Two men convicted of malicious wounding for their roles in the Aug. 12, 2017, assault of DeAndre Harris soon will get a chance to appeal their imprisonment.
Jacob Goodwin and Alex Ramos will present arguments at the Court of Appeals of Virginia next month.
In their opening briefs to the court, Goodwin and Ramos make similar arguments for why they believe their charges of malicious wounding were too high, and that the cases were decided by biased juries.
In May 2018, Goodwin and Ramos were both found guilty in Charlottesville Circuit Court of malicious wounding and later sentenced to eight years and six years in prison, respectively. Soon after their sentencings, both men appealed the verdicts, and this past May a judge granted their requests, according to court records.
The two men were part of a group of people who chased Harris into the Market Street Parking Garage as the Unite the Right rally devolved into chaos. Harris was hit with sticks, shields and fists, and was left with a laceration on his head that required staples to close, a broken wrist and multiple cuts and bruises.
A video of the assault on Harris shows a shield-wielding Goodwin knocking Harris to the ground and then continuing to beat him, alongside several other men. Later in the video, Ramos can be seen running into the garage from the street and punching Harris.
Goodwin’s attorney, Anthony Martin, argues in his appeal that Charlottesville Circuit Court should not have denied requests to strike jurors during his trial and that there was not sufficient evidence for a malicious wounding conviction.
Martin identified three jurors who he said could not be impartial because they knew Unite the Right counter-protesters, had seen media coverage of the event, or had previously attended a Black Lives Matter rally.
The brief also argues that, based on video of the attack, Goodwin could not have caused the injuries that a nurse testified Harris had suffered.
“The only actions Appellant had taken towards Deandre Harris was at the most two kicks. According to the treating nurse at Martha Jefferson Hospital, Harris had really only two injuries, a laceration on the head, and an arm fracture,” Martin wrote. “There was no evidence from the videos or photographs showing Appellant doing anything to cause harm to Harris’s head or arm. The only conceivable areas of the body that Appellant touched were Harris’s buttocks or bottom, and the nurse told the jury there were no bruised ribs or hips.”
In a response to the brief, Nina-Alice Antony, assistant commonwealth’s attorney for Charlottesville, rebutted claims that four of the jurors should have been struck, citing the Breeden v. Commonwealth case which states a juror does not have to be totally ignorant of the facts of a case.
In a similar vein, Antony argued that other jurors in question should not have been dismissed for views they have that were not at issue in Goodwin’s trial.
She also rebuffed claims that there was insufficient evidence for the malicious wounding conviction, specifically taking issue with Martin’s claims that Goodwin kicked Harris only twice.
“The evidence at trial through multiple videos available for appellate review show at least 4 kicks by the defendant and at least one occasion when Appellant pushes out at the victim with his shield, making contact with his left arm with what appears to be significant force.”
Much like Goodwin’s claims, attorney John Joyce argued on Ramos’ behalf that the court erred in not moving the trial venue, in not dismissing jurors who were aware of Goodwin’s conviction in the garage beating the day prior and in not downgrading the malicious wounding charge.
During Ramos’ trial, Charlottesville circuit Judge Richard E. Moore indicated that eight jurors had been aware of Goodwin’s verdict, according to Joyce.
Similarly, Joyce argued that the venue of the trial should have been moved because jurors likely held biases against “Unite the Righters” and/or feared the fallout of their verdict. Additionally, the malicious wounding charge should have been lowered, Joyce argues, because the actions taken by Ramos could not have led to Harris’ significant injuries.
“Mr. Ramos comes in at the end and punches Mr. Harris in the back of the head,” he wrote. “Mr. Harris certainly suffered a number of injuries. But, no witness attributed any of the injuries to the punch.”
Antony countered the appellant’s argument that the jury was biased against Ramos, arguing instead that the trial court is best suited to determine whether a juror is appropriate. Antony also pointed to a single specific juror mentioning an awareness of Goodwin’s verdict, not eight.
The court did not err is having the trial in Charlottesville, Antony wrote, and the appellant only speculates the jurors were afraid of the impact of their verdict.
Antony took issue with the argument that Ramos’ charge should have been downgraded. Ramos, who initially was not involved in the fight, went out of his way to involve himself and is just as responsible as the others, she wrote.
“Even if Appellant did not specifically cause the significant injuries suffered by Mr. Harris, due to his participation in this group beating, he is equally responsible and answerable to the injuries caused by the others,” she wrote.
Goodwin and Ramos are scheduled for oral arguments Sept. 10 before a three-judge panel at the Court of Appeals of Virginia in Richmond.