| Robert C. Stone, Jr., Esq.|
Martinsburg, West Virginia
Attorney for the Appellant
| Debra M. H. McLaughlin, Esq.
Morgan County Prosecuting Attorney
Berkeley Springs, West Virginia
Attorney for the Appellee
This case is before this Court upon the appeal of Denver A. Youngblood, Jr. from his convictions in the Circuit Court of Morgan County, West Virginia, by a jury, of two counts of sexual assault, two counts of brandishing a firearm, one count of wanton endangerment involving a firearm and one count of indecent exposure. The convictions arose from the allegations of the State that Youngblood, in July 2000, abducted three young women and twice sexually assaulted one of them. Pursuant to the final order of the Circuit Court entered on October 3, 2003, Youngblood was directed to serve penitentiary and jail terms for a combined sentence of not less than 26 years and 90 days nor more than 60 years and 90 days. According to the Docketing Statement filed with this Court, Youngblood is currently incarcerated in the Eastern Regional Jail in Martinsburg, West Virginia.
This Court has before it the petition for appeal, all matters of record and the briefs and argument of counsel. Although appellant Youngblood brings into consideration a number of assignments of error in challenging his convictions, this Court concludes, for the reasons stated below, that those assignments are without merit. Accordingly, the final order of the Circuit Court entered on October 3, 2003, is affirmed.
Nevertheless, at the conclusion of the trial, the jury returned the following verdict: Count 1, guilty of sexual assault in the first degree, a felony, relating to the assault upon Katara N. at Youngblood's residence; Count 2, guilty of sexual assault in the second degree, a felony, relating to the assault upon Katara N. at the Pitner residence; Counts 3 and 4, guilty of brandishing a firearm, misdemeanors, relating to the waving of the revolver at Katara N. and Kimberly K. in Youngblood's vehicle; Count 5, guilty of wanton endangerment involving a firearm, a felony, relating to waiving the revolver at Wendy S. in Youngblood's vehicle; and Count 6, guilty of indecent exposure, a misdemeanor, relating to the sexual assaults upon Katara N.
Thereafter, the Circuit Court denied appellant Youngblood's post-trial motions and pursuant to the order of October 3, 2003, sentenced Youngblood to: (1) 15 to 35 years for sexual assault in the first degree, (2) 10 to 25 years for sexual assault in the second degree, (3) 1 year each for the brandishing and wanton endangerment convictions and (4) 90 days for the indecent exposure conviction. The sentences were ordered to be served consecutively, except for the brandishing and wanton endangerment convictions. Those counts were ordered to be served concurrently with each other but consecutively with the other convictions.
The appeal to this Court was granted in June 2004.
In Dennis, this Court affirmed the
ruling of the trial court and stated:
After carefully reviewing the record, we cannot say that the trial court abused its discretion in finding that the prior acts constituted intrinsic evidence, not subject to Rule 404(b) analysis. While the acts were not part of a single criminal episode or necessary preliminaries to the charged offenses, it is difficult to conclude that the evidence was not necessary to complete the story of the crimes on trial or otherwise provide context to the crimes charged.
_ W.Va. at _ , 607 S.E.2d at 458.
In so holding, this Court, in Dennis, relied, in part, upon syllabus point 1 of State v. Spicer, 162 W.Va. 127, 245 S.E.2d 922 (1978), which holds: Other criminal act evidence admissible as part of the res gestae or same transaction introduced for the purpose of explaining the crime charged must be confined to that which is reasonably necessary to accomplish such purpose. State v. Hutchinson, 215 W.Va. 313, 321, 599 S.E.2d 736, 744 (2004); syl. pt. 4, State v. Hager, 204 W.Va. 28, 511 S.E.2d 139 (1998); syl. pt. 2, State v. McGhee, 193 W.Va. 164, 455 S.E.2d 533 (1995). In Hutchinson, this Court held that Rule 404(b) did not apply where the other bad acts of the defendant, which included threatening to kill various people shortly before the fatal shooting of the victim, constituted intrinsic
evidence and were admitted to complete the story culminating in the victim's death. 215 W.Va. at 321, 599 S.E.2d at 744. (See footnote 6)
Here, the other act of appellant Youngblood cannot be viewed in isolation. Youngblood's alleged pointing of the revolver at Pitner precipitated from Kimberly K. and Wendy S. knocking on the bedroom door and stating that Pitner was leaving in the vehicle. As indicated above, both Kimberly and Wendy saw the revolver in Youngblood's possession as he then left the bedroom. Thereafter, Youngblood allegedly used the revolver in the presence of the three women to prevent Pitner from driving away. Pitner did not testify at trial, and it is, therefore, unknown what his intent was in attempting to leave the Youngblood residence. Nevertheless, after Youngblood stopped Pitner, the five ultimately drove to Pitner's residence where, according to the evidence of the State, Katara was sexually assaulted for the second time.
