Case Caption: Colly Cascen v. People of the Virgin IslandsCase Number: S. Ct. Crim. No. 2012-0007Date: 01/08/2014Author: Cabret, Maria M. Citation: Summary:

The defendant's convictions for first-degree murder, reckless endangerment, and use of a dangerous weapon during the commission of a crime of violence are affirmed, while his convictions for unauthorized possession of a firearm and third-degree assault are reversed. The jury instructions properly laid out the elements of first-degree murder under 14 V.I.C. § 922(a)(1) and - under the common law doctrine of transferred intent - the evidence was sufficient for the jury to find that defendant fired a weapon with the premeditated intent to kill one individual but killed another victim in the process, supporting his conviction for first-degree murder. Evidence that defendant fired a gun into a gathering of people was sufficient to support his convictions for reckless endangerment and for use of a dangerous weapon. On the charge of third-degree assault of a minor at the scene of the shooting, there was no evidence at trial that defendant intended to assault this youth, and his intent to kill another individual cannot be transferred to support the assault conviction, leaving the evidence insufficient to support that conviction. On the charge of unauthorized possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime of violence under 14 V.I.C. § 2253(a), the Superior Court denied defendant's confrontation rights by limiting his cross-examination of the firearms records witness who prepared two absence-of-entry forms indicating that search of firearms records revealed that he did not have a license to possess a firearm in the Virgin Islands at the time of the shooting. Those forms were clearly testimonial statements as defined by the Supreme Court of the United States, and - while the official who prepared both forms did testify at trial - a defendant is still denied the right to confront a witness where constitutionally impermissible restrictions are placed on cross-examination. Because the absence-of-entry forms were the only evidence supporting conviction for unauthorized possession of a firearm, it cannot be said that this error was harmless because the jury must have relied on them in returning a guilty verdict. Thus the conviction for unauthorized possession of a firearm during a crime of violence is reversed. The Superior Court did not deny defendant the right to an impartial jury or abuse its discretion by failing to strike three jurors or declare a mistrial following three incidents during trial. There is nothing in the record supporting the assertion of juror bias, and the Superior Court appropriately responded to each of these incidents. The Judgment and Commitment in this case is inconsistent in identifying the charges considered by the jury and the sentence announced at the sentencing hearing, and the case is remanded for amendment of the Judgment and Commitment to reflect the convictions and sentences imposed at the sentencing hearing.

Attachment: Open Document or Opinion