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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On August 5, 2014, the Mingo County Democratic Executive Committee nominated a candidate to fill a vacancy created by the former Family Court Judge for the Eighth Family Circuit. The Mingo County Commission was requested to place the candidate on the ballot for the general election scheduled for November 4, 2014. Seeking compliance with the state’s election laws, the Secretary of State ordered the Ballot Commissioners of Mingo County to remove from the 2014 general election ballot any and all references to an election to fill an unexpired term of judge for the Eighth Family Court Circuit. The Ballot Commissioners did not respond, and the Secretary of State sought extraordinary relief from the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court granted the requested writ of mandamus, holding that the Ballot Commissioners lacked the authority to sua sponte place a candidate for a judicial office on the ballot. View "State ex rel. Tennant v. Ballot Comm'rs of Mingo County" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs requested from the Acting Tax Commissioner a copy of the Computer-Assisted Mass Appraisal (CAMA) files for all real property in the state. The Tax Commissioner denied the request for the CAMA files, claiming that it was not custodian of the files. Plaintiffs filed an action seeking declaratory judgment and injunctive relief. The circuit court granted summary judgment to the Commissioner and the Kanawha County Assessor (Respondents), concluding that the CAMA files were exempt from production under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the Commissioner was the custodian of the subject files; and (2) the circuit court erred in determining that the CAMA files were categorically exempt from disclosure under FOIA’s exemption for information of a personal nature. Remanded for submission of a Vaughn index and further findings. View "Hurlbert v. Matkovich" on Justia Law

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Respondent was arrested for driving under the influence after his vehicle was stopped by a police officer responding to a telephone call and information obtained from an individual claiming she had observed the vehicle driving erratically. The Division of Motor Vehicles issued an order administratively revoking Respondent’s license. The Office of Administrative Hearings reversed Respondent’s license revocation, finding that there was insufficient evidence to prove that the officers had an articulable reasonable suspicion to initiate the traffic stop, and therefore the initial traffic stop was invalid and the resulting license revocation was improper. The circuit court affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that both the initial stop and the arrest were valid. Remanded for an order reinstating Respondent’s administrative license revocation. View "Dale v. Ciccone" 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 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

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of robbery in the first degree for entering a Wendy’s restaurant and attempting to obtain money by holding a machete against the throat of a restaurant employee. The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction and sentence of forty years in the penitentiary, holding (1) Defendant’s confession to the police was properly admitted at trial, as it was not given in violation of Defendant’s right to counsel, and the State proved by a preponderance of the evidence that the confession was voluntary; and (2) the employee’s in-court identification of Defendant was properly admitted at trial. View "State v. Blackburn" on Justia Law

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Following allegations of sexual abuse and failure to protect, the Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) brought a child abuse and neglect proceeding against Father and Mother (Petitioners). After an adjudicatory hearing, the circuit court found that the children were abused and neglected, and, after a dispositional hearing, terminated the parental rights of Petitioners. Petitioners appealed, arguing that their procedural due process rights were violated when the out-of-court statements of two children were admitted to prove allegations of sexual abuse when Petitioners were not given an opportunity to confront and cross-examine the children. The Supreme Court affirmed the termination of Petitioners’ parental rights, holding (1) in a child abuse and neglect civil proceeding held pursuant to W. Va. Code 29-6-2, a party does not have a procedural due process right to confront and cross-examine a child, and the circuit court shall exclude this testimony if it finds the potential psychological harm to the child outweighs the necessity of the child’s testimony; and (2) the circuit court adequately safeguarded Petitioners’ procedural due process rights in this case. View "In re J.S." on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Appellant was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the facts contained in the affidavit used to obtain search warrants for Appellant’s home and car provided the magistrate with a sufficient basis to demonstrate probable cause of the issuance of the search warrants; (2) the trial court did not err in admitting evidence of the ammunition and knives found at Appellant’s residence; (3) Appellant’s right to a speedy trial was not violated when the trial court granted the prosecutor’s motion for a continuance; and (4) the evidence was sufficient for a jury to find Appellant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. View "State v. Corey" on Justia Law

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Richard and Linda Nease served a Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) request on the City of Nitro to inspect or copy certain public City records. The City granted the request in part but advised the Neases that the remaining documents would be subject to a search fee. The Neases then instituted a FOIA action. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the Neases, determining that the City ordinance providing for the imposition of a search fee was unlawful because W. Va. Code 29B-1-3 authorizes public bodies to collect the costs of copying requested records but does not sanction a search fee. The City appealed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the fees authorized in conjunction with FOIA production requests include the actual costs of reproduction as well as a search or retrieval fee, provided that any such fee is reasonable. View "King v. Nease" on Justia Law