THE CIRCUIT COURT OF KING GEORGE COUNTY Joseph J. Ellis,
Christopher M. Reyes (Spencer, Meyer, Koch & Cornick, on
brief), for appellant.
Christopher P. Schandevel, Assistant Attorney General (Mark
R. Herring, Attorney General, on brief), for appellee.
Present: Judges Humphreys, O'Brien and Malveaux Argued at
GRACE O'BRIEN JUDGE
Matthew Bell ("appellant") was convicted by a jury
of three felonies: attempted murder, in violation of Code
§§ 18.2-26 and 18.2-32; aggravated malicious
wounding, in violation of Code § 18.2-51.2; and use of a
firearm while attempting to commit murder or aggravated
malicious wounding, in violation of Code § 18.2-53.1. He
contends that the trial court erred by not granting his jury
instruction on justifiable self-defense.
November 2013, the victim, a confirmed member of the Black
Guerilla Family gang, was working as a confidential informant
for the King George County Sheriff's Department. The
victim was conducting controlled purchases of crack cocaine
from various people, including appellant. During this time,
the victim sent appellant a threatening text message
following a dispute. Later, on two different occasions,
appellant told the victim that he was concerned that the
victim was working with the police and had given appellant
marked money when purchasing drugs from him. Appellant last
sold drugs to the victim the week before January 15, 2014.
Commonwealth presented evidence that at approximately 4:00
p.m. on January 15, 2014 the victim was speaking to Louis
Pryor in a parking lot in front of his home when appellant
and Demetrius Smith pulled into the lot in a white SUV. The
victim concluded his conversation with Pryor and began to
walk toward his home, which required him to walk behind the
SUV. The victim testified that as he was approaching the SUV,
appellant got out of the vehicle, called him a
"bitch-ass" and fired a shot that struck the victim
in the front of his body, near his abdomen. The victim fell
face forward to the ground, and landed between the front and
rear passenger doors of the SUV. He testified that appellant
stood over him and shot him again. The bullet struck the
victim in the upper left side of his back, in the shoulder
blade. The victim heard appellant fire several other shots,
but they did not strike him. The victim testified that he did
not say anything to appellant or Smith before he was shot.
Pryor also testified that he did not hear the victim say
anything to appellant before the shooting. After he was shot,
the victim's fiancée helped the victim into their
home. The victim survived the shooting but he suffered
victim's fiancée testified that she was standing
on the front porch of their home while the victim and Pryor
were talking. She saw the victim walking toward the SUV and
observed appellant jump out of the vehicle, call the victim a
"bitch-ass, " and shoot him. The fiancée
testified that she did not see anything in the victim's
hands when he was shot and that he did not have a gun with
him when she helped him into their house after the shooting.
presented his version of the events on January 15, 2014
through his own testimony and the testimony of other nearby
witnesses. Appellant explained that the victim had repeatedly
threatened him in the past, both in person and by text
message, and had previously brandished a gun at him.
Appellant stated that on January 15, 2014, he was a passenger
in Smith's car when they arrived in the parking lot. He
testified that as he was getting out of the car, he heard
someone say "you think I'm playing, n****, "
and saw the victim approach him quickly and begin to pull a
gun out of his pocket. He said that he believed that the
victim was going to shoot him, so he protected himself by
shooting the victim twice. Appellant denied standing over the
victim and shooting him.
testified for the defense. He stated that as soon as he
parked the car, the victim ran toward the passenger side
where appellant was sitting and said "something" to
appellant. Smith stated that he heard two shots,
"back-to-back, " and then saw the victim at the top
of the stairs to his home. Smith testified that he saw the
victim throw something into his house. Smith also
corroborated appellant's statement that the victim had
threatened appellant in the months preceding the January 2014
Smith and Dietrius Roy also testified that they heard the
victim threatening appellant in late fall 2013. Another
witness, Tiffany Smith, testified that she heard the victim
talking to Pryor just before the incident. According to
Tiffany Smith, the victim told Pryor that he was "about
to go hard" against appellant because appellant thought
the victim was "playing with him." Lashaunda Smith,
Tiffany Smith, and Dietrius Roy all testified that they saw
the victim running toward the white SUV with what looked like
a rifle or some other type of gun inside his jacket.
Lashaunda Smith testified that after he was shot, the victim
"scoot[ed himself] back to his porch" and threw the
gun into his home.
rebuttal, the Commonwealth presented evidence that Lashaunda
Smith previously told Detective Joseph Patterson that she
could not say whether the victim had a gun. Detective Monty
Clifte testified that when he interviewed Demetrius Smith,
Smith did not tell him anything ...