Articles Posted in Criminal Law

by
The Supreme Court granted the writ of prohibition sought by Petitioner, the prosecuting attorney of Jackson County, to prohibit the Circuit Court of Jackson County from enforcing its order suppressing all evidence of text messages between the defendant in the underlying criminal case and an accountant for the company from which she allegedly embezzled $306,000, holding that the circuit court committed a clear error of law in prohibiting the admission at trial of the text messages. The circuit court found that W. Va. R. Evid. 408 precluded the admission of the text messages. On appeal, the State argued that although Rule 408 may be applicable in criminal proceedings, the text messages were not statements made for civil settlement purposes, and therefore, they should have been admitted at trial. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that because the text messages were not exchanged in the context of civil settlement negotiations, the circuit court erred in denying admission of the text messages. View "State ex rel. Franklin v. Honorable R. Craig Tatterson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court sentencing Defendant to a term of incarceration of one to three years for his conviction of threatening to commit a terrorist act, holding that there was no error in the proceedings below. Specifically, the Court held (1) the circuit court did not err by denying Defendant’s motion to dismiss the indictment against him based upon misleading evidence submitted to the grand jury because Defendant failed to make a prima facie showing of willful, intentional fraud; and (2) there was sufficient evidence to support Defendant’s conviction, and therefore, the circuit court did not err in denying Defendant’s post-trial motions seeking a judgment of acquittal or, in the alternative, a new trial. View "State v. Back" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed Petitioner’s convictions of multiple felony counts of unlawful delivery of a controlled substance, holding that there was no merit to Petitioner’s assignments of error. On appeal, Petitioner argued that the circuit court erred by not instructing the jury pursuant to W. Va. Code 60A-4-402(a)(1), not allowing the State to use a peremptory strike in violation of his equal protection rights, refusing to admit into evidence at trial certain exhibits, and denying his motion for a new trial. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court committed no prejudicial error. View "State v. Wasanyi" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s denial of Petitioner’s petition for writ of prohibition seeking to prohibit the municipal court's prosecution of him, holding that the prosecution of Petitioner pursuant to this complaint was in violation of W. Va. art. VIII, 11 and W Va. Code 8-11-1(a). Petitioner was charged with a criminal complaint issued from the Masontown Municipal Court with ten violations of the West Virginia Code. In his petition, Petitioner argued that he was not prosecuted within the statute of limitations. The circuit court denied the petition. Petitioner appealed, arguing that the prosecution was outside the statute of limitations and raising two issues of subject-matter jurisdiction. The Supreme Court remanded with instructions that the circuit court grant the writ of prohibition, holding (1) the record was devoid of any evidence that Masontown adopted, as municipal ordinances, any provisions of the West Virginia Code upon which the complaint against Petitioner was based; and (2) therefore, the Municipal Court of Masontown was proceeding in excess of its jurisdiction. View "Lewis v. Municipality of Masontown, W. Va." on Justia Law

by
The State breached its plea agreement with Petitioner by failing to remain silent at sentencing. Pursuant to the plea agreement, the State agreed to remain silent at sentencing. During the sentencing hearing, however, the State recommended to the court that consecutive sentences be imposed. The Supreme Court vacated the order of the circuit court sentencing Petitioner to ten to twenty years for each of three sexual abuse convictions, with the sentences to be served consecutively, holding that the State breached the plea agreement and that the appropriate remedy for the breach was specific performance of the agreement in a new sentencing hearing before a different judge. View "State v. Blacka" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
The Supreme Court denied the writ of prohibition sought by Scott Smith, Prosecuting Attorney for Ohio County, against the Honorable David J. Sims, Judge of the Circuit Court of Ohio County, seeking to prevent the trial court from enforcing its order vacating Dallas Michael Acoff’s convictions for second-degree murder and malicious wounding and granting a new trial based on newly discovered evidence. Petitioner argued as grounds for the writ that the trial court erred in finding that Acoff was diligent in his efforts to secure the trial attendance of Banks, the eyewitness to the homicide who did not testify at trial, and that Banks’ subsequently offered testimony exonerating Defendant would have produced a different outcome at trial. The Supreme Court denied the writ, holding that the decision to grant a new trial based on newly discovered evidence was within the sound discretion of the trial court. View "State ex rel. Smith v. Honorable David J. Sims" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
The circuit court erred in admitting evidence seized as the result of an unlawful, warrantless search, a search that failed to satisfy any of the exceptions to the warrant requirement. Petitioner was convicted and sentenced for possession of a controlled substance, cocaine, with intent to deliver. On appeal, Petitioner argued that the circuit court erred by admitting evidence seized from his person because the evidence was obtained without a search warrant and that none of the exceptions to the warrant requirement were satisfied. The Supreme Court agreed and reversed Petitioner’s conviction, holding that the evidence was seized unlawfully and that the admission of the evidence was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. The Court remanded the case for a new trial. View "State v. Barefield" on Justia Law

by
The circuit court abused its discretion in not affording Petitioner a hearing to offer a defense, other than not guilty by reason of mental illness, to the merits of the criminal charges against him pursuant to W. Va. Code 27-6A-6. In 2004, Petitioner was charged with two counts of sexual abuse by a parent, guardian or custodian and two counts of second degree sexual assault. In 2008, the circuit court found that Petitioner was not competent to stand trial and that he would have been convicted of the charges against him. The court determined that it would maintain jurisdiction over Petitioner for forty to ninety years or until Petitioner attained competency, whichever occurred first. In 2016, Petitioner filed the instant motion for a hearing to offer a defense to the merits of the charges brought against him. The circuit court denied the motion. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the matter for a hearing, holding that, under the circumstances of this case, the circuit court erred in denying Petitioner’s request for a hearing to present evidence of a defense to the charges in the criminal indictment against him. View "State v. King" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed Petitioner’s convictions for felony escape, destruction of property, and petit larceny and the circuit court’s denial of a new trial, holding that the circuit court committed no reversible error. Specifically, the Court held (1) an individual charged with a felony who escapes from lawful confinement as prescribed in W. Va. Code 61-5-10 may be convicted of the offense of felony escape irrespective of the ultimate outcome of the charge for which he or she was in lawful custody or confinement; (2) the trial court did not err in denying Petitioner’s motion for a new trial as to the escape and destruction of property charges on the basis of newly-discovered evidence; and (3) the circuit court did not commit reversible error in permitting the escape and destruction of property charges to be tried first. View "State v. Allman" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed Petitioner’s convictions for four felony counts of driving under the influence (DUI) causing death, two felony counts of child neglect resulting in death, and three misdemeanors, holding that the trial court’s comments at the beginning of the jury selection process tainted Petitioner’s presumption of innocence and deprived him of a fair trial. In this case involving multiple casualties, the trial court informed the jury pool that Petitioner decided to plead guilty and that he “probably did everyone a favor by doing the plea. It was a pretty tragic case.” The court later repeated this sentiment. The Supreme Court held that the trial court expressed its opinion on a material matter at trial - that of Petitioner’s guilt - and once Petitioner decided to reject the plea deal and proceed to trial, this jury pool was irrevocably tainted with the knowledge that Petitioner was willing to plead guilty in this case. View "State v. Thompson" on Justia Law