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Brown v. United States

February 18, 1999

JAMES D. BROWN, APPELLANT,
v.
UNITED STATES, APPELLEE. JOHN H. BANKS, APPELLANT,
v.
UNITED STATES, APPELLEE.



Before Terry and Reid, Associate Judges, and Pryor, Senior Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Pryor, Senior Judge

Notice: This opinion is subject to formal revision before publication in the Atlantic and Maryland Reporters. Users are requested to notify the Clerk of the Court of any formal errors so that corrections may be made before the bound volumes go to press.

Appeals from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia Hon. Henry F. Greene, Trial Judge

Argued December 4, 199

John H. Banks and James D. Brown were convicted by a jury of armed carjacking, D.C. Code § 22-2903 (b) (1996 Repl.), possession of a firearm during a crime of violence, D.C. Code § 22-3204 (b) (1996 Repl.), carrying a pistol without a license, D.C. Code § 22-3204 (a) (1996 Repl.), possession of an unregistered firearm, D.C. Code § 6-2311 (a) (1995 Repl.), and possession of unregistered ammunition, D.C. Code § 6-2361 (3) (1995 Repl.). Both Banks and Brown contend the trial Judge committed reversible error by restricting counsel's efforts, after a motion in limine, from attacking the credibility of a government witness on the basis of an alleged pattern of untruthfulness. Brown also asserts that the trial Judge committed error in denying his motion, pursuant to D.C. Code § 23-110 (1996 Repl.), alleging ineffective assistance of counsel. Lastly, Brown claims a Brady*fn1 violation. We affirm.

I.

A. Facts

The government's chief witness was Mr. Earlie Edmonds, Jr. Edmonds testified that in December 1994, he drove to the 1100 block of Queen Street, N.E., in his blue 1989 Chevrolet Cavalier, in order to sell a pair of his work boots. Edmonds claimed that he needed the money to help feed the children of his girlfriend, Ada Carter.

Edmonds first approached his cousin, Billy Jones, who stated that he did not need the boots. After leaving Jones' apartment, Edmonds stated that two men approached him whom he had never seen before. The men were later identified as Banks and Brown. After an unsuccessful attempt to sell his boots, Edmonds walked to his car and put his keys in the ignition. At that point, Edmonds testified that Brown swung the door open, and pulled a long-barrelled handgun out of his belt. Edmonds claimed that he was ordered to get out of the car. Once out of the car, Edmonds testified that Banks stuck a knife in his side. Edmonds further claimed that Brown ordered him to walk down the street without looking back. Edmonds stated that he ran to a nearby apartment, where his girlfriend lived, and called the police to report the alleged carjacking. Later that evening, a police officer pulled a car over in Northeast Washington matching the description Edmonds gave. Brown was driving the car, and Banks was in the passenger seat. A knife was recovered on Banks, and a long-barrelled handgun found under the seat of the car.

The detective assigned to the case called Edmonds to tell him that he had two suspects to view. Edmonds went to the police station, and identified Brown as the man with the gun who carjacked him. Upon seeing Banks, Edmonds identified him with varying degrees of certainty.

B. Pre-trial Ruling

Prior to the trial, counsel for Banks informed the Judge that he had information that Edmonds had previously loaned his car to others in exchange for cocaine, and then called the police to report it stolen. Counsel also stated Carter would testify that Edmonds had loaned his car to her, and then called the police to report it stolen. Counsel further stated Carter would testify that she was aware that Edmonds had reported the car stolen on prior occasions when he had actually lent it in exchange for drugs, and that often strange items were left in the car.

The trial Judge asked counsel for a theory of admissibility. Counsel replied that "it is basically, a propensity argument we're allowed to bring out." The Judge requested specific authority, but counsel could cite none.

After a recess, the Judge stated that he had done abbreviated research, but could find no basis for the admission of the proffered evidence. The Judge stated that the proffered evidence could be admissible if counsel intended to use it to show a defendant's motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, or absence of mistake. The Judge, however, found none of these reasons to be applicable. The Judge then ruled in limine that counsel could not refer to the proffered evidence in opening statements. Counsel was ...


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