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State v. Malakye Emerson Boyd

Supreme Court of West Virginia

June 7, 2019

State of West Virginia, Plaintiff Below, Respondent
v.
Malakye Emerson Boyd, Defendant Below, Petitioner

          Jefferson County CC-19-2017-F-15

          MEMORANDUM DECISION

         Petitioner Malakye Emerson Boyd is one of four individuals who met brothers Dylan and Ryan Mumaw one afternoon in July of 2016, upon the representation that Mr. Boyd and his compatriots would purchase a pound of marijuana from the Mumaws. When the Ford Focus in which Mr. Boyd was a passenger pulled next to the Mumaws' Toyota 4Runner, however, no drug transaction transpired. Instead, two armed passengers jumped from the car driven by Mr. Boyd's accomplice and besieged the Mumaw 4Runner. Dylan, driving the Mumaw vehicle, accelerated but was unable to escape the gun's range. A person in Mr. Boyd's party, never definitively identified because he was masked, fired into the passenger side of the vehicle where Ryan sat. Despite Dylan's attempt to flee, a bullet struck Ryan's chest and Ryan died that day. With help from an eyewitness, the police were able to locate the driver-a juvenile-of the Ford Focus, and then identify Mr. Boyd and the other two men. The juvenile entered into a plea agreement with the State. Subsequent to the indictment, Tayjuhn Coble also entered into a plea agreement. Mr. Boyd then was tried jointly with his brother, Rakeem Newman, and both were found guilty of felony murder in the first-degree, in violation of West Virginia Code § 61-2-1, and conspiracy to commit robbery in the first-degree, in violation of West Virginia Code § 61-10-31. Consequently, Mr. Boyd, the petitioner in this appeal, is serving a term of life imprisonment, with the possibility of parole, in the West Virginia State Penitentiary for his role in the felony murder. He also was sentenced to a consecutive five-year term of imprisonment for his role in the conspiracy.

         On appeal to this Court, Mr. Boyd asserts five assignments of error: that the circuit court erred in not directing a verdict in his favor or setting aside the jury verdict, that the circuit court abused its discretion in denying his motion for a separate trial, that the circuit court erred in admitting the State's recorded evidence of a telephone call made to him by Tayjuhn Coble while Mr. Coble was incarcerated, that the circuit court erred in its judicial assignment, and that the circuit court erred in imposing consecutive sentences for his felony convictions.

         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 order of the circuit court is appropriate under Rule 21 of the Rules of Appellate Procedure.[1]

         I.

         We begin with Mr. Boyd's challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence on which his conviction rests. The 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. See State v. LaRock, 196 W.Va. 294, 304, 470 S.E.2d 613, 623 (1996). This Court has explained:

The 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.

Syl. Pt. 1, State v. Guthrie, 194 W.Va. 657, 461 S.E.2d 163 (1995).

         Moreover,

[a] criminal defendant challenging the sufficiency of the evidence to support a conviction takes on a heavy burden. An appellate court must review all the evidence, whether direct or circumstantial, in the light most favorable to the prosecution and must credit all inferences and credibility assessments that the jury might have drawn in favor of the prosecution. The evidence need not be inconsistent with every conclusion save that of guilt so long as the jury can find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Credibility determinations are for a jury and not an appellate court. Finally, a jury verdict should be set aside only when the record contains no evidence, regardless of how it is weighed, from which the jury could find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Id. at 663, 461 S.E.2d at 169, syl. pt. 3, in part.

         Mr. Boyd argues that the trial evidence did not establish "that he was one of the two assailants that exited the . . . vehicle armed with a handgun who directly participated in the shooting of Ryan Mumaw." It is not necessary, however, that the State prove that Mr. Boyd "directly participated in the shooting." Rather, because the State obtained its conviction under the theory of felony murder, it was required only to prove that Mr. Boyd participated in the robbery that resulted in Ryan Mumaw's death. We have explained:

"'[T]he elements which the State is required to prove to obtain a conviction of felony murder are: (1) the commission of, or attempt to commit, one or more of the enumerated felonies; (2) the defendant's participation in such commission or attempt; and (3) the death of the victim as a result of injuries received during the course of such commission or attempt.' State v. Williams, 172 W.Va. 295, [310, ] 305 S.E.2d 251, 267 (1983)." Syllabus Point 5, State v. Mayle, 178 W.Va. 26, 357 S.E.2d 219 (1987).

Syl. Pt. 5, Flack v. Ballard, 239 W.Va. 566, 803 S.E.2d 536 (2017). Robbery is an enumerated felony qualifying the criminal defendant for conviction of murder. This State continues to define robbery in common law terms: "(1) the unlawful taking and carrying away, (2) of money or goods, (3) from the person of another or in his presence, (4) by force or putting him in fear, (5) with intent to steal the ...


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