THE COURT OF APPEALS OF VIRGINIA
All the Justices
E. POWELL, JUSTICE.
Trevon Watson-Scott ("Watson-Scott") appeals the
ruling of the Court of Appeals that the evidence was
sufficient to support his murder conviction because,
according to Watson-Scott, the Commonwealth failed to prove
that he acted with malice when he fired multiple shots from a
handgun that resulted in the death of Carmella Winston
after 2:30 p.m. on October 9, 2016, Jean Redwood
("Redwood"), Winston's mother, left her home
with Winston and Winston's three children to run some
errands. Redwood drove her car with Winston riding in the
passenger seat and the children in the back seat. As she
drove, Redwood saw her eldest daughter, Jewel Henry
("Henry") walking down the street. Redwood stopped
and picked her up and gave her a ride to the corner of Hill
Street and St. James Street, which was Henry's
destination. Redwood turned onto St. James Street and parked.
After about five minutes, Henry left the car and began
walking back toward Hill Street.
after Henry left the car, Redwood heard a gunshot and ducked
down. She looked up and saw glass falling off her shoulder.
When she looked at Winston, she saw that Winston had been
struck by a bullet in the corner of her eye. Redwood did not
see anyone else on the street and did not know where the shot
came from. After initially getting out of the car to yell for
help, she got back into the car, made a U-turn and drove to
the home of one of Winston's friends who lived nearby on
Hill Street. Winston subsequently died from the gunshot wound
she suffered to her head.
Moore ("Moore") was smoking marijuana in his car on
St. James Street around the time of the shooting. Moore was
parked facing north toward Hill Street and another car, which
had two men inside it, was parked in front of him.
Moore's wife, Shameek Massey ("Massey"), had
left the car to take some groceries inside. As Moore was
sitting in his car, he noticed two men with bicycles who were
walking along the opposite side of St. James Street toward
Hill Street. One of the two men was subsequently identified
as Watson-Scott; his companion was unidentified.
he noticed the two men, Moore looked down at his phone.
Approximately one minute later, Moore heard gunshots. He
looked up and saw Watson-Scott about 20 to 25 feet away
firing a handgun up St. James Street toward Hill Street.
Moore did not see the other man who had been walking with
Watson-Scott. Moore then got out of his car. After
Watson-Scott fired four or five shots, Moore heard him curse.
Watson-Scott then rode away on his bike. According to Moore,
aside from the two men in the car in front of him and his
wife, he did not see anyone else on the street.
was standing outside Moore's car when she heard the
gunshots. According to Massey, she saw a man firing a gun
toward Hill Street. She did not recall seeing anyone else on
the street other than Moore and the two men in the car in
front of Moore's car.
was subsequently arrested and charged with the murder of
Winston. At trial, after the Commonwealth put on its evidence
establishing that Watson-Scott was the person firing the gun,
Watson-Scott moved to strike, arguing that the Commonwealth
failed to prove malice. Specifically, Watson-Scott argued
that there was no evidence that he intended to kill Winston
and, because there was no evidence of anyone else on the
street that he was shooting at, the doctrine of transferred
intent could not apply. In response, the Commonwealth argued
that the fact that Watson-Scott intentionally fired a handgun
multiple times down a street was sufficient evidence of
malice. The trial court acknowledged that there was no
evidence that Watson-Scott was shooting at anybody, but
questioned whether an inference might be drawn from the fact
that Watson-Scott's companion was no longer present when
the shooting started. Specifically, the trial court stated:
[W]e know there was another person out there on a bicycle.
Isn't it a reasonable inference that he was shooting at
that person, cursing at that person? Is that an unreasonable
considering the matter, the trial court denied the motion to
strike, stating "I think the Commonwealth has met its
burden on malice because a deadly weapon was used and four
shots were fired." The trial court then convicted
Watson-Scott of second degree murder.
appealed the matter to the Court of Appeals, arguing that the
evidence was insufficient with regard to the element of
malice. The Court of Appeals affirmed his conviction,
reasoning that "a rational trier of fact could have
found that when appellant fired a deadly weapon multiple
times up St. James Street he was attempting to shoot a
specific person-i.e., the man with a bike who had been
walking and ...