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State v. Sims

West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals
162 W. Va. 212 (1978)


Facts

Paul Sims (defendant) and two others broke into the home of the Schmidts during the early morning hours. Sims was carrying a shotgun when he went into the home. During the break-in, Oscar Schmidt shot Sims in the arm. Sims then fired the shotgun, which killed Oscar’s son Walter. Sims claimed that being shot in the arm caused an involuntary muscle spasm in his trigger finger. The State of West Virginia (plaintiff) charged Sims with first-degree murder, based on the felony-murder rule. Sims presented deposition testimony from a neurologist, who testified that the gun shot might have caused an involuntary muscle spasm. Before trial, the trial court ruled in limine that the involuntary muscle spasm theory, even if true, did not present a defense to felony murder. Sims pleaded guilty, and filed an appeal challenging his guilty plea as involuntary.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Miller, J.)

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