Manifestly, the testimony of the pointing of the revolver at Pitner was reasonably necessary within the meaning of State v. Spicer, supra, to help explain the events resulting in the indictment against Youngblood. The testimony served to complete the story of an extended criminal transaction. Consequently, Rule 404(b) did not apply, and the Circuit Court's admission of the testimony concerning the pointing of the revolver at Pitner was protected by the parameters of sound discretion. Parker v. Knowlton Construction Company, 158 W.Va. 314, 329, 210 S.E.2d 918, 927 (1975). (See footnote 7)
The Circuit Court indicated that it also
had no previous knowledge that the stun belt was to be employed. Nevertheless,
the Court ruled that Youngblood would be required to wear the stun belt during
the voir dire process because: (1) a large number of people had reported for
jury service, and space in the courtroom was limited, (2) the stun belt was underneath
Youngblood's jacket and not readily apparent to those in the courtroom and (3)
in addition to the charges set for trial, Youngblood was facing a felony murder
charge in an
unrelated case. The Circuit Court further ruled, however, that Youngblood would
not be required to wear the stun belt during the remainder of the trial. (See
footnote 9) As the Circuit Court explained:
First of all, we became aware of it this morning when [the bailiff] . . . described that this was a part of his security packet this morning. * * * [Youngblood] is wearing a nice dark business suit and a tie and white shirt, and I understand the procedure outlined to me by [the bailiff], he was allowed to come to the courtroom just with you [his counsel] so that he would not project any degree of custody. * * * [T]his use of this stun belt in that limited setting, I believe, is very justifiable just given the crush of the public and the fact that everybody is intermingling and that the voir dire box is right next to the seat of the defendant, and persons walk right through the heart of the well of the court. * * * [Youngblood] is faced with not only this prosecution, which is two counts of first degree sexual assault which carry with them upon conviction heavy penalties, he also stands charged and pending trial for a count of felony murder [.] * * * So it was very much a crush of people and a very busy morning [during voir dire], yet the defendant was able to be there totally unimpeded by any security measures that would be obvious to any observer. I could see no sign of a security device upon the person of the defendant. I am sure none of the jurors were able to ascertain as much. (See footnote 10)
When the number of people in the courtroom substantially lessened following the voir dire process, the Circuit Court ruled that Youngblood would not be required to wear the stun belt during the remainder of the trial.
Syllabus point 3 of State v. Brewster, 164 W.Va. 173, 261 S.E.2d 77 (1979), states: A criminal defendant has the right, absent some necessity relating to courtroom security or order, to be tried free of physical restraints. Syl., State v. Holliday, 188 W.Va. 321, 424 S.E.2d 248 (1992); syl. pt. 2, State v. Billups, 179 W.Va. 353, 368 S.E.2d 723 (1988); syl. pt. 1, State v. McKinney, 178 W.Va. 200, 358 S.E.2d 596 (1987). As the opinion in Brewster states:
It cannot be doubted that physical restraints on a defendant at trial may create a substantial prejudice against him. Not only may physical restraints suggest to the jury that the defendant is a dangerous and violent person, but they may also suggest that he has engaged in past criminal acts and may lead the jury to infer that he is capable of having committed the crime for which he is being tried.
