Woodard v. Commonwealth

Decision Date27 February 2014
Docket NumberRecord No. 130854.
CourtVirginia Supreme Court
PartiesTimothy WOODARD v. COMMONWEALTH of Virginia.

287 Va. 276
754 S.E.2d 309

Timothy WOODARD
v.
COMMONWEALTH of Virginia.

Record No. 130854.

Supreme Court of Virginia.

Feb. 27, 2014.


[754 S.E.2d 310]


Andrew G. Wiggin, Chesapeake, for appellant.

Steven A. Witmer, Senior Assistant Attorney General (Kenneth T. Cuccinelli, II, Attorney General, on brief), for appellee.


PRESENT: All the Justices.

Opinion by Justice LEROY F. MILLETTE, JR.

In this appeal we consider whether the Court of Appeals of Virginia erred when, after reversing a felony murder conviction as not being supported by sufficient evidence, it refused to remand to the circuit court for resentencing two felony drug convictions, one of which supplied the underlying basis for the felony murder conviction.

I. Facts and Proceedings

Timothy Woodard was separately indicted and charged with (1) felony possession of 3,4–Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (“MDMA”) with the intent to distribute in violation of Code § 18.2–248, (2) felony sale of MDMA in violation of Code § 18.2–248, and (3) felony murder in violation of Code § 18.2–33. Woodard pled not guilty to the indictments and waived a jury trial. After hearing the evidence and the arguments of counsel, the circuit court found Woodard guilty of all three felony offenses in the indictments. The felony murder conviction was based upon the victim's death caused by ingesting the MDMA Woodard sold to the victim.

During the sentencing hearing, the Commonwealth and Woodard disputed the appropriate sentencing guidelines. Woodard's contention was that the circuit court should consider sentencing guidelines based upon

[754 S.E.2d 311]

the felony sale of MDMA conviction as the primary offense. This would result in a lower set of guidelines than the Commonwealth's proposed guidelines that utilized the felony murder conviction as the primary offense.

Although the circuit court accepted the sentencing guidelines submitted by the Commonwealth, the court acknowledged Woodard's proposed sentencing guidelines while making its sentencing determinations. The court stated that the sentences it imposed deviated in a downward direction from the guidelines submitted by the Commonwealth, and deviated in an upward direction from the guidelines submitted by Woodard. The court noted that the particular facts of the case warranted deviating from both sets of sentencing guidelines.

The circuit court sentenced Woodard to (1) twenty years with twelve years suspended for the felony conviction for possession of MDMA with the intent to distribute, (2) five years with three years suspended for the felony conviction for sale of MDMA, and (3) ten years with six years suspended for the felony murder conviction.

Woodard timely appealed to the Court of Appeals. Woodard assigned error only to the circuit court's determination that the evidence was sufficient to support the felony murder conviction.1 A single judge of the Court of Appeals, by a per curiam order, denied Woodard's appeal. Woodard v. Commonwealth, Record No. 2048–11–3 (May 9, 2012). Upon Woodard's demand for panel review pursuant to Rule 5A:15A(a), a three judge panel of the Court of Appeals granted Woodard's appeal. Woodard v. Commonwealth, Record No. 2048–11–3 (Sept. 25, 2012).

In both Woodard's Petition for Appeal and Brief of Appellant submitted to the Court of Appeals, a section titled “Conclusion and Relief Sought” was included. As part of that section in each pleading, Woodard requested as additional relief that the Court of Appeals remand the case to the circuit court for resentencing of Woodard's felony drug convictions.

The Court of Appeals reversed Woodard's felony murder conviction. Woodard v. Commonwealth, 61 Va.App. 567, 576, 739 S.E.2d 220, 224 (2013). However, the Court of Appeals refused to remand the case to the circuit court for resentencing of Woodard's two felony drug convictions on the basis that such relief was outside of the scope of Woodard's assignment of error. Id. at 576 n. 5, 739 S.E.2d at 224 n. 5.

Woodard timely filed a petition for appeal with this Court. This appeal presents one assignment of error:

1. The Court of Appeals erred by not remanding the two remaining convictions ... for a new sentencing proceeding, after having reversed and dismissed the felony murder conviction.

II. Discussion
A. Standard of Review

“[O]nce a court has entered a judgment of conviction of a crime, the question of the penalty to be imposed is entirely within the province of the [General Assembly], and the court has no inherent authority to depart from the range of punishment legislatively prescribed.” Starrs v. Commonwealth, 287 Va. 1, 9, 752 S.E.2d 812, 817 (2014). However, within that range of punishment, a sentencing court has inherent discretion to impose the punishment it deems appropriate because “[u]nder our system, the assessment of punishment is a function of the judicial branch of government.” Hinton v. Commonwealth, 219...

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26 cases
  • Jones v. Commonwealth
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Virginia
    • 2 de fevereiro de 2017
    ...not file a "motion or objection in a proceeding in circuit court ... in writing, before trial").19 See, e.g., Woodard v. Commonwealth, 287 Va. 276, 278, 754 S.E.2d 309, 310 (2014) (noting the defendant's waiver of a jury trial in a felony proceeding); Jackson v. Commonwealth, 267 Va. 178, 1......
  • Jones v. Commonwealth, Record No. 131385
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Virginia
    • 2 de fevereiro de 2017
    ...not file a "motion or objection in a proceeding in circuit court . . . in writing, before trial"). 19. See, e.g., Woodard v. Commonwealth, 287 Va. 276, 278, 754 S.E.2d 309, 310 (2014) (noting the defendant's waiver of a jury trial in a felony proceeding); Jackson v. Commonwealth, 267 Va. 17......
  • Brown v. Com. of Va.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Virginia
    • 22 de maio de 2018
    ...inquiry requires interpretation of statutes or rules of court, this Court reviews such questions of law de novo . Woodard v. Commonwealth, 287 Va. 276, 280, 754 S.E.2d 309, 311 (2014).2. Merits Appellant first argues that the Commonwealth was required to provide notice of the statement duri......
  • Holmes v. Commonwealth
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Virginia
    • 22 de novembro de 2022
    ...a conviction involves interpreting the statute itself, that is a question of law which we review de novo. See Woodard v. Commonwealth , 287 Va. 276, 280, 754 S.E.2d 309 (2014).Holmes was convicted of two counts of racketeering, in violation of Code § 18.2-514(C), which provides that "[i]t s......
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