Case Caption: Mitchell Nicholas v. People of the Virgin IslandsCase Number: S. Ct. Crim. No. 2009-0022Date: 06/06/2012Author: Hodge, Rhys S. Citation: Summary:

In a prosecution for several offenses related to a murder, the convictions are affirmed except with respect to the crime of unlawfully possessing ammunition, since 14 V.I.C. § 2256 as it existed at the time these offenses provided no means for the People to prove violation of that provision. With respect to the murder charge, there was sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant premeditated the victim's murder. The Superior Court did not clearly err in denying a motion to suppress with respect to the warrantless search of the defendant's person and his hotel room based on a showing of both probable cause and exigent circumstances. Erroneous evidentiary rulings involving hearsay, speculative testimony by law enforcement officers, testimony about defendant's behavior and personality, and lay opinion about his culpability for the murder, in the context of overwhelming evidence of guilt, did not render the trial unfair and do not warrant reversal. It cannot be concluded that erroneous admission of the challenged evidence affected the outcome of the trial or deprived defendant of a fair trial. A constitutional challenge to the statute criminalizing possession of a firearm, 14 V.I.C. § 2253(a), is rejected because the record contains no evidence that defendant would be entitled to a license even if the portions of 23 V.I.C. § 454(3) that he alleges are impermissibly discretionary were stricken. The convictions for first-degree murder, assault in the first degree, and use of an unlicensed firearm, are affirmed. The conviction for unlawful possession of ammunition is reversed and the sentence for that offense is vacated.

Attachment: Open Document or Opinion