State v. DeGraw, 22977

Decision Date08 April 1996
Docket NumberNo. 22977,22977
Citation196 W.Va. 261,470 S.E.2d 215
CourtWest Virginia Supreme Court
PartiesSTATE of West Virginia, Plaintiff Below, Appellee, v. Floyd Lee DeGRAW, Defendant Below, Appellant.

4. " 'As a general rule, an expressed intent of an accused to kill a certain person is not pertinent on his trial for killing another, but it may become pertinent and admissible under circumstances showing a connection between the threat and subsequent conduct of the accused....' Syl. Pt. 2 (in part), State v. Corey, 114 W.Va. 118, 171 S.E. 114 (1933)." Syl. Pt. 5, State v. Young, 166 W.Va. 309, 273 S.E.2d 592 (1980), modified on other grounds sub nom. State v. Julius, 185 W.Va. 422, 408 S.E.2d 1 (1991).

5. "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 rationale 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).

6. "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. To the extent that our prior cases are inconsistent, they are expressly overruled." Syl. Pt. 3, State v. Guthrie, 194 W.Va. 657, 461 S.E.2d 163 (1995).

Victor S. Woods, Assistant Attorney General, Charleston, for the Appellee.

Scott A. Ash, Mercer County Public Defender, Princeton, for the Appellant.

WORKMAN, Justice:

This case is before the Court upon the appeal of Floyd Lee DeGraw from the July 25, 1994, final order of the Circuit Court of Mercer County sentencing the Appellant to a term of life imprisonment without possibility of parole following a jury conviction of first degree murder without a recommendation of mercy. The Appellant contends that the trial court erred: 1) in permitting improper rebuttal evidence; 2) in permitting evidence of prior criminal history; 3) in transferring venue to Raleigh County; 4) in permitting lay testimony regarding shoeprints; 5) in permitting nonspecific threat evidence; and 6) in failing to direct a verdict of acquittal as to the first degree murder charge. Upon a review of the record, the parties' briefs and arguments, as well as all other matters submitted before this Court, we find that the lower court committed no error and, accordingly, affirm.

I.

On the morning of August 29, 1993, Valerie Houle discovered the naked body of her roommate, Adrianna Vaught, in the bedroom of their apartment in Princeton, West Virginia. Ms. Houle testified that she immediately fled the apartment. Dr. Samuel A. Livingstone, a forensic psychologist, testified that an autopsy of the victim revealed eighteen knife wounds including many "defensive wounds" on her forearms and three wounds to the chest, two of which pierced her heart and were the cause of her death.

Ms. Barbara White, the Appellant's mother with whom he lived, testified that her son had arrived home at about 7:00 a.m., on August 29, 1993, with a butcher knife taken from her kitchen in his hand, and blood on his shirt and pant leg. According to Ms. White, the Appellant told her that he had stabbed a woman named Adrianna. Ms. White testified that the Appellant took off his clothes and asked her to wash them. She also stated that she noticed that her son's hand was bleeding, cut between the thumb and forefinger. According to Ms. White, her son told her that he had dropped the knife in the struggle, and cut his hand when he grabbed the knife and took it away from the victim. Ms. White stated that the Appellant eventually wrapped the knife in a paper bag before he left, and told her that he planned to "throw it away." When the Appellant left her house, he indicated to her that he was going to the Huntington State Hospital for treatment.

The Appellant subsequently was arrested in the State of Michigan on a fugitive warrant and was transported back from the Detroit area to Mercer County. Detective Jerry W. Davis, Jr., of the Princeton City Police Department, who went to Michigan to help transport the Appellant back to this state, testified that when he picked the Appellant up, he noticed a cut healing on the Appellant's right hand.

Detective Davis further testified regarding the investigation of the crime scene on the morning the victim was discovered. The detective stated that when he arrived at the scene, he noted that a chair was found in the hallway in front of a closed-off doorway which entered into the kitchen of the apartment. Further, the detective indicated that the transom 1 above the doorway was open and appeared to have smeared blood on the right hand side. The detective indicated that in addition to the blood found in the bedroom, blood spots were observed "beside the chair, right beside the entrance door[.]" Detective Davis testified that it was obvious that a struggle had occurred in the victim's bedroom. Detective Charles N. Poe, also with the Princeton Police Department, testified that he lifted a shoeprint off the top of the stove, as well as a partial shoeprint found in dried blood near the victim's body. He indicated that both prints appeared to be that of a tennis shoe.

Sergeant Mark W. Neal, of the West Virginia State Police and the State's latent print expert, testified that because the soles of the shoes worn by the Appellant and seized from him at the time of his arrest had no individualized characteristics in the form of cuts or scratches, he was unable to "make any positive identifications or eliminations" with regard to the tread design of the Appellant's shoes to the prints taken from the victim's apartment. The expert, however, did render an opinion that the herringbone pattern characteristic of the prints lifted from the crime scene was "consistent with" the pattern found on the Appellant's shoes.

Further, the State introduced the testimony of Howard Brent Myers, a serologist with the West Virginia State Police, who analyzed several of the blood drops taken from the crime scene. Mr. Myers testified that the polymerase chain reaction (hereinafter "PCR") 2 testing of this evidence, when compared to known blood samples taken from the Appellant and the victim, indicated that some of the blood found in the apartment was consistent with a mixture of blood from both the Appellant and the victim. He further testified, however, that the PCR testing could not conclusively identify the Appellant as a donor of the blood. 3

Additional evidence introduced at trial included the victim's roommate's testimony that the Appellant and the victim were friends and that the Appellant would come over to their apartment from time to time to visit with the victim. The State also presented evidence that the Appellant had lived in the victim's apartment building a short time before the murder.

The Appellant relied upon the diminished capacity defense. He attempted to prove that he was too impaired by the effects of intoxication and mental illness to premeditate the victim's killing. In support of this defense, the Appellant recalled his mother, who testified that when her son arrived home on the morning of August 29, 1993, he was in a hysterical condition evinced by shaking and crying. She also testified that her son had a long history of suicide attempts, psychiatric problems and...

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    ...time on appeal, where objection before trial court only concerned lack of foundation and lack of specificity). State v. DeGraw, 196 W.Va. 261, 272, 470 S.E.2d 215, 226 (1996) (footnote omitted). We have reviewed the relevant portion of the transcript in the instant case and note that, at tr......
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    ...furnished to the expert by the defendant. See, e.g., Rogers v. United States, 483 A.2d 277, 289 (D.C.1984); State v. DeGraw, 196 W.Va. 261, 470 S.E.2d 215, 220-21, 223, 224-25 (1996). The nature of the material on which the expert opinion is based clearly is one of the more important featur......
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    ... ... Akers , No ... 20-0926, 2021 WL 3833272, at *2 (W.Va. Aug. 27, 2021) ... (memorandum decision). See also State v. DeGraw , 196 ... W.Va. 261, 272, 470 S.E.2d 215, 226 (1996) (declining to ... address whether trial court improperly admitted evidence that ... ...
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