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No. 35472 - State of West Virginia v. Donald Lee Longerbeam
Benjamin, Justice, dissenting:
I respectfully dissent to the majority opinion because I believe that sufficient
evidence was adduced at trial to support the appellant's conviction.
As set forth in the majority opinion:
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 rational trier
of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime
proved beyond a reasonable doubt.
Syllabus Point 1, State v. Guthrie, 194 W. Va. 657, 461 S.E.2d 163 (1995). Viewing the
evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, there is sufficient evidence that the
appellant and his wife were viewed by the children as persons in positions of trust who were
in control of the children at the time the appellant committed the offense for which he was
The evidence indicates that the appellant was the victim's uncle by marriage,
and the appellant had access to the victim due to this fact. Further, the appellant's access to
the victim presupposed an assumption of control and supervision in that the children called
the appellant and his wife for help in catching a loose hamster instead of waking their older
sister. Stated another way, the appellant's role as uncle and his presence in the home in order
to assist the children created the control which permitted the sexual assault to occur. In
addition, the victim testified that during the sexual assault, she did not move away from the
appellant until her older sister entered the room because she did not think that she could
leave. Thus, the victim's perception of the appellant's control over the situation was integral
to the appellant's execution of the assault. Therefore, it is clear to me that there is sufficient
evidence that the appellant was a person in a position of trust at the time of the sexual assault
to support his conviction.
Significantly, Kacy, the older sister, did not exert her control over her younger
siblings until after the appellant committed the alleged offense. While it is true that Kacy
confronted Mrs. Longerbeam and demanded that she and the appellant leave the premises,
this occurred subsequently to the appellant's crime. Thus, the fact that Kacy ultimately
exercised her control over the household does not mitigate the fact that the children perceived
the appellant and Mrs. Longerbeam to be in control prior to that time.
In sum, I believe that a review of all of the evidence in the light most favorable
to the prosecution, compels the conclusion that a rational trier of fact could have found the
essential elements of the appellant's crime proved beyond a reasonable doubt. For this
reason, I would affirm the appellant's conviction. Accordingly, I respectfully dissent to the