Mary B. McLaughlin
Assistant Attorney General
Charleston, West Virginia
Attorney for the Appellee
Kelly Gilmore Codispoti
Public Defender, Seventh Judicial Circuit
Logan, West Virginia
Attorney for the Appellant
The Opinion of the Court was delivered PER CURIAM.
JUSTICE MILLER and JUSTICE WORKMAN dissent and reserve the right to file dissenting opinions.
SYLLABUS BY THE COURT
1. "'To warrant interference with a verdict of guilt on
the ground of insufficiency of evidence, the court must be
convinced that the evidence was manifestly inadequate and that
consequent injustice has been done.' Syl. Pt. 1, in part, State v.
Starkey, 161 W.Va. 517, 244 S.E.2d 219 (1978)." Syllabus Point 1,
State v. Triplett, 187 W. Va. 760, 421 S.E.2d 511 (1992).
2. "There exists in the trial of an accused a
presumption of sanity. However, should the accused offer evidence
that he was insane, the presumption of sanity disappears and the
burden is on the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt
that the defendant was sane at the time of the offense." Syllabus
Point 2, State v. Milam, 163 W. Va. 752, 260 S.E.2d 295 (1979).
3. "When lay witnesses testify about a person's mental condition, the following factors are to be considered: (1) the witnesses' acquaintance with the person and opportunity to observe the person's behavior; (2) the time during which the observation occurred; and (3) the nature of the behavior observed." Syllabus Point 7, State v. McWilliams, 177 W.Va. 369, 352 S.E.2d 120 (1986).
Charles Walls appeals his June 19, 1992, jury conviction
in the Circuit Court of Logan County of first degree murder without
a recommendation of mercy and malicious assault. The circuit court
sentenced the defendant to life imprisonment for the murder
conviction and to a concurrent term of two-to-ten years for the
malicious assault conviction. The defendant's sole error is that
the State failed to prove his sanity beyond a reasonable doubt.
The evidence shows that on the day of the murder,
December 19, 1990, the defendant, age 36, was visiting the home of
his mother and stepfather, Charlotte and Ernest Adkins. The
defendant's sister, Diana Vance, who earlier had borrowed his car,
returned it to the Adkins' house. The defendant then offered to
take her to her house, and she agreed. They left about 6:00 p.m.
Later, the defendant returned to his mother's house where
he ate dinner, along with his brother and stepfather. They then
proceeded to the living room to watch television. The defendant
left the room and returned with a hammer, which he placed next to
the chair where he was seated. When his brother left the house,
the defendant followed him into the kitchen to say goodbye. The
defendant's mother, who had noticed him staring at his stepfather during dinner, took the hammer out of the room. She then came back
into the living room.
The defendant returned to the living room and continued
to watch television. Shortly thereafter, according to Mrs. Adkins,
the defendant went "out of his mind." He tore the phone off the
wall and hit Mr. Adkins with it. Mrs. Adkins jumped between the
defendant and Mr. Adkins. The defendant hit her and knocked her
into a door. She was momentarily dazed. Upon regaining her
senses, she discovered that the defendant had her husband down on
the floor. She jumped between them and recalled the defendant
looking at her wildly and saying "this is the son of a bitch that
killed my son."See footnote 1 He knocked his mother back against the door.
Realizing that the defendant was too strong for her, Mrs.
Adkins went to the kitchen where she got the hammer. The defendant
grabbed the hammer away from her as she was attempting to raise it.
A struggle ensued and she wrestled him to a small couch. However,
the defendant knocked Mrs. Adkins unconscious. When Mrs. Adkins
regained consciousness, she escaped through a back door and went to
the home of a neighbor, Perry Harvey. Once there, she begged him
to shoot her son in order to save her husband. Mr. Adkins died as a result of the attack, having been beaten to death with the
The defendant left the scene of the murder. The next
morning at 6:04 a.m., the defendant passed a marked Virginia state
police car while traveling south on Interstate 81. Trooper Michael
Dean Spangler of the Virginia Department of Public Safety turned on
his emergency lights and siren. The defendant gave a right-turn
signal, pulled over to the emergency lane, and slowed down to
approximately fifteen miles per hour. The defendant then gave a
left-turn signal, accelerated back onto the interstate, and waved
at the trooper.
