Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court granted two petitions for writs of prohibition, one sought by the State to prohibit enforcement of an order of the circuit court that reduced the criminal sentence of James Wilkerson, the other sought by the State to prohibit enforcement of an order of the circuit court that reduced the criminal sentence of Robert McFarland. The Supreme Court granted both petitions, holding (1) prohibition was appropriate to preclude enforcement of the circuit court’s order reducing Wilkerson’s sentence because the State did not receive notice and an opportunity to be heard on Wilkerson’s motion to reduce his sentence; and (2) the circuit court lacked jurisdiction to reduce McFarland’s sentence because the W. Va. R. Crim. P. 35(b) motion that McFarland relied upon to obtain relief was untimely. View "State ex rel. State v. Honorable David J. Sims" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s order sentencing defendant for five separate violations of W.Va. Code 61-8C-3. Defendant pleaded guilty to five counts relating to his possession of material visually depicting a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct in violation of the statute. On appeal, Defendant argued that the circuit court erred when it ruled that Defendant’s possession of five individual VHS tapes containing child pornography subjected him to five separate violations of the child pornography statute. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that, based on the unit of prosecution as set forth by the plain language of section 61-8C-3, Defendant’s possession of five VHS tapes subjected him to one violation of the statute. The court remanded the matter to the circuit court for entry of a new sentencing order. View "State v. Dubuque" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction for kidnapping his ex-girlfriend and his sentence of life without parole. On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial court abused its discretion (1) in allowing the State’s expert witness to present testimony that domestic violence victims are often more compliant with their abusers out of fear, not consent; and (2) by admitting into evidence Defendant’s previous conviction for second-degree domestic assault against the same ex-girlfriend. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) because Defendant failed timely and specifically to object to the expert witness’s testimony, Defendant waived this issue for appellate review; and (2) the district court did not abuse its discretion in admitting into evidence Defendant’s previous conviction. View "State v. Blickenstaff" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Petitioner was convicted of the 2007 murder of his wife and sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. The Supreme Court affirmed Petitioner’s conviction, holding that the trial court (1) did not err by refusing to dismiss the indictment returned by the grand jury based upon fraud where the majority of the statements challenged by Petitioner were not fraudulent and the one incorrect statement was not so prejudicial as to invalidate the indictment; (2) did not abuse its discretion in admitting evidence of prior domestic violence, marital discord, and threats made by Petitioner against his wife; (3) did not commit plain error by not instructing the jury on lesser included offenses; and (4) did not err in denying Defendant’ motion for judgment of acquittal where the evidence presented at trial was sufficient to support the jury’s verdict. View "State v. Spinks" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Under W. Va. R. Crim. P. 12(f), if a defendant fails to seek to suppress a confession or other inculpatory statement prior to trial as required under W. Va. R. Crim. P. 12(b)(3), such failure constitutes waiver, absent a showing of good cause. Defendant entered a guilty verdict on a two-count indictment for driving under the influence of alcohol. Defendant appealed, arguing that the circuit court erred in admitting his two of his statements to police into evidence at trial. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) under Rule 12(b)(3), Defendant waived his right to a voluntariness hearing regarding the admissibility of his first statement to the police; and (2) the circuit court did not err in admitting the second statement Defendant made to the police because the record revealed nothing to support Defendant’s argument that the circuit court erred in failing to suppress the second statement due to a violation of the prompt presentment rule. View "State v. Simmons" on Justia Law

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Petitioner appealed an order of the circuit court affirming his magistrate court conviction, after a jury trial, of the offense of domestic assault. In his appeal, Petitioner argued that the magistrate court erred by instructing the jury on the offense of domestic assault when he was charged solely with domestic battery. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) contrary to Petitioner’s contention, domestic assault is a lesser included offense of domestic battery; and (2) the jury instruction on domestic assault was warranted, and the jury was properly instructed on the offense of domestic assault. View "State v. Bland" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Petitioner was convicted of first degree felony murder, robbery, and other offenses. Petitioner was sentenced to life with mercy for the murder offense. The Supreme Court affirmed Petitioner’s convictions. Petitioner later filed a pro se habeas petition alleging several grounds for relief. The habeas court granted in part and denied in part Petitioner’s habeas petition, concluding (1) Petitioner failed to prove that he received ineffective assistance or that false evidence had been presented by the State at trial, but (2) Petitioner proved, by a preponderance of the evidence, that he had been improperly sentenced to an additional forty years on his robbery offense because robbery was a lesser-included offense to the first degree felony murder charge. The habeas court then dismissed the robbery conviction. On appeal, both Petitioner and the State assigned error to the habeas court’s rulings. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding that Petitioner failed to demonstrate that he was entitled to habeas relief, and the habeas court erred in dismissing Petitioner’s robbery conviction. The court remanded the matter with instructions to reinstate Petitioner’s conviction and sentence for robbery on the terms imposed by the trial court. View "Flack v. Ballard" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Petitioner was convicted of one count of embezzlement. Petitioner appealed, arguing that the circuit court erred by (1) not granting his motions for judgment of acquittal because the State failed to present sufficient evidence to support his conviction, and (2) not granting his motion for a mistrial after the prosecuting attorney made improper remarks during closing arguments. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the State presented sufficient evidence to support Petitioner’s conviction and therefore did not err by denying Petitioner’s motions for judgment of acquittal; and (2) the prosecutor’s remarks were not clearly prejudicial and did not result in manifest injustice, and therefore, the circuit court did not abuse its discretion by denying Petitioner’s motion for a mistrial. View "State v. Berry" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court held that the third offense provision contained in W. Va. Code 61-8-5(b) is ambiguous. Therefore, the rule of lenity applies, requiring the court to strictly construe the statute against the State and in favor of Defendant, who was charged with third offense of soliciting an act of prostitution in violation of section 61-8-5(b). The circuit court rejected Defendant’s argument that the third offense provision does not apply to an alleged prostitute but, rather, applies only to third parties who derive a financial benefit from the earnings of a prostitute. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the third or subsequent felony offense provision only applies to third parties who financially benefit from the earnings of a prostitute. Therefore, the circuit court erred by denying Defendant’s motion to dismiss the indictment. View "State v. Fuller" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The State appealed the circuit court’s order dismissing two counts of an indictment returned against Defendant charging Defendant with criminal civil rights violations under W. Va. Code 61-6-21(b), arguing that the circuit court erred in determining that the word “sex” in section 61-6-21(b) could not be expanded to include “sexual orientation.” The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the word “sex” in section 61-6-21(b) is unambiguous and does not include “sexual orientation”; and (2) this Court’s exercise of discretion under W. Va. R. App. P. 17 in refusing to docket a certified question presented to this Court under W. Va. Code 58-5-2 is neither an express nor an implicit ruling on the merits of the legal issue presented therein, and thereafter, the circuit court may take such action and make such rulings in the matter as it deems appropriate. View "State v. Butler" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law