Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court reversed and vacated in part the judgment of the court of appeals with respect to Defendant’s convictions for malicious wounding and use of a firearm during the commission of a malicious wounding and entered judgment reinstating those two convictions. In reversing the two convictions, the court of appeals held that no rational fact-finder could infer that Defendant attacked the victim with a malicious intent to main, disfigure, disable, or kill him during the robbery. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that, where the attack actually injured the victim, the evidence supported the reasonable inference that Defendant had the intent to maliciously wound the victim. View "Commonwealth v. Perkins" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Va. Code 18.2-279 does not require, as an element of the crime of unlawful discharge of a firearm within an occupied building, proof that the firearm was not discharged accidentally or inadvertently. Defendant was indicted for unlawfully discharging a firearm within an occupied building in violation of section 18.2-279. At trial, the defense raised only the issue of Defendant’s intent when firing the shot. The jury returned a verdict finding Defendant guilty as charged. Defendant appealed, arguing that the evidence was insufficient to support the conviction because of a lack of proof that she intentionally discharged the firearm and that the trial court erred in refusing to instruct the jury that the Commonwealth had the burden to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that her discharge of the firearm was not accidental. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) the evidence was sufficient to support the conviction; and (2) Defendant’s proposed jury instruction placing the burden upon the Commonwealth to prove that the discharge of the firearm was not accidental was properly refused as an incorrect statement of the law. View "Bryant v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Involuntary manslaughter under Va. Code 18.2-154 is the “same offense” as common law involuntary manslaughter. Defendant was convicted of both common law involuntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter under Va. Code 18.2-154. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss one of the charges, arguing that the Double Jeopardy Clause barred a conviction for both manslaughter offenses. The trial court denied the motion. The court of appeals reversed and remanded for a new sentencing proceeding to be held after the Commonwealth elected which conviction it would seek to have sentence imposed on. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Defendant was twice convicted and sentenced in the same trial of the same offense - involuntary manslaughter - in violation of the Double Jeopardy Clause. View "Commonwealth v. Gregg" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Involuntary manslaughter under Va. Code 18.2-154 is the “same offense” as common law involuntary manslaughter. Defendant was convicted of both common law involuntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter under Va. Code 18.2-154. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss one of the charges, arguing that the Double Jeopardy Clause barred a conviction for both manslaughter offenses. The trial court denied the motion. The court of appeals reversed and remanded for a new sentencing proceeding to be held after the Commonwealth elected which conviction it would seek to have sentence imposed on. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Defendant was twice convicted and sentenced in the same trial of the same offense - involuntary manslaughter - in violation of the Double Jeopardy Clause. View "Commonwealth v. Gregg" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed Sherman Brown’s petition seeking a writ of actual innocence pursuant to Va. Code 19.2-327.1 to -327.6, which govern writs of actual innocence based on biological evidence, for two independent reasons. In 1970, Brown was found guilty of first-degree murder of a four-year-old child. In 2017, Brown filed his petition for a writ of actual innocence, asserting that he was “actually innocent” of the crime and that recent DNA testing by a private laboratory conclusively exonerated him with “clear and convincing evidence.” In dismissing the petition, the Supreme Court held (1) the findings of the Commonwealth’s Department of Forensic Science (DFS) did not support Brown’s claim of actual innocence; and (2) the evidence submitted by Brown in the writ proceeding did not provide, in the aggregate, clear and convincing proof that “no rational trier of fact would have found proof of guilt…beyond a reasonable doubt.” View "In re Brown" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the trial court denying Appellant’s petition to expunge a felony arrest record, holding that the trial court abused its discretion in denying the petition. The trial court declined the expunge the record on the basis that the existence of this record did not and may not cause Appellant a manifest injustice. The Supreme Court held (1) Appellant was eligible to seek expungement of the record at issue; and (2) Appellant’s unrebutted evidence established that the continued existence and possible dissemination of her arrest record could constitute a manifest injustice. View "A.R.A. v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the trial court denying Appellant’s petition to expunge a felony arrest record, holding that the trial court abused its discretion in denying the petition. The trial court declined the expunge the record on the basis that the existence of this record did not and may not cause Appellant a manifest injustice. The Supreme Court held (1) Appellant was eligible to seek expungement of the record at issue; and (2) Appellant’s unrebutted evidence established that the continued existence and possible dissemination of her arrest record could constitute a manifest injustice. View "A.R.A. v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction for displaying a noose on a public place with the intent to intimidate and placing others in reasonable fear of death or personal injury, in violation of Va. Code 18.2-423.2, holding that, although the noose was located on Defendant’s own property, the noose display was on a public place under this court’s construction of the statute. Affirming Defendant’s conviction, the court of appeals rejected Defendant’s contention that privately owned property cannot constitute a public place for purposes of section 18.2-423.2(B) and that Defendant's noose display was therefore outside ether scope of this provision. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the obvious and rational meaning of the term “public place” as used in the statute includes private property generally visible by the public from some other location, which was the case with the site of Defendant’s noose display in his front yard. View "Turner v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction for displaying a noose on a public place with the intent to intimidate and placing others in reasonable fear of death or personal injury, in violation of Va. Code 18.2-423.2, holding that, although the noose was located on Defendant’s own property, the noose display was on a public place under this court’s construction of the statute. Affirming Defendant’s conviction, the court of appeals rejected Defendant’s contention that privately owned property cannot constitute a public place for purposes of section 18.2-423.2(B) and that Defendant's noose display was therefore outside ether scope of this provision. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the obvious and rational meaning of the term “public place” as used in the statute includes private property generally visible by the public from some other location, which was the case with the site of Defendant’s noose display in his front yard. View "Turner v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court granted Roy L. Watford’s petition for a writ of actual innocence based on biological evidence and vacated his conviction, holding that Watford proved, by clear and convincing evidence, all of the allegations required under Va. Code 19.2-327.3(A) and that no rational trier of fact would have found him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. In 1978, Watford pled guilty to rape and was sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment, entirely suspended for a period of ten years. In 2010, several pieces of evidence in this case were subjected to DNA testing. In 2016, a buccal swab was obtained from Watford. Watford subsequently petitioned the Supreme Court for a writ of actual innocence based on biological evidence pursuant to Va. Code 19.2-327.2 et seq. The circuit court returned its findings of fact to the Supreme Court following an evidentiary hearing, After considering Watford’s petition, the response of the Commonwealth, the records of the case, the DNA evidence and the circuit court’s findings of fact, the Supreme Court vacated Watford’s conviction, finding that it was highly unlikely that any rational fact-finder would have found Watford guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. View "In re Watford" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law