Bevel v. CommonwealthAnnotate this Case
Defendant James Bevel was convicted in a jury trial for having sexual relations with his daughter. Bevel's counsel filed a notice of appeal, after which Bevel died. Counsel filed a motion to abate conviction ab initio, which the circuit court denied after finding that the Commonwealth had established good cause for not abating Bevel's conviction. The court of appeals affirmed. Later, the court of appeals entered an order in the merits appeal dismissing the appeal as moot. At issue was whether to abate a conviction ab initio when the defendant has died while his appeal was pending or to dismiss the appeal and leave the conviction intact. The Supreme Court (1) held that the question of whether a criminal conviction necessarily will abate upon the death of the defendant while an appeal is pending or whether there should be a good cause exception in that policy is appropriately decided by the legislature, not the courts; (2) vacated the judgment of the court of appeals applying the abatement doctrine; and (3) affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals in the merits appeal, under the specific facts of this case, holding that Bevel's death rendered the appeal of his conviction moot.