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Taylor v. Commonwealth

Court of Appeals of Virginia

March 14, 2017

AMANDA BARBARA NICHOLE TAYLOR
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA

         FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF MONTGOMERY COUNTY Marcus H. Long, Jr., Judge

          Ryan D. Hamrick (Daniel D. Hamrick, P.C. on briefs), for appellant.

          Elizabeth Kiernan Fitzgerald, Assistant Attorney General (Mark R. Herring, Attorney General, on brief), for appellee.

          Present: Judges Humphreys, Petty and Chafin Argued at Lexington, Virginia

          OPINION

          WILLIAM G. PETTY JUDGE

         Amanda Barbara Nichole Taylor appeals her conviction of first-degree murder, arguing the trial court erred by failing to strike a juror for cause. We disagree and affirm the conviction.

         Background

         "Under well-settled principles of appellate review, we consider the evidence presented at trial in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth, the prevailing party in the circuit court." Porter v. Commonwealth, 276 Va. 203, 215-16, 661 S.E.2d 415, 419 (2008).

         During group voir dire, [1] the trial judge asked the group of potential jurors if any of them had expressed or formed any opinion as to the guilt or innocence of the accused, if any were sensible of any bias or prejudice against the parties, and if any knew any reason he or she could not give a fair and impartial trial to the parties based solely on the law and the evidence. The group answered "no" to each question. The judge asked the group if they understood that the defendant is presumed to be innocent, if they understood that the Commonwealth must prove the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and if they understood that the defendant is not required to produce evidence. The group answered "yes" to each question.

         The Commonwealth's Attorney then asked the group a series of questions, including, "[I]s there anyone that believes that they already know something about this case?" When Juror K. responded that he did, the Commonwealth's Attorney asked Juror K. if he would be willing to put aside prior knowledge and listen to what was heard in the courtroom and base his decision just on the evidence presented. Juror K. replied, "Yes."

         Subsequently, during individual voir dire, the following conversation took place involving Juror K.:

[Commonwealth's Attorney]: [Juror K.], I think you had indicated that you thought maybe you had seen or heard something about this case prior to coming here today; is that right?
Juror [K.]: Yes.
. . . .
[Commonwealth's Attorney]: Okay. And as sort of right now, based on what you heard outside of the courtroom, do you feel like you have an opinion one way or another whether the defendant would be guilty or not guilty?
Juror [K.]: Probably more leaning towards guilty, I would imagine.
[Commonwealth's Attorney]: Okay. And -
Juror [K.]: But I, I don't know enough to, you know -
[Commonwealth's Attorney]: Okay. You don't know ...

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