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Jones v. United States

September 16, 1999

LAMONT R. JONES, APPELLANT,
V.
UNITED STATES, APPELLEE.



Before Schwelb, Farrell and Ruiz, Associate Judges.

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

Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (Hon. Ellen S. Huvelle, Trial Judge)

Argued January 26, 199

After a jury trial, appellant, Lamont R. Jones, was convicted of various weapon-related charges. *fn1 Jones contends on appeal that the trial court abused its discretion in admitting evidence that he was wearing a bullet-proof vest when apprehended by the police. Appellant also asserts that the trial court erred in not, sua sponte, finding that an analogy made by the government in closing argument was improper and warrants reversal. We affirm.

I.

At approximately 1:50 a.m. on March 19, 1996, Officers Brady and Thomas, driving a marked police car, were patrolling in the 5800 block of Fields Place N.E., an area well-lit by street lights. From a distance of about sixty feet, Officer Brady saw Jones holding a large black weapon in his left hand and immediately recognized the weapon as a "Tec-9 configuration" handgun, a machine gun. As Officer Brady continued to approach Jones in the police car, he observed Jones place the gun in his waistband. After Officer Brady alerted Officer Thomas to the gun, Officer Thomas noticed the gun protruding from Jones' waistband. As the patrol car moved even closer to Jones, both officers saw Jones move his jacket to conceal the gun and cradle his right arm around the jacket. The officers then observed Jones fleeing the approaching patrol car between two apartment buildings.

Officer Brady stopped the car and chased Jones through a dark alley and into the 5900 block of Foote Street where he and Officer Thomas, who had driven the patrol car to Foote Street, apprehended Jones. After a pat-down search, Officer Thomas discovered that Jones, who was wearing a bullet-proof vest, did not have a gun on his person. Officer Brady immediately directed Officer Vaughan, a back-up police officer, to search the alley through which he had chased Jones. There, Officer Vaughan found a "semiautomatic TEC-9 looking 9 millimeter pistol" which was not wet on the side facing up even though it was a dewy evening. The machine gun was loaded at the time it was recovered and Officer Brady identified it as the one he had seen Jones holding on the 5800 block of Fields Place. No fingerprints were found on the gun. *fn2 A test fire of the gun confirmed that it was in working order.

Before trial, defense counsel made a motion in limine requesting the exclusion of the bullet-proof vest Jones wore when he was arrested on the grounds that it was irrelevant and that its probative value was substantially outweighed by its prejudicial effect. The trial court denied this motion and, in closing argument, the government made the following analogy:

[D]o you remember . . . King Arthur, the Knights of the Round Table? You remember those gallant folk back in medieval times? They were the ones that were riding on horseback with shields and with swords.

How many knights have you ever heard of or seen that rode around on horseback only carrying a shield? There's nothing illegal about this, ladies and gentlemen, nothing illegal about it at all.

But at two o'clock in the morning in this area here when this man there sees the police and runs and he is seen by the police to be holding what appears to be [a gun] and [a gun] is recovered, what's the probability that that knight was only carrying a shield and he wasn't carrying a weapon?

Well, ladies and gentlemen, I submit to you what happened here is that the real knights, the real knights came into Field Place. And when the real knights were seen by the pretend knight, the pretend knight ran. And he got rid of his sword but he couldn't get rid of his shield. But the police found it. And because the police found it, we're here today.

Jones was convicted on all ...


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