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November 22, 1993


Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia; (Hon. Henry H. Kennedy, Jr., Trial Judge)

Before Ferren and Steadman, Associate Judges, and Pryor, Senior Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Per Curiam

PER CURIAM: Following a jury trial appellant was convicted of two counts of first degree murder while armed, in violation of D.C. Code §§ 22-2401, -3202 (1989). Prior to trial, appellant moved to suppress several statements that he made to police and certain physical evidence. A hearing was held on appellant's motion, after which the trial court denied the motion. Appellant challenges the denial of his motion to suppress, the admission of assertedly inadmissible hearsay at trial, and the sufficiency of the evidence as to premeditation. We conclude that inadmissible hearsay was admitted at trial, resulting in unfair prejudice to appellant, and, therefore, we reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand for a new trial. We reject appellant's other arguments.


On October 29, 1989, Officers Kevin Flemens and Shawn Braxton of the Metropolitan Police Department were on patrol in a marked police cruiser. At approximately 4:55 a.m., they saw appellant running down the street and yelling to them. Appellant, who was breathing heavily, highly emotional, and bleeding from a severe cut on his left hand, approached the police car and informed the officers that there had been a stabbing in a nearby apartment. Appellant then entered the car and directed the officers to the apartment. Officer Flemens radioed for an ambulance, and when appellant and the officers arrived at the apartment, Officer Flemens instructed Officer Braxton to stay with appellant while Officer Flemens went inside. Officer Braxton testified that he was concerned at that point that appellant might pass out due to a loss of blood. Officer Carter Adams and several other officers also arrived at the scene during this time.

Officer Flemens testified that when he first entered the apartment, he saw blood on the knob of the television in the living room, some blood on the living room carpet, and a bloody towel between the living room and the hallway. He went down the hallway to the bedrooms and saw a baby sitting on a bed, and in the same bedroom found a woman with multiple stab wounds lying face down on the floor. In the adjacent bedroom, he found a young girl, also having suffered multiple stab wounds. Both were dead at the time that Officer Flemens found them.

Officer Braxton testified that because appellant was a potential witness to the events that had taken place in the apartment, he accompanied appellant to the hospital in the ambulance. Officer Braxton also testified that he never placed appellant under arrest or restrained him in any way, and that appellant never objected to his presence. A uniformed police officer transported appellant to the homicide office at approximately 10:10 a.m., after appellant's examination at the hospital was completed.

Detective Dwayne Stanton took appellant into an interview room at the homicide office and explained that appellant was not under arrest, that he was free to leave at any time, and that he only wanted to ask appellant a few questions, but that appellant did not have to answer any questions if he did not want to. Detective Stanton then gave appellant a modified PD-47 to read and initial. The modification added the word "not" to the statement "You are under arrest." In addition, Detective Stanton also read the PD-47 aloud to appellant. Appellant wrote "yes" next to each question on the waiver side of the PD-47, *fn1 and signed and dated the bottom.

Detective Herman Johnson joined Detective Stanton and they proceeded to interview appellant. During that interview, the detectives asked appellant if they could take his clothes in order to run some tests on them; appellant agreed and relinquished his clothing. Later, Detective Roger Hearron came in and replaced the other detectives in the interview room. Detective Hearron interviewed appellant and then accompanied appellant when he went outside to meet his father. *fn2 After they returned to the homicide office, Detective Young, the officer in charge of the investigation, arrived from the crime scene and about six hours after appellant's arrival at the homicide office, placed appellant under arrest. He showed appellant an unmodified PD-47, which appellant signed and dated, again answering "yes" to each question. Appellant then repeated his story to Detective Young.

According to appellant's account as given at trial, when he arrived home on October 29, 1989, to the apartment that he shared with Brenda Sams, her niece Kianna Sams, and his son Tory, Brenda was lying on the floor and a man named Jesus, to whom appellant owed money for a drug debt and who had harassed appellant and his family in the past, was standing over Brenda with a knife. Jesus tried to stab appellant with the knife and appellant grabbed at the knife in defense. The two men got into a struggle and appellant was thrown into a piece of furniture. He hit his head, and although never unconscious, was afraid to move. When Jesus left, appellant got up and ran down the street towards his mother's house, from where he intended to call the police. As he was running down the street, he flagged down the police car for help.

The government's theory at trial was that appellant had fabricated the entire story about Jesus and had actually committed the murders of Brenda and Kianna Sams himself. The government asserted that appellant had lied about the actions that he said that Jesus had previously taken against appellant and his family. Detective Johnson testified that he spoke with appellant's mother on the telephone during the time that appellant was being interviewed at the homicide office, and that she had denied that the events appellant had related had ever taken place. The government argued that as the stories of the previous events were false, so too, was appellant's story relating to the murders.


Appellant contends that the trial court committed reversible error in allowing two police detectives to testify about the hearsay content of a telephone conversation one of them had with appellant's mother. The government denies that the challenged statements were inadmissible hearsay, arguing that the evidence was offered not for its truth but for its relevance to the police investigation and arrest. The government says, more specifically, that the statements were offered to show appellant's reaction during a police interview to information, attributable to his mother, that contradicted the account he had given to the police earlier.

We reject the government's contention for the following reasons. First, through its opening statement to the jury and otherwise, the government presented the challenged statements for their truth; the mother's hearsay was used to impeach the son's testimony in four instances. Second, as to the mother's two most damaging statements, the detectives neither elicited nor , No. 90-FS-1602 (D.C. Feb. 23, 1993). Appellant, covered with blood, came to the police with a report that a person had been murdered in his apartment. He voluntarily sought out the police and requested their intervention and assistance. His detention for a period of time would be warranted while the police could enter the apartment and conduct an initial investigation. See Reid v. United States, 581 A.2d 359, 364 n.7 (D.C. 1990); United States v. Calhoun, 363 A.2d 277, 283-84 (D.C. 1976). Indeed, in addition to his status as a possible suspect, it was clear from appellant's own statements that he was a crucial witness to the events. See Michigan v. Summers, 452 U.S. 692, 700, 69 L. Ed. 2d 340, 101 S. Ct. 2587 n.12 (1981); Williamson v. United States, 607 A.2d 471, 476 (D.C. 1992) (Farrell, J. Concurring), cert. denied, 126 L. Ed. 2d 63, 1993 U.S. LEXIS 5155, 62 U.S.L.W. 3245, 114 S. Ct. 96 (U.S. ...

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