Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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The Supreme Court affirmed the sentencing order of the circuit court imposing an effective sentence of sixteen to thirty-eight years and denying Petitioner’s request for credit for time served on home incarceration as a condition of pretrial bail on the basis that Petitioner benefited from his plea bargain with the State. Petitioner pleaded guilty to sexual abuse by a parent, incest, and attempt to commit a felony. Petitioner appealed his sentence. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) in accordance with State v. Hughes, 476 S.E.2d 189 (1996), the circuit court properly refused to grant Petitioner credit for time served on home incarceration; and (2) Petitioner’s argument that his sentence was disproportionate to the nature of the offense because he was denied credit for time served on home incarceration was without merit. View "State v. Jedediah C." on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions for accessory to murder and conspiracy to commit murder and his sentence to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, holding that none of Defendant’s assignments of error warranted reversal. Specifically, the Court held (1) the circuit court’s refusal to grant Defendant’s third motion for a continuance did not result in prejudice to Defendant; (2) the circuit court did not err by refusing to grant a discovery violation against the State; (3) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion by admitting autopsy photographs of the victim; and (4) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion by declining to instruct the jury on the lesser included offenses of first degree murder. View "State v. Richardson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The felony offense of driving on a license revoked for driving under the influence (DUI) does not involve actual or threatened violence. Defendant was sentenced to life imprisonment under the recidivist statute based upon a predicate felony conviction for unlawful assault and two prior felony convictions for driving while license revoked for DUI. Defendant appealed, arguing that his life sentence was not proportionate because the two prior felony offenses did not involve actual or threatened violence. The Supreme Court reversed Defendant’s sentence, holding that the recidivist life sentence imposed on Defendant based upon the predicate felony conviction for unlawful assault, together with two prior non-violent felony convictions, violated the proportionality principle in W. Va. Const. art. III, 5. View "State v. Kilmer" on Justia Law

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The circuit court erred in vacating Respondent’s conviction for felony murder and granting him a new trial based upon newly discovered evidence in the form of serology test results on a $20 bill, a $5 bill, and a $1 bill. The test results linked the money to the victim during Respondent’s underlying trial. In 1994, the serology evidence at issue was ordered to be retested, and the circuit court made specific findings regarding the evidence in a prior omnibus proceeding brought by Respondent. In 2016, the circuit court granted Respondent a new trial after an omnibus hearing. Specifically, the circuit court found that the previously adjudicated 1994 DNA results concerning the serology evidence constituted “newly discovered evidence.” The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case for reinstatement of the 1987 conviction for felony murder, holding that even if the serology evidence were excluded, there was sufficient evidence presented to the jury to support Respondent’s conviction. View "Terry v. Ward" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law