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Greenwood v. U.S.

June 5, 1995


Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. (Hon. Truman A. Morrison III, Motions Judge). (Hon. Gladys Kessler, Trial Judge).

Before Terry, King, and Ruiz, Associate Judges.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: King

KING, Associate Judge: This case presents an issue of first impression: whether the trial court, after a pretrial identification suppression hearing during which the identification witness did not testify, upon finding that the identification procedures were not unduly suggestive, abused discretion in delaying a determination of the reliability of the identification until after the identifying witness testified at trial. Concluding that such a course is not an abuse of discretion, we affirm.

Terrence O. Greenwood was convicted of first degree burglary, two counts of sodomy, and assault with intent to rape stemming from an attack upon a woman inside her apartment on a summer afternoon in 1992. The victim testified that earlier in the day she had gone to the swimming pool of her upper Connecticut Avenue apartment building. When she arrived, at about 1:15 p.m., a lifeguard and others dressed in swimming apparel were present, including a male in his twenties, appellant Greenwood, whom the victim later identified as her assailant.

Several hours later it began to rain, and the victim and the other swimmers, including Greenwood, left the pool area and entered the elevator. When the elevator reached her floor, only Greenwood and the victim remained. The victim left the elevator, walked to the door of her apartment, and opened it with her key. Greenwood, who had followed the victim from the elevator, then forced his way into her apartment where a brief struggle took place inside the door. A neighbor would later testify that she heard a woman's scream coming from the hallway outside of the victim's apartment at about the time Greenwood forced the victim into her apartment.

After he gained entry to the apartment, Greenwood sodomized the victim and unsuccessfully attempted sexual intercourse against the victim's will. Greenwood then departed, and the victim promptly reported the incident to friends who lived in the apartment building and to the police. Several days after the assault, she identified Greenwood from a photo array, and he was subsequently arrested in an apartment in Wheaton, Maryland, a nearby suburb of the District. Thereafter, the victim identified Greenwood in a lineup.

The parties stipulated that DNA evidence established that the probability that Greenwood was the source of semen found on the victim's underpants was not less than 2000 to 1. In addition, one of the keys, found on a key ring recovered from the victim's apartment near where she and the assailant had struggled, matched the key to the apartment in Wheaton where Greenwood was arrested. *fn1 Greenwood's uncle, who lived in the apartment building across the street from the victim's apartment building, testified that Greenwood, who did not live with the uncle, spent the night before the assault in the uncle's apartment. The uncle testified that residents of his apartment building have access to pool passes usable at the swimming pool located at the victim's apartment building, and that Greenwood left his apartment the day of the offense at approximately 1:00 p.m. saying he was going swimming. The uncle left at about the same time, and when he returned near midnight, Greenwood was asleep in the apartment. Finally, one of the lifeguards testified that when he relieved another lifeguard in the middle of the afternoon, Greenwood (whom he identified in court), the victim, and other swimmers were present, and that everyone left the pool area when it began to rain. Although Greenwood presented no evidence, the focus of his defense was to cast doubt upon the identification of him as the assailant.

At the pretrial identification suppression hearing the government presented testimony from several police officers regarding the circumstances of the identification procedures. The motions Judge rejected Greenwood's claim that the procedures were unduly suggestive. At the government's request, however, but over Greenwood's objection, the motions Judge agreed that the reliability determination could be made after the victim had testified at trial, thus avoiding the necessity for the victim to appear at both the suppression hearing and the trial. The trial Judge ultimately found that the identification by the victim, who had an opportunity to observe Greenwood for approximately two hours at the swimming pool and for a considerable period of time on the elevator and during the course of the assault, was reliable.

The only substantial issue raised in this appeal is whether the trial court abused discretion in delaying the reliability finding until after the identifying witness testified at trial. *fn2 Our analysis of that issue begins with the two-part test we employ to determine the admissibility of an eyewitness identification. First, the trial court must determine whether the procedures are so impermissibly suggestive that they give rise to a very substantial likelihood of irreparable misidentification. Neil v. Biggers, 409 U.S. 188, 196, 34 L. Ed. 2d 401, 93 S. Ct. 375 (1972); see Stewart, supra, 490 A.2d 619 at 622. If the trial court finds undue suggestivity, it must then determine whether the identification was nonetheless reliable. If the identification is reliable, it is admissible, as is evidence relating to the identification procedures that were found to be suggestive. Neil, 409 U.S. at 199.

On the other hand, if the identification procedures are not unduly suggestive, the details of those procedures are admissible and no reliability finding is necessary. Nonetheless, we have frequently encouraged trial Judges, even when finding there was no suggestivity, to make explicit reliability findings. *fn3 We have done so because, in that occasional case where we disagree with the no suggestivity finding, or where that finding presents a close question, the appeal can be resolved based on the outcome of the reliability determination without the need to remand for findings on that point. In short, while we have regularly encouraged trial courts to make a reliability finding, and continue to do so, we have never required such a finding.

Here the government requested that the reliability finding be made after the victim's trial testimony in order to spare her the ordeal of having to testify twice about the unpleasant events she would have to relate. The motions Judge agreed to the request, reasoning:

If I am not required to make those determinations at the motions hearing, then I obviously retain some discretion to defer when I am going to make them and I am exercising that discretion.

In reaching that Conclusion, the motions Judge correctly assessed the proper scope of his discretion.

The trial Judge "has the responsibility of managing the conduct of a trial." Williams v. United States, 228 A.2d 846, 848 (D.C. 1967). In the federal courts, trial Judges are governed by ...

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