Case Caption: Gibson Charles v. People of the Virgin IslandsCase Number: S. Ct. Crim. No. 2013-0071Date: 06/20/2014Author: Hodge, Rhys S. Citation: Summary:

Convictions on multiple counts of aggravated rape, unlawful sexual contact, and child abuse of two minor victims are affirmed. There was sufficient evidence to conclude that one victim was raped on or about the time charged, when she was nine years old, and her testimony as the victim was sufficient to sustain the convictions for multiple rapes charged in three separate counts. The evidence for the charge of unlawful sexual contact, witnessed by others, was adequate for a rational trier of fact to determine that at least one act of unlawful sexual contact occurred as alleged. Evidence supporting a count charging child abuse included testimony of physical abuse by the defendant on or about the date charged. Three other counts charging aggravated rape and unlawful sexual contact with a second victim was supported by testimony concerning the month and year of the offense, and was sufficient for a rational juror to find defendant guilty of rape and unlawful sexual conduct on or about the dates charged. Reading the information in its entirety, the defendant was fairly informed of the charges against him. Adverse rulings by a trial court are generally not sufficient to establish bias, and it has not been shown that the trial judge's decision to limit cross-examination on details of how one of the victim came to live with defendant was prejudicial. Nor was it shown that the trial court unduly “admonished” defense counsel. The judge imposed reasonable restrictions on cross-examination and permitted defense counsel to finish his line of questioning. Therefore, it cannot be said that the trial court's actions rose to the level of actual bias or prejudice that would warrant reversal. Testimony of two physicians, governed at the time of trial by the former Uniform Rules of Evidence codified in 5 V.I.C. §§ 771-956, was not given as expert testimony but was lay witness testimony rationally based on the perceptions of the witnesses and helpful to a clear understanding of their testimony. In addition, the then-applicable evidence rules codified an exception to the hearsay rule that permitted the admission of certain prior consistent statements, and the Superior Court committed no error by permitting testimony by one of the doctors recounting the statements of one victim. If more than one conviction is based on a single act, the trial court must stay the execution of punishment for all but one of the convictions, and here the defendant was sentenced for his convictions for the aggravated rapes as well as child abuse of these victims in two counts based on the same acts constituting the rapes. He was therefore punished twice for offenses that arose out of a single act in violation of section 104. Accordingly, the case is remanded for the Superior Court to enter conviction and announce a sentence for each offense of which the defendant was convicted, but then stay imposition of punishment where 14 V.I.C. § 104 is implicated. Other necessary corrections to the September 17, 2013 Judgment and Commitment shall also be addressed by the Superior Court on remand.

Attachment: Open Document or Opinion