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DAVIS v. U.S.

April 23, 1998

AMY K. DAVIS, APPELLANT,
V.
UNITED STATES, APPELLEE.



APPEAL FROM THE SUPERIOR COURT, RUSSELL F. CANAN, J. [712 A2d Page 483]

Before Farrell, and King, Associate Judges, and BURNETT,[fn*] Associate Judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. [fn*] Sitting by designation pursuant to D.C.Code § 11-707(a) (1995).

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Burnett, Associate Judge of the Superior Court:

Appellant Amy K. Davis was convicted by a jury on three counts, burglary in the first degree while armed, threats, and possession of a prohibited weapon (flammable liquid). On appeal, appellant contends (1) that the evidence at trial was not sufficient to convict her of burglary in the first degree while armed because her actions did not constitute an "entry," and even if there was an "entry" there was not sufficient evidence of the required intent to commit a crime at the time of the "entry" into the premises; and (2) that the trial judge's giving of the Winters instruction shortly after the jury started deliberating was coercive and caused the jury to return guilty verdicts. *fn1 [712 A2d Page 484]

We reject each of these contentions and affirm.

I.

Taking the evidence in the light most favorable to the government and drawing all reasonable inferences in its favor, Blakeney v. United States, 653 A.2d 365, 369 n. 3 (D.C. 1995) (quoting Gayden v. United States, 584 A.2d 578, 580 (D.C. 1990)), the evidence was as follows. Early in the a.m. on April 20, 1995, appellant Davis complained to police officers that she had been robbed and the man had fled into 1249 Wylie Street, N.E. When the police went to that house, Pauline Broadnax invited them in to look around. A man came down the stairs and the police questioned him outside the house. At first, Davis claimed that he was with the man who had robbed her, but later changed her story and admitted that he had been with her before the robbery. The man denied any involvement. Further, Davis gave inconsistent versions, eventually telling the police the man had run down an alley and discarded her purse in the alley. During her rendition Davis became so excited and boisterous that the officers threatened to arrest her for disorderly conduct. They finally took a report of her complaint but did not arrest anyone, and gave her a ride to the area of her home in the vicinity of Georgia Avenue and Lamont Street, N.W.

Later on April 20, 1995, shortly before 6:00 p.m., Davis returned to the area of 1249 Wylie Street, N.E. Yvette Benson testified that she was watching some children playing in front of Sophia Wright's house in the 1200 block of Wylie Street, N.E., when she saw Davis walking down the street towards Pauline Broadnax's house. Davis, as she passed Ms. Benson, told her to "get the kids in the house. I'm getting ready to set that bitch (sic) house on fire." Benson testified that Davis was carrying a blue antifreeze container and a bottle of clear liquid with a sock hanging out of it. After Benson took the children in the house, she went to the back of the 1249 Wylie Street, N.E. house and looked into the alley where she saw a crowd of people gathered. She then saw Davis throw a flaming Molotov cocktail into Pauline Broadnax's house.

Sophia Wright was at home on Wylie Street, N.E., while the children under Benson's supervision played in front of her house. Ms. Wright related that Benson then sent Wright's children into the house because of a problem in the street. Benson exclaimed that there was "a young lady outside getting ready to set Lady on fire" and tried to calm down her "kids who were screaming and hollering." Shortly thereafter, Wright saw appellant Davis chasing Pauline Broadnax in front of her house with a blue antifreeze container in her hand and heard her telling Broadnax she was going to burn her with "this gasoline."

Pauline Broadnax testified that she heard a commotion at the back of her house and, while partially dressed, went to the stairs leading downstairs and looked towards the kitchen. She heard Davis yell, "[t]ell those bitches to come out here 'cause I'm going to burn this motherfucker down." Ms. Broadnax ran back upstairs to finish dressing and then returned downstairs, where she saw a puddle of liquid on the kitchen floor and William Coleman standing in the puddle pouring water on the floor. Broadnax could smell gasoline and saw Davis "stick her hand through my grille (sic) . . . to pour what was ever (sic) in the antifreeze bottle onto the kitchen floor." She then saw Davis throw a match, a Pepsi bottle, and an antifreeze jug into the house. The kitchen was immediately engulfed in flames and Mr. Coleman's pants leg and shoe caught on fire.

William Coleman testified that he had been sleeping on the couch in the living room when he heard a commotion in the back of the house. He went towards the back to the kitchen and saw Davis open the rear door, which was broken and unlocked, by reaching through the locked security gate and pushing it open. He then heard Davis yell, "[W]here is those motherfuckers? Tell them bastards, motherfuckers, come on out. I'm a burn — I'ma (sic) burn they ass up." He testified that he attempted to calm Davis down but she squeezed a blue antifreeze can through the security gate and began to pour liquid that smelled like gasoline onto the kitchen [712 A2d Page 485]

floor. He further testified that Davis threw two bottles with gas in them through the security gate, but that neither of the bottles was lit. She then asked someone in the crowd for a match, lit the match, and threw it into the house. Coleman testified that the kitchen then erupted into flames, and that his pants and jacket caught on fire, but he was able to put the fire out. He heard the defendant yell "[b]urn motherfuckers. Let that motherfucker burn." *fn2

II.

Appellant contends that her conviction for burglary in the first degree while armed must be reversed as the evidence failed to show that she entered Pauline Broadnax's house. Even if she did, she argues that she lacked the specific intent to commit a crime therein at the time of the entry. Neither contention is persuasive.

Davis first argues that she never entered 1249 Wylie Street, N.E., asserting that the closest she got was standing at the security gate of the residence, from which — the government's evidence showed — she reached through the gate and poured flammable liquid into the dwelling. Davis argues in effect that "entry" under the burglary statute requires the whole body to have passed over the threshold or through the doorway. We reject this definition of the word "entry" as did the court in Edelen v. United States, 560 A.2d 527 (D.C. 1989). While Davis contends that the court's discussion of the meaning of the word "entry" in Edelen ...


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