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Fisher v. United States

August 23, 2001


Before Steadman and Reid, Associate Judges, and King, Senior Judge.

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

Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (Hon. Mary Ellen Abrecht, Trial Judge) (Hon. Arthur L. Burnett, Sr., Motions Judge)

Argued April 5, 2001

Appellant Richard Fisher was charged in the shooting death of Tyjuan Renfroe in the District of Columbia. After being arrested in Canada and extradited to the United States, Mr. Fisher was indicted for first-degree murder while armed (premeditated), in violation of D.C. Code §§ 22-2401, -3202; possession of a firearm during a crime of violence ("PFDCV"), in violation of D.C. Code § 22-3204 (b); and carrying a pistol without a license ("CPWL"), in violation of (D.C. Code § 22-3204 (a). *fn1 A jury found appellant guilty of the lesser included offense of second-degree murder, PFDCV, and CPWL. *fn2 Appellant timely filed a notice of appeal.

Appellant raises three issues. First, he contends that the trial court erred in admitting into evidence his statements to the Canadian police despite their failure to give American Miranda *fn3 warnings. Second, he argues that there was insufficient evidence to disprove his claim that he was attempting to defend a third party who was under attack. Third, he urges that the trial court abused its discretion when it denied him an opportunity to recross-examine two witnesses. We affirm.


On January 19, 1994, Tyjuan Renfroe was killed at 717 Portland Street in Southeast, Washington, D.C., in the rooming house where he lived. Mr. Fisher had been staying there in Mr. Renfroe's room for about a week or so before the shooting occurred.

On the day of the shooting, a neighbor, Mr. Chester Campbell, was visiting the house. Mr. Renfroe became angry when Mr. Campbell tried to retrieve his coat from Mr. Renfroe's room. They had a brief physical altercation, but Mr. Fisher and other bystanders separated the two. They shook hands, and Mr. Campbell left the house. Later that day, Mr. Campbell returned to the house and took Mr. Fisher out to get something to eat.

In the meantime, another resident of the house, Walter McKethan, returned home and learned about the fight. Mr. McKethan was "a little disturbed" at the news and decided to "try to straighten it out." When Mr. Campbell and Mr. Fisher came back to the house, Mr. McKethan attacked Mr. Campbell by "grabb[ing] [his] face" or "str[iking] him" with open hands in the front part of his body. Mr. Campbell testified that Mr. McKethan did not injure him and Mr. Campbell "just threw him off me." Because Mr. McKethan was at least twenty years older, Mr. Campbell believed that he could "pay him no mind." *fn4 At that point, however, Mr. Campbell fell backwards and Mr. Renfroe grabbed him from behind, placing him in a "head lock." Even then, Mr. Campbell, who was six feet tall and weighed 183, was not frightened because Mr. Renfroe was "real slim" *fn5 and did not "pose a threat to me at all."

As Mr. Campbell prepared to throw Mr. Renfroe over his shoulder, Mr. Campbell glanced up and saw that Mr. Fisher was "standing across the bed with a gun." Campbell "froze" because he did not "want to get shot." Mr. Fisher pointed the gun at Renfroe, said "let him go" twice, and "right after he said it" the second time, Mr. Fisher fired the gun.

Medical testimony at trial showed that Mr. Renfroe was killed by a single bullet to the brain which entered from the back of the head. Mr. Campbell estimated that perhaps two seconds elapsed between the first time appellant said "let him go" and the fatal shot. "He didn't have time to let go." Mr. McKethan testified that only a "split second"-"there was no time at all" - went by between the moment Mr. Fisher drew the gun and when he fired. Mr. Fisher then turned to Mr. McKethan and said, "Do you want to drop, too?" Mr. McKethan responded "no."

Another occupant of the house, Clarise Burroughs, testified at trial that she was present during both the first altercation and the shooting. Ms. Burroughs asserted that when she saw Mr. Fisher draw the gun, she turned to run upstairs. "Only a second passed" between the pulling of the gun and the sound of the shot.

Immediately after that, Mr. Campbell and appellant ran from the house. Mr. Fisher ordered Mr. Campbell to drive him to an address in Lincoln Heights. Mr. Campbell testified that "after just witnessing what happened in the house, this guy had a gun, I wasn't about to tell him no." Subsequently, Mr. Fisher fled the jurisdiction.

Ten months later, on November 17, 1994, a District of Columbia police officer notified Detective Larry Dee of the Toronto Fugitive Squad that a murder suspect was staying at 78 Bimini Crescent in the borough of North York, a Toronto suburb. Thereafter, Detective Dee maintained contact with the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department ("M.P.D.") on a "day-to-day" basis. That contact, however, largely related to technical problems in receiving supporting material -copies of the arrest warrant, appellant's photograph, and fingerprint information - forwarded by the District police. Detective Dee testified that no one from the M.P.D. ever mentioned questioning or interviewing the suspect once he was apprehended. No American police officers were detailed to the North York police station during appellant's interview ...

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