Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia; Hon. John H. Suda, Trial Judge.
Steadman and Schwelb, Associate Judges, and Reilly, Senior Judge. Opinion for the court by Associate Judge Steadman. Dissenting opinion by Associate Judge Schwelb.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Steadman
Appellant was convicted by a jury of carrying in a public place a deadly or dangerous weapon; specifically, a 10 1/4-inch knife, D.C. Code § 22-3204 (1981), *fn1 and received a suspended 120-day sentence and probation. He argues the evidence was insufficient to show a present intent to use the knife as a dangerous weapon. We disagree and therefore affirm.
The government's evidence showed the following. *fn2 Appellant entered the Longworth House Office Building and approached the security station area, stating that he wished to leave his briefcase because it could not pass through the x-ray equipment. Appellant stated: "I have weapons in my bag." One of the three United States Capitol Police Officers involved in the incident, Sergeant Edward F. Lopez, thereupon immediately directed appellant into a nearby office, ordering appellant to place the briefcase on the floor because he feared appellant could use the weapons. According to Lopez, appellant said he had a "K-Bar-Nine , a pair of brass knuckles and handcuffs in the bag." The unlocked bag was opened and found to contain a knife near the top and within easy reach, and handcuffs, but no brass knuckles. *fn3
Considerable conversation took place between the officers and appellant as to why appellant was carrying these items, from which a jury could conclude that appellant carried them for two purposes. *fn4 According to the officers, appellant said that "I use those in my work in that I'm a bodyguard and that I have come up here for the purposes of having Congressman Fauntroy help me with a letter that I'm writing seeking employment to work with Jesse Jackson as a bodyguard for the Reverend Jackson." *fn5 He also said: "I use it [the knife] to defend myself" and "for protection." He acknowledged that he "knew how to use weapons" and "was prepared to use the weapons that he carried." As the final government witness put it on redirect examination:
Q. What, if anything, did he tell you he wanted to use the weapon for?
A. He said he wanted to use it for protection.
Q. Did he tell you he wanted to use it for anything else?
A. And to use it as -- employment as a bodyguard, use it as a weapon as a bodyguard.
In order to prove a violation of D.C. Code § 22-3204, the government must show that a defendant "(1) carried [on or about his person] in an open or concealed manner a dangerous weapon [capable of being so concealed], (2) intended to do the acts constituting carrying the weapon, and (3) intended to use the object as a dangerous weapon." Strong v. United States, 581 A.2d 383, 385-86 (D.C. 1990) (citation omitted). There is no serious dispute raised by appellant about the first two elements of the offense. Appellant's claim is that there was no evidence that he had a "present intent" to use the knife as a dangerous weapon. *fn6
"In determining whether one's purpose in carrying an object was its use as a deadly or dangerous weapon, the factfinder must consider the circumstances surrounding its possession and use." In re S.P., supra note 4, 465 A.2d at 826. See Scott v. United States, 243 A.2d 54, 56 (D.C. 1968); Pollen v. United States, 207 A.2d 114, 115 (D.C. 1965) ("Whether a knife is a dangerous weapon depends upon the circumstances in each case"). "Such surrounding circumstances include, inter alia, the design or construction of the instrument, see Scott, supra, 243 A.2d at 56; the conduct of the defendant prior to his arrest, see Gilmore v. United States, 271 A.2d 783, 784 (D.C. 1970) (per curiam); any physical alteration of the instrument; and the time and place the defendant was found in possession, see Scott, supra, 243 A.2d at 56." In re S.P., supra note 4, 465 A.2d at 826. There is no requirement, however, that a defendant evidence a specific intent "to use a knife for an unlawful purpose . . . ." Scott, supra, 243 A.2d at 56; United States v. Shannon, 144 A.2d 267 (D.C. 1958).
Appellant's own and only expressed purposes with respect to the knife were to defend himself, for protection, and in work as a bodyguard. A reasonable juror could have found that the design of the knife (over ten inches long with a blade over six inches), the time, place, and conduct of appellant in bringing the knife into a government office, appellant's failure to state to the officers any other purpose for carrying the weapon but its use as a weapon, and evidence that appellant knew how and was prepared to use the ...