State v. Satterfield, 22374

Citation457 S.E.2d 440,193 W.Va. 503
Decision Date13 April 1995
Docket NumberNo. 22374,22374
CourtSupreme Court of West Virginia
PartiesSTATE of West Virginia, Plaintiff Below, Appellee, v. Shawn SATTERFIELD, Defendant Below, Appellant.
Dissenting Opinion by

Chief Justice Neely April 13, 1995.

Syllabus by the Court

1. "What is required for a dying declaration to be admissible is that the declarant have such a belief that he is facing death as to remove ordinary worldly motives for misstatement. In that regard, the court may consider the totality of the circumstances of motive to falsify and the manner in which the statement was volunteered or elicited." Syl. pt. 3, State v. Young, 166 W.Va. 309, 273 S.E.2d 592 (1980), holding modified on a different ground by State v. Julius, 185 W.Va. 422, 408 S.E.2d 1 (1991).

2. A suicide note may be admissible pursuant to W.Va.R.Evid. 804(b)(2) as a dying declaration exception to the hearsay rule. In order for a statement found in a suicide note to be admissible as a dying declaration the following must occur: the statement must have been made when the declarant was under the belief that his death was imminent, and the dying declaration must concern the cause or circumstances of what the declarant believes to be his impending death.

3. Once a trial judge determines that a statement falls within the dying declaration exception to the hearsay rule found in W.Va.R.Evid. 804(b)(2), then it must be determined whether the evidence is relevant pursuant to W.Va.R.Evid. 401 and 402 and, if so, whether its probative value is substantially outweighed by unfair prejudice pursuant to W.Va.R.Evid. 403. The statement is admissible only after the trial judge determines that its probative value is not substantially outweighed by unfair prejudice.

4. " 'An indictment which charges that the defendant feloniously, wilfully, maliciously, deliberately, premeditatedly and unlawfully did slay, kill and murder is sufficient to support a conviction for murder committed in the commission of, or attempt to commit arson, rape, robbery or burglary, it not being necessary, under W.Va.Code, 61-2-1, to set forth the manner or means by which the death of the deceased was caused.' Syllabus Point 5, State v. Bragg, 160 W.Va. 455, 235 S.E.2d 466 (1977)." Syl. pt. 10, State v. Young, 173 W.Va. 1, 311 S.E.2d 118 (1983).

5. " 'An instruction to the jury is proper if it is a correct statement of the law and if sufficient evidence has been offered at trial to support it.' Syllabus Point 8, State v. Hall, 171 W.Va. 212, 298 S.E.2d 246 (1982)." Syl. pt. 1, State v. White, 171 W.Va. 658, 301 S.E.2d 615 (1983).

6. " ' "To warrant a change of venue in a criminal case, there must be a showing of good cause therefor, the burden of which rests on the defendant, the only person who, in any such case, is entitled to a change of venue. The good cause aforesaid must exist at the time application for a change of venue is made. Whether, on the showing made, a change of venue will be ordered, rests in the sound discretion of the trial court; and its ruling thereon will not be disturbed, unless it clearly appears that the discretion aforesaid has been abused." Point 2, Syllabus, State v. Wooldridge, 129 W.Va. 448, 40 S.E.2d 899 (1946).' Syllabus Point 1, State v. Sette, 161 W.Va. 384, 242 S.E.2d 464 (1978)." Syl. pt. 1, State v. Derr, 192 W.Va. 165, 451 S.E.2d 731 (1994).

7. " ' "A present hostile sentiment against an accused, extending throughout the entire county in which he is brought to trial, is good cause for removing the case to another county." Point 2, Syllabus, State v. Dandy, 151 W.Va. 547, 153 S.E.2d 507 (1967), quoting Point 1, Syllabus, State v. Siers, 103 W.Va. 30, 136 S.E. 503 (1927).' Syllabus Point 2, State v. Sette, 161 W.Va. 384, 242 S.E.2d 464 (1978)." Syl. pt. 2, State v. Derr, 192 W.Va. 165, 451 S.E.2d 731 (1994).

8. "One of the inquiries on a motion for a change of venue should not be whether the community remembered or heard the facts of the case, but whether the jurors had such fixed opinions that they could not judge impartially the guilt or innocence of the defendant." Syl. pt. 3, State v. Derr, 192 W.Va. 165, 451 S.E.2d 731 (1994).

9. " ' "The true test as to whether a juror is qualified to serve on the panel is whether without bias or prejudice he can render a verdict solely on the evidence under the instructions of the court." Syllabus Point 1, State v. Kilpatrick, 158 W.Va. 289, 210 S.E.2d 480 (1974).' Syllabus Point 3, State v. Beck, 167 W.Va. 830, 286 S.E.2d 234 (1981)." Syl. pt. 7, State v. Neider, 170 W.Va. 662, 295 S.E.2d 902 (1982).

