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Government of Virgin Islands v. Blyden

decided: July 22, 1980.

GOVERNMENT OF THE VIRGIN ISLANDS
v.
DENNIS BLYDEN, ETIENNE GEORGE APPELLANTS



APPEAL FROM THE JUDGMENT OF THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE VIRGIN ISLANDS, DIVISION OF ST. THOMAS AND ST. JOHN (Criminal No. 78-207)

Before Adams, Maris and Sloviter, Circuit Judges.

Author: Sloviter

Opinion OF THE COURT

Etienne George and Dennis Blyden appeal from their convictions for unlawful entry and petty larceny after a bench trial in the District Court of the Virgin Islands.*fn1 Appellants individually and jointly raise various grounds for reversal.*fn2 Because we find none of their arguments to be persuasive, we will affirm the district court.

At about 2 a. m. on September 23, 1978, police officer Bernice O'Neal was dispatched to investigate a suspicious van in the Altona area. She proceeded up the hill into Altona. En route she met Joseph Isaac who informed her that a group of young men were in his home, taking his belongings and putting them into a van parked on the side of the road. Officer O'Neal then told Isaac to get in the rear seat of the patrol car and keep his head down while she checked out the area. When she arrived at the top of the hill, Officer O'Neal observed a blue van parked on the side of the road which Isaac identified as the same van into which he had observed the young men putting his belongings. Because of the darkness, O'Neal was unable to see anyone in the van or in the dwelling and she drove down the hill, blocked the road and called for backup assistance. Additional patrol cars responded.

A short time later, the van with seven occupants, travelling down the hill with its lights off, was intercepted by the police. The occupants were ordered to leave the van. A search of the van revealed five shirts, two pairs of pants, three jackets, one pair of shoes, one Polaroid 44 camera, one Sanyo three band radio, and one cutlass. Isaac identified these items as belonging to him. Isaac, in his subsequent written statement, said that he had not given any of the men in the van permission to enter his home or to remove or to possess any of his property.

Four of the occupants of that van, including appellants Etienne George and Dennis Blyden, were tried by the court. At the trial the evidence consisted of the testimony of the arresting police officers, Bernice O'Neal and Elvin David, a written statement that Joseph Isaac had given to the police,*fn3 and the testimony of defendant Dennis Blyden.

Blyden, the only defendant who testified, said that he had been at a political rally in Frenchtown when he caught a ride in a van driven by Neil George, brother of the defendant Etienne George. Several others were also given rides home that evening. According to Blyden, he lay down in the back and went to sleep as the van went up a hill to drop off one of the other persons who had caught a ride, and he was awakened by the officer speaking through the loudspeaker and saw bright lights shining into the van. Blyden was staying at his grandfather's house on Vester Gade that night, slightly more than a five minute trip from Frenchtown.

During direct examination, the Government's witness, Officer Elvin David, testified that he had seen the occupants of the van, including Dennis Blyden, come out of the van. On cross-examination, the following colloquy took place:

(BLYDEN'S COUNSEL): Can you describe how the persons came out of the van?

THE COURT: I don't understand the question. They were ordered to come out with their hands above their heads.

(BLYDEN'S COUNSEL): What door did they come out, if they came out all at once, did they stumble out or what?

THE COURT: I don't see any relevance in that, you need ...


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