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Commonwealth v. Bass

Supreme Court of Virginia

June 2, 2016

COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA
v.
JAYVON LARTAY BASS

          FROM THE COURT OF APPEALS OF VIRGINIA.

         For COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA, Appellant: ROSEMARY VIRGINIA BOURNE, (ESQ.), MARK RANKIN HERRING, (ESQ.).

         For JAYVON LARTAY BASS, Appellee: JOAN JACQUELINE BURROUGHS, (ESQ.).

          OPINION

         PRESENT: All the Justices

         WILLIAM C. MIMS, JUSTICE.

         In this appeal, we consider whether the Court of Appeals misapplied the ends of justice exception to Rule 5A:18 and erroneously reversed the defendant's conviction due to a variance between the indictments and the evidence presented at trial. We also consider whether the Court of Appeals erred when it declined to address the defendant's challenge to the sufficiency of the Commonwealth's evidence after reversing the defendant's conviction.

         I. BACKGROUND AND MATERIAL PROCEEDINGS BELOW

         A. Pretrial Background

         City of Richmond police obtained warrants charging Jayvon Lartay Bass with the robberies of Videll Smith and Freddie Brown (" Brown" ), and the attempted robbery of Irving Smith.[1] These crimes arose out of a home invasion occurring on September 2, 2013.

         The General District Court of the City of Richmond certified these charges to a grand jury. The grand jury subsequently returned indictments charging Bass with the robberies of Irving Smith and Brown, and the attempted robbery of Videll Smith, thereby transposing the first names of the victims from the warrants. The grand jury also returned three indictments charging Bass with using a firearm in the commission of these felonies.

         Thereafter, Bass was tried for these offenses by a jury. During the arraignment, the court informed Bass that he was charged with the robberies of Irving Smith and Brown, and the attempted robbery of Videll Smith, as well as with three counts of using a firearm in the commission of these felonies.

         B. Testimony at Trial

         Videll testified that he was at his residence in Richmond on September 2, 2013. Videll's roommates, " Pops" and Irving, as well as two friends, Brown and William Ross (" Ross" ), were also at the residence.[2] At some point, the circuit breaker tripped, interrupting the air conditioning, and Videll went outside to reset the breaker. Outside, he encountered Bass, whom he had met the previous day during a game of cards at the residence. Bass asked to speak with Pops, and Videll let Bass inside.

         Videll then went back to his bedroom. Shortly after, he heard a " commotion" and came out into the common area. He immediately saw a masked man holding Brown at gunpoint while Bass moved throughout the rooms. The gunman directed Videll and Brown to stand together against a wall, and demanded their wallets. Brown handed over his wallet, and then Bass accompanied Videll to his bedroom to retrieve his wallet. Bass took Videll's wallet, which contained $85 and his identification cards, and left the residence. After Bass left, the gunman told Videll to go outside and look for Pops, who had escaped as the home invasion began, which provided an opportunity for Videll to call the police.

         Brown testified he was at the residence " socializing" with Pops and William Ross. He observed Bass enter the house while talking on his cell phone and ask to speak with Pops. Shortly thereafter, a masked gunman entered the house and began demanding money. Brown attempted to escape, but slipped, at which point Videll and Irving came out of their bedrooms. While the gunman was distracted by Brown, Pops and Ross managed to get out through the back door. The gunman ordered the three remaining men to sit at the table while Bass went through the rooms. Then, the gunman demanded money from the three men, and Brown gave the gunman approximately $45, while Bass went with Videll to get his wallet from his bedroom. The gunman sent Videll outside, then Bass left, and the gunman left soon after.

         Irving Smith testified that he was awakened by the sound of chairs being turned over and the back door opening. He came out of his bedroom and saw Brown, a masked gunman, and Bass in the common area of the residence. The gunman directed him to empty his pockets, but he did not have anything. The gunman told him to sit down, then Bass left through the front door, and the gunman followed soon after.

         Detective Derrick Longoria testified that he responded to the scene. After interviewing the witnesses, he compiled a photo lineup that he showed to Videll the following day. Videll identified Bass in the lineup as the individual who had taken his wallet. When Detective Longoria interviewed Bass, he denied ever being at the residence.

         At the close of the Commonwealth's case, Bass moved to strike " all the charges" on the ground that " there has been no evidence presented that [Bass] had known who the masked person was . . . [or that he had acted] in concert with this masked man." Bass also identified a single discrepancy in the witnesses' testimony, noting that Irving had testified the gunman's face was completely covered while the other witnesses testified the gunman's face was only partially covered. The court denied the motion to strike.

         C. Verdict ...


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