Case Caption: Jose Rivera v. People of the Virgin IslandsCase Number: S. Ct. Crim. No. 2014-0027Date: 05/04/2016Author: Hodge, Rhys S. Citation: Summary:

Conviction for first-degree murder is affirmed, but the case is remanded to the Superior Court so that it may consider the defendant's motion for a new trial in the first instance. While the testimony of the government's sole eyewitness must be viewed with special scrutiny, it was not inherently improbable or incredible and it sufficiently proved all elements of murder in the first degree. Section 26 of the Revised Organic Act authorized the People to demand a jury trial in criminal cases, and the defendant was not deprived of his Sixth Amendment rights. While a defendant is entitled to an impartial jury that has not already made up its mind based on media reports, applying the factors identified in Skilling v. United States, 561 U.S. 358 (2010), the alleged media coverage of this case was not so pervasive that the selected jurors were biased against the defendant. There was much delay in both charging this defendant and in bringing him to trial. Despite the long delays, all based on the People's inaction, defendant's claims under both the Fifth and Sixth Amendments fail for lack of proof that he suffered actual and substantial prejudice from the delay. However, the Superior Court erred when it determined it did not have jurisdiction to hear a co-defendant's motion for a new trial and - because in a companion appeal it is held that the other defendant is entitled to a determination on the merits of that issue - to prevent manifest injustice the present case is also remanded so that the Superior Court can decide the issue of a new trial in the first instance.

Attachment: Open Document or Opinion