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Bruce v. United States

April 03, 2003

DANA BRUCE, APPELLANT,
v.
UNITED STATES, APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (Hon. Noel A. Kramer, Trial Judge)

Before Wagner, Chief Judge and Farrell and Washington, Associate Judges

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

As amended April 8, 2003.

DANA BRUCE, APPELLANT,
v.
UNITED STATES, APPELLEE.

Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (Hon. Noel A. Kramer, Trial Judge)

Sydney J. Hoffman for appellant.

Jessie K. Liu, Assistant United States Attorney, with whom Roscoe C. Howard, Jr., United States Attorney, and John R. Fisher, Elizabeth Trosman, and Margaret Carroll, Assistant United States Attorneys, were on the brief, for appellee.

Before Wagner, Chief Judge and Farrell and Washington, Associate Judges

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

Argued March 5, 2003

Appellant, Dana Bruce, was convicted of armed robbery, in violation of D.C. Code §§ 22-2901, -3202 (1996), currently D.C. Code §§ 22-2801, -4502 (2001) and possession of a firearm during a crime of violence, in violation of D.C. Code § 22-3204 (b) (1996), currently D.C. Code § 22-4504 (b) (2001). Dana *fn1 appeals his conviction and contends that the trial court abused its discretion in precluding a defense that Dana's brother, Dale Bruce committed the offenses. We disagree and affirm the trial court's ruling.

I.

On the evening of December 3, 2000, a man with a gun, later identified as Dana Bruce, entered a Popeye's restaurant at 651 Florida Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. There were five employees on duty that night, three of whom were at or near the front counter. When Dana approached the counter, he pointed the gun at one of the cashiers, Elizabeth Tassen, and ordered her to give him the money in the register. Ms. Tassen, who had poor English skills, tugged on the blouse of Jupiter Niles, the other cashier. Ms. Niles walked to Ms. Tassen's register to find out what Ms. Tassen needed and Dana, while holding the gun, told the women to take the money out of the register. Shortly thereafter, Ms. Kathleen Augustine, the manager of the restaurant, approached the register and was told to take the money out of the register. Ms. Augustine told Dana to open the drawer himself. Dana then jumped over the counter and pointed the gun at Ms. Niles, who then opened both registers at the front counter. Dana took the money and then jumped back over the counter and fled on a bicycle. A surveillance camera recorded the entire incident. The police responded and began an investigation. Investigator David Swinson was assigned to the case. However, the police were unable to make an arrest in the case.

In April 2001, Investigator Swinson went to the apartment of Dana's mother with a search warrant based on an unrelated incident, a pocketbook snatch, allegedly committed by Dana's brother, Dale Bruce, which had occurred in the 600 block of Florida Avenue, N.W. When Swinson arrived at the home, he encountered Dana and recognized him from the surveillance camera's video as the person who robbed the Popeye's restaurant. Dana was arrested and identified as the perpetrator. Ms. Niles identified Dana as the robber during a July 2001 line-up. However, when Ms. Augustine viewed the line-up, she had more difficulty identifying Dana as the robber. Ms. Augustine asked whether Dana could put on glasses. When she was told no, she stated that "the only person I'm only seeing, it looks like, is number 4 [Dana]." Ms. Augustine subsequently picked Dana from a photo array. Both Ms. Augustine and Ms. Niles also made in-court identifications and Ms. Niles testified that she had seen Dana in the restaurant a few weeks prior to the robbery. At that time, he entered the store and left a few minutes later without purchasing anything. During the trial, Martha Dorsey, Dana's mother, was called to the stand. While ...


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