20 March 2009

Virginia Standard of Review: Sufficiency of the Evidence

When considering a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence on appeal, a reviewing court does not "ask itself whether it believes that the evidence at the trial established guilt beyond a reasonable doubt." Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 318-19 (1979) (emphasis in original; citation and internal quotation marks omitted). Instead, we ask only '"whether, after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.'" Maxwell v. Commonwealth, 275 Va. 437, 442, 657 S.E.2d 499, 502 (2008) (quoting Jackson, 443 U.S. at 319) (emphasis in original). See also McMillan v. Commonwealth, 277 Va. 11, 19, 671 S.E.2d 396, ___ (2009); Jones v. Commonwealth, 277 Va. 171, 182, 670 S.E.2d 727, 734 (2009). These principles recognize that an appellate court is "not permitted to reweigh the evidence," Nusbaum v. Berlin, 273 Va. 385, 408, 641 S.E.2d 494, 507 (2007), because appellate courts have no authority "to preside de novo over a second trial," Haskins v. Commonwealth, 44 Va. App. 1, 11, 602 S.E.2d 402, 407 (2004). This deferential standard of review "applies not only to the historical facts themselves, but the inferences from those facts as well." Crowder v. Commonwealth, 41 Va. App. 658, 663 n.2, 588 S.E.2d 384, 387 n.2 (2003). Thus, a fact finder may "draw reasonable inferences from basic facts to ultimate facts," Haskins, 44 Va. App. at 10, 602 S.E.2d at 406 (citations omitted), unless doing so would push "into the realm of non sequitur," Thomas v. Commonwealth, 48 Va. App. 605, 608, 633 S.E.2d 229, 231 (2006) (citation omitted).

Kenneth Anthony Clanton v. Commonwealth, Va. App., no. 1018-07-2 (deciding whether moving a child to another room while you beat his father for information in the first room is abduction)

No comments: