CHARLESTON – The United States Supreme Court on Monday ordered the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals to reconsider a 2005 decision that upheld a Morgan County man's conviction on sexual assault charges.
The U.S. Supreme Court says the state's high court should see if Denver A. Youngblood Jr. had his constitutional rights violated when some evidence as suppressed.
Youngblood was convicted in 2003 of two counts of sexual assault, two counts of brandishing a firearm and one court of indecent exposure. The charges resulted from a 2001 abduction of three women – Katara, Kimberly and Wendy -- by Youngblood and another man, and "the conviction rested principally on the testimony of the three women that they were held captive by Youngblood and a friend of his, statements by Katara that she was forced at gunpoint to perform oral sex on Youngblood, and evidence consistent with a claim by Katara about disposal of certain physical evidence of their sexual encounter."
Youngblood was sentenced to a combined term of 26-60 years. After being sentenced, Youngblood claimed an investigator working on his case had uncovered a graphically explicit note that "both squarely contradicted the State's account of the incidents and directly supported Youngblood's consensual-sex defense," the U.S. Supreme Court wrote in its per curiam opinion.. "The note, apparently written by Kimberly and Wendy, taunted Youngblood and his friend for having been 'played' for fools, warned them that the girls had vandalized the house where Youngblood brought them, and mockingly thanked Youngblood for performing oral sex on Katara."
The note allegedly was shown to a State Trooper, who allegedly read it but declined to take possession of it, and told the person who produced it to destroy it, according to court documents. Youngblood argued that the suppression of this evidence violated a federal constitutional obligation to disclose evidence favorable to the defense.
When the case was appealed to the state Supreme Court, Youngblood's attorney argued that a note written by two of the women should have been used in the trial because it supported Youngblood's claim of consensual sex with Katara.
In its 3-2 ruling to uphold Youngblood's conviction, the state high court did not review Youngblood's suppression of evidence claim. In its ruling Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court said the state court should take the issue up again.
Justices Anthony Kennedy and Antonin Scalia dissented.
"The Court thus purports to conscript the judges of the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia to write what is essentially an amicus brief on the merits of an issue they have already decided, in order to facilitate our possible review of the merits at some later time," Scalia wrote in his dissent.
"I suppose it would be available to the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, on remand, simply to reaffirm its judgment without further elaboration. Or it could instead enter into a full discussion of the … issue, producing either a reaffirmance or a revision of its judgment. The latter course will of course encourage and stimulate our new 'GVR-in-light-of-nothing' jurisprudence."
United States Supreme Court case number: 05-6997