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Jones v. Commonwealth

Court of Appeals of Virginia

December 19, 2017

ROBERT LEE JONES
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA

         FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE CITY OF PETERSBURG Joseph M. Teefey, Jr., Judge

          Charles P. Phelps for appellant.

          John I. Jones, IV, Assistant Attorney General (Mark R. Herring, Attorney General, on brief), for appellee.

          Present: Judges Decker, Malveaux and Senior Judge Clements Argued at Richmond, Virginia

          OPINION

          MARLA GRAFF DECKER JUDGE.

         Robert Lee Jones appeals his conviction for maliciously shooting at an occupied vehicle in violation of Code § 18.2-154. He argues that the Commonwealth failed to prove that he shot "at" an automobile within the meaning of the statute because he was inside that vehicle at the time of the act. For the reasons that follow, the conviction is affirmed.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On December 30, 2014, Jabari Lee was fatally shot while sitting in his sport utility vehicle. At the appellant's trial, Antoine Myler testified that he witnessed the appellant shoot Lee. According to Myler, he, the appellant, and Lee were in Lee's vehicle at the time. Investigators recovered bullets from the vehicle's driver's door window frame and the top center console.

         The appellant made a motion to strike the charge of shooting at an occupied vehicle. He argued that the Commonwealth failed to prove that he was outside of the vehicle and that shooting from within the vehicle was not a violation of Code § 18.2-154.

         The trial court denied the motion. In doing so, it relied on King v. Commonwealth, 40 Va.App. 193, 578 S.E.2d 803 (2003), reasoning that the statute focused on where the shots were directed, not where the shooter was located when he fired the weapon.

         The jury convicted the appellant of maliciously shooting at an occupied vehicle, second-degree murder, using a firearm in the commission of a felony, and shooting into a public place, in violation of Code §§ 18.2-32, -53.1, -154, and -280. In accordance with the jury's recommendations, the trial court sentenced the appellant to a total of twenty-six years in prison.

         II. ANALYSIS

         The appellant argues that the evidence did not support his conviction of maliciously shooting at an occupied vehicle because his occupancy of the vehicle that he "was alleged to have fired into precluded" his conviction under Code § 18.2-154.[1]

         On appeal, this Court reviews a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence to support a conviction under well-established legal principles. An appellate court considers the evidence in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth granting to it all reasonable inferences that flow from the evidence. Stephens v. Commonwealth, 263 Va. 58, 59-60, 557 S.E.2d 227, 228 (2002). However, the facts are not in ...


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