FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE CITY OF VIRGINIA BEACH. A. Bonwill Shockley, Judge.
Richard C. Clark, Senior Assistant Public Defender (Office of the Public Defender, on brief), for appellant.
David M. Uberman, Assistant Attorney General (Mark R. Herring, Attorney General, on brief), for appellee.
Present: Judges Humphreys, McCullough and Senior Judge Haley. OPINION BY JUDGE STEPHEN R. McCULLOUGH.
[64 Va.App. 169] STEPHEN R. McCULLOUGH,
Jabril Jamal Holliday, who was a juvenile at the time he committed the crimes at issue, assigns error to the trial court's failure to quash a conspiracy indictment against him. He argues that the Commonwealth cannot obtain a direct indictment for a charge that is ancillary to a first-degree murder charge after the juvenile court has certified that murder charge. We disagree and affirm.
Appellant was charged on juvenile petitions with the first-degree murder of Kody Scruton and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. On September 27, 2011, the juvenile and domestic relations district court held a transfer hearing and certified both charges to the circuit court for appellant to be tried as an adult.
On March 19, 2012, the Commonwealth obtained indictments on two conspiracy counts. Appellant filed a motion to quash these indictments. The court denied the motion, and the case proceeded to trial. Appellant was convicted of first-degree murder, use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, and conspiracy. He was sentenced to serve a total of fifty-three years in prison, with fifteen years suspended.
[64 Va.App. 170] ANALYSIS
This case presents a question of statutory construction, which we review de novo. Rivas v. Commonwealth, 51 Va.App. 507, 511, 659 S.E.2d 524, 526 (2008). We will apply the plain meaning of a statute " unless the terms are ambiguous or applying the plain language would lead to an absurd result." Boynton v. Kilgore, 271 Va. 220, 227, 623 S.E.2d 922, 926 (2006).
One of the signal reforms of the past century was the institution of juvenile courts designed to deal with the unique problems of juvenile delinquents. These courts were conceived as oriented primarily toward crime prevention and juvenile rehabilitation rather than punishment. Conkling v. Commonwealth, 45 Va.App. 518, 522, 612 S.E.2d 235, 237 (2005); see also Code § 16.1-227. Nevertheless, the General Assembly made the policy judgment that juveniles who commit certain grave crimes should be treated as adults. First-degree murder is such a crime. See Code § 16.1-269.1(B).
Code § 16.1-269.1(A) directs juvenile courts to hold a transfer hearing whenever a juvenile fourteen years of age or older at the time of the alleged offense has committed an offense that would be a felony if committed by an adult -- except as provided in subsections (B) and (C). Code § 16.1-269.1(B) requires the juvenile court to hold a preliminary hearing whenever such a juvenile is charged with, among other offenses, first-degree murder. Subsection (D) then specifies that, upon a finding of probable cause in a preliminary hearing, " the juvenile court shall certify the charge, and all ancillary charges, to the grand jury." Code § 16.1-269.1(D). " Such certification shall ...