Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia; (Hon. Peter H. Wolf, Motions Judge), (Hon. Henry F. Greene, Trial Judge)
Before Terry and Sullivan, Associate Judges, and Mack, Senior Judge. Opinion for the court by Senior Judge Mack. Opinion Concurring in result by Associate Judge Terry.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mack
MACK, Senior Judge: After a trial by jury, appellant was found not guilty on two counts of first-degree premeditated murder while armed *fn1 but convicted on two counts of second-degree murder while armed. *fn2 In this court he alleges that the trial court committed reversible error in (1) denying a requested defense instruction, and (2) permitting the government to impeach his testimony with an illegally obtained statement. Specifically, he argues that the trial court erred in ruling that there was no evidence of mitigation from which the jury could have concluded that he was guilty of manslaughter rather than murder, and in permitting, for impeachment purposes, the introduction of post-arrest statements elicited from him, intentionally, while he lay hospitalized in the absence of counsel. We discuss, but find it unnecessary to conclusively rule as to his first claim of error, and find his second to have merit requiring reversal.
Shortly after midnight on January 6, 1988, appellant Stanley Simpson ("Simpson") called the security office at the Capitol City Inn, an emergency shelter for homeless families, and informed a special police officer that in Room 301, he had stabbed his two sons and himself. Two special police officers forced open the locked and chained door to Room 301, and found two small boys lying lifeless and bloody on a bed. Simpson was lying on the bed next to the boys, clutching his abdomen. Police and an ambulance team arrived soon thereafter. The medical examiner determined that the boys died as a result of stab wounds to the chest with internal hemorrhage.
When the police arrived on the scene, Simpson admitted that he killed his two sons, Dwayne Stephen Barnes, age 8, and Jerome Clayton Barnes, age 4, *fn3 and attempted to kill himself. He indicated where the knife would be found and it was recovered.
Mr. Simpson was arrested and taken by ambulance to the Medstar Unit at Washington Hospital Center suffering from four stab wounds, two to his chest below the heart and two to his abdomen. He received emergency treatment, and subsequently underwent a two-hour operation before being transferred to a hospital room where he was visited repeatedly by a detective. (See p. 8, (infra)).
After the government's opening statement, Simpson revealed that his defense would be that he killed his children in the heat of passion caused by his overwhelming sense of hopelessness and despair. He proffered evidence about personal circumstances involving his sons and the mother of his children and argued that either provocation or heat of passion could reduce murder to manslaughter. *fn4 The trial Judge, relying on case language purportedly suggesting that provocation means "provocation by the victim" *fn5 and that "emotional strain" cannot defeat a showing of malice, *fn6 refused to allow appellant to argue in his opening statement to the jury that these personal circumstances showed he was guilty only of manslaughter.
The trial Judge, however, did accept appellant's argument that he should be able to testify to, and present witnesses to corroborate, his state of mind and thus show that he committed second-degree rather than first-degree murder.
Thereafter evidence was produced that revealed that both of Simpson's sons, Dwayne and Jerome Barnes, were victims of cerebral palsy. Neither could feed, dress, or bathe himself. They attended Sharp Health School for handicapped children. Dwayne spoke only a few words, and never learned to walk independently but was always smiling. His chronological age was eight years, but due to his delayed mental and physical development he functioned as a two-year-old child. Jerome experienced similar developmental delays, but was learning to crawl on his belly. The boys shared one wheelchair, as the family could not afford to purchase another.
Simpson's relationship with Venita Barnes, his high school sweetheart and the boys' mother, was plagued by her drug addiction. In order to support her drug habit, she sold the boys' diapers and clothing. The public assistance check she received for herself and for the boys was spent on drugs. She prostituted herself in the room at the Capitol City Inn while the boys were present and left the boys unattended for long periods of time. For many years, Simpson was sole caretaker of his sons. He sought help from a social service agency and cried when he was told nothing could be done. In 1987, the boys and their mother moved to Room 301 of the Capitol City Inn. Simpson quit his last steady job and moved into the shelter's cramped quarters in order to care for his sons.
On the morning of January 4, 1988, Barnes left the room to pick up government checks while Simpson remained with the boys. Barnes did not return that day or night. On the afternoon of January 5, Barnes returned briefly with one check and drugs, then left again promising to return in time to pick up the children's dinner from the shelter cafeteria. As hour after hour passed, Simpson realized that Ms. Barnes was not coming back. Pacing the floor he felt himself losing control. When the children fell asleep, he stabbed them and himself. He lay beside the children's bodies from four to six hours in the hope of bleeding to death before he called security.
The court limited the use of this evidence, refusing to permit appellant to show that this state of mind could operate to reduce second-degree murder to manslaughter. Included in its final instructions to the jury was the standard instruction on second-degree murder, omitting the bracketed language regarding injury to the deceased "in the heat of passion caused by adequate provocation." The court further instructed the jury on manslaughter but gave no instruction on mitigation. In describing the theory of the defense, the trial court refused to instruct that malice could be mitigated by heat of passion.
Standard for Jury Instruction on ...