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Price v. United States

September 13, 2001

WILLIAM ANTHONY PRICE, APPELLANT,
v.
UNITED STATES, APPELLEE.



Before Steadman, Reid, and Washington, Associate Judges.

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

It is ORDERED, sua sponte, that the opinion filed in this case on September 13, 2001, is hereby vacated September 14, 2001.

WILLIAM ANTHONY PRICE, APPELLANT,
v.
UNITED STATES, APPELLEE.

Brigitte L. Adams, appointed by the court, for appellant. Thomas S. Rees, Assistant United States Attorney, with whom Wilma A. Lewis, United States Attorney at the time the brief was filed, and John R. Fisher, and Mary-Patrice Brown, Assistant United States Attorneys, were on the brief, for appellee.

Before Steadman, Reid, and Washington, Associate Judges.

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

 Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia Criminal Division Hon. Frederick H. Weisberg, Trial Judge

Argued May 10, 2001

After a jury trial, appellant, William Anthony Price (Price), was found guilty of assault with a dangerous weapon (knife), possession of a firearm during a crime of violence, first-degree burglary, possession of a Molotov cocktail, and threats to injure a person on December 13 and 24, 1998. The trial judge also found Price guilty of second-degree theft and destruction of property. Price submitted a timely appeal to this court arguing that the trial judge erred by 1) denying his motion for a new trial because a juror was incompetent to serve and was coerced into agreeing with the verdict; 2) rejecting his request to assert the Fifth Amendment and spousal privileges of the complaining witness, Cheryl Beamon-Price (Beamon-Price); and 3) not sua sponte conducting a juror misconduct inquiry. We affirm.

A.

Price argues that the trial court abused its discretion by denying his motion for a new trial because juror number one failed to comprehend English and could not have understood the evidence presented at trial without undue influence from the other jurors. We review the trial judge's decision denying a motion for new trial for abuse of discretion, see Graham v. United States, 703 A.2d 825, 830 (D.C. 1997), and the trial judge's findings of fact with respect to the juror's competency to serve cannot be set aside unless clearly erroneous, see United States v. Hall, 989 F.2d 711, 714 (4th Cir. 1993).

On March 19, 1999, during the jury's deliberations, the jury submitted a note inquiring whether their verdict had to be unanimous. Before the trial judge could respond to the jury's question, the jury told the courtroom clerk to disregard the note because they were close to reaching a verdict. Sometime later that same day, the jury indicated that they had reached a verdict. The foreperson read the jury's verdicts, finding Price not guilty on the first four counts and counts six and seven, and guilty on counts five, eight, nine, ten, and eleven. Price requested a jury poll. The trial judge then asked juror number one whether his "individual verdict agree[d] with the verdict announced by the foreperson." The juror responded, "[n]ot guilty." The trial judge then asked the juror whether he understood "the verdict announced by the foreperson," and the juror replied, "[n]ot very clear." The juror then went on to state that he had some problems understanding English, and that he understood some of the evidence at trial.

After conferring with counsel, the trial judge instructed the jury to return to its deliberations stating, "I'm going to ask all twelve of you to go back to the jury room and satisfy yourselves, and then you'll satisfy me as to whether juror number one agrees or does not agree with the verdict that your foreperson announced." Once back in deliberations, the jury again sent a note stating that it was ready to proceed. Upon the return of the jury, the trial judge acknowledged that there was "obviously a language barrier of some kind," and that juror number one needed to be questioned separately as to determine whether he agreed with the verdict.

The trial judge asked juror number one if he felt that he understood the evidence, and the juror replied, "Yeah. Yes. I understand all of them. And we've been talking about the whole thing, . . . . Sometimes when you ask me something, then I didn't hear very clear. That's the reason." The trial judge then asked whether the juror understood the witnesses when they spoke, and he responded, "[s]ome of them; too fast, then I didn't catch all of them." The trial judge then inquired whether there was any particular witness whose testimony ...


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