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01/17/92 MORRIS ARTHUR v. UNITED STATES

January 17, 1992

MORRIS ARTHUR, APPELLANT
v.
UNITED STATES, APPELLEE



Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia; (Hon. Frederick H. Weisberg, Trial Judge)

Before Terry, Farrell, and King, Associate Judges.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Terry

TERRY, Associate Judge: Appellant Arthur was convicted of assault on Kathleen DeGrace with intent to kill her while armed with a dangerous weapon, namely, a shod foot, *fn1 and of simple assault *fn2 on her son, Jeremi DeGrace. On this appeal he challenges only the sufficiency of the evidence to sustain the conviction of assault with intent to kill while armed, for which he received a sentence of seven to thirty years in prison. We affirm. *fn3

I

In August 1989 Kathleen DeGrace was living with three of her five children in Room 377 of the Capital City Inn, which until its recent demolition was leased by the District of Columbia government to house homeless families. Appellant Arthur, with whom she had previously lived and who was the father of two of her children, resided in another room. On August 11 Arthur received a paycheck, and shortly after 6:00 p.m. he went to Room 377 with the intention of taking his daughter Deanna shopping. However, when Ms. DeGrace told him that Deanna was ill and should not leave the room, Arthur decided to stay and play with Deanna, who was then seven months old.

Arthur remained in Room 377 for dinner with Ms. DeGrace, her sons Christopher (five) and Jeremi (ten), and the baby Deanna. When dinner was over, Jeremi went outside to play, and Arthur went out to purchase some liquor. After both of them returned, Jeremi went to sleep in a bed along-side his younger brother and sister, and Arthur, after playing with the baby for a while, fell asleep in a chair.

Some time later Arthur awoke to discover Ms. DeGrace going through his pockets. Fearing that she was stealing his money to buy drugs, he arose in anger, grabbed Ms. DeGrace, and threw her to the floor. This awakened the children, who began screaming and crying. Then, after she told Jeremi to "call security," Arthur began stomping repeatedly on Ms. DeGrace's head. Arthur was wearing white sneakers as he stomped, and he admitted at trial that he used "a lot of pressure" in the stomping.

After a few moments Arthur stopped assaulting Ms. DeGrace and turned to leave, saying, "I hope she's dead. I hope she's dead." When she started "breathing real hard," however, he exclaimed, "She ain't dead," and went back over to where she lay on the floor. Arthur tried to step on her again, but because Jeremi was kneeling beside her, trying to pick her up, Arthur stepped instead on the back of Jeremi's head. Jeremi, weeping and angry "because he had no right to step on my mother," moved back out of the way, and Arthur resumed his abuse of Ms. DeGrace.

As the stomping continued, thirteen-year-old Sean Williams heard noises coming from Room 377 and went to investigate. When he looked inside the room through the partially open door, he saw Kathleen DeGrace lying on the floor, next to the bed, and Arthur "over top of , stomping on her face . . . going up and down with bis foot, stomping." Blood was coming from the side of Ms. DeGrace's mouth. Jeremi and Deanna were also in the room, and both of them were crying. Arthur apparently saw Williams watching, went and closed the door, and returned to his assault on Ms. DeGrace. Williams, in the meantime, notified others at the Capital City Inn of the assault in progress and asked a woman in another room to call the security guard.

When Arthur finally ceased 'his attack on Ms. DeGrace, he left Room 377 and went to the security desk in the front lobby of the Capital City Inn. There he was met by Cornell Chappelle, a Department of Human Services social worker assigned to the shelter. In an office adjacent to the security desk, Arthur said to Chappelle, "I just stomped my old lady." Almost immediately a group of residents burst into the office and tried to attack Arthur, but Chappelle and a security guard "managed to get most of the folks off of him and out of the office." The police arrived shortly and placed Arthur under arrest.

Meanwhile, an ambulance was summoned, and when it arrived, the paramedics found Ms. DeGrace unconscious, her face bloody and extremely swollen. After assessing the extent of her injuries, they took her to the MedStar shock-trauma facility at the Washington Hospital Center. There she was met by a team of trauma specialists led by Dr. Grace Rozycki. The doctor testified that Ms. DeGrace's injuries were "severe," "critical," and "immediately life-threatening." *fn4 Ms. DeGrace was later transferred to the intensive care unit of the hospital, where she was further diagnosed as suffering from "severe blunt trauma."

After a few days Ms. DeGrace was moved to a step-down unit at the Washington Hospital Center, and several weeks later she was taken to the National Rehabilitation Hospital. There she began rehabilitative therapy with Dr. Warren Lux, director of the hospital's brain injury rehabilitation program. Dr. Lux testified that when Ms. DeGrace first came to the Rehabilitation Hospital, she had trouble walking, getting out of bed, going to the bathroom, and taking care of her basic day-to-day needs. Although she made some progress, Dr. Lux concluded that Ms. DeGrace continued to have "difficulty with some of the higher level kinds of thinking." He opined that Ms. DeGrace would never fully recover from the traumatic head injuries she had received.

The government's final witness was Kathleen DeGrace. She had no memory at all of her encounter with Morris Arthur. She testified, however, that her health had changed: "I can't walk. I can't get dressed. I can't get my children dressed. My left side is slow, and my voice is slow, and I can't -- I have no memory, hardly any memory." When asked whether ...


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