Articles Posted in West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals

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Pursuant to a plea agreement, Defendant pled guilty to two charges under an indictment - obtaining money by false pretenses and fraudulent scheme - and six counts in an information. Defendant later filed a motion to correct his sentence under W. Va. R. Crim. P. 35(a), contending that his two felony convictions under the indictment violated the prohibition against double jeopardy. The circuit court denied the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that double jeopardy principles do not preclude a conviction for a fraudulent scheme offense in addition to a conviction for any other offense arising out of the same transaction or occurrence. View "State v. Coles" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Petitioner, Gary Lee Rollins, was convicted of the first degree murder of his wife, Teresa Rollins. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Petitioner waived the right to challenge the prosecutor’s remarks to the jury during closing arguments; (2) the circuit court did not err by refusing to strike a certain juror for cause during voir dire and by failing to strike a juror upon discovering that the juror was a former client of the prosecutor; (3) the circuit court did not err in admitting evidence of domestic violence; (4) the State’s presentation of three medical expert witnesses did not constitute cumulative evidence that prejudiced Defendant; and (5) Defendant did not preserve for appeal his argument that he was subjected to unfair surprise when one of the State’s medical expert witnesses testified in a manner inconsistent with his report. View "State v. Rollins" on Justia Law

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Petitioner was indicted on two counts of third degree sexual assault and two counts of sexual abuse by a custodian. The circuit court subsequently found that Petitioner was not competent to stand trial and was not likely to gain competency. As a result, Petitioner argued that the court should dismiss the charges against him. The circuit court disagreed, finding that the felonies of which Petitioner was charged involved acts of violence against a person. Therefore, the court found that it would maintain jurisdiction over Petitioner for fifty years and ordered Petitioner committed to a mental health facility. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err by finding that the crimes with which Petitioner was charged involved an act of violence and therefore proceeding pursuant to W. Va. Code 27-6A-3(h). View "State v. George K." on Justia Law

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After making threatening statements to employees of a credit union Petitioner was arrested and charged with the offense of threats of terrorist acts in violation of W. Va. Code 61-6-24. Following a bench trial, the circuit court found sufficient evidence to sustain a conviction of a terrorist threat. Petitioner appealed, arguing that the circuit court erred when it found that his statements amounted to a threat against the civilian population under the statute. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was sufficient evidence to support the circuit court’s determination that Petitioner knowingly and willfully threatened to commit a terrorist act. View "State v. Knotts" on Justia Law

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In two separate convictions, Petitioner was first found guilty by a jury of sexual abuse in the first degree. The State subsequently filed a recidivist information against Petitioner and obtained a jury conviction. Petitioner appealed both convictions separately and the Supreme Court consolidated the appeals. The Supreme Court reversed Petitioner’s conviction of first degree sexual abuse and vacated his recidivist conviction, holding that the circuit court erred in admitting evidence pursuant to W. Va. R. Evid. 404(b) at Petitioner’s first trial, and the improper admission of the evidence was not harmless error. View "State v. Angle" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Petitioner was found guilty of sexual abuse by a parent, guardian, custodian or person in a position of trust to a child and sentenced to twenty years in the penitentiary. Two years later, Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction habeas corpus relief, arguing that his former defense counsel was ineffective for failing to submit proper jury instructions on whether Petitioner was a “person in a position of trust” as to the victim and whether the victim was under Petitioner’s “care, custody, or control” at the time of the sexual encounter. The circuit court granted Petitioner’s petition. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the failure to offer the instructions did not constitute deficient performance by counsel. View "Ballard v. Thomas" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Petitioner was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder, both without a recommendation of mercy, and one count of arson. The circuit court denied Petitioner’s motions for acquittal and for a new trial and sentenced him to life in the penitentiary without the possibility of parole for each murder conviction. Petitioner appealed the circuit court’s denial of his post-trial motions. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the evidence was sufficient to support Petitioner’s convictions; (2) the circuit court did not err in permitting the State to cross-examine Petitioner regarding a novel Petitioner had written; and (3) the prosecutor did not improperly cross-examine Petitioner regarding his post-arrest silence or present false testimony. View "State v. Prophet" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of two counts of conspiracy and two counts of delivery of crack cocaine. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err by (1) denying Defendant’s motion to suppress evidence seized by the police from the residence where Defendant was staying at the time of his arrest; (2) summarily rejecting a plea agreement that Defendant reached with the State on the second day of his trial, as the plea agreement had not yet been finalized; and (3) admitting W. Va. R. Evid. 404(b) evidence. View "State v. Dorsey" on Justia Law

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Steven Malay was indicted by a grand jury on multiple counts of sexual abuse by a parent, guardian, custodian or person in position of trust in violation of W. Va. Code 61-8D-5, among other sexual offenses. Malay moved to dismiss the eight counts charging him with violating section 61-8D-5 on the grounds that his employment as a school bus driver did not cause him to qualify as a custodian or person of trust under the statute, and even if it did, the acts were not committed while he was serving in that capacity. The trial court granted the motion to dismiss with respect to six counts. The State sought a writ of prohibition to prevent the circuit court from enforcing its order. The Supreme Court granted the requested writ, holding that the question of whether a person charged with a crime under section 61-8D-5 is a custodian or a person in a position of trust in relation to a child is a question of fact for the jury to determine, and therefore, the circuit court exceeded its authority in dismissing the six counts. Remanded. View "State ex rel. Harris v. Judge Hatcher" on Justia Law

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After a trial, Petitioner was convicted of one count of threatening to commit a terrorist act. Petitioner appealed the denial of his post-trial motions to dismiss or, alternatively, to acquit, arguing (1) the criminal offense set forth in W. Va. Code 61-6-24(b) is unconstitutionally vague, and (2) the evidence was insufficient to prove he committed the offense of threatening to commit a terrorist act. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) section 61-6-24(b) is free from constitutional defect; but (2) because the threat prosecuted by the State in this case was not aimed at a branch or level of government, but solely at an individual police officer, the evidence was insufficient to prove that Defendant committed the felony offense at issue. View "State v. Yocum" on Justia Law