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Woodard v. United States

August 26, 1999

RAYNARD WOODARD, APPELLANT,
v.
UNITED STATES, APPELLEE.



Before Steadman, Schwelb and Ruiz, Associate Judges.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ruiz, Associate Judge

Appeals from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (Hon. Henry H. Kennedy Jr., Trial Judge)

Argued November 3, 199

After a jury trial, appellant, Raynard Woodard, was convicted of second-degree murder *fn1 and sentenced to a term of imprisonment of twenty years to life. *fn2 Woodard contends on appeal that the trial court erred in denying his § 23-110 motion, *fn3 and in imposing a minimum sentence of twenty years. Because we find that counsel's performance did not prejudice appellant, we affirm the trial court's denial of Woodard's § 23-110 motion, but remand for resentencing in accordance with this opinion.

I.

On October 16, 1992, at about 5:00 or 5:30 p.m., Raymond Adams saw Woodard entering his home at 924 Ingraham Street, N.W., with a woman wearing a skirt. *fn4 Around 5:30 p.m., Sheila Oden, who was in her home next door at 922 Ingraham Street with her boyfriend, Jeffrey Owens, heard a window break and someone screaming. She and Owens went outside and concluded that the noise was coming from Woodard's home at 924 Ingraham Street. Oden then heard a woman screaming from the second floor bedroom of 924 Ingraham Street, "Stop! Stop! Leave me alone! Help! Help!" Several minutes later, Raymond Adams came out of his house, entered the backyard of 924 Ingraham Street, and tried to get inside the house. He yelled, "Raynard, open the door," but Woodard did not answer and Adams went back to his own house. Soon thereafter, Adams came back outside and Oden expressed concern that no one could enter the house to help. After the screaming stopped, Oden, Owens and Adams went back inside their respective homes. *fn5

Between 6:45 and 7:30 p.m., David Attaway, a neighborhood acquaintance, saw Woodard emerge from behind the laundromat, at the corner of Hamilton Street and Georgia Avenue, N.W., with a torn shirt and looking agitated and as though he was in a hurry. *fn6 At about 7:45 p.m., James Butler went out the back door of his house, which leads to the Ingraham Street alley, and saw what he believed to be a body lying on top of some brush. After getting his next-door neighbor and a nearby woman, they confirmed that it was a body, and Butler's mother called the police.

At about 8:00 p.m., police officers arrived on the scene and saw the corpse of a woman wearing dark-colored sweatpants and a blue and grey sweat shirt with no shoes. *fn7 In response to a radio broadcast, a detective then entered 924 Ingraham Street to locate the broken, second-floor window, but the bedroom door was padlocked. That same day, Woodard moved out of 924 Ingraham Street. In the course of investigation the decedent was identified by her fingerprints as Sherrie Sajko. Sometime after the murder, Woodard's half-brother, Marvin Douglas, who also lived at 924 Ingraham Street, found a ring in the house which had belonged to Sherrie Sajko.

On November 24, 1992, police officers entered 924 Ingraham Street with a search warrant and found a broken window in Woodard's second- floor bedroom. They also discovered blood on the side of a dresser inside the room. In the basement, the police found a large light-blue plastic trash can which had dried blood on it and contained a blanket with a very large blood stain on one end. The door to the basement opened out of the rear of the house into the Ingraham alley where the victim's body was found.

At trial, a Federal Bureau of Investigation special agent testified that the DNA from the blood on the mattress pad found in Bullock's second-floor bedroom matched DNA from the victim's blood. Another FBI agent, assigned to the Hairs and Fibers Unit, testified that the carpet fibers found on Sajko's sweatshirt matched those in Woodard's second- floor bedroom. He also testified that the dog hairs found on Sajko's sweatpants and on Sajko's transport sheet matched the dog hairs in Woodard's home. The Deputy Medical Examiner determined Sajko's death was due to "blunt force injuries" to the head, which were too scattered to have resulted from a fall. The examiner also determined that the alcohol and cocaine in Sajko's bloodstream did not cause her death.

At the close of the government's evidence, defense counsel rested without putting on any witnesses, and, after a colloquy with the Judge, Woodard waived his right to testify on his own behalf. The trial Judge then excused the jury and invited the parties to propose jury instructions. When the Judge asked whether either party would be requesting jury instructions on lesser-included offenses, defense counsel requested instructions on second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter. The government responded that it was reluctant to "say much about jury instructions," but didn't believe that involuntary manslaughter was appropriate. After closing arguments, the Judge instructed the jury on first-degree murder, second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter. In doing so, he guided the jury on the order in which the offenses should be considered:

"You should first consider whether Mr. Woodard is guilty of the greater offense of first-degree murder. If you find that . . . the defendant is guilty of first-degree murder, do not go on to consider the other two charges. If you find the defendant not guilty of first-degree murder, or if after making all reasonable efforts to reach a verdict with respect to that offense you are not able to do so, you are allowed to consider and should consider the offense of second-degree murder. . . ."

The jury convicted Woodard of ...


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