THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE CITY OF CHARLOTTESVILLE Richard E.
P. Joyce (Snook & Haughey, P.C., on brief), for
Rosemary V. Bourne, Senior Assistant Attorney General (Mark
R. Herring, Attorney General, on brief), for appellee.
Present: Chief Judge Decker, Judges Petty and Huff Argued at
A. HUFF, JUDGE
Michael Ramos ("appellant") appeals his conviction
for malicious wounding in violation of Code § 18.2-51
for his participation in a fight at the disturbances arising
out of the "Unite the Right" rally in
Charlottesville. After a jury trial in the Circuit Court for
the City of Charlottesville, the jury convicted appellant,
and the trial court sentenced him to six years'
imprisonment in accordance with the jury's recommended
raises three assignments of error. First, he argues the trial
court erred by not excusing, for cause, jurors who were aware
that another defendant was convicted the prior day for a
malicious wounding of the same victim in the same incident.
Second, he argues the trial court erred by denying his motion
to change venue. Third, he argues the trial court erred in
denying his motion to strike because the evidence was
insufficient to prove he acted with the requisite malice.
Court disagrees with appellant's assertions. First, this
Court declines to create a per se rule requiring a
trial court to strike those familiar with another
defendant's conviction. Second, appellant waived his
change of venue claim by failing to renew it after a jury was
empaneled. Third, a single punch to the head is a significant
enough attack from which the jury could infer malice when the
blow was struck after the victim was already on the ground
having been repeatedly struck by a mob of individuals.
Court considers 'the evidence presented at trial in the
light most favorable to the Commonwealth, the prevailing
party below.'" Hawkins v. Commonwealth, 64
Va.App. 650, 652 (2015) (quoting Bolden v.
Commonwealth, 275 Va. 144, 148 (2008)). So viewed the
evidence is as follows:
August 12, 2017, several white-supremacist groups held the
"Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville. Deandre
Harris, the victim of the malicious wounding, gathered with
several friends in the area and joined a group of
counter-protesters. After several hours of conflict- before
the rally was scheduled to start-between rally participants
and the counter-protestors, the police ordered everyone to
participants and counter-protesters headed back toward the
parking garages, Harris observed an acquaintance in a dispute
over a flag. Believing his acquaintance was about to be
stabbed with the flagpole, Harris intervened and struck the
flagpole with a Maglite flashlight he had been given earlier
in the morning. Harris was pepper sprayed. A general melee
broke out. As Harris stumbled away, he was struck. The group
of people fighting moved away from him. Harris staggered to
his feet and ended up surrounded again. At least three
individuals other than appellant struck Harris. One used
poles; one used a large stick of wood like a 2" x
4"; and another used a shield. Several of them, and a
few others, kicked him at the same time. Harris fell to the
ground. Appellant joined the fray. He had a shirt wrapped
around his fist and might have had an object in his hand
concealed by the shirt. He wound up with his fist and struck
Harris while Harris was still on the ground. Harris then got
up and ran away with a bloody face, stumbling as he went.
was indicted for malicious wounding in violation of Code
§ 18.2-51. Before trial, he moved for a change of venue.
He argued the publicity and public outcry over the violent
events of that day made it impossible for him to receive a
fair trial before an impartial jury. The trial court declined
to grant the motion before jury selection, taking the motion
under advisement and inviting appellant to renew his motion
during voir dire. Appellant never renewed the motion
or further requested a ruling on the motion. After the jury
had been sworn and the first witness had testified, the
Commonwealth noted that the motion for a change of venue had
not been finally ruled on, and the trial court then denied
Goodwin, the individual with the shield who participated in
attacking Harris, was tried on the two days immediately
before appellant's trial. Goodwin was found guilty of
malicious wounding and sentenced to ten years'
imprisonment. See Goodwin v. Commonwealth, ___
Va.App. ___, ___ (Nov. 12, 2019). During voir dire
in appellant's trial, it was discovered that some in the
venire were aware, to varying extents, of Goodwin's
conviction. One potential juror, R.A., saw a headline about
Goodwin's conviction, but did not read the story.
Another, M.W., knew Goodwin was convicted and sentenced to
ten years' imprisonment, but did not know the charge on
which he was convicted. The potential juror who knew the
most, L.T., stated he knew the previous defendant was