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Walls v. United States

May 31, 2001


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

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

Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia Hon. Harold J. Cushenberry, Jr., Trial Judge

Argued May 13, 1999

At approximately 3:00 a.m. on August 9, 1992, Riley Walls and his friend Micah Bryan encountered Ramon Cherry and Jesse Moore on the front steps of an apartment building. After an exchange of words, Walls pulled out a nine-millimeter handgun and opened fire. Cherry was shot in the foot but managed to escape with his life. Moore was not so lucky; he was shot in the back and died at the scene. Walls was later arrested and charged with first-degree murder while armed, *fn1 assault with intent to kill while armed, *fn2 possession of a firearm during a crime of violence, *fn3 and carrying a pistol without a license (CPWL). *fn4 After two mistrials, each of which resulted from a hung jury, Walls was tried a third time and convicted of all the offenses charged except CPWL. *fn5

On appeal Walls raises three claims of error. First, he contends that the trial court erred in precluding him from impeaching Micah Bryan, who testified for the government, with a prior juvenile adjudication for second-degree murder. Second, Walls asserts that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel in his third trial because his attorney failed to call a witness, Andrew Morris, who had testified at the first trial that he saw two men who did not match the description of Walls and Bryan fleeing from the scene immediately after the shooting. Finally, Walls challenges the sufficiency of the evidence that he had a specific intent to kill Ramon Cherry. We reject each of these arguments and affirm all the convictions.


A. The Government's Evidence

Micah Bryan, who was a close friend of Walls in 1992, testified that he and Walls arrived at 811 Bellevue Street, S.E., early in the morning of August 9, 1992, intending to spend the night at the apartment of Bryan's mother. Walls was carrying a "Tech 9" semi-automatic handgun in the front of his pants. He parked his white station wagon in the alley behind the apartment building. On their way up the front steps, they saw sixteen-year-old Ramon Cherry and fourteen-year-old Jesse Moore coming down the steps toward them. Cherry and Moore knew Bryan but did not recognize Walls. Cherry thus inquired as to the reason for Walls' presence in the neighborhood, and Moore asked Bryan, "What's up with you bringing your man around here?" Walls grew upset at these questions and retorted that it was none of their business what he was doing there. The four young men continued to exchange words as they passed each other on the steps. According to Bryan, Moore did not appear to have a weapon, nor did he make any threats or otherwise show signs of aggression.

Moore and Cherry then turned and started to walk away, *fn6 but Walls came back down the steps and moved toward them, drawing his gun. When Cherry and Moore saw that Walls had a gun, they started to run. Suddenly Walls fired several shots. Cherry managed to escape into the stairwell of an adjacent building, but Moore was hit in the back and fell to the ground, face down, in the alley. As Bryan and Walls got back into Walls' car, Walls uttered an obscenity and exclaimed, "They shouldn't disrespect me." The two headed for a nearby gas station to buy some sodas, then continued to drive around for a while until Walls dropped Bryan off at his house.

A few weeks later, Cherry ran into Bryan at a convenience store and told him, "This is [messed] up, man, you know what I'm saying, you know your man shot my man . . . . You didn't do nothing about it or nothing like that."

Ramon Cherry testified that he and Moore were coming down the front steps of the apartment building on the night of the shooting while Walls and Bryan were headed up the steps. According to Cherry, Bryan had already reached the top of the steps by the time Walls got out of his car. Moore asked Bryan why Walls was "looking at us the way he was . . . he must don't know where he be at." Cherry, seeing that Walls had a gun tucked in his waistband, told Moore to "come on." Moore took about three steps away from Walls, then turned back around to face him. When Walls started shooting, Cherry ran into the building next door and up two flights of stairs. As he ran, he heard about ten or twelve shots. One of those shots struck his right foot.

A short time later, Cherry returned to the alley and saw Moore's motionless body lying on the ground. After walking a little farther down the alley, he met a friend named Donald Butler. Cherry and Butler ran through the apartment complex to Southern Avenue, stopping once to ask a neighbor to call the police. They eventually flagged down a passing patrol car, which drove them back to the scene of the shooting.

Although he knew Walls by name, Cherry did not at first disclose the identity of Moore's killer to the police because he wanted to get revenge by killing Walls himself. Instead, he gave the police a false description of two persons who he said were responsible for the shooting. One he described as a twenty-two-year-old man, six feet tall, weighing 160 pounds, with a medium complexion, wearing green pants and a black shirt. The other, he said, was a thirty-five-year-old man, about five feet four inches tall, whom he described as "scruffy." Cherry told the police that these two men shot Moore and then fled in a blue car. A few minutes later, the police brought to the ambulance where Cherry was waiting two men who resembled the descriptions he had given and asked him if they were involved in the shooting. He said that they were not.

Donald Butler witnessed the events leading up to the shooting from a hill on the opposite side of a parking lot near the apartment building. *fn7 He heard and saw Moore arguing with one of the men, and then heard Cherry tell Moore to "come on." Butler turned away briefly, but looked up again when he heard four gunshots. He testified that he saw flames coming from the muzzle of the shooter's gun. After the shooting, Butler ran down Chesapeake Street and met Cherry in an alley. He noticed that Cherry was limping and had blood on his shoe. Butler also said that the two men whom the police brought back to the scene did not resemble the two who had been involved in the shooting.

On the day after the shooting, Walls asked Carlos Scott whether Scott had heard that he had "busted somebody." Scott testified that he understood the word "busted" to mean shot.

On November 29, 1993, more than a year after the shooting, Special Agent Charles Regini of the Federal Bureau of Investigation asked Cherry to come to the United States Attorney's Office to talk about the case. During their conversation Cherry named Walls as Moore's killer and selected his picture from an array of photographs. Cherry also identified Walls in court as the man who shot Moore. Cherry testified that, before speaking with Agent Regini, he had told both Donald Butler and Jesse Mahoney, Moore's father, that Walls was the gunman. *fn8 He also corroborated Bryan's story ...

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