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Binion v. U.S.

April 28, 1995

CHARLES BINION, APPELLANT,
v.
UNITED STATES, APPELLEE.



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

Before Wagner, Chief Judge,* King, Associate Judge, and Mack, Senior Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wagner

WAGNER, Chief Judge: Appellant, Charles Binion, was indicted for two counts of first-degree murder while armed, one count of carrying a pistol without a license, and one count of possession of a firearm during a crime of violence or dangerous offense. At the arraignment on April 7, 1992, appellant accepted the government's plea offer and entered a plea of guilty to one count of second-degree murder while armed, one count of voluntary manslaughter, and one count of possession of a firearm during a crime of violence or dangerous offense. Three days later, on April 10, 1992, appellant notified the attorney who had represented him at the plea proceedings (plea attorney) that he wanted to withdraw his plea and proceed to trial. The plea attorney agreed to file a motion to withdraw the plea, but only after meeting with appellant. Prior to sentencing, the plea attorney met with appellant on April 15, 1992, and on April 17, 1992, he filed a motion to withdraw the guilty plea. As grounds for the motion, appellant claimed that he had acted lawfully and in self-defense. After an evidentiary hearing, the trial court denied the motion. Appellant argues that the trial court abused its discretion in denying his pre-sentence motion to withdraw the guilty plea. We affirm.

I.

During the plea proceeding, the government proffered that if the case proceeded to trial, the evidence would show that on the afternoon of January 11, 1992, appellant was sitting in his black Pathfinder vehicle in the 1500 block of 17th Street, Southeast, Washington, D.C. at about 3:10 p.m. A vehicle driven by Darrell Price, in which Darius Moore and Calvin Hargrove, Jr. were passengers, pulled up alongside appellant's vehicle. Following a conversation, appellant got out of his vehicle and approached Price's vehicle. Appellant began firing a pistol at Hargrove, who ran back to Price's car and jumped in, and Price started driving away. Appellant continued to shoot in the direction of the fleeing vehicle, which he chased after on foot. When Price's car stalled at an intersection, Price and Hargrove got out of it and ran. Appellant continued to shoot at Hargrove. He fired a total of 32 rounds at the men. Appellant then ran back to his vehicle and drove away. Subsequently, he threw the murder weapon into the Potomac River.

Following the shooting, Moore was found in the back seat of Price's vehicle with a fatal gunshot wound to the head. Hargrove, who suffered multiple gunshot wounds to the chest and abdomen, underwent surgery at D.C. General Hospital where he subsequently died from his wounds on February 7, 1992. At the time of his arrest, after being advised of his Miranda rights, *fn1 appellant made a statement to the police, which the prosecutor read into the record at the time of the plea. According to appellant's statement, he fired at Hargrove because he saw him reach for a pistol as he approached appellant's vehicle. Appellant said he then "jumped in the truck and pulled off." In the statement, appellant recounted prior incidents of violence in which he thought Hargrove had been involved. He also said that he and Hargrove had "got into it before because back in November said he was going to kill [appellant's] mother." Appellant explained that he did not know during the shooting that he had shot Darius Moore, who was a lifelong friend, but he was scared and just shooting.

Before accepting the plea, the trial court conducted an inquiry pursuant to Super. Ct. Crim. R. 11, during which the court addressed appellant in an effort to determine if the plea was entered voluntarily. *fn2 Aware of appellant's statement in which he made the claim of self-defense, the trial court initially addressed appellant about whether he understood that he was giving up his self-defense claim as follows:

I want to make sure that Mr. Binion understands full well that before I can accept his plea, he has to acknowledge on the record that there is no self-defense claim. And that obviously it could be disproved or it would be disproved beyond a reasonable doubt, that you thought about that, that you may have . . . subjectively believed that you may have been in some danger but . . . based upon your evaluation of the government's evidence and talking with your attorney you understand that you are going to be waiving any self-defense claim . . . you have on this record.

The trial court then asked appellant, who was under oath, whether he had heard the government's proffer that he had killed two men, that he had not acted in self-defense, and that there were no mitigating circumstances. Before appellant could respond, appellant's counsel interjected that there was a factual basis for the plea in spite of appellant's statement because appellant had continued to chase and shoot at Hargrove after any perceived threat of harm had ended. The trial court then directly inquired of appellant on this aspect of the shooting as follows:

THE COURT: Mr. Binion, based upon the government's proffer, you heard the proffer, that after whatever perceived danger you thought you were in, that you continued to chase and to shoot and eventually kill the victim at a point when apparently that person was fleeing and not at that point posing any danger to your life. You heard the government's statement of its evidence, is the government's statement correct?

THE DEFENDANT: Yes, Your Honor.

THE COURT: And do you understand by pleading guilty you are giving up any self-defense claim that you may have? You understand that?

THE DEFENDANT: Yes, Your Honor.

Having determined that appellant understood his rights and that he voluntarily waived them, including any right to present a self-defense claim, the trial court accepted the ...


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