164 W.Va. at 180, 261 S.E.2d at 81-82.
On the other hand, as long recognized, the use of physical restraints or other security precautions, not ordinarily required during a criminal trial, may be warranted in certain circumstances where the safety of the participants and the public would otherwise be compromised. The employment of such restraints and precautions rests within the sound discretion of the circuit court, subject to this Court's admonitions in the past that the circuit court conduct an evidentiary hearing, in advance of trial, to determine whether the circumstances of the case justify greater than normal security measures. In Brewster, for example, this Court remanded the case to the trial court for an evidentiary hearing to determine if there were sufficient facts to warrant trying the defendant in handcuffs. 164 W.Va. at 183, 261 S.E.2d at 83. See also, syl. pt. 3, State v. Allah Jamaal W., 209 W.Va. 1, 543 S.E.2d 282 (2000), holding that whether to physically restrain a witness for the defendant at trial is within the discretion of the circuit court; State v. Holliday, supra, discussing when physical restraints are justified and emphasizing the role of the evidentiary hearing; and syl. pt. 6, State v. Peacher, 167 W.Va. 540, 280 S.E.2d 559 (1981), recognizing circuit court discretion concerning courtroom security and holding that an evidentiary hearing should be conducted in that regard.
In State v. Linkous, 177 W.Va. 621, 355 S.E.2d 410 (1987), prospective jurors were in the courtroom just before the beginning of the defendant's murder trial. The defendant arrived in the courtroom handcuffed to another prisoner, and the handcuffs were taken off. Consequently, the defendant's attorney moved for a new jury panel, asserting that the existing panel would be prejudiced by having seen the defendant in handcuffs. The trial court in Linkous, however, denied the motion. Upon appeal, this Court affirmed, noting as follows:
This case involves only an initial appearance in handcuffs which were removed shortly after he was brought into the courtroom. Most courts that have dealt with this question conclude that ordinarily it is not reversible error nor grounds for a mistrial to proceed to try a criminal defendant with a jury panel that may have seen him in handcuffs for a brief period of time prior to trial. (citations omitted)
177 W.Va. at 624, 355 S.E.2d at 413. Tracking the above language, syllabus point 2 of Linkous holds: Ordinarily, it is not reversible error nor grounds for a mistrial to proceed to try a criminal defendant with a jury panel that may have seen him in handcuffs for a brief period of time prior to trial. State v. Carey, 210 W.Va. 651, 658, 558 S.E.2d 650, 657 (2001); State v. Billups, supra, 179 W.Va. at 355-56, 368 S.E.2d at 725-26.
In the case now to be determined, we are concerned that neither Youngblood's counsel nor the prosecutor nor the Judge were told by law enforcement personnel prior to the proceedings that Youngblood would be wearing the stun belt. Although Youngblood's counsel stated to the Circuit Court that his client's suit jacket appeared to be somewhat puffed out, the record indicates that the presence of the stun belt was first made known through the disclosure of the bailiff immediately prior to voir dire. Such undisclosed actions by law enforcement personnel undermine the authority of a circuit court to exercise its discretion upon the necessity of the physical restraint in judicial proceedings before it. As this Court noted in State v. Peacher, supra, the discretion concerning the employment of physical restraints and various security precautions during a criminal trial is the court's and must be exercised, not delegated 167 W.Va. at 560, 280 S.E.2d at 573. Moreover, as this Court said in Brewster: Since the preliminary decision to use physical restraints is ordinarily made by the custodial authorities, the State must share the burden of advising the court on this issue in advance of the trial, so that a proper record can be made. 164 W.Va. at 182 n. 5, 261 S.E.2d at 82 n. 5.
Nevertheless, without compromising the above principles, this Court is of the opinion that the circumstances herein do not warrant the granting of relief to appellant Youngblood. Here, after conducting two in camera hearings, the Circuit Court concluded that Youngblood would wear the stun belt during the voir dire process and not during the remainder of the trial. In so ruling, the Circuit Court did not simply adopt the plan of the custodial authorities. Instead, the Court placed upon the record: (1) a description of Youngblood's clothing, (2) the Court's observation that the stun belt was not readily apparent under his suit jacket and (3) the fact that Youngblood was facing an unrelated charge of felony murder in addition to the charges for which he was indicted in this case.
