United States v. Runyon, No. 09-11

Decided: February 25, 2013

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction of David Anthony Runyon for conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire among other charges including carjacking resulting in death and murder with a firearm in relation to a crime of violence.  Runyon received a capital sentence.

David Runyon was hired by Catherina Voss (“Cat”) and Michael Draven to murder Cory Voss, Cat’s husband. On April 20, 2007 Cat opened a bank account and sent Voss to an ATM to withdraw cash from the account. A surveillance camera at the ATM showed an individual entering Voss’s truck while he was standing at the ATM. The next morning Voss was found dead in his truck in a parking lot near the bank where the ATM was located.

Runyon appealed both his conviction and his sentences.  Runyon attempted to claim that the murder for hire statutes under which he was convicted were unconstitutional.  The court held that Congress did not exceed its power under the Commerce Clause in enacting the statute.  Runyon next challenged the “nonstatutory aggravating factors charged by the prosecution and found by the jury” during his sentencing.  Runyon challenged the use of an interrogation video that showed him being asked questions about his race and religion. The court found that it was error to allow the jury to hear the remarks made to Runyon. After making this determination, the court stated that it would take the most defendant-favorable standard in order to determine whether or not this error required Runyon’s sentences to be reversed. The court ultimately found that admitting the video into evidence did not contribute to the verdict obtained. Runyon also challenged evidence regarding victim-impact, his personal training and experience, and his physical abuse towards women.  The court found that the admittance of this evidence was constitutional, and the district court did not err in admitting it.

Judge Niemeyer concurred in the opinion of the court and found that the district court did not err in admitting the video tape of Runyon into evidence.  Judge Niemeyer found the video tape to be relevant, voluntarily given by Runyon after being read Miranda rights, and showed Runyon’s lack of remorse.

Full Opinion

-Samantha James

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