Supreme Court dismisses possession with intent charge

The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals and dismissed the only remaining charge against [the defendant] in an opinion that was released today.

"The circuit court's finding that [the defendant] knew of the presence and character of the cocaine, without a finding that it was also subject to his dominion and control, is insufficient to support a conviction based upon constructive possession," the Court held, relying on the well-settled principle that mere proximity to a controlled substance is insufficient to establish possession. Accordingly, the Court dismissed his charge for possession of cocaine with the intent to distribute.

The defendant was initially also charged with conspiracy to possess drugs with the intent to distribute them, but that charge had been dismissed earlier by the Court of Appeals. 

The case was argued on November 2, 2017 by Matthew Stewart before the Supreme Court of Virginia at Richmond.

Read the full opinion here (opens in new window).

Court of Appeals dismisses drug indictments

In an unpublished opinion released today, the Court of Appeals dismissed multiple drug indictments on the grounds of insufficient evidence, noting that "the record contains no statements from, or actions by, [the defendant] or his co-defendants suggesting he was aware of the presence of the contraband."

The court also dismissed a conspiracy charge that was associated with the drug distribution indictment, noting "Without evidence of 'an actual agreement between two or more persons . . . , Virginia law precludes a finding that a conspiracy exists.' The record is devoid of any statements or actions to support a finding that there was an agreement between [the defendant] and any other person to distribute cocaine."

The case was argued on December 6, 2016 by Matthew Stewart before a three judge panel of of the Court of Appeals at Richmond, Virginia.

The defendant had been serving a five year sentence in connection with the now dismissed charges.

Read the full opinion here (opens in new window).

Jury reduces murder charge in Hopewell case

Article from the Progress Index (opens in new window)

After an all day trial, a Hopewell jury agreed with the defense's theory of the case, and reduced the charges and sentenced the defendant to ten years.

Joseph Crews stood charged with first degree murder for the December 2014 death of Treon Ellis. Mr. Crews did not deny to the jury that he had shot Mr. Ellis, but explained the circumstances of the death as an attempted robbery by Mr. Ellis where Mr. Crews defended himself, albeit too violently.

Matt Stewart, attorney for Mr. Crews, asked the jury to reduce the charges from first degree murder, which was not appropriate given the circumstances of the case. In the end, the jury agreed that the evidence in this case supported the story told by Mr. Crews, and reduced the charge to second degree murder. He also was convicted for the use of the firearm in the commission of the crime.

At the sentencing phase, the Commonwealth asked for the maximum punishment, which was 40 years for second degree murder and three years for use of a firearm, or 43 years total. After Mr. Crews had admitted his wrongdoing in going too far in his own defense and expressed his remorse to the jury, Mr. Stewart asked the jury to to sentence Mr. Crews to far less - seven years for second degree murder and three years for the use of a firearm.

After deliberation, the jury followed the recommendation of Mr. Stewart, sentencing Mr. Crews to a total of ten years - seven for second degree murder, and three for use of a firearm. The minimum sentence for second degree murder is five years, and the minimum sentence for use of a firearm is three years.