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01/26/93 AUDLEY SKYERS v. UNITED STATES

January 26, 1993

AUDLEY SKYERS, APPELLANT
v.
UNITED STATES, APPELLEE



Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia; (Hon. Robert I. Richter, Trial Judge)

Before Terry, Steadman, and King, Associate Judges.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: King

KING, Associate Judge: Appellant was convicted of two counts of kidnaping *fn1 and associated offenses. *fn2 On appeal, he raises only one *fn3 claim that requires more than summary consideration: whether the admission at trial of the prior recorded testimony of a deceased witness at a bail hearing was a violation of the hearsay rule. We affirm.

Appellant and his co-defendant, Mannie Harris, kidnaped two women, Tyieast Gross and Katrina Drayton, two days before they were scheduled to testify at the murder trial of appellant's brother, Desmond Skyers. The two women were eyewitnesses to the killing. Four days before the abduction, the trial Judge in the Desmond Skyers case issued an order directing appellant to stay away from both Drayton and Gross.

On September 9, 1989, Drayton was approached by appellant and a second man, known as Mowet. Appellant told Drayton that if she did not go with them she would put her life, her son's life, and her family's lives in jeopardy. Drayton was then driven to a motel on New York Avenue where she was left with Harris, Mowet, and Harris' girlfriend, Erna Norris. Appellant returned in the evening with keys to a truck which was used to transport Harris, Norris, and Drayton to a motel in Frederick, Maryland. Harris told Drayton she was being taken away so she would not testify against appellant's brother.

The next day, September 10, appellant approached Gross and told her that she would harm herself and family if she testified against his brother. He asked her to leave town and offered her money, clothing, and drugs. Gross agreed to go with appellant to avoid endangering the lives of her family and herself. Appellant drove Gross to a motel on New York Avenue; Harris then came and took Gross to the same motel in Frederick where Drayton had been taken.

Harris, Norris, Drayton, and Gross stayed in the Frederick motel for approximately four days during which time they slept, ate, watched television, and smoked crack. After stops in Baltimore and Virginia, the group stayed several days in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. During the entire trip, either Harris or Norris remained with Drayton and Gross. Finally, on September 19, 1989, Harris and Norris, for the first time, left Drayton and Gross alone in the motel. Drayton called her uncle and asked him to call Detective Alfonzo Terrell of the Metropolitan Police Department. The Rocky Mount police were notified, and after Gross and Drayton told the officers that they had been abducted, the officers transported them to the police station. Although Gross and Drayton were flown back to the District, they were unable to testify at the Desmond Skyers murder trial because it had concluded the day the women were rescued. Desmond Skyers was found not guilty of the charges against him.

Appellant, who was incarcerated in another case, was then charged in this case with kidnaping. At a preliminary hearing on October 12, 1989, the appellant and his co-defendant were ordered held without bond. Both defendants subsequently filed motions seeking a modification of their bail status.

On November 3, 1989, a lengthy bail hearing was conducted. The government sought to prevent appellant's release by showing that he had a total disregard for law and order and posed a danger to the community. During the hearing Drayton was called as a witness by the government. After hearing testimony and argument, the trial court revoked its previous order holding appellant without bond. A surety bond of $5,000 was then set; appellant subsequently met the bond and was released.

Fifteen months after the bail hearing, in an unrelated incident, Drayton was shot and killed. Prior to trial, the government moved to admit the bail hearing testimony of Drayton under the prior recorded testimony hearsay exception. The trial Judge, after careful consideration of the similarity of the issues in the two proceedings and trial counsel's opportunity to cross-examine Drayton at the bail hearing, ruled that the prior recorded testimony would be admissible at trial. At a subsequent hearing the parties exhaustively reviewed the transcript to determine what portions of Drayton's testimony would be redacted before it would be presented to the jury. The audio tape of Drayton's testimony was then redacted, and that version was played for the jury after opening statements. Prior to hearing the tape, the Judge cautioned the jury, in the following way, about Drayton's testimony:

The testimony you are about to hear was offered at an earlier proceeding in this case. That proceeding was not a trial. While as you hear, we'll hear Miss Drayton testified at the earlier proceedings about matters related to the trial, the lawyers did not know that her testimony would be used as a substitute for trial testimony and they were not necessarily asking the kinds of questions that would have been asked at an actual trial.

In your consideration of [this tape], you may take these matters into account. In sum, you should give Miss Drayton's tape recorded testimony . . . such weight as in your judgment it is fairly entitled to receive.

Appellant contends that the trial court's admission of Drayton's prior recorded testimony denied him his right to a fair trial because it violated the rule against hearsay and abridged his Sixth Amendment right to confront his accuser. He bases his argument on two points: 1) there were different issues before the court in the two proceedings; and 2) his counsel was not accorded an adequate opportunity to cross examine Drayton at the prior proceeding.

It is well-settled in this jurisdiction that in order for prior recorded testimony to be admissible as a hearsay exception, ...


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