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Virginia Defendant Loses Appeal in Strangulation Case, Despite Argument Regarding Insufficiency of Evidence

In a recent criminal case coming out of a Virginia court, the defendant unsuccessfully appealed his conviction for strangulation. The original charges against the defendant were brought when the defendant’s girlfriend told police officers that the defendant had strangled her one morning in the shower. After being found guilty at trial, the defendant appealed, arguing the evidence left reasonable doubt as to whether he was indeed guilty of strangling his girlfriend. The higher court disagreed, and the defendant ultimately lost his appeal.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant’s girlfriend was in the shower one morning when the defendant noticed that another man had recently liked her post on Facebook. Immediately suspicious, the defendant approached his girlfriend and asked her what was going on. He then proceeded to get in the shower to choke her, yelling at her and leaving her with bruises and scratches on her body.

The defendant left the bathroom and quickly returned with a gun. He threatened to kill his girlfriend and continued to choke her. The defendant’s girlfriend tried to escape, but the defendant stopped her at the front door and began to strangle her again. Eventually, she was able to run out of the apartment and flee to a neighbor’s house, where she immediately called 911.

Police officers came to the scene and arrested the defendant for strangulation. The defendant was found guilty at trial and he promptly appealed.

The Decision

On appeal, the defendant argued that when considered in its totality, the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction of strangulation. The defendant emphasized that he had denied his girlfriend’s allegations, giving rise to doubt as to whether or not they were true. What’s more, said the defendant, there was not enough evidence to support his girlfriend’s claims, and the court of appeals should thus reverse the guilty conviction.

Upon considering the weight of all of the evidence combined, the court of appeals disagreed with the defendant. First, said the court, it was the jury’s decision whether or not to believe the defendant’s girlfriend or the defendant when their testimonies conflicted. It was not the court’s place to question the jury’s credibility in this area. In addition, the physical evidence against the defendant provided sufficient support for the guilty conviction: there were photographs depicting the bruises around the victim’s neck and medical records detailing her physical injuries.

Given this evidence, the court of appeals denied the defendant’s argument and affirmed his guilty conviction.

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