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Martin v. U.S.

September 19, 1994

TYRONE MARTIN, APPELLANT
v.
UNITED STATES, APPELLEE



Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia; (Hon. Harold L. Cushenberry, Trial Judge)

Before Ferren, King, and Sullivan, Associate Judges. Concurring Opinion by Judge King.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sullivan

SULLIVAN, Associate Judge: On appeal, Martin contends that the trial court erred in denying his motion to dismiss his indictment for first-degree murder while armed *fn1 and assault with intent to kill while armed *fn2 on collateral estoppel grounds. Martin maintains that his prior acquittal by a jury of carrying a pistol without a license, *fn3 on the facts of this case, necessarily meant that the jury decided, in his favor, the ultimate issue that he did not intend to participate in an armed assault of the victims. Therefore, he argues, the government was foreclosed from relitigating that issue at a subsequent trial. Finding appellant's arguments unpersuasive, we affirm.

I.

Martin and his co-defendant, Stephen Brandon, were both charged with first-degree murder while armed, assault with intent to kill while armed, and carrying a pistol without a license. Martin was driving a car in which Brandon was a passenger. With Martin behind the steering wheel of the car, Brandon exited the vehicle and fired a handgun at Clayton Gray and Marvin Pegues. *fn4 Gray was struck in the chest and died a short time later, and Pegues escaped unharmed. During their jury trial, Brandon pled guilty to second-degree murder while armed *fn5 and assault with a dangerous weapon. *fn6 Martin moved for a mistrial, but the trial court denied his motion. The trial continued against Martin, and the jury convicted him of first-degree murder while armed and assault with intent to kill, but acquitted him of carrying a pistol without a license.

Martin appealed his convictions, and this court, in Martin v. United States, 606 A.2d 120 (D.C. 1991) reversed his convictions and remanded the case for a new trial. *fn7 Before his new trial began, Martin filed a "Motion to Dismiss Indictment to Prevent Relitigation of Issues Barred by Collateral Estoppel." The trial Judge denied his motion. Martin then entered a conditional Alford *fn8 plea of guilty to manslaughter, reserving the right to appeal the trial Judge's denial of his motion to dismiss. The trial Judge then sentenced him to a term of incarceration of five to fifteen years, and Martin filed this appeal from the trial court's denial of his motion to dismiss on collateral estoppel grounds.

II.

The doctrine of collateral estoppel precludes the relitigation of an issue of ultimate fact between the same parties once that issue has been determined by a valid and final judgment. Ashe v. Swenson, 397 U.S. 436, 443, 25 L. Ed. 2d 469, 90 S. Ct. 1189 (1970). In a criminal proceeding, "the burden is on the defendant to demonstrate that the issue whose relitigation he seeks to foreclose was actually decided in the first proceeding." Halicki v. United States, 614 A.2d 499, 502 (D.C. 1992) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Dowling v. United States, 493 U.S. 342, 350, 107 L. Ed. 2d 708, 110 S. Ct. 668 (1990)). Thus, Martin must demonstrate to this court that during his trial, the jury conclusively determined, in his favor, the specific issue of his intent to participate with Brandon in an armed assault of the victims.

This court recently articulated the standard of review for collateral estoppel claims in the criminal context:

Unless the record of the prior proceeding affirmatively demonstrated that an issue involved in the second trial was definitely determined in the former trial, the possibility that it may have been does not prevent relitigation of that issue.

Halicki, supra, 614 A.2d at 502 (emphasis supplied) (citation and quotation marks omitted) (quoting United States v. Smith, 337 A.2d 499, 503 (D.C. 1975)). We must examine de novo "the record, taking into account the pleadings, evidence, instructions, closing argument and the like and conclude whether a 'rational jury' could have acquitted based on an issue other than the one the defendant seeks to bar from reconsideration." Felder v. United States, 548 A.2d 57, 67 (D.C. 1988).

Martin contends that by acquitting him of carrying a pistol without a license ("CPWL"), the jury must have rejected the testimony of government witnesses that appellant knew that Brandon had armed himself for the purpose of shooting the victims and transported Brandon to the crime scene knowing he possessed the guns for that purpose. Moreover, Martin argues that the jury must have found that he did not intend, or did not know Brandon intended, to shoot the victims, prior to the shooting, and therefore the decision on the issue of intent, having been resolved conclusively in his favor, precludes relitigation of the murder and assault ("AWIK") charges.

III.

Because of his convictions for murder and AWIK at his jury trial, Martin has failed to demonstrate that his acquittal for CPWL conclusively determined, in his favor, an ultimate fact central to the charges that were the subject of the retrial. Martin, however, contends that his convictions for murder and AWIK were attributable to erroneous aiding and abetting instructions, and therefore those convictions may not be relied upon as establishing the jury's failure to determine in his favor the issue of his intent to aid and abet the assault. According to appellant, the instructions were faulty because they improperly encouraged the jury to convict on murder and AWIK charges based ...


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