Medici v. Com., Record No. 991389.

Docket NºRecord No. 991389.
Citation532 S.E.2d 28, 260 Va. 223
Case DateJune 09, 2000
CourtSupreme Court of Virginia

532 S.E.2d 28
260 Va. 223

Lawrence P. MEDICI
v.
COMMONWEALTH of Virginia

Record No. 991389.

Supreme Court of Virginia.

June 9, 2000.


532 S.E.2d 29
Jennifer A. Hess Smith, Assistant Public Defender, for appellant

Eugene Murphy, Assistant Attorney General (Mark L. Earley, Attorney General, on brief), for appellee.

Present: CARRICO, C.J., LACY, HASSELL, KEENAN, KOONTZ, and KINSER, JJ., and STEPHENSON, Senior Justice.

STEPHENSON, Senior Justice.

In this appeal, we determine whether the Court of Appeals erred in ruling that the trial court correctly (1) refused to strike for cause a prospective juror, (2) admitted into evidence the defendant's prior rape convictions in the guilt/innocence phase of his trial, and (3) refused to accept the defendant's stipulation that he had prior rape convictions.

I

A grand jury of the Circuit Court of Fairfax County indicted Lawrence P. Medici on four offenses. Count I of the indictment charged that Medici "did rape [the victim], a second or subsequent offense." Count II charged that Medici "did engage in cunnilingus with [the victim], against her will, by force, threat or intimidation, a second or subsequent offense." Count III charged that Medici "did engage in fellatio with [the victim], against her will, by force, threat or intimidation, a second or subsequent offense." Count IV charged that Medici "did attempt to engage in anal sodomy with [the victim], against her will, by force, threat or intimidation."

A jury found Medici guilty of each offense charged. The jury recommended a sentence of life imprisonment for each charge set forth in Counts I, II and III of the indictment and 10 years' imprisonment for the charge contained in Count IV of the indictment. By

532 S.E.2d 30
order entered February 17, 1998, the trial court sentenced Medici in accordance with the jury's verdict

In an unpublished opinion dated May 25, 1999, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's judgment. Lawrence P. Medici v. Commonwealth of Virginia, Record No. 0527-98-4. We awarded Medici an appeal limited to the issues stated above.1

II

A brief summary of the facts will suffice. The eighteen-year-old victim, a drug addict, was acquainted with Medici as her supplier of illicit drugs. On May 21, 1997, Medici left a message on the victim's answering machine advising her that he had "an amazing amount of cocaine" and that she should come over to his house. The victim went to Medici's house the following morning on her way to school. Medici escorted the victim to the basement where she saw a mirror covered with white powder. As the victim observed the powder, Medici ordered her to remove her clothing. The victim initially refused, but did remove her clothing when she noticed that Medici was armed with a knife. Thereafter, Medici forced the victim to engage in fellatio, cunnilingus, and sexual intercourse, and he attempted to engage the victim in anal sodomy. The victim immediately reported the incident to her high school guidance counselor.

III

We first consider whether the trial court erred in refusing to strike for cause a potential juror. During voir dire, Medici sought to have Inga Bennett stricken for cause because Bennett's husband had been murdered and the accused murderer was then represented by Medici's counsel's employer, the Office of the Public Defender. When questioned by counsel and the trial court, Bennett unequivocally stated that those circumstances would not affect her ability to judge the evidence fairly and impartially. The trial court refused to strike Bennett for cause, stating that "she was very adamant that she could be objective in this case."

We considered a similar issue in Cantrell v. Crews, 259 Va. 47, 523 S.E.2d 502 (2000), decided after the decisions of the trial court and the Court of Appeals in the present case. In Cantrell, the issue was "whether the trial court erred in refusing to strike for cause a prospective juror who, at the time of trial, was a client of the law firm representing the plaintiff." Id. at 49, 523 S.E.2d at 503. The prospective juror was, at the time, a plaintiff in a pending personal injury action. In response to questioning, the prospective juror assured the trial court that she could "ignore" her representation by the plaintiffs law firm and "be totally fair to both sides." Id. at 50, 523 S.E.2d at 503. The trial court denied the defendants' motion to strike the prospective juror for cause, concluding that she could ignore her personal relationship and be fair. Id.

We held that the trial court abused its discretion in refusing to strike the juror for cause and that the ruling constituted reversible error. In so holding, we stated the following:

Public confidence in the integrity of the process is at stake. It cannot be promoted when a sitting juror is, at the time of trial, a client of the law firm representing one of the parties to the litigation as a result of a similar occurrence.
This is true even though, as the record shows, the juror states that the circumstances of her representation would have no "bearing" on her judgment as a juror and that she could "be totally fair to both sides."

