Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Virginia

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The Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s determination that Defendant’s motion filed pursuant to the safety value provision of Va. Code 18.2-248(C), which provides potential relief from mandatory minimum sentences according to certain terms, was untimely and declining to rule on the merits, holding that the motion was timely and warranted consideration on the merits. The safety value provision provides for relief from mandatory sentences when the defendant truthfully provides all information and evidence concerning his offense to the Commonwealth not later than the time of the sentencing hearing. In this case, Defendant provided the required information concerning his offense immediately prior to the sentencing hearing. The trial court denied the motion, and Defendant received the mandatory sentences. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that disclosure was timely made to the Commonwealth, and therefore, the motion warranted consideration on the merits for the completeness and truthfulness of the disclosure as well as any further disclosure made to the Commonwealth before resentencing. View "Hall v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeals sustaining Defendant’s conviction for voluntary manslaughter, holding that the Court of Appeals did not err when it found the evidence was sufficient to uphold the conviction. A jury found Defendant guilty of voluntary manslaughter. Defendant filed a motion to set aside the jury’s verdict based on insufficient evidence to prove the elements of the offense of voluntary manslaughter. The trial court denied the motion, finding that there was sufficient evidence to support the jury’s verdict. The Court of Appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Court of Appeals did not err in affirming Appellant’s conviction of voluntary manslaughter because the evidence was sufficient to support the conviction. View "Smith v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeals affirming Defendant’s convictions on three counts of violating Va. Code 18.2-181 without reviewing the merits of his assignment of error and reinstated the judgment of the circuit court, holding that the circuit court’s determination of Defendant’s guilt was not plainly wrong or without support in the evidence. The Court of Appeals affirmed Defendant’s convictions on three counts of larceny by worthless check without reaching the merits of his assignment of error challenging the sufficiency of the evidence to support his conviction. The Court of Appeals held that Defendant’s assignment of error was not preserved for appeal in the circuit court under the requirements of Rule 5A.18. The Supreme Court vacated the opinion of the Court of Appeals and reinstated the judgment of the circuit court, holding (1) this Court assumes, without deciding, the the circuit court’s ruling on the motion to vacate Defendant’s convictions was properly before the Court of Appeals; and (2) the evidence was sufficient as a matter of law to support Defendant’s convictions. View "McGinnis v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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Upon consideration of Darnell Phillips’ petition for a writ of actual innocence, Respondent’s motion to dismiss, and Phillips’ motion for a nonsuit, the Supreme Court decided that the writ of actual innocence will not issue, the motion for nonsuit will be denied, and the petition will be dismissed. Phillips challenged his convictions for abduction with intent to defile, rape, forcible sodomy, and malicious wounding. After testing conducted by a private laboratory and resulting report submitted by a forensic scientist, Phillips filed his current petition for a writ of actual innocence. Thereafter, the Supreme Court decided In re Brown, 295 Va. 202, 225 (Va. 2018). Because the holding was not favorable to Phillips, he moved to nonsuit his petition. The Supreme Court denied the motion for nonsuit and dismissed the petition for writ of actual innocence, holding (1) Phillips’ petition was not a civil action to which the nonsuit statute applies; and (2) the petition must be dismissed for failure to state a claim. View "In re Phillips" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed, without prejudice, Appellant’s appeal of the circuit court’s denial of Appellant’s motion for reconsideration of its prior order denying his second motion to dismiss his capital indictments, holding that the Court was without jurisdiction to consider this appeal. Appellant was indicted for two counts of capital murder. Eleven years after the circuit court determined that Appellant was incompetent to stand trial, Appellant filed a motion to dismiss the capital indictments. The court denied the motion, finding that Appellant remained incompetent to stand trial, that his continued treatment was medically appropriate, and that he presented a danger to himself and others. Appellant then filed a second motion to dismiss, arguing that Va. Code 19.2-169.3(F), which required the circuit court to do periodic evaluations of Appellant, violated his rights to due process, equal