Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Virginia

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming Defendant's convictions for grand larceny, conspiracy to commit grand larceny, and providing false identification to a law enforcement officer, holding that Defendant's right to a speedy trial was not violated. In this case, Defendant had been continuously incarcerated since a March 2, 2016 preliminary hearing. For purposes of speedy trial, Defendant's trial should have commenced within five months of the preliminary hearing date. Defendant was not tried until November 14, 2016. The court of appeals found that that the trial court's continuance from August 2016 until November 2016 was a court-ordered continuance that was not counted against the Commonwealth. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendant's failure to make an affirmative objection to the trial court's continuation of the case was dispositive and that Defendant's speedy trial rights were not violated. View "Young v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the ruling of the trial court finding Defendant in violation of the terms of his suspended sentences, holding that, assuming a proffer of evidence made at Defendant's probation revocation hearing was in error, any error was harmless on the facts of this case. According to the prosecutor in this case, the proffer of evidence quoted testimony from a newspaper article that detailed testimony from a victim of Defendant's crimes. The article, however, was never admitted into evidence. On appeal, Defendant argued that the proffer violated his due process rights. The court of appeals affirmed the trial court's decision overruling Defendant's objection to the proffer, holding that the proffer did not violate Defendant's due process rights because the newspaper article from which the prosecutor quoted was not testimonial hearsay. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that any alleged error in allowing the prosecutor to read from the newspaper article was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. View "Mooney v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that Respondents, who were both previously adjudicated to be sexually violent predators and were committed to the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services after a trial court determined that they had violated the terms of their conditional release, were not entitled to a State-appointed psychological expert to assist them in a hearing. Respondents filed motions asking for a court-appointed psychological expert to assist them in a hearing to determine whether they violated the conditions of their release and whether those violations rendered them unsuitable for conditional release. Specifically, Respondents argued that, because they were indigent, the Due Process Clause required the appointment of an expert. The circuit courts denied the motions and determined that Respondents violated the conditions of their release. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that given the temporary, expedited nature of the hearing and the other protections afforded Respondents, including the right to counsel, the Due Process Clause did not require the State to appoint an expert. View "Harvey v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the circuit court ruling that Defendant's erroneous sentences were void ab initio, holding that the Court lacked jurisdiction to consider Defendant's motion to vacate his sentences. Defendant was convicted on Alford pleas to several offenses, including four counts of using a firearm in the commission of a felony. Defendant later filed a motion to vacate three of the four sentences imposed upon him, arguing that those sentences were void ab initio for being shorter than the statutorily-prescribed five-year minimum. The circuit court granted Defendant's motion to vacate his sentences and reopened the relevant criminal cases for further proceedings. The Supreme Court vacated the circuit court's judgment, holding that sentences below the statutory minimum are not void ab initio but only voidable, and that, pursuant to Rule 1:1, the court lacked jurisdiction to consider Defendant's motion to vacate his sentences. View "Commonwealth v. Watson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court ruling that Defendant lacked standing to move to vacate the sentences of other felons as void ab initio, holding that Defendant lacked standing and that there was no reason to set aside the circuit court's judgment sua sponte. Defendant was convicted on Alford pleas to several offenses, including four counts of using a firearm in the commission of a felony. Defendant later moved to vacate as void thirty sentences imposed by the court upon twelve felons for violations of Va. Code 18.2-53.1, including three of the four sentences imposed upon him, arguing that each of the challenged sentences was void ab initial for being shorter than the statutorily-prescribed five-year minimum. The circuit court dismissed the case, ruling that a person must establish standing even when challenging a judgment as void ab initio. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court correctly ruled that Defendant lacked standing to challenge the other felons' sentences; and (2) this Court declines to declare the other felons' sentences void sua sponte. View "Watson v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the trial court's denial of Defendant's motion to suppress and affirming Defendant's convictions, holding that that trial court did not err in denying Defendant's motion to suppress. Defendant was convicted of first degree murder and robbery and sentenced to life imprisonment. Defendant appealed the denial of his motion to suppress evidence obtained as a result of a police interrogation, arguing that his constitutional rights under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), and its progeny were denied because the interrogation took place under circumstances requiring Miranda warnings prior to questioning and that the warnings he was given were constitutionally insufficient. The court of appeals affirmed the convictions, holding that Defendant was effectively advised under Miranda. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial court properly found that no Miranda warnings were required; and (2) the warnings given to Defendant were a fully effective equivalent of the warnings required by Miranda. View "Spinner v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed and vacated the decisions of the court of appeals reversing Defendant's conviction for criminal solicitation of a sixteen-year-old female high school student (A.L.) using a communications system in violation of Va. Code 18.2-374.3(D) and entered final judgment reinstating Defendant's conviction, holding that the court of appeals erred in reversing and vacating Defendant's conviction. At issue on appeal was whether the evidence was sufficient to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that Defendant's communications with A.L., when viewed in the overall context of his relationship with A.L., constituted a violation of section 18.2-374.3(D). The Supreme Court concluded that it was, holding that the court of appeals erred in finding that the evidence adduced at trial, and the reasonable inferences that the fact-finder could draw therefrom, was insufficient to support Defendant's conviction for violating section 18.2-374.3(D). View "Commonwealth v. Murgia" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the circuit court refusing to set aside Defendant's guilty plea, holding that the court of appeals did not abuse its discretion in denying Defendant's motion to withdraw her guilty plea. Defendant pled guilty to petit larceny. Before the circuit court entered the final sentencing order, Defendant filed a motion to withdraw her guilty plea. The circuit court denied the motion and entered the final sentencing order. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the "manifest injustice" standard governs a motion to withdraw a guilty plea made after sentence was pronounced but before the sentencing order was entered; and (2) the grounds Defendant advanced to withdraw her guilty plea did not warrant vacating the guilty plea under the post-sentencing "manifest injustice" standard. View "Brown v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals upholding Appellant's conviction for failure to register as a sexually violent sex offender, holding that Appellant was properly classified as a sexually violent offender and convicted for failing to register within the relevant statutory ninety-day period. In 2004, Appellant was convicted in Idaho of sexual abuse of a child under the age of sixteen and ordered to register as a sex offender with the State of Idaho. In 2016, Appellant moved to Virginia and registered as a sex offender. Appellant was later convicted for failing to reregister as a sexually violent offender. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, under Va. Code 9.1-902(F)(ii), Appellant was required to register as a sexually violent offender in Virginia. View "Turner v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed Petitioner's petition for writ of habeas corpus, holding that the petition was untimely under Va. Code 8.01-654(A)(2). In 1970, Petitioner was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. Petitioner was subsequently resentenced to life imprisonment. In 2016, Petitioner filed the present petition for a writ of habeas corpus, asserting that new evidence exculpated him. While acknowledging that his petition was untimely, Petitioner argued that the limitation period violated the Suspension Clause of Va. Const. Art. I, 9. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) Petitioner's petition was time barred; and (2) Petitioner's inability to question and present new evidence bearing on his factual guilt or innocence did not violate the Suspension Clause. View "Brown v. Warden" on Justia Law