Id. at 51, 523 S.E.2d at 504.

It is true, as the Attorney General argues, that an appellate court must give deference to a trial court's ruling whether to exclude or retain a prospective juror and that the ruling will not be disturbed on appeal unless it is plainly wrong and amounts to an abuse of discretion. Vinson v. Commonwealth,

532 S.E.2d 31
258 Va. 459, 467, 522 S.E.2d 170, 176 (1999). We think, however, that the present case is controlled by our decision in Cantrell. Here, the prospective juror's husband had been murdered, and the accused murderer was represented by a lawyer in the same Public Defender's Office that also served as counsel for Medici. While...

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32 practice notes
  • Washington v. Com., Record No. 1734-03-4.
    • United States
    • Virginia Supreme Court of Virginia
    • August 9, 2005
    ...Virginia courts to allow recidivism evidence to be presented during the guilt phase of trial.4 See, e.g., Medici v. Page 777 Commonwealth, 260 Va. 223, 228-29, 532 S.E.2d 28, 31-32 (2000) (interpreting Code § B. THE INTERPLAY BETWEEN CODE §§ 19.2-297.1 & 19.2-295.1 In Virginia, the "Legisla......
  • Jones v. Com., Record No. 1069-07-2.
    • United States
    • Virginia Court of Appeals of Virginia
    • August 26, 2008
    ...correct about the seizure, erred in refusing to suppress the product of the unlawful seizure and search...." Reittinger, 260 Va. at 237, 532 S.E.2d at 28. In Malbrough, 275 Va. 163, 655 S.E.2d 1, our Supreme Court distinguished The most significant distinction between Reittinger and the pre......
  • Washington v. Com., Record No. 1734-03-4.
    • United States
    • Virginia Court of Appeals of Virginia
    • October 26, 2004
    ...the substantive crime in determining that the penalty enhancement was an element of the offense. Recently, in Medici v. Commonwealth, 260 Va. 223, 532 S.E.2d 28 (2000), the Supreme Court held that introducing evidence of a prior conviction at the guilt phase of trial did not violate a defen......
  • Bay v. Commonwealth, Record No. 0585–11–1.
    • United States
    • Virginia Court of Appeals of Virginia
    • August 7, 2012
    ...City of Virginia Beach v. Giant Square Shopping Ctr. Co., 255 Va. 467, 470–71, 498 S.E.2d 917, 918–19 (1998); Medici v. Commonwealth, 260 Va. 223, 226–27, 532 S.E.2d 28, 30–31 (2000)), or when a venireman's brother, a police officer, would testify as to the crime scene, id. (citing Barrett,......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
32 cases
  • Washington v. Com., Record No. 1734-03-4.
    • United States
    • Virginia Supreme Court of Virginia
    • August 9, 2005
    ...Virginia courts to allow recidivism evidence to be presented during the guilt phase of trial.4 See, e.g., Medici v. Page 777 Commonwealth, 260 Va. 223, 228-29, 532 S.E.2d 28, 31-32 (2000) (interpreting Code § B. THE INTERPLAY BETWEEN CODE §§ 19.2-297.1 & 19.2-295.1 In Virginia, the "Legisla......
  • Jones v. Com., Record No. 1069-07-2.
    • United States
    • Virginia Court of Appeals of Virginia
    • August 26, 2008
    ...correct about the seizure, erred in refusing to suppress the product of the unlawful seizure and search...." Reittinger, 260 Va. at 237, 532 S.E.2d at 28. In Malbrough, 275 Va. 163, 655 S.E.2d 1, our Supreme Court distinguished The most significant distinction between Reittinger and the pre......
  • Washington v. Com., Record No. 1734-03-4.
    • United States
    • Virginia Court of Appeals of Virginia
    • October 26, 2004
    ...the substantive crime in determining that the penalty enhancement was an element of the offense. Recently, in Medici v. Commonwealth, 260 Va. 223, 532 S.E.2d 28 (2000), the Supreme Court held that introducing evidence of a prior conviction at the guilt phase of trial did not violate a defen......
  • Bay v. Commonwealth, Record No. 0585–11–1.
    • United States
    • Virginia Court of Appeals of Virginia
    • August 7, 2012
    ...City of Virginia Beach v. Giant Square Shopping Ctr. Co., 255 Va. 467, 470–71, 498 S.E.2d 917, 918–19 (1998); Medici v. Commonwealth, 260 Va. 223, 226–27, 532 S.E.2d 28, 30–31 (2000)), or when a venireman's brother, a police officer, would testify as to the crime scene, id. (citing Barrett,......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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