Defendant’s assignments of error warranted reversal. Specifically, the Court held (1) the circuit court’s refusal to grant Defendant’s third motion for a continuance did not result in prejudice to Defendant; (2) the circuit court did not err by refusing to grant a discovery violation against the State; (3) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion by admitting autopsy photographs of the victim; and (4) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion by declining to instruct the jury on the lesser included offenses of first degree murder. View "State v. Richardson" on Justia Law

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The felony offense of driving on a license revoked for driving under the influence (DUI) does not involve actual or threatened violence. Defendant was sentenced to life imprisonment under the recidivist statute based upon a predicate felony conviction for unlawful assault and two prior felony convictions for driving while license revoked for DUI. Defendant appealed, arguing that his life sentence was not proportionate because the two prior felony offenses did not involve actual or threatened violence. The Supreme Court reversed Defendant’s sentence, holding that the recidivist life sentence imposed on Defendant based upon the predicate felony conviction for unlawful assault, together with two prior non-violent felony convictions, violated the proportionality principle in W. Va. Const. art. III, 5. View "State v. Kilmer" on Justia Law

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The circuit court erred in vacating Respondent’s conviction for felony murder and granting him a new trial based upon newly discovered evidence in the form of serology test results on a $20 bill, a $5 bill, and a $1 bill. The test results linked the money to the victim during Respondent’s underlying trial. In 1994, the serology evidence at issue was ordered to be retested, and the circuit court made specific findings regarding the evidence in a prior omnibus proceeding brought by Respondent. In 2016, the circuit court granted Respondent a new trial after an omnibus hearing. Specifically, the circuit court found that the previously adjudicated 1994 DNA results concerning the serology evidence constituted “newly discovered evidence.” The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case for reinstatement of the 1987 conviction for felony murder, holding that even if the serology evidence were excluded, there was sufficient evidence presented to the jury to support Respondent’s conviction. View "Terry v. Ward" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court granted the State’s petition for writ of prohibition seeking to prevent enforcement of the circuit court’s order suspending Demetrius Moore’s sentence, holding that the circuit court improperly applied sentencing credit for time served on a prior, unrelated charge. Moore was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of two to fifteen years in connection with his plea of guilty to one count of delivery of a controlled substance and second offense felony recidivism. Moore filed a motion for reconsideration seeking to have his sentence suspended. The circuit court ultimately granted the motion and applied credit for time served for a prior, unrelated domestic battery charge. The Supreme Court granted the State’s requested writ, holding (1) W. Va. Code 61-11-24 allows for the granting of credit for time served only on a sentence imposed by the court for the term of confinement “awaiting such trial and conviction”; and (2) in this case, the circuit court directly contradicted the language of the statute and court precedent. View "State ex rel. State v. Honorable David J. Sims" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was whether double jeopardy principles were violated by Petitioners’ respective convictions for three counts of robbery in the first degree. Petitioners, three defendants, were tried together before a jury. Each was convicted on charges of one count of burglary, three counts of robbery in the first degree, three counts of assault during the commission of a felony, and one count of conspiracy. The Supreme Court reversed Petitioners’ respective sentencing orders and remanded the cases to the circuit court for entry of new sentencing orders, holding that, under the facts of this case, Petitioners should have been indicted, tried and convicted on only a single count of robbery in the first degree. View "State v. Henson" on Justia Law