Case Caption: Dyhani Heyliger v. People of the Virgin IslandsCase Number: S. Ct. Crim. No. 2013-0147Date: 02/09/2017Author: Swan, Ive Arlington Citation: Summary:

The defendant's conviction and sentences for 15 crimes, including felony murder of a victim while attempting to commit third-degree assault against another person, are affirmed. Under 14 V.I.C. § 922(a)(2) first-degree felony murder can be predicated solely upon assault in the third degree, which is one of the felonies enumerated in the statute. This statute's use of the conjunction "and" as the final separator in a list of several predicate unlawful acts supports this natural interpretation of the statute. In this case-involving a shooting in a parking lot near a nightclub-there was sufficient evidence from several witnesses for a rational jury to find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of first-degree felony murder predicated upon assault in the third degree in violation of 14 V.I.C. §§ 921 and 922(a)(2). Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the People, a rational jury could find beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant assaulted one person by shooting at him, placing him in fear for his life, and the jury could find that the defendant killed the murder victim because his gunshots killed the victim as he stood behind the assault victim. The Superior Court did not err in holding a pretrial hearing and conducting an inquiry sufficient to determine the truth and scope of the defendant's pretrial claim of ineffective assistance of counsel; all parties were present and were given an opportunity to be heard, and the Superior Court judge questioned the attorneys extensively. The court did not abuse its discretion in denying the motion upon a finding that defense counsel's performance did not fall below an objective standard of reasonableness and that defendant failed to prove that but for his counsel's unprofessional errors, the results of the proceedings would have been different. Accordingly, the January 15, 2014 judgment and commitment is affirmed.

Attachment: Open Document or Opinion