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Criminal Practice – Lynching & Conspiracy – Directed Verdict Motion – Standard of Review

By: Teresa Bruno, Opinions Editor//August 14, 2015

Criminal Practice – Lynching & Conspiracy – Directed Verdict Motion – Standard of Review

By: Teresa Bruno, Opinions Editor//August 14, 2015

State v. Larmand (Lawyers Weekly No. 010-098-15, 7 pp.) (Jean Hoefer Toal, C.J.) (Costa Pleicones, J., concurring in the result only without separate opinion) Appealed from York County Circuit Court (William Seals Jr., J.) On writ of certiorari to the Court of Appeals. S.C. S. Ct.

Holding: The state presented substantial circumstantial evidence that defendant and his brother-in-law agreed to assault the victim. Our Court of Appeals misapplied the standard of review when, instead of considering the evidence in the light most favorable to the state, it primarily cited to defendant’s and his brother-in-law’s testimony.

We reverse the Court of Appeals’ reversal of the trial court’s denial of defendant’s motion for a directed verdict.

The state demonstrated that (1) defendant and his brother-in-law, Leo Lemire, lived approximately 90 minutes’ drive away from the victim’s house; (2) defendant and Lemire arrived at the victim’s neighborhood late at night, unannounced; (3) defendant and Lemire wore all-black clothing; (4) defendant and Lemire parked their vehicle more than one-quarter mile away from the victim’s house, facing the sole entrance and exit to the neighborhood, despite ample street parking near the victim’s house; (5) defendant and Lemire approached the victim’s house on foot, rather than conducting a “drive by” to look for incriminating evidence of the victim’s involvement in a scheme to defraud defendant’s business (and the victim’s former employer), such as a magnetic sign on the victim’s vehicle; (6) defendant was “edgy” and “agitated” when he approached the victim’s house, and he stood and stared silently at the victim and his neighbors; (7) defendant broke off arguing with and pushing the victim to observe Lemire’s approach from an adjoining vacant, darkened lot; (8) Lemire approached defendant and the victim a mere one minute after the victim’s neighbors departed, despite parking at least one-quarter mile away; (9) Lemire approached from a vacant, darkened lot rather than from the lit street or sidewalk; (10) upon his approach, Lemire immediately pointed the gun at the victim and drew the hammer of the gun back; (11) Lemire told the victim, “This is what you get when you f*** with my family,” and later during the altercation refused to let go of his gun because the victim was “f’ing with [his] family;” (12) defendant never confronted Lemire or tried to get him to lower the weapon or return to their vehicle; and (13) defendant and Lemire sped away without illuminating their vehicle’s headlights.

Although defendant presented plausible explanations for each of these facts, our duty is not to weigh the plausibility of the parties’ competing explanations. Given our deferential standard of review, we find the state presented sufficient circumstantial evidence of premeditation and a common plan or scheme such that the trial judge properly denied defendant’s motion for a directed verdict.

Accordingly, the court of appeals erred in reversing defendant’s convictions.


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