Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia

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The circuit court exceeded its jurisdiction in sua sponte dismissing the indictment charging Respondent with the felony offense of threatening to commit a terrorist act. A Brooke County grand jury returned a single count indictment charging that Defendant committed the felony offense of threats to commit a terroristic act. Although defense counsel did not file a motion to dismiss the indictment, the circuit court entered an order, sua sponte, dismissing the indictment with prejudice. The State filed a petition for a writ of prohibition seeking to prohibit enforcement of the circuit court’s order. The Supreme Court concluded that relief in prohibition was warranted and, therefore, prohibited enforcement of the order dismissing the indictment, holding that the circuit court’s action deprived the State of its right to prosecute a criminal case or deprived the State of a valid conviction. View "State ex rel. State v. Honorable Ronald E. Wilson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court granted in part and denied in part a petition for a writ of prohibition filed by the State seeking to have the court prohibit enforcement of an order of the circuit court that allowed Respondent to testify at his criminal trial about the sexual history of his adolescent victim, M.Y. Respondent was indicted on several counts of sexual assault and sexual abuse. Respondent filed two motions seeking to introduce evidence of M.Y.’s sexual history. The trial court granted the motions. The Supreme Court (1) prohibited enforcement of that part of the circuit court’s order allowing Respondent to introduce evidence that M.Y. accused another man of sexual assault when she was eleven years old, holding that the evidence Respondent sought to introduce is not relevant; but (2) denied the State’s request to prohibit enforcement of that part of the circuit court’s order permitting Respondent to cross-examine M.Y. about whether she told him she had sex with anyone else during the seventy-two hour period prior to his purchase of the Plan B pill, holding that the State sought to introduce inadmissible evidence and that Respondent should be permitted to rebut that evidence with inadmissible evidence as authorized by the circuit court. View "State ex rel. Harvey v. Honorable John C. Yoder" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court granted two petitions for writs of prohibition, one sought by the State to prohibit enforcement of an order of the circuit court that reduced the criminal sentence of James Wilkerson, the other sought by the State to prohibit enforcement of an order of the circuit court that reduced the criminal sentence of Robert McFarland. The Supreme Court granted both petitions, holding (1) prohibition was appropriate to preclude enforcement of the circuit court’s order reducing Wilkerson’s sentence because the State did not receive notice and an opportunity to be heard on Wilkerson’s motion to reduce his sentence; and (2) the circuit court lacked jurisdiction to reduce McFarland’s sentence because the W. Va. R. Crim. P. 35(b) motion that McFarland relied upon to obtain relief was untimely. View "State ex rel. State v. Honorable David J. Sims" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s order sentencing defendant for five separate violations of W.Va. Code 61-8C-3. Defendant pleaded guilty to five counts relating to his possession of material visually depicting a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct in violation of the statute. On appeal, Defendant argued that the circuit court erred when it ruled that Defendant’s possession of five individual VHS tapes containing child pornography subjected him to five separate violations of the child pornography statute. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that, based on the unit of prosecution as set forth by the plain language of section 61-8C-3, Defendant’s possession of five VHS tapes subjected him to one violation of the statute. The court remanded the matter to the circuit court for entry of a new sentencing order. View "State v. Dubuque" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction for kidnapping his ex-girlfriend and his sentence of life without parole. On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial court abused its discretion (1) in allowing the State’s expert witness to present testimony that domestic violence victims are often more compliant with their abusers out of fear, not consent; and (2) by admitting into evidence Defendant’s previous conviction for second-degree domestic assault against the same ex-girlfriend. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) because Defendant failed timely and specifically to object to the expert witness’s testimony, Defendant waived this issue for appellate review; and (2) the district court did not abuse its discretion in admitting into evidence Defendant’s previous conviction. View "State v. Blickenstaff" on Justia Law

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Petitioner was convicted of the 2007 murder of his wife and sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. The Supreme Court affirmed Petitioner’s conviction, holding that the trial court (1) did not err by refusing to dismiss the indictment returned by the grand jury based upon fraud where the majority of the statements challenged by Petitioner were not fraudulent and the one incorrect statement was not so prejudicial as to invalidate the indictment; (2) did not abuse its discretion in admitting evidence of prior domestic violence, marital discord, and threats made by Petitioner against his wife; (3) did not commit plain error by not instructing the jury on lesser included offenses; and (4) did not err in denying Defendant’ motion for judgment of acquittal where the evidence presented at trial was sufficient to support the jury’s verdict. View "State v. Spinks" on Justia Law

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Under W. Va. R. Crim. P. 12(f), if a defendant fails to seek to suppress a confession or other inculpatory statement prior to trial as required under W. Va. R. Crim. P. 12(b)(3), such failure constitutes waiver, absent a showing of good cause. Defendant entered a guilty verdict on a two-count indictment for driving under the influence of alcohol. Defendant appealed, arguing that the circuit court erred in admitting his two of his statements to police into evidence at trial. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) under Rule 12(b)(3), Defendant waived his right to a voluntariness hearing regarding the admissibility of his first statement to the police; and (2) the circuit court did not err in admitting the second statement Defendant made to the police because the record revealed nothing to support Defendant’s argument that the circuit court erred in failing to suppress the second statement due to a violation of the prompt presentment rule. View "State v. Simmons" on Justia Law

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Petitioner appealed an order of the circuit court affirming his magistrate court conviction, after a jury trial, of the offense of domestic assault. In his appeal, Petitioner argued that the magistrate court erred by instructing the jury on the offense of domestic assault when he was charged solely with domestic battery. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) contrary to Petitioner’s contention, domestic assault is a lesser included offense of domestic battery; and (2) the jury instruction on domestic assault was warranted, and the jury was properly instructed on the offense of domestic assault. View "State v. Bland" on Justia Law

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Petitioner was convicted of first degree felony murder, robbery, and other offenses. Petitioner was sentenced to life with mercy for the murder offense. The Supreme Court affirmed Petitioner’s convictions. Petitioner later filed a pro se habeas petition alleging several grounds for relief. The habeas court granted in part and denied in part Petitioner’s habeas petition, concluding (1) Petitioner failed to prove that he received ineffective assistance or that false evidence had been presented by the State at trial, but (2) Petitioner proved, by a preponderance of the evidence, that he had been improperly sentenced to an additional forty years on his robbery offense because robbery was a lesser-included offense to the first degree felony murder charge. The habeas court then dismissed the robbery conviction. On appeal, both Petitioner and the State assigned error to the habeas court’s rulings. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding that Petitioner failed to demonstrate that he was entitled to habeas relief, and the habeas court erred in dismissing Petitioner’s robbery conviction. The court remanded the matter with instructions to reinstate Petitioner’s conviction and sentence for robbery on the terms imposed by the trial court. View "Flack v. Ballard" on Justia Law

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Petitioner was convicted of one count of embezzlement. Petitioner appealed, arguing that the circuit court erred by (1) not granting his motions for judgment of acquittal because the State failed to present sufficient evidence to support his conviction, and (2) not granting his motion for a mistrial after the prosecuting attorney made improper remarks during closing arguments. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the State presented sufficient evidence to support Petitioner’s conviction and therefore did not err by denying Petitioner’s motions for judgment of acquittal; and (2) the prosecutor’s remarks were not clearly prejudicial and did not result in manifest injustice, and therefore, the circuit court did not abuse its discretion by denying Petitioner’s motion for a mistrial. View "State v. Berry" on Justia Law