Moreover, the Circuit Court stated on the record that Youngblood entered the courtroom without shackles and without law enforcement officers in close proximity to him and that, therefore, the stun belt had served to preclude the jury from making improper inferences about Youngblood in terms of the security measures utilized at trial. Finally, the Circuit Court commented, at length, about the relative smallness of the courtroom where the trial would be conducted and the security problems it posed in the face of 68 individuals reporting for jury service that morning plus other individuals present that day.
Although an evidentiary hearing should have been conducted as requested by Youngblood's counsel, this Court concludes that, in view of the reasons set forth by the Circuit Court during the in camera hearings, the limited wearing of the stun belt herein did not rise to the level of an abuse of the Circuit Court's discretion. Accordingly, this assignment of error is without merit. (See footnote 11)
Syl. pt. 8, State v. Young, 173 W.Va. 1, 311 S.E.2d 118 (1983). See
also, W.Va. R. Evid. 901 concerning authentication and identification of
The next assignment concerns the Circuit Court's limits on Youngblood's cross- examination of Katara N. with regard to her psychological counseling records. Specifically, in 2002, Katara received counseling services from psychologist Bridget Magnetti at Eastridge Health Systems in Martinsburg, West Virginia. The Circuit Court reviewed the records in camera, and disclosed portions of the material to the State and Youngblood's counsel. Youngblood's counsel then moved that he be permitted to cross-examine Katara from the records to show: (1) that, to receive attention, she once lied to her boyfriend by telling him that she was pregnant, (2) that she had worked as an exotic dancer and (3) that she had a history of displaying manipulative behavior. In addition, Youngblood's counsel expressed his intent to call Ms. Magnetti during the trial to testify that Katara's manipulative behavior was the result of a mental disorder.
When Katara N. took the stand, the Circuit Court allowed Youngblood's counsel, on cross-examination, to bring out testimony concerning the faking of the pregnancy. However, the Circuit Court ruled that no cross-examination of Katara would be permitted as to her working as an exotic dancer or as to her history of manipulative behavior as reflected in the counseling records. Moreover, the Circuit Court ruled that Youngblood would not be permitted to call Bridget Magnetti as a witness because Ms. Magnetti had never specifically diagnosed Katara with any disorder relating to manipulative behavior.
Syllabus point 4 of State v. Carduff, 142 W.Va. 18, 93 S.E.2d 502 (1956), holds: The extent of the cross-examination of a witness is a matter within the sound discretion of the trial court; and in the exercise of such discretion, in excluding or permitting questions on cross-examination, its action is not reviewable except in case of manifest abuse or injustice. Syl. pt. 12, State v. McIntosh, 207 W.Va. 561, 534 S.E.2d 757 (2000); syl. pt. 1, State v. Allman, 182 W.Va. 656, 391 S.E.2d 103 (1990). See also, W.Va. R. Evid. 611.
Here, the evidence indicates that Katara N. did not become an exotic dancer until two years after the alleged offenses in this case occurred. Therefore, evidence of her exotic dancing was irrelevant and would, possibly, have been prejudicial at trial. Moreover, as the Circuit Court stated, no specific diagnosis of any disorder relating to Katara's alleged manipulative behavior had ever been made. Thus, there was no basis upon which to cross- examine Katara from her counseling records, or to call Ms. Magnetti as a witness, on that point. As the brief of the State filed with this Court states: Katara [N.'s] mental health records only contained information regarding a counseling course, with no actual diagnosis which might affect Katara [N.'s] credibility contained within those records [.]
Consequently, this Court finds no error with regard to Youngblood's contentions relating to Katara N.'s counseling records. (See footnote 12)
Youngblood also assigns as error the failure of the Circuit Court to grant his motion for a judgment of acquittal with regard to Count 2 which charged sexual assault in the second degree. As W.Va. Code, 61-8B-4 (1991), states, in part, a person is guilty of sexual assault in the second degree when such person engages in sexual intercourse or sexual intrusion with another person without the person's consent, and the lack of consent results from forcible compulsion [.] The phrase forcible compulsion is defined in W.Va. Code, 61-8B- 1 (2000), as including: Threat or intimidation, expressed or implied, placing a person in fear of immediate death or bodily injury to himself or herself or another person or in fear that he or she or another person will be kidnapped [.] Here, the offense of sexual assault in the second degree allegedly occurred in a bedroom at the Pitner residence.
