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Government of Virgin Islands v. Webbe

argued: May 1, 1987.

GOVERNMENT OF THE VIRGIN ISLANDS, APPELLEE,
v.
ALDAIN WEBBE, APPELLANT



APPEAL FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE VIRGIN ISLANDS DIVISION OF ST. THOMAS AND ST. JOHN, D.C. Crim. No. 85-00013.

Author: Seitz

Before SEITZ, HIGGINBOTHAM, ROSENN, Circuit Judges.

Opinion OF THE COURT

SEITZ, Circuit Judge.

The appellant, Aldain Webbe, appeals from the final judgment of the district court imposing a sentence for a conviction of second degree murder. We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. ยง 1291 (1982).

I.

Aldain Webbe was charged with one count of murder in the first degree in connection with the beating death of his estranged wife in February 1985. Webbe pleaded not guilty and elected to waive his right to a jury trial.

In a two-day bench trial in August 1986, Webbe's principal defense was that of insanity, based on a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia. At the end of the first day of testimony, Webbe's counsel moved that the information charging Webbe with first degree murder be dismissed, on the ground that the government had failed to make out a prima facie case. The court refused to dismiss the information. Because the evidence did not support premeditation and deliberation,*fn1 however, the court reduced the charge to the lesser included offense of murder in the second degree.

The following facts were elicited at trial. On the day of his wife's death, Webbe had just returned to the Virgin Islands after an extended stay in the United States. Upon entering his wife's residence, Webbe apparently found a note to her left by Basil Bassue, a man she was seeing. Bassue had been seen with Mrs. Webbe the morning of her death. She was later seen alive with Webbe well after Bassue had left.

Responding to a reported fire at Mrs. Webbe's house later that evening, police found the victim's bloody body in a bedroom, and encountered the defendant, who had blood on his face and clothes. Webbe was taken into police custody. A blood alcohol test taken several hours after the crime revealed a level of .10.

At the close of the trial, the court found Webbe guilty of second degree murder. On September 17, 1986 Webbe was sentenced to 40 years imprisonment. This appeal followed.

II.

Webbe's sole contention on appeal is that the district court erred when it decided that his voluntary intoxication precluded his use of the insanity defense.*fn2 We believe that this argument misstates the district court's ruling. In reviewing the record of the district court, we find that while the court may have expressed this view on the effect of intoxication on the insanity defense, its ruling was actually based on the finding that Webbe's acts which brought about the death of his wife were not committed in consequence of the mental illness from which he suffered. The government contends that this was a finding that could be made on the evidence and was not clearly erroneous. Our review of the trial court's findings of facts is based on the clearly erroneous standard. United States v. Felton, 753 F.2d 276 (3rd Cir. 1985).

The test of insanity in the Virgin Islands requires both a mental illness and a causal connection between that ...


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