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Commonwealth v. Perkins

Supreme Court of Virginia

April 19, 2018

Commonwealth of Virginia, Appellant,
v.
Marquez Rah-Shaun Perkins, Appellee.

          Upon an appeal from a judgment rendered by the Court of Appeals No. 1040-15-1 of Virginia.

         The trial court convicted Marquez Rah-Shaun Perkins of robbery, conspiracy to commit a felony, use of a firearm during the commission of a robbery, malicious wounding, and use of a firearm during the commission of a malicious wounding.[1] In the Court of Appeals, Perkins unsuccessfully challenged his convictions for robbery, conspiracy to commit a felony, and use of a firearm during the commission of a robbery, but he successfully challenged the sufficiency of the evidence for his convictions for malicious wounding and use of a firearm during the commission of a malicious wounding, which the Court of Appeals reversed.

         The Commonwealth appeals, arguing that the Court of Appeals erred in reversing the two convictions related to malicious wounding because a rational factfinder could infer from the evidence that Perkins attacked the victim with the requisite intent to maliciously wound him during the robbery. We agree with the Commonwealth and reverse.

         I.

         "On appeal, we review the evidence in the 'light most favorable' to the Commonwealth, the prevailing party in the trial court." Vasquez v. Commonwealth, 291 Va. 232, 236, 781 S.E.2d 920, 922 (citation omitted), cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, 137 S.Ct. 568 (2016). "Viewing the record through this evidentiary prism requires us to 'discard the evidence of the accused in conflict with that of the Commonwealth, and regard as true all the credible evidence favorable to the Commonwealth and all fair inferences to be drawn therefrom.'" Id. (quoting Bowman v. Commonwealth, 290 Va. 492, 494, 777 S.E.2d 851, 853 (2015)).

         So viewed, the evidence at trial showed that in the afternoon on March 4, 2014, Otis White, Jr. went to visit Perkins's mother at her apartment. White had known her for 35 years, but he had only known Perkins[2] for 3 to 4 months. At the time of his visit, White had "a little over five thousand dollars" in his pants pocket that he had received as "back payment from social security disability" and a "wallet with [his] ID, Social Security Card, " and a debit card that he used to cash his monthly benefits. J.A. at 8-9, 33. Perkins's mother, Perkins, Justin Williams, and "another young lady" were at the home when White arrived. Id. at 9-11. Perkins's mother was cooking, and Perkins, Williams, and the young lady were in a back room.

         After speaking briefly with Perkins's mother, White went to the back room and talked to Perkins. They discussed Perkins's dog, and Perkins asked White for $20 to buy a dog bowl. White agreed, and he "tried to reach in [his] pocket just to pull a twenty out because [he] didn't want everybody to see how much money [he] had." Id. at 12. The money in his pocket was "folded like a wallet" with "hundreds on the outside and fifties and twenties on the inside, " and when he "was pulling the twenty out, some of it came over top of [his] pocket." Id. at 12-13. Williams saw the money come out of White's pocket and then left the room for "five to ten minutes." Id. at 13. When Williams returned, he called Perkins out of the room, and they both went to the living room. About five minutes later, White left the back room to talk to Perkins's mother again, and he saw Perkins and Williams talking in the living room. When he passed them, "they stopped talking until [he] got past them" and then "started back talking again." Id. at 13-14.

         Shortly thereafter, Perkins's mother and White left to buy something at the nearby convenience store. Before leaving, White moved his money into his jacket pocket. "It was getting dusk, " and there was still some light outside. Id. at 16. At the edge of the apartment complex's parking lot, White "felt somebody walking behind [him], " and he turned around. Id. at 14. He saw Perkins "holding a pistol up in the air like he was about to hit [White], " and White smiled at Perkins who smiled back. Id. White did not think Perkins would do anything to him because he was walking with Perkins's mother. "Within five to ten seconds" after White turned back around and started walking again, Williams "hit [him] from the right on the side of [his] face." Id. at 15. "At the same time" that Williams hit White, White "got hit in the back of the head" with what he believed to be the pistol that he had just seen Perkins carrying. Id. White testified that Perkins "was on the left side" with Williams "on the right side" and that the hit to the back of his head "came from the direction" of where Perkins was standing. Id. White did not recall how many more times he was hit because he lost consciousness. When White woke up, it was dark outside, and he discovered that his money and wallet were gone. Perkins's mother, Perkins, and Williams also were gone. White was in pain. His eye had swollen shut, his ear was bleeding, and his lips were swollen. He walked to the convenience store and asked the cashier to call an ambulance.

         The ambulance came and took White to the hospital, and a report from the emergency room documented his injuries. White's "right eye [was] swollen shut" with "slightly blurry" vision and a "small laceration on [the] eye lid, " his "upper and bottom lip[s] [were] swollen" with "bleeding controlled, " and he had a "small laceration by [his] right ear lobe" with bleeding controlled. Def.'s Ex. 1, at 3 (Jan. 29, 2015). White reported being "ass[a]ulted with [a] fist" and "hit in the occipital portion of his head with an unknown object." Id. at 2-3. He complained of "facial pain, eye pain, [a] tooth feeling loose and not fitting together normally for him, " and "pain on [the] right side of [his] head." Id.

         The Commonwealth entered into evidence several pictures posted on a public Facebook profile the day after the robbery. The pictures portrayed Williams and Perkins posing with a spread of money in similar denominations to those stolen from White during the robbery and Perkins posing individually with money. In one of the photos, White identified Perkins as the man "that hit me with the gun and robbed me" and Williams as "the other guy that hit me and help[ed] Mooney rob me." Commonwealth's Ex. 1a (altering capitalization). Williams, Perkins's 15-year-old co-conspirator, also confirmed in a statement to police that he and Perkins were portrayed in the pictures and that the money came from the robbery of White. Williams also confirmed that he had seen Perkins with a firearm, but he did not specify exactly when he had seen Perkins with a firearm.

         Following a bench trial, the trial court stated that it found White's testimony "extremely compelling and credible, " J.A. at 52, and that it found the evidence sufficient to convict Perkins of malicious wounding based on White's testimony and the medical records submitted. The trial court also found the evidence sufficient to convict Perkins of robbery, conspiracy to commit a felony, use of a firearm during the commission of a robbery, and use of a firearm during the commission of a malicious wounding. The trial court sentenced Perkins to a total of 48 years of incarceration with 31 years suspended.

         Perkins appealed to the Court of Appeals, which initially denied his petition in a one-judge, per curiam order, but a three-judge panel later granted his appeal. In an unpublished opinion, the Court of Appeals affirmed Perkins's convictions for robbery, conspiracy to commit a felony, and use of a firearm during the commission of a robbery but reversed his convictions for malicious wounding and use of a firearm during the commission of a malicious wounding. The Court of Appeals found that the trial court could not "infer[] an intent to cause permanent disability" and could not find "an inference of malice on the part of [Perkins] . . . from the extent of White's injuries" because Williams also struck White "when he was rendered unconscious." Perkins v. Commonwealth, Record No. 1040-15-1, 2017 Va.App. LEXIS 10, at *14 (Jan. 17, 2017). The Commonwealth appealed this decision, and we granted the appeal limited to the question of the sufficiency of the evidence for Perkins's convictions of malicious wounding and use of a firearm during the commission of a malicious wounding.

         II.

         The Commonwealth challenges the decision of the Court of Appeals on the ground that "the Court of Appeals wrongly disregarded the trier of fact's factual finding that the defendant had acted with the requisite intent in striking the victim and rendering him unconscious during ...


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