10. " 'Where objections were not shown to have been made in the trial court, and the matters concerned were not jurisdictional in character, such objections will not be considered on appeal.' Syllabus Point 1, State Road Commission v. Ferguson, 148 W.Va. 742, 137 S.E.2d 206 (1964)." Syllabus point 3, O'Neal v. Peake Operating Co., 185 W.Va. 28, 404 S.E.2d 420 (1991).

11. "Where a State witness violates a sequestration order and is permitted to testify, the question on appeal is whether the witness's violation of the order and the ensuing testimony had a prejudicial effect on the defendant's case." Syl. pt. 4, State v. Steele, 178 W.Va. 330, 359 S.E.2d 558 (1987).

12. " 'A new trial will not be granted on the ground of newly-discovered evidence unless the case comes within the following rules: (1) The evidence must appear to have been discovered since the trial, and, from the affidavit of the new witness, what such evidence will be, or its absence satisfactorily explained. (2) It must appear from the facts stated in his affidavit that plaintiff was diligent in ascertaining and securing his evidence, and that the new evidence is such that due diligence would not have secured it before the verdict. (3) Such evidence must be new and material, and not merely cumulative; and cumulative evidence is additional evidence of the same kind to the same point. (4) The evidence must be such as ought to produce an opposite result at a second trial on the merits. (5) And the new trial will generally be refused when the sole object of the new evidence is to discredit or impeach a witness on the opposite side.' Syllabus, State v. Frazier, 162 W.Va. 935, 253 S.E.2d 534 (1979), quoting, Syl. pt. 1, Halstead v. Horton, 38 W.Va. 727, 18 S.E. 953 (1894)." Syl. pt. 1, State v. King, 173 W.Va. 164, 313 S.E.2d 440 (1984).

13. " 'A new trial on the ground of after-discovered evidence or newly discovered evidence is very seldom granted and the circumstances must be unusual or special.' Syllabus Point 9, State v. Hamric, 151 W.Va. 1, 151 S.E.2d 252 (1966)." Syl pt. 2, State v. King, 173 W.Va. 164, 313 S.E.2d 440 (1984).

14. " ' "The weight of circumstantial evidence, as in the case of direct evidence, is a question for jury determination, and whether such evidence excludes, to a moral certainty, every reasonable hypothesis, other than that of guilt, is a question for the jury." Syllabus point 4, State v. Bailey, 151 W.Va. 796, 155 S.E.2d 850 (1967).' Syl. pt. 4, State v. Meadows, 172 W.Va. 247, 304 S.E.2d 831 (1983)." Syl. pt. 4, State v. Gum, 172 W.Va. 534, 309 S.E.2d 32 (1983).

McHUGH, Justice:

This case is before this Court upon the appeal of Shawn Satterfield from the October 7, 1993 order of the Circuit Court of Ritchie County which sentenced him to life imprisonment with eligibility for parole after a jury found him guilty of first degree murder with a recommendation of mercy. For reasons set forth below, we affirm the order of the circuit court.


The appellant and his half-brother, Brian Vincent, were charged with murdering Billy Harper, a retired public school bus driver, during the late night hours of January 22, 1993. The facts surrounding the murder are contradictory and unclear.

The strongest evidence against the appellant was provided by Glen Thomas and Bucky Moore, who were initially questioned by the police after witnesses stated that they saw Glen Thomas' car in the vicinity of the victim's home on the night of the murder. Thomas and Moore agreed to tell the police everything they knew about the murder if they would be granted immunity from prosecution for their involvement in the crime. Eventually, the trial court did grant immunity to Moore and Thomas for their testimony at trial.

At trial, Moore and Thomas testified that they gave the appellant and Brian Vincent a ride to the vicinity of the victim's home. The appellant or Brian Vincent indicated that they were planning to rob the victim and anticipated having to hit the victim on the head during the robbery. When the appellant and Brian Vincent got out of the car, they had an ax handle with them. The ax handle had originally belonged to Thomas, but Thomas alleged that the ax handle was removed from his car by Brian Vincent prior to the incident. Moore and Thomas maintained that they were to return to pick up the appellant and Brian Vincent later in the evening.

When Moore and Thomas returned to pick up the appellant and Brian Vincent, they were unable to locate them. Subsequently, Moore and Thomas alleged that when they saw the appellant and Brian Vincent, the two admitted that when robbing the victim, Brian Vincent had told the victim the appellant's name. Therefore, the appellant and Brian Vincent took turns striking the victim with the ax handle until he died. The appellant and Brian Vincent also allegedly told Moore and Thomas that they took the victim's billfold, which was never recovered, and a .22 rifle, which they hid behind a school bus stop in the vicinity. Evidently, the billfold was burned in the appellant's father's wood stove.

During a search of the area after the murder, the ax handle, which was wrapped in the victim's plaid flannel jacket, and the .22 rifle, were recovered. Forensic reports state that the hair on the ax handle was consistent with the victim's hair.


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