Case Caption: Nesta James v. People of the Virgin IslandsCase Number: S. Ct. Crim. No. 2011-0032Date: 10/04/2013Author: Swan, Ive Arlington Citation: Summary:

The defendant's convictions for several crimes, including aiding and abetting first degree murder, are affirmed. The trial court did not err in denying his Rule 29 motion for judgment of acquittal because the evidence was sufficient to support conviction. Under 14 V.I.C. § 11(a) the People were only required to present evidence that defendant committed the elements of murder and the other crimes for which he was charged, and proof that he was “aided and abetted by another” is not a required element for his conviction under the first degree murder charge. The defendant's Sixth Amendment right to compulsory process was not violated when the trial court prohibited him from calling certain individuals to testify, in light of the circumstances under which they refused to testify pursuant to the Fifth Amendment. No request was made before trial to grant any of the witnesses immunity, and no showing has been made as to why immunity should have been granted to any of them. The trial court did not unreasonably deny the defendant's constitutional right to present evidence in his defense. Defendant's rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment were not violated by the People's exercise of peremptory challenges during jury selection, since almost all prospective jurors in this case were black and the claim that the striking of the jurors was racially motivated under these circumstances is baseless, and the people gave adequate race-neutral reasons for its strikes. The trial court did not err in failing to grant defendant a new trial or declare a mistrial because the prosecutor elicited certain allegedly prejudicial evidence and made certain statements during closing arguments, and curative jury instructions were given. Statements made in closing by the prosecutor about defendant possibly stepping over the dead body of the victim were prejudicial and no curative instruction was given, but such error was did not seriously affect the fairness, integrity, or public reputation of the judicial proceedings and did not affect the defendant's substantial rights in light of the evidence presented in this case. Hence that error was harmless. The convictions are affirmed.

Attachment: Open Document or Opinion