Pope v. Commonwealth

In Pope v. Commonwealth, 234 Va. 114, 116-17, 360 S.E.2d 352, 354 (1987), cert. denied, 485 U.S. 1015, 99 L. Ed. 2d 716, 108 S. Ct. 1489 (1988), Pope was convicted of capital murder under former Code 18.2-31(d), now Code 18.2-31(4), malicious wounding, attempted robbery and four counts of using a firearm. Pope contended "that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction of robbery, and was consequently insufficient to establish the predicate for capital murder under Code 18.2-31(d), which classifies as capital murder those killings which are perpetrated 'in the commission of robbery.'" Id. at 124, 360 S.E.2d at 359. He contended: (1) someone else stole the murder victim's purse after appellant fled the scene and while the murder victim's sister, who Pope also shot, ran into the hospital and left the murder victim in the car unattended for less than thirty seconds; and; (2) he removed the murder victim's "purse surreptitiously before the shooting and concealed it on his person" so as to break any temporal and causal connection between the murder and robbery. Id. The Supreme Court found that the first contention "framed a factual issue" that the jury was entitled to conclude "was neither reasonable nor persuasive" and that, under Briley v. Commonwealth, Pope's second contention was "fallacious as matter of law." 234 Va. at 124-125, 360 S.E.2d at 359. The Court explained: We decided in Linwood Earl Briley v. Commonwealth, . . . that when a killing and a taking of property are so closely related in time, place, and causal connection as to make them parts of the same criminal enterprise, the predicates for capital murder under Code 18.2-31(d) are established. Further, these relationships need not necessarily be jury questions. They may, in a proper case, be determined as a matter of law. Id. at 125, 360 S.E.2d at 359.