Case Caption: Joh Williams v. People of the Virgin IslandsCase Number: S. Ct. Crim. No. 2012-0035Date: 11/05/2013Author: Hodge, Rhys S. Citation: Summary:

Defendant's convictions for first-degree murder and various other offenses are reversed, and this case is remanded for a new trial. Title 14, § 19 of the Virgin Islands Code, which the Superior Court relied upon to admit three inculpatory prior inconsistent statements, was implicitly repealed when the Legislature passed Act No. 7161 adopting the Federal Rules of Evidence. Under Rule 801(d)(1)(A) prior statemetns may be admitted as substantive evidence to establish the truth of the matter asserted in certain circumstances, but a prior inconsistent statement that does not meet one of the criteria of that Rule 801 may be used only for the purpose of impeaching the witness. In the present case, three witness' initial statements were made at the police station or at a witness' home. Thus the alleged statements made by each witness should not have been admitted as substantive evidence because they were not given under oath at a trial, hearing, other proceeding, or deposition. However, the statements could be properly admitted for impeachment purposes under Federal Rule of Evidence 613. The Superior Court's error was not harmless in this case. The People presented no other witnesses claiming to have seen this defendant fire shots or to have seen him with a weapon. Therefore, there is a reasonable possibility that the improperly admitted statements contributed to the conviction. Accordingly, this defendant entitled to a new trial on all counts. The convictions for first-degree murder, first-degree assault, reckless endangerment in the first degree, and unauthorized possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime of violence are reversed, and this matter is remanded for a new trial.

Attachment: Open Document or Opinion