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State v. McCoy

Supreme Court of West Virginia

January 9, 2017

State of West Virginia, Plaintiff Below, Respondent
v.
Joshua McCoy, Defendant Below, Petitioner

         Mercer County 15-F-131

          MEMORANDUM DECISION

         Petitioner Joshua McCoy, by counsel Joseph T. Harvey, appeals the Circuit Court of Mercer County's September 8, 2015, order that sentenced him to a term of incarceration of one to five years for his conviction of unlawful wounding, but suspended the sentence in favor of placement at the Anthony Correctional Center for a period of six months to two years. The State, by counsel Zachary Aaron Vigilanco, filed a response and a supplemental appendix. On appeal, petitioner argues that the circuit court erred in denying his motion for judgment of acquittal because the evidence established that he acted in self-defense.

         This Court has considered the parties' briefs and the record on appeal. The facts and legal arguments are adequately presented, and the decisional process would not be significantly aided by oral argument. Upon consideration of the standard of review, the briefs, and the record presented, the Court finds no substantial question of law and no prejudicial error. For these reasons, a memorandum decision affirming the circuit court's order is appropriate under Rule 21 of the Rules of Appellate Procedure.

         In April of 2015, petitioner visited the home of Brandon Browning. While in the home, petitioner attempted to sell a handgun he had in his possession to Mr. Browning and others present in the home, including Timothy Fields, who was drinking alcohol at the time. Ultimately, no one purchased the handgun. At some point, Mr. Browning needed to leave the home, so both petitioner and Mr. Fields also left. Petitioner then went to other nearby homes in an attempt to sell his handgun. Mr. Fields remained outside Mr. Browning's home awaiting his return.

         Approximately one hour later, petitioner approached Mr. Fields and asked to purchase marijuana from him. Mr. Fields agreed and provided petitioner with marijuana. The two then continued talking, with Mr. Fields eventually recognizing that petitioner failed to pay him for the marijuana. After Mr. Fields asked for payment, petitioner indicated that he had already paid. According to Mr. Fields, petitioner initiated an argument over the payment, so Mr. Fields indicated that he would fight petitioner if payment was not received. After petitioner again refused, Mr. Fields told petitioner to "square up" and approached petitioner with his fists clenched. Petitioner then aimed his handgun at Mr. Fields, who told petitioner he would have to shoot him. Petitioner then shot Mr. Fields once in the leg, which did not deter Mr. Fields from moving forward. Petitioner then shot Mr. Fields in the abdomen, which caused him to collapse. Petitioner fired a third shot as Mr. Fields was falling, but it failed to strike Mr. Fields. Petitioner was later arrested and admitted to having shot Mr. Fields. Thereafter, petitioner was charged, upon his request, by information with the following three counts: first-degree robbery; malicious wounding; and assault during the commission of a felony.

         Petitioner's jury trial commenced in July of 2015 and lasted one day. Upon a motion for directed verdict, the circuit court dismissed the count of first-degree robbery because Mr. Fields voluntarily gave petitioner the marijuana. Moreover, the circuit court dismissed the count of assault during the commission of a felony because that charge was predicated upon a robbery. Accordingly, the circuit court presented only the charge of malicious wounding to the jury, along with an instruction on self-defense. After deliberation, the jury convicted petitioner of the lesser-included offense of unlawful wounding. The circuit court then imposed a sentence of one to five years for petitioner's conviction, but suspended the sentence in favor of placement at the Anthony Correctional Center for a period of six months to two years. It is from the circuit court's sentencing order that petitioner appeals.

         We have previously held as follows:

"In reviewing challenges to findings and rulings made by a circuit court, we apply a two-pronged deferential standard of review. We review the rulings of the circuit court concerning a new trial and its conclusion as to the existence of reversible error under an abuse of discretion standard, and we review the circuit court's underlying factual findings under a clearly erroneous standard. Questions of law are subject to a de novo review." Syl. Pt. 3, State v. Vance, 207 W.Va. 640, 535 S.E.2d 484 (2000).

Syl. Pt. 1, State v. Blevins, 231 W.Va. 135, 744 S.E.2d 245 (2013). On appeal, petitioner argues that the circuit court erred in denying his motion for judgment of acquittal because the State did not establish his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Specifically, petitioner argues that he was entitled to acquittal because he acted in self-defense. In addressing motions for judgment of acquittal, we have stated that "[t]he Court applies a de novo standard of review to the denial of a motion for judgment of acquittal based upon the sufficiency of the evidence." State v. Juntilla, 227 W.Va. 492, 711 S.E.2d 562 (2011) (citing State v. LaRock, 196 W.Va. 294, 304, 470 S.E.2d 613, 623 (1996)). As to challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence, this Court has further explained that

"[t]he function of an appellate court when reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence to support a criminal conviction is to examine the evidence admitted at trial to determine whether such evidence, if believed, is sufficient to convince a reasonable person of the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Thus, the relevant inquiry is whether, after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime proved beyond a reasonable doubt." Syllabus point 1, State v. Guthrie, 194 W.Va. 657, 461 S.E.2d 163 (1995).

Syl. Pt. 3, State v. Horn, 232 W.Va. 32, 750 S.E.2d 248 (2013). Specifically, petitioner argues that the evidence established that he did not commit unlawful wounding because he acted in self-defense. The Court, however, does not agree.

         Pursuant to West Virginia Code § 61-2-9(a),

If any person maliciously shoot, stab, cut or wound any person, or by any means cause him or her bodily injury with intent to maim, disfigure, disable or kill, he or she shall, except where it is otherwise provided, be guilty of a felony and, upon conviction, shall be punished by confinement in a state correctional facility not less than two nor more than ten years. If such act be done unlawfully, but not maliciously, with the intent aforesaid, the offender is guilty of a felony and, upon conviction, shall either be in a state correctional facility not less than one nor more than five years, or be confined in jail not exceeding twelve months and fined not exceeding $500.

         Petitioner does not challenge the sufficiency of the State's evidence in regard to the elements of unlawful wounding. Instead, petitioner claims only that he acted in self-defense and, accordingly, was entitled to acquittal. Petitioner's argument, however, ignores the fact that the jury ...


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