THE COURT OF APPEALS OF VIRGINIA
PRESENT: Lemons, C.J., Goodwyn, Mims, McClanahan, Powell, and
Kelsey, JJ., and Russell, S.J.
CHARLES S. RUSSELL, SENIOR JUSTICE
appeal presents the question whether, in a homicide case, the
jury was improperly instructed on the issue of intent.
accordance with familiar principles of appellate review, the
facts will be stated in the light most favorable to the
Commonwealth, the prevailing party at trial. Scott v.
Commonwealth, 292 Va. 380, 381, 789 S.E.2d 608, 608
(2016) (citing Baldwin v. Commonwealth, 274 Va. 276,
278, 645 S.E.2d 433, 433 (2007)).
Thomas Howsare lived alone in his house in Stafford County.
His nephew, William Conner, Jr., lived nearby and had a good
relationship with him. Conner frequently helped Howsare
around the house and ran errands for him. On the evening of
January 19, 2014, Howsare asked Conner to return an air
mattress to a store from which it had been purchased. Connor
agreed to go and, with his girlfriend, Cheyanne Henry, took
the mattress to the store. They were unsuccessful in
returning it because the store refused to accept it from
them, insisting on Howsare's personal presence to make
the exchange. Conner and Henry began driving back to
Howsare's house and called him, telling him of the
problem and that they were coming to pick him up. Howsare
responded, "Like hell you are" and hung up. Conner
called him back and Howsare made it clear he did not want to
go. An argument ensued in which Howsare told Conner that he
"was going to hurt" him. Neither Connor nor Henry
took the threat seriously. They continued to the house,
parked Conner's truck and walked up onto the front porch.
Finding the door locked, Conner knocked and called on Howsare
to come out. Howsare had been drinking. He refused to come
out and an argument ensued through the closed door, in which
Howsare told Conner that he had a gun, that it was loaded and
that he was going to shoot Conner. Conner told Henry to
return to the truck, which she did. Conner continued pounding
on the door. Henry, from the truck, heard the door open
followed by three to five gunshots and a sound of breaking
looked back at the door and saw Howsare standing there with a
gun in his hand. She saw Conner stagger off the front porch
and fall on the ground. She called to Conner but he made no
reply. She ran down the driveway and called 911 on her cell
phone. When the police arrived, they determined that Conner
was dead. He was lying on his back about 25 feet from the
house, with gunshot wounds in his shoulder and abdomen. An
autopsy later revealed that the shoulder wound had been the
cause of death, having passed laterally through the lungs and
heart. The police investigation also indicated that the front
door had been open when the shots were fired, but they had
passed through an outer storm door, shattering the glass.
entering the house, the police tried unsuccessfully to
communicate with Howsare by telephone and by a public-address
system. They then broke in through a side window and saw him
directly ahead of them, sitting in a bathroom and pointing a
gun at them. They shouted at him to drop the gun and step
outside. He complied.
later interviewed by a detective at the sheriff's office,
Howsare stated that he told Conner over the phone to
"[c]all it a day, " to "[c]all it good"
and to just leave him alone. With regard to the shooting, he
said that he had "pulled the trigger on a .357 four or
five times" but that "there was no intent to maim,
to hurt, just go away." He said that he "just
wanted to go to bed" but that Conner "just kept
pounding on the door" and that Howsare "just kind
of snapped." He said that he had "shot high"
as he fired. The detective testified that when told that
Conner was dead, Howsare "acted shocked."
was indicted by a Stafford County grand jury for first-degree
murder, aggravated malicious wounding, and use of a firearm
during the commission of a felony. Tried by a jury, he was
convicted of second-degree murder, aggravated malicious
wounding, and use of a firearm during the commission of a
felony. At the conclusion of the trial, in accordance with
the jury verdict, the court entered judgment imposing a total
sentence of 28 years' incarceration.
trial, the Commonwealth offered a proposed jury instruction
that read: "Intent is the purpose formed in a
person's mind which may, and often must, be inferred from
the facts and circumstances of a particular case. The state
of mind of the defendant may be shown by his acts and
conduct." Defense counsel objected on the grounds that
it was not a model jury instruction and was an incomplete
statement of the law because it failed to mention inferences
that could be drawn from the defendant's statements.
Overruling the objection to the instruction, the court
granted it as Instruction 7. Without objection, the court
also granted Instruction 20, which read: "The statements
presented to you as having been made by the defendant are
submitted for your consideration along with all the other
evidence. The weight, value, credibility and reliability of
those statements are questions for your determination."
Also, over Howsare's objection but not assigned as error
on appeal, the court granted Instruction 6, which reads
"You may infer that every person intends the natural and
probable consequences of his acts."
appeal to the Court of Appeals was unsuccessful. Howsare
v. Commonwealth, Record No. 0106-15-4, slip op. at 1
(Sept. 21, 2015) (unpublished). He petitioned this Court for
an appeal, asserting eight assignments of error. We awarded
him an appeal limited to his ...