Case Caption: Christopher Simmonds v. People of the Virgin IslandsCase Number: S. Ct. Crim. No. 2012-0074Date: 08/13/2013Author: Hodge, Rhys S. Citation: Summary:

Convictions for first-degree murder and related offenses are affirmed. Proof that the defendant acted willfully, deliberately, or with premeditation was supplied by witness testimony that he shot the victim, and then moved closer and shot at him again in the head, an area of the body where a gunshot wound would be far more likely to result in death. Thus the evidence was more than sufficient to sustain the first-degree murder conviction. On the charge of first-degree assault, the evidence introduced at trial, when viewed in the light most favorable to the People, established that defendant shot the victim two separate times, and the jury could reasonably find that he committed first-degree assault firing his first shots from a distance-resulting in wounds only to the victim's arms and buttocks-and then initiated a second first-degree assault when he moved closer and shot the victim in the head, which became a first-degree murder once the victim died from those injuries. Therefore, since the evidence established that defendant committed a first-degree assault separate and apart from the one that resulted in the victim's death, the question whether 14 V.I.C. § 295(1) implicitly requires that the victim survive his injuries is not decided in this appeal. Under Virgin Islands law, firearms licenses are issued to individuals and are “not transferable” under 23 V.I.C. §§ 454, 457(1). Thus, even if some other individual had a license to carry or possess the weapon used to shoot the victim, defendant was nevertheless prohibited from possessing and using that firearm without obtaining his own license, and the People introduced sufficient evidence of the 14 V.I.C. § 2253 violation. The argument that a defendant's convictions should be vacated where the People charge him by filing an information rather than obtaining an indictment from a grand jury has been rejected previously, and the grand jury clause does not apply. Denial of the defense motion for a jury visit to the crime scene was not shown to be an abuse of discretion given the cursory motion and the failure to explain how or why a site visit would have benefitted the jury's consideration of this case. Act No. 7161 implicitly repealed 14 V.I.C. § 19, and thus the Superior Court committed error when it permitted the People to introduce a witness's prior unsworn inconsistent statement even though the requirements of Rule 801(d)(1)(A) had not been met. However, that statement was wholly cumulative to another witness's admissible-and uncontradicted-testimony that he saw defendant shoot the victim, and admission of the prior inconsistent statement did not affect the jury's verdict. Denial of defendant's pro se motion for a new trial was not error since he remained represented by counsel at that time. The Superior Court stayed execution of defendant's convictions for first-degree assault and unauthorized use of a firearm during commission of a first-degree assault, and his argument that the requirement of 14 V.I.C. § 2253 that the penalty imposed for the weapons offense be in addition to that provided for commission of the felony or crime of violence violates the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment, and is inconsistent with 14 V.I.C. § 104, has been rejected previously. Thus, the Superior Court committed no error with respect to the defendant's sentence. The August 15, 2012 Judgment is affirmed

Attachment: Open Document or Opinion