Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia; (Hon. Gregory E. Mize, Trial Judge)
Before Rogers, Chief Judge, and Farrell, Associate Judge, and Gallagher, Senior Judge.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rogers
On appeal from his conviction at a bench trial of simple assault, D.C. Code § 22-504 (1989 Repl.), appellant Clinton Holmes contends that his due process rights were violated when the trial Judge questioned him after the defense and prosecution had rested and failed, sua sponte, to grant a judgment of acquittal. He also contends that the trial Judge abused his discretion by not conducting a Frendak *fn1 inquiry. We remand the case to the trial court to conduct a Frendak inquiry because the evidence demonstrates a "sufficient question" regarding appellant's sanity on the date of the assault, but otherwise we affirm.
On the afternoon of November 26, 1990, Ms. Evan Anderson, an assistant teacher at Raymond Elementary School, saw appellant grab two schoolchildren by their arms. Appellant was wearing a beige jacket, a beige dress, jeans, tennis shoes, a hat and a wig. Ms. Anderson ran up to appellant, told him to "get his darn hands off them," and escorted the children away. She then called the police.
Shortly thereafter, Gorge Garland Hill observed appellant chase after and grab another elementary school student named Ebony Mallory. Mr. Hill testified that appellant, who "wasn't dressed like a normal person," was "manhandling," grabbing and holding the child as she struggled to get away, screaming and hollering. Mr. Hill ran after appellant and held him until the police arrived.
According to Ms. Mallory, appellant initially approached her and asked her where she lived, to which she replied "I don't know." She became frightened and began to cry. Appellant then grabbed her from the back with both hands. When she attempted to run away, appellant grabbed her again. She described appellant's appearance as dirty and wearing a long white robe and a scarf.
Appellant admitted approaching Ms. Mallory on November 26, 1990, because "she was in the street and she was just a little toddler and I had to say something to her." The child was crying from the minute appellant saw her, and she had told him that she was lost. He asked the child where she lived, but she was unable to tell him. So he called to a man standing near a car and that man took the child. After first denying that he touched the child, appellant explained that "If I touched her at all, I touched her very gently." Upon being arrested, appellant told the police that he was sick and unable to speak to them, and he was taken to a hospital for a few hours before being taken to the police precinct.
Appellant further testified that on the day of the incident he suffered from a sickness, which he described as a "paralysis stricken through body." He stated that before testifying he had taken Haldol for his nerves and Cogentin to relieve pressure on his jaw. He claimed that he had first started taking Haldol over five years prior to trial. In response to the trial Judge's questions, appellant stated that he suffered from schizophrenia and that he was "a person that's hyper, slightly paranoid or things like that." *fn2
The trial Judge questioned appellant further about the incident, and when he dismissed appellant from the witness stand both the government and the defense rested. Following a recess the Judge stated that "the case raised some questions in my mind about a defense of the case and it's still there. And I would like to ask just a few more questions of the defendant regarding the day in question." Both counsel stated that they had no objections to such questioning. The following colloquy took place between the trial Judge and appellant:
: Mr. Holmes, . . . I want to understand better how you were feeling that day.
I want to ask you what you are doing for the two or three hours before the time on that day that you met the ...