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Get Murder Case Nolle Prossed, But Commonwealth Doesn't Quit

I was retained to represent a client in the Richmond area on a case of first degree murder and use of a firearm. I was also hired on his other charges which were trespassing and possession of controlled substance with intent to distribute and possession with intent to distribute within 1000 feet of a school zone. The evidence in the murder case amounted to my client's DNA being found within a ring of shell casings and two jail inmates claiming my client told them he committed the murder. Once I examined the case, talked to witnesses and reviewed the file, I found evidence that Commonwealth's main witness had told police one thing and then testified completely differently at preliminary hearing. I met with the prosecutor handling the case and after I showed him how his witness lied as well as discussing other weakness in their case, the Commonwealth after consideration decided to nolle prosse or dismiss the murder and gun case.

You would think that was a great victory but the Commonwealth did not stop there. On my client' drug case we argued a motion to suppress which the court denied. We argued that the police illegally detained him and illegally searched him merely because he was in a public housing project and tried to leave when police saw him. The officer said that he was familar with my client and that he had connections to drugs but he had no basis to believe that he had a weapon. The police don't have a right to search people because they want to. The police either have to have probable cause to believe that a person had contraband on them or they have to have reasonable suspicion, which is less than probable cause, to stop a person and then separate reasonable suspicion to pat a person down for weapons. The trial court denied our motion to suppress after which he was found guilty of the charges.

Here is where the murder case and the drug cases merge. The Commonwealth because they could not prove the murder case against my client, put on evidence related to the murder at the sentencing of the drug cases. I objected and argued with the Commonwealth over the admissiblity of this evidence but the judge let it in. So in a charge completely unrelated to the drug case the judge heard evidence about a murder that the commonwealth knew they couldn't prove in court. Because of that evidence the court sentenced my client to more than six times the high end of the sentencing guidelines on the drug case.

Because of the denial of the motion to suppress, the admission of evidence that shouldn't have been admitted, and the excessive sentence, I appealed my client's case to the Court of Appeals. Under normal circumstances most appeals are denied because the appellate courts tend to uphold or affirm the decisions of the judge at trial. In this case however, they granted my appeal on the issue of the motion to suppress and allowed me to argue in front of three judges on the Court of Appeals. When a case is on appeal to the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court of Virginia, you don't get a new trial, but if you get the chance to argue in front of the judges or justices you can tell them why the trial judge was wrong and why they should do something different.

I am waiting for the result of the appeal, so I will remain hopeful.

There are a few things to take away from this scenario. If you are charged with a crime you need an experienced, focused attorney who is going to explore every avenue to get the result that you want. I was able to do that for my client in the murder case he was charged with. Another important point is that when the Commonwealth takes a personal interest in prosecuting you it is never a good thing. If the Commonwealth thinks you got away with a crime they will pull out all the stops to try and find a way to get you. You need to have a lawyer that will aggressively stand up for your rights and fight for you. In the Richmond area and beyond, I am a criminal lawyer who will fight for my clients in negotiations, at trial and if the case needs to be appealed.