Case Caption: Richie Fontaine v. People of the Virgin IslandsCase Number: S. Ct. Crim. No. 2011-0071Date: 09/13/2013Author: Cabret, Maria M. Citation: Summary:

The defendant's convictions on nine felony counts arising from a shooting outside of an elementary school are affirmed. The jury could rationally have accepted the testimony of one of the victim eyewitnesses, whose testimony conflicted somewhat with that of another eyewitness. The evidence presented was not incredible as a matter of law and the jury's determination that it was credible is accepted. A reasonable jury could infer, based on the evidence, that this defendant intended to commit assault and murder, and that he did so while lacking authorization to possess a firearm; thus there was sufficient evidence to convict. The Superior Court did not commit reversible error in denying the defendant's motion to strike the testimony of a detective. Although the People's actions are disturbing-putting on testimony that it knew could only be impeached by opening the door to inadmissible testimony, and doing so without first apprising the Superior Court or the defendant-the issue whether defendant's Sixth Amendment rights were violated is not reached because any such violation would have been harmless beyond a reasonable doubt since the detective's testimony was cumulative did not implicate the main issue-whether the shooters were correctly identified. In this case, security measures at a site view were reasonable and the trial court took steps to minimize any prejudice in an instruction to the jury as soon as they returned to the courtroom, explaining the purpose of the presence of marshals and their weapons, and the fact that no inference adverse to the defendant was permitted. Thus the Superior Court committed no error in this regard, much less a plain one. Defendant's convictions are affirmed. Although the legality of the sentences was not raised on this appeal, 14 V.I.C. § 104 provides that an individual may only be punished for one of the offenses arising out of a single act. The multiple-victim exception applies here because the defendant's act of violence-opening fire on a vehicle in the vicinity of an elementary school-was a singular course of conduct that resulted in harm to two individuals and also risked harming the public in general, but § 104 nonetheless precludes imposing multiple punishments for multiple offenses that arise out of the same conduct and harm the same victim. Here the Superior Court failed to follow § 104 in imposing punishment for certain of the offenses and - even though the court provided for the sentences to run concurrently - the plain error that requires reversal of the sentencing. 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 § 104 is implicated. Additionally, on remand the court should impose a separate conviction and punishment for each count of unauthorized possession of a firearm during a crime of violence pursuant to 14 V.I.C. § 2253(a) but then stay the imposition of punishment as to two of those counts.

Attachment: Open Document or Opinion