protection and a speedy trial. The trial court denied the motion and Appellant’s subsequent motion to reconsider. The Supreme Court dismissed Appellant’s appeal for lack of jurisdiction, holding that this appeal was from a purported judgment in a criminal case, and therefore, an appeal lay first with the court of appeals. View "Martinez v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part the circuit court’s judgment denying a motion for nonsuit, prospectively denying an inmate in forma pauperis status pursuant to Va. Code 8.01-692, and imposing a pre-service review with possible summary dismissal on the inmate’s future filings, holding one portion of the judgment was proper but the remainder must be vacated and remanded. Specifically, the Court held (1) because Appellant had at least three cases dismissed for failure to state a claim, the circuit court’s judgment denying him prospective in forma pauperis status was proper; (2) the portion of the judgment imposing pre-service review and summary dismissal on any future complaints Appellant might file in the Wise County Circuit Court must be vacated and remanded for the circuit court’s consideration of the four-factor test established in Adkins v. CP/IPERS Arlington Hotel LLC, 293 Va. 446, 452-53 (2017); and (3) the part of the judgment holding that the complaint was speculative and failed to establish irreparable harm and the lack of an adequate remedy at law must be vacated and remanded for entry of an order of nonsuit. View "Gordon v. Kiser" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals upholding Defendant’s conviction for shooting at an occupied vehicle under Va. Code 18.2-154, holding that the plain language of the statute did not require the prosecution to prove that the shooter was located outside of the vehicle when he fired shots at an occupied vehicle. While inside a vehicle, Defendant shot one of the vehicle’s occupants. Among other things, Defendant was convicted of maliciously shooting at an occupied vehicle. On appeal, Defendant argued that he could not violate section 18.2-154 unless he was aiming in the direction of the car while standing outside of said car. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that the plain language of the statute contains no requirement that the shooter who maliciously shoots at an occupied vehicle must be positioned outside of the vehicle. View "Jones v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court determining that Defendant’s dog was a “dangerous dog” within the meaning of Va. Code 3.2-6540(A), finding that Defendant was the custodian or harborer of the dog, and ordering Defendant to pay restitution for the injuries to another dog, holding that there was no error or abuse of discretion in the proceedings below. Specifically, the Court held (1) the circuit court did not err in finding that Defendant’s dog was a dangerous dog and that she was liable for restitution as the dog’s custodian; (2) the determination that Defendant was the custodian or harborer of the dog was not plainly wrong; and (3) based on the evidence, the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in ordering restitution in the amount of $3,896.15. View "Frouz v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals holding that multiple mandatory minimum terms of imprisonment, imposed for multiple convictions under Va. Code 18.2-308.2(A) are required to be served consecutively and vacated Defendant’s sentences because they were run concurrently. The circuit court sentenced Defendant to five years for two violations of section 18.2-308.2(A) and ordered that the sentences run concurrently. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the trial court erred in ordering that the sentences for Defendant’s two convictions run concurrently. The Supreme Court affirmed and remanded this case for resentencing, holding (1) the court of appeals properly interpreted section 18.2-308.2(A); and (2) mandatory minimum terms of confinement ordered pursuant to 18.2-308.2(A) must run consecutively with any other sentence, including other mandatory minimum terms ordered pursuant to the statute. View "Botkin v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeals denying Defendant’s appeal from the circuit court’s order revoking twenty years of Defendant’s suspended sentence and resuspending fifteen years after finding that Defendant was in violation of the conditions of his probation, holding that the admission of hearsay evidence in the probation revocation proceeding did not violate Defendant’s right to confront witnesses against him under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Defendant was convicted of rape. After he was released on probation, the circuit court issued a capias for Defendant’s arrest on the ground that he had violated the conditions of his probation. At a probation revocation hearing, the circuit court ruled that certain hearsay evidence was admissible. The circuit court ultimately determined Defendant to be in violation of the conditions of his probation. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not violate Defendant’s right to confront witnesses against him. View "Johnson v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law