According to Youngblood, the State relied
upon the theory that he forced Katara N. to perform oral sex upon him at the
Pitner residence by threatening not to drive her home. Youngblood asserts that
that evidence, even if true, was not sufficient to sustain his conviction under
Count 2 because such a threat cannot constitute forcible compulsion as
a matter of law.
Appellant Youngblood, however, inaccurately describes the State's theory. In comments made to the Circuit Court during the trial and in final argument, the prosecutor argued that forcible compulsion under Count 2 was shown, not only by evidence that Youngblood threatened not to drive Katara home, but also by evidence that Katara was aware throughout the events in question that Youngblood had a revolver. Katara specifically testified that, in addition to seeing the weapon earlier, Youngblood had the revolver out while at the Pitner residence. Thus, this Court is of the opinion that, considering the presence of the weapon in addition to the threat not to drive Katara home, the evidence of the State concerning forcible compulsion was sufficient with regard to Youngblood's conviction of sexual assault in the second degree.
As syllabus point 1 of State v. Guthrie, 194 W.Va. 657, 461 S.E.2d 163 (1995), states:
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.
Syl. pt. 2, State v. Rogers, 209 W.Va. 348, 547 S.E.2d 910 (2001). See also, syl. pt. 1, State v. Jackson, 215 W.Va. 188, 597 S.E.2d 321 (2004).
The final assignment of error raised by appellant Youngblood concerns the failure of the Circuit Court to grant him a new trial based upon newly discovered evidence.
Following the trial, Youngblood's investigator uncovered the existence of a one-page, handwritten note apparently left at the Pitner residence by one or more of the three women. The note, addressed to Joseph Pitner, is full of obscenities and states that the women vandalized certain items in the Pitner home. The note says, for example, that detergent was poured in the milk and that unclean material was put in the ice cream. In the margin of the note was a statement to appellant Youngblood indicating that Katara said thanks for the oral sex performed upon her (in contrast to, as the State's evidence suggested, the oral sex performed upon Youngblood). According to Youngblood, the note was exculpatory, would have influenced the jury and should have warranted the granting of a new trial.
In September 2003, the Circuit Court conducted
an evidentiary hearing concerning the note and concluded that it was, in effect,
impeachment evidence which would not justify the granting of a new trial. Specifically,
the Circuit Court stated that the apparent purpose of the note was to insult
Pitner and Youngblood and that its import was not exculpatory with regard to
Youngblood's actions toward Katara N. As the Circuit Court stated: The
Court would however in looking at the note not see it as an act of gratitude
or thankfulness for receipt of sexual attention but sees it as rather a spiteful
or vindictive act or in this rather bitter irony a get-back for an offense is
what the note appears to read.
A review of the record confirms that the author of the note was never determined. Inasmuch as it refers to Katara N. in the third-person, the note was apparently written by either Kimberly K. or Wendy S., or both. Nor, contrary to the note, does the record contain evidence suggesting that Youngblood performed oral sex upon Katara N. Accordingly, this Court cannot say that the Circuit Court abused its discretion in denying Youngblood a new trial upon the basis of the note. As stated in the syllabus point of State v. Frazier, 162 W.Va. 935, 253 S.E.2d 534 (1979):
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 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 Point 1, Halstead v. Horton, 38 W.Va. 727, 18 S.E. 953 (1894) [overruled, in part, on other grounds in State v. Bragg, 140 W.Va. 585, 87 S.E.2d 689 (1955)].
Syl. pt. 1, State v. Crouch, 191 W.Va. 272, 445 S.E.2d 213 (1994); syl. pt. 1, State v. O'Donnell, 189 W.Va. 628, 433 S.E.2d 566 (1993).