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GILLIAM v. COMMONWEALTH




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GILLIAM

v.

COMMONWEALTH


COURT OF APPEALS OF VIRGINIA

Present: Judges Elder, Bumgardner and Senior Judge Overton

Argued at Richmond, Virginia

Record No. 2455-02-2

MARCUS GILLIAM

v.

COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA

 

MEMORANDUM OPINION[1]
BY JUDGE LARRY G. ELDER

OCTOBER 14, 2003

FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF DINWIDDIE COUNTY

James F. D’Alton, Judge

(Stephen L. Hewlett, on brief), for appellant. Appellant
submitting

on brief.

(Jerry W. Kilgore, Attorney General; John H. McLees, Senior

Assistant Attorney General, on brief), for appellee. Appellee

submitting on brief.

Marcus Gilliam (appellant) appeals from his bench trial
conviction for attempting to

deliver marijuana to a prisoner in violation of Code ??
18.2-26 and 18.2-474.1.[2]On
appeal, he

contends the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction
because testimony from credible

defense witnesses contradicted the Commonwealth’s evidence that
appellant was the only person

who had an opportunity to hide the marijuana in the men’s room
of the Dinwiddie County

Sheriff’s Office. The Commonwealth contends appellant failed to
preserve this issue for appeal.

We assume without deciding that appellant properly preserved for
appeal his challenge to the

sufficiency of the evidence but conclude the evidence supports
his conviction. Thus, we affirm.

Under familiar principles of appellate review, we must examine
the evidence in the light

most favorable to the Commonwealth, granting to it all
reasonable inferences fairly deducible

therefrom. Martin v. Commonwealth, 4 Va. App. 438, 443, 358
S.E.2d 415, 418 (1987). In

assessing witness credibility, the fact finder may accept the
parts of a witness’ testimony it finds

believable and reject other parts as implausible. Pugliese v.
Commonwealth, 16 Va. App. 82, 92,

428 S.E.2d 16, 24 (1993). "Determining the credibility of
witnesses who give conflicting

accounts is within the exclusive province of the [trier of
fact], which has the unique opportunity

to observe the demeanor of the witnesses as they testify."
Lea v. Commonwealth, 16 Va. App.

300, 304, 429 S.E.2d 477, 479 (1993). The conclusions of the
fact finder on issues of witness

credibility may be disturbed on appeal only if this Court finds
that the witness’ testimony was

"inherently incredible, or so contrary to human experience
as to render it unworthy of belief."

Fisher v. Commonwealth, 228 Va. 296, 299-300, 321 S.E.2d 202,
204 (1984).

Further, "[c]ircumstantial evidence is as competent and is
entitled to as much weight as

direct evidence, provided it is sufficiently convincing to
exclude every reasonable hypothesis

except that of guilt." Coleman v. Commonwealth, 226 Va. 31,
53, 307 S.E.2d 864, 876 (1983).

"[T]he Commonwealth need only exclude reasonable hypotheses
of innocence that flow from the

evidence, not those that spring from the imagination of the
defendant." Hamilton v.

Commonwealth, 16 Va. App. 751, 755, 433 S.E.2d 27, 29 (1993).

Here, appellant conceded at trial that the issue was whether
someone else entered the

men’s restroom at the Dinwiddie County Sheriff’s Office after
appellant had departed and before

Deputy Dwayne Snead re-entered and searched, leaving open the
possibility that someone else

placed the bag of marijuana in the toilet brush holder.
Appellant conceded at trial "the deputy’s

testimony is that nobody else went in the bathroom after
[appellant]." The evidence in the

record, viewed in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth,
supports this assertion.

Under the Commonwealth’s evidence, the toilet brush holder and
the rest of the bathroom

were free of contraband when Deputy Snead searched at around
7:00 p.m. Deputy Perry Lynch

observed Deputy Snead enter and exit the bathroom at that time.
Deputy Lynch then observed

the bathroom without interruption until Deputy Snead entered and
searched again at 7:17 p.m., at

which time he found the bag of marijuana in the toilet brush
holder. Deputy Lynch testified

without equivocation that no one other than appellant entered
the men’s restroom during that

time. Deputy Snead confirmed that he heard the door open and
close twice during that period of

time, which was consistent with Deputy Lynch’s testimony that
only one person, appellant, was

in the restroom during that time.

The trial court was entitled, as it did expressly, to accept as
credible the testimony of

Deputies Lynch and Snead establishing that no one other than
appellant entered the restroom

before Deputy Snead found the marijuana and to simultaneously
reject the testimony of

appellant’s brother-in-law and another witness that two other
people entered and exited the

restroom in the interim. Further, appellant admitted that he was
a user of marijuana. The only

hypothesis flowing from the evidence, viewed in the light most
favorable to the Commonwealth,

is that appellant was the person who secreted the bag of
marijuana in the toilet brush holder.

For these reasons, we hold the evidence was sufficient to prove
appellant committed the

charged offense. Therefore, we affirm.

Affirmed.

 

FOOTNOTES:

[1]Pursuant to
Code ? 17.1-413, this opinion is not designated for publication.

 

[2]The indictment
and sentencing order reference both the substantive statute and the

attempt statute. However, because the substantive statute itself
specifically proscribes attempts,

reference to Code ? 18.2-26 is unnecessary. Because the
sentencing order references both

statutes, this opinion does so as well.


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