Case Caption: Shakieme S. Freeman v. People of the Virgin IslandsCase Number: S. Ct. Crim. No. 2013-0085Date: 11/19/2014Author: Swan, Ive Arlington Citation: Summary:

In a prosecution on multiple counts relating to a shooting death, the evidence was sufficient for a reasonable jury to properly convict the defendant as an aider and abettor of reckless endangerment, and there is no merit in his other contentions on this appeal. Examining the totality of the evidence, both direct and circumstantial, and interpreting it in the light most favorable to the government as the verdict winner below, the evidence was sufficient to support this defendant's convictions for aiding and abetting under 14 V.I.C. §11(a) the crime of reckless endangerment as set forth in 14 V.I.C. § 625(a). Under the theory of aiding and abetting, guilt of an accused in a criminal case may be established without proof that he or she personally did every act constituting the offense alleged. The evidence presented at trial in this case unequivocally indicates that a rational jury could find that this defendant acted with depraved indifference for human life by discharging a firearm in proximity to a large crowd, reckless conduct creating a grave risk of death under circumstances evincing an extreme indifference to human life. Although the evidence supported conviction as a principal, the information and the specific charge gave the jury the option to convict the defendant as an aider and abettor. The trial court in this case clearly failed to give the jury a full and accurate instruction on Count 9, but this error did not affect the jury's deliberations and thus substantial justice was preserved. Where a reviewing court concludes beyond a reasonable doubt that the omitted element was uncontested and was supported by overwhelming evidence, such that the jury verdict would have been the same absent the error, the erroneous instruction is properly found to be harmless. Considering the final jury instructions as a whole, including the lengthy discussion on aiding and abetting given by the trial court, the omission identified here was harmless. An inconsistent verdict is not a sufficient reason for setting aside a verdict, and here there was sufficient evidence to sustain this defendant's conviction. Title 4 V.I.C. § 625(a) is not void for vagueness, and this defendant concedes that a reasonable person would have notice of the prohibited conduct under this statute. The defendant's conviction as an aider and abettor of reckless endangerment in violation of 14 V.I.C. § 625(a) is affirmed.

Attachment: Open Document or Opinion