Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, Criminal Division; Hon. Henry F. Greene, Trial Judge
Rogers, Chief Judge, Belson and Steadman, Associate Judges.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Belson
Lyman Reid, Jr. challenges his conviction for possession of a prohibited weapon (knife) in violation of D.C. Code § 22-3214(b) (1989) and presents several issues for review, including: 1) whether the evidence on specific intent was sufficient to sustain his conviction; 2) whether the trial court erred in failing to suppress a statement made by Reid to a police officer because the interchange constituted custodial interrogation without Miranda warnings; 3) whether the trial court improperly instructed the jury on the specific intent element of the offense; and 4) whether Reid was improperly denied a self-defense jury instruction by the trial court. Because we conclude that with respect to Reid's specific intent to use the knife unlawfully appellant was erroneously denied jury instructions that explained what relevant uses are unlawful in the District of Columbia, we reverse and remand this case to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
While on routine canine patrol in the Third District on July 22, 1985, Officer Gary R. Clearwater, a canine technician with the Metropolitan Police Department and an 11-year veteran of the police force responded to a radio run to the effect that two men and a woman were fighting with knives at approximately 5:45 p.m. in the vicinity of 7th and S Streets, N.W. *fn1 As Officer Clearwater approached the scene at the mouth of an alley and on the sidewalk along 628 S Street, N.W., he observed appellant "facing four or five other people with a knife in his right hand in a very threatening manner with a look like he was arguing with them."
The uniformed officer exited his marked police canine car unaccompanied by any other police officers, drew his service revolver and held it to his right side next to his leg as he ordered Reid to drop the knife. Reid then turned toward Officer Clearwater with the knife still in his hand. The Officer again ordered Reid to drop the knife. Officer Clearwater and Reid were then approximately 14-17 feet apart. Reid dropped the knife to the sidewalk and Officer Clearwater retrieved it. Officer Clearwater then re-holstered his service revolver.
Officer Clearwater then asked Reid "what he was doing with the knife and what has happening." Reid responded: "I'm going to show these motherfuckers they don't be fucking with me. I'll fuck them up." *fn2 Reid then "started yelling towards the people that were there, just becoming very disorderly." Officer Clearwater thereupon arrested Reid. *fn3 Officer John Timbers, who arrived at the scene after Reid was arrested, transported Reid to the police station.
At trial, Reid presented two witnesses who testified in his behalf. Donald Watts testified, inter alia, that he and Reid were playing with knives on July 22, 1985, when several officers in plain clothes grabbed Reid. Watts also testified that he carried a knife for protection and work. Emma Johnson, the other defense witness, testified that she hosted a barbecue in her yard on July 22, 1985, at 626 S Street, N.W. but admitted during cross-examination by the government that Reid was not a guest at her party. She also testified that she knew Reid and Watts and had seen them together often, and knew that Reid had stayed on occasion at 626 S Street, N.W., at the home of Johnson's across-the-hall neighbor, Mr. Woods.
At the Conclusion of trial, the jury found that Reid was guilty of carrying a knife in the District of Columbia with the intent to use it unlawfully against another in violation of D.C. Code § 22-3214(b) (1989). After Reid was sentenced, he filed a timely notice of appeal.
We first address Reid's sufficiency of the evidence argument. Reid contends that the government failed to adduce evidence at trial sufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he possessed the knife with the intent to use it in an unlawful manner against another in violation of D.C. Code § 22-3214(b) (1989) ("PPW(b)"). According to Reid, the only inference the jury could have drawn from the evidence presented by the government concerning Reid's alleged specific intent to use the knife unlawfully was that Reid had the intent to use the knife in an "assaultive manner." He further argues that the government failed to prove either an attempted-battery assault or an intent-to-frighten assault. Reid asserts that the absence of evidence surrounding Reid's display of the knife is a void from which an inference of his specific intent to use the knife unlawfully cannot be drawn.
The government contends that the evidence at trial, when viewed in the light most favorable to the government, amply supports the inference that Reid possessed the specific intent to use the knife unlawfully against another. The government argues that it was not required to prove all the elements of assault in order to prove the PPW(b) offense because assault and PPW(b) constitute separate crimes. The government asserts that the testimony of Officer Clearwater that he observed Reid "facing four or five other people with a knife in his right hand in a very threatening manner with a look like he was arguing with them," and that Reid responded to the officer's inquiries by saying "I'm going to show these motherfuckers they don't be fucking with me. I'll fuck them up," is sufficient to prove that Reid intended to use the knife unlawfully against another, impliedly in an intent -- frighten assault.
The elements constituting a violation of D.C. Code § 22-3214(b) are well established. *fn4
It is clear from the face of the statute that the government must establish not only that the accused possessed a proscribed article, but also that he possessed it with the intent to use it unlawfully against another. As an example . . ., the statute clearly does not forbid the mere possession of an imitation pistol, but it is equally apparent that the provision does forbid the ...