A high speed chase ensued. Trooper Spangler chased the
defendant at an average speed of 107 miles per hour. When the
defendant became caught in traffic, he passed cars by driving on
the median or in the emergency lane. The defendant was apprehended
after he and Trooper Spangler approached tractor trailers in both
the right- and left-hand lanes. When the defendant attempted to go
around the trucks in the emergency lane, Trooper Spangler blocked
his path. The defendant attempted to drive through the median, but
drove over a culvert and wrecked.
After the wreck, Trooper Spangler approached the
defendant and found he had injured his back and knee. Trooper Spangler informed the defendant that he would be extradited to West
Virginia on a homicide charge. He then accompanied the defendant
to the hospital. Trooper Spangler testified that the defendant
responded appropriately to the questions he asked and appeared to
recognize him as a police officer.
Whether the defendant is correct in his assignment of
error that the State failed to prove sanity beyond a reasonable
doubt depends on the sufficiency of the evidence. As this Court
stated in Syllabus Point 1 of State v. Triplett, 187 W. Va. 760,
421 S.E.2d 511 (1992):
"'To warrant interference with a verdict of guilt on the ground of insufficiency of evidence, the court must be convinced that the evidence was manifestly inadequate and that consequent injustice has been done.' Syl. Pt. 1, in part, State v. Starkey, 161 W.Va. 517, 244 S.E.2d 219 (1978)."
In this jurisdiction, a presumption of sanity exists
until a defendant presents evidence of insanity. This Court has
stated in Syllabus Point 2 of State v. Milam, 163 W. Va. 752, 260
S.E.2d 295 (1979):
"There exists in the trial of an accused a presumption of sanity. However, should the accused offer evidence that he was insane, the presumption of sanity disappears and the burden is on the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was sane at the time of the offense."
At trial, the defendant introduced expert testimony that
raised the issue of insanity at the time the acts were committed.
W. Joseph Wyatt, Ph.D., a psychologist, testified to the effect
that the defendant was insane at the time of the crime and did not
appreciate his actions at the time. Dr. Wyatt diagnosed the
defendant as suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and as a drug
and alcohol abuser. He also diagnosed an antisocial personality
disorder. He did not base his finding that the defendant was not
criminally responsible on the antisocial personality disorder
Patricia Williams, M.D., a board-certified psychiatrist,
testified that the defendant suffered from paranoid schizophrenia
and was not criminally responsible due to his psychosis. She
examined the defendant while he was in Weston State Hospital.
Robert Rush, Ph.D., a court-appointed psychologist who made the
initial examination of the defendant at Weston State Hospital,
testified that he initially did not believe the defendant was
criminally responsible. However, at the time he rendered a
psychological assessment, he deferred an opinion on the defendant's
criminal responsibility and recommended a reevaluation in six
months. He did not perform the reevaluation.
The defendant also called Lilian Thambidurai, M.D., a
board-eligible psychiatrist, who did not give an opinion in regard to the defendant's sanity. Rather, Dr. Thambidurai testified about
the defendant's occasional visits at the Logan Mingo Mental Health
Center. The defendant was referred to the center following abuse
of cocaine and alcohol. When Dr. Thambidurai first saw the
defendant in January of 1988 she felt that the defendant was in
touch with reality.
Dr. Thambidurai next saw the defendant on June 7, 1989,
after his release from Huntington State Hospital. It was her
impression at that time that the defendant had suffered an acute
psychotic episode that resulted in his hospitalization at
Huntington State Hospital. He had been given two prescriptions,
one for treating a psychotic illness, the other for depression and
nervousness. At the defendant's visit on June 7, 1989, Dr.
Thambidurai believed that he was neither paranoid nor depressed.
After seeing the defendant on February 27, 1990, Dr.
Thambidurai's impression was that the defendant suffered from
alcohol abuse and depression with psychotic features. She
recommended that he continue with his two prescriptions. The
defendant was last seen by Dr. Thambidurai on April 3, 1990. He
complained of hearing voices, but she found him to be without any
overt psychosis or depression. She advised the defendant to stay
on the same medication.
Eguardo Rivera, M.D., a general practitioner, saw the
defendant on December 18, 1990, the day before the murder, at the
Logan Medical Foundation clinic. Dr. Rivera diagnosed the
defendant as suffering from depression and psychosis. During the
examination, the defendant was conversant and somewhat calm. The
defendant knew where he was and with whom he was talking. Dr.
Rivera opined there was no emergency and defendant could safely
return home. He contacted Logan Mingo Mental Health Center and an
appointment was scheduled for forty-eight hours later. Dr. Rivera
was not asked about the defendant's state of sanity at the time he
committed the crimes.
The State relies on Dr. Thambidurai's observations of the
defendant during his various visits, as well as Dr. Rivera's
observations the day before the murder, to support its claim that
there was sufficient evidence to show the defendant was sane. Even
though they did not give expert testimony on the sanity issue,
their testimony had some relevance, at least the same as that of a
The State also points to the testimony of the defendant's
sister, whom he had driven home the same evening as the murder.
She stated that he appeared normal. A neighbor, Perry Harvey, who
had known the defendant for nineteen or twenty years, testified he had frequently seen the defendant and never observed any unusual
Finally, the Virginia state trooper who arrested the
defendant testified that after the arrest the defendant seemed to
respond to his initial questioning in a normal fashion. He noticed
no unusual behavior after the arrest.
We recognized in Syllabus Point 7 of State v. McWilliams,
177 W.Va. 369, 352 S.E.2d 120 (1986), that lay persons could give
opinions as to the mental condition of a defendant:
"When lay witnesses testify about a person's mental condition, the following factors are to be considered: (1) the witnesses' acquaintance with the person and opportunity to observe the person's behavior; (2) the time during which the observation occurred; and (3) the nature of the behavior observed."
See also Syllabus Point 4, State v. Fugate, 103 W. Va. 653, 138 S.E. 318 (1927).
In this case, there were three experts who opined that
the defendant was not criminally responsible. However, Dr.
Thambidurai, who had seen the defendant on several occasions over
a two-year period, the last being April 3, 1990, determined that
the defendant did not suffer from schizophrenia. The existence of
schizophrenia was the substantial basis of the other experts' opinions that the defendant was not criminally responsible.
Furthermore, Dr. Rivera testified that the defendant appeared calm
and was conversant the day before the attack.
There were also observations from lay witnesses who
indicated that the defendant appeared normal to them. His sister
spoke about his condition immediately before the attack when he
drove her home. The Virginia state trooper gave his observation of
the defendant at the time he was arrested.
This case is not like State v. Milam, supra, where there
was no testimony that rebutted the defendant's insanity testimony.
Nor is it like State v. McWilliams, supra, where the only evidence
presented by the State consisted of several individuals who saw the
defendant for a brief period shortly before he committed the
homicide. Arrayed against this rather meager lay evidence in
McWilliams was the conclusive testimony of the defendant's
psychiatrist, Dr. Patricia Williams. She described his condition
and diagnosed him as being a paranoid schizophrenic.
Consequently, it is the opinion of this Court that in
this case there was sufficient evidence for the jury to conclude
that the defendant was sane beyond a reasonable doubt. For the
foregoing reasons, the judgment of the Circuit Court of Logan
County is affirmed.
Footnote: 1There was no evidence that the stepfather had killed the defendant's son. The defendant, who is divorced, does have a son who lives with his ex-wife.