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Coles v. United States

October 10, 2002

PAUL COLES, APPELLANT,
v.
UNITED STATES, APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (F-6099-97) (Hon. Natalia M. Combs Greene, Trial Judge)

Before Schwelb and Ruiz, Associate Judges, and King, Senior Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Associate Judge Schwelb

Submitted April 11, 2002

Dissenting opinion by Associate Judge RUIZ

SCHWELB, Associate Judge

After a jury deadlocked at his first trial, Paul Coles was retried on charges of armed robbery *fn1 and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime of violence (PFCV) *fn2 relating to the robbery at gunpoint of Redoduane Abderrafe. The jury at his second trial found Coles guilty on both counts, and he now appeals. Coles' primary contention is that the trial judge committed reversible error by restricting Coles' cross-examination of a prosecution witness. We disagree and affirm.

I.

THE EVIDENCE

At Coles' trial, the prosecution presented evidence which, if credited, established that late at night on July 30, 1997, two men robbed Abderrafe at gunpoint as he walked down a street in Georgetown shortly after he completed his work shift as a waiter at a local restaurant. After the robbers took the tips that Abderrafe had earned, one of the men ordered him to "[g]o - don't turn your back. Just go straight." The two men then fled on foot. Abderrafe continued to walk as instructed, but almost immediately he encountered Officer Joseph Thomas of the Metropolitan Police Department. Abderrafe told Officer Thomas that he had been robbed, and he described one of the two robbers to the officer as "not too tall, not too short" and as wearing "tan military pants and [a] white shirt." Based on this information, Officer Thomas broadcast a lookout over the police radio.

Several police officers working in the Georgetown area monitored the broadcast. After pursuing several other leads, they spotted and began to chase a man who discarded a "speed loader," a wallet, a black stocking cap, and some personal documents shortly before he was apprehended. The man turned out to be Paul Coles, the appellant in this case. Officers also recovered a handgun which Coles had allegedly dropped earlier in the chase.

On July 22, 1998, a grand jury returned a nine-count indictment against Coles, charging him with involvement in three separate robberies, one of which was the robbery of Mr. Abderrafe. Coles' first trial was held before Judge Rhonda Reid Winston from October 5 to October 21, 1999. The jury found Coles guilty of unlawful possession of ammunition in connection with the Abderrafe robbery, but deadlocked on the armed robbery and PFCV charges. *fn3 We affirmed the conviction for ammunition possession in Coles v. United States, No. 99-CV-1017, Memorandum Opinion and Judgment (D.C. March 6, 2001).

From October 11 to October 13, 2000, a second jury trial was held before Judge Natalia M. Combs Greene with respect to the charges of armed robbery and PFCV. The jury at the second trial found Coles guilty on both counts. This appeal followed.

II.

THE ATTEMPTED IMPEACHMENT FOR BIAS

The only issue raised by Coles on appeal which merits plenary consideration is whether the trial judge erred by limiting the cross-examination of Kurt Goodwine, a witness for the prosecution. *fn4 We discern no legal error or abuse of discretion. In our view, the limitation of which Coles complains pertained to a matter of very little, if any, probative value, and its exclusion was justified by its potential for ...


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