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State v. Freeland

Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia

September 13, 2019

State of West Virginia, Plaintiff Below, Respondent
v.
Aron Freeland, Defendant Below, Petitioner

          Monongalia County 03-F-132

          MEMORANDUM DECISION

         Petitioner Aron Freeland, by counsel Timothy P. Rosinsky, appeals the Circuit Court on Monongalia County's March 15, 2017, order denying his motion for a new trial and motion to reopen evidentiary proceedings. Respondent State of West Virginia, by counsel Robert L. Hogan, filed a summary response to which petitioner replied pro se.[1] On appeal, petitioner argues that the circuit court erred in denying his motions based upon juror misconduct and that his prior counsel should have been removed below.

         The 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 is appropriate under Rule 21 of the Rules of Appellate Procedure.

         On September 5, 2003, petitioner was indicted on two counts of second-degree sexual assault involving two different victims on two different days. Following an April of 2005 jury trial, petitioner was convicted on both counts of the indictment. On May 18, 2005, the circuit court sentenced petitioner to two consecutive terms of ten to twenty-five years of incarceration. This Court refused petitioner's subsequent appeal on February 16, 2006. On June 6, 2005, petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration of sentence. The circuit court denied the motion. Petitioner appealed the denial of that motion; this Court refused his petition on October 11, 2007.

         On April 6, 2007, petitioner filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. Counsel was appointed, and an amended petition was filed on June 9, 2009. On December 17, 2010, the circuit court denied the petition. On appeal, this Court affirmed the circuit court on April 5, 2013. See Freeland v. Ballard, No. 11-0126, 2013 WL 1395890 ( W.Va. Apr. 5, 2013) (memorandum decision).

         On January 26, 2016, petitioner filed "Defendant's Motion In Arrest of Judgment Rule 34 West Virginia Rules of Criminal Procedure," alleging that a juror, Linda Ammons, failed to disclose at trial that she knew one of the witnesses at trial, Officer Jason Ammons of the Morgantown Police Department. [2] In April of 2016, petitioner's motion was amended and converted to a motion for new trial. The circuit court held two hearings on the motion wherein Ms. Ammons and Officer Ammons testified. On March 28, 2016, Officer Ammons testified regarding his relationship, if any, to Ms. Ammons:

[The State]: When you were called for testimony, did you recognize a juror that you've come to learn [whose] name is Linda Ammons?
[Officer Ammons]: Yes, ma'am.
[The State]: Did you know that was her name when you testified?
[Officer Ammons]: No, ma'am.
[The State]: Did you now come to realize that the person that they reference that is named Linda Ammons that is referenced in this motion is a face that you recognized during your testimony?
[Officer Ammons]: Yes, ma'am.
[The State]: Would you have recognized that face? Was it a public recognition or personal or social recognition or something else?
[Officer Ammons]: Public recognition.
[The State]: Tell us how.
[Officer Ammons]: My mother was a schoolteacher at Jakes Run Elementary, which I would have went to events there as her being a teacher, chaperone, and I had seen that lady at some of the events at the school for different things, just to see her by, you know, vision.
[The State]: Because she would have had a child at that school and as well be a volunteer at that school?
[Officer Ammons]: To the best of my knowledge, yes.
[The State]: Would you have ever had a conversation with her or spoken